Our very first look at “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” contained a startling revelation from none other than Luke Skywalker himself: “it’s time for the Jedi to end.” Whatever this means for the future of the galaxy far, far away, the possibility that the characters and philosophies located closer to the center of the spectrum of the Force will become more important is very real.
Throughout the old Legends stories and the new expanded universe, many entities and organizations have existed that explore the concept of the Force from outside the purviews of the Jedi and Sith. Nondenominational Force users, unaffiliated dark siders and Gray Jedi bridge the gap between the two extremes. Make yourself acquainted with the ins and outs of the middle path of the Force and remember only a Sith (and the Jedi more often than not) deal in absolutes.
15. QUI-GON JINN
One of the very first canonical mentions of a Gray Jedi is the man, the legend, Qui-Gon Jinn himself during Dark Horse’s “Star Wars: Republic” comic series in 2003. We all know Qui-Gon was a respected Jedi Master and that he was seen as a bit of a rebel by the Jedi Council, even going so far as to blatantly disobey the council’s orders regarding training Anakin. While that plan may not have worked out exactly how Jinn had hoped, his belief that it was better to have the boy trained and take the risk than strictly follow the dogma of the Jedi Code may still lead to a more balanced galaxy two generations later.
A strict believer in the idea of the Living Force (as opposed to the Cosmic Force, a distinction in aspect similar to the Christian Trinity) Qui-Gon Jinn was ever mindful of the present moment and wary to heed the premonitions that other Jedi relied on. Had Jinn been alive to train Anakin and imparted this philosophy to him, perhaps Anakin would have resisted the pull of the Dark Side.
First appearing in the 1998 novel “I, Jedi” by Michael Stackpole, the Jensaarai were a group of neutral Force wielders that used Sith and Jedi teachings to formulate their ideology. Founded by a Jedi Knight who left the order after discovering a Sith tome claiming the Jedi stole all they knew from the first Sith Lords, their name is an ancient Sith word for “follower of the hidden truth.” In the now non-canonical Legends universe, after encountering them on their homeworld, the Jensaarai were invited to integrate into Luke Skywalker’s New Jedi Order.
Heavily influenced by the Sith Lord Larad Noon, an integral part of the Jensaarai philosophy relied on “integrating the shadow.” The idea was that aspects of the dark side of the Force could be drawn upon without succumbing to its corrosive effects. This allowed the Jensaarai to eventually straddle the line between light and dark without becoming servants of the dark side.
13. QUINLAN VOS
A fan favorite from the old expanded universe that survived the transition to Disney-approved canon, Quinlan Vos was a Jedi Knight during the Clone Wars who, like Qui-Gon Jinn, wasn’t a big fan of all the rules of the Jedi Council. With a reputation for sarcasm and eccentricity, but also effectiveness, Vos worked with Obi-Wan Kenobi in an episode of the 2008 cartoon “The Clone Wars” and with the former acolyte of the dark side and Nighsister, Asajj Ventress in the 2015 novel “Dark Disciple.”
In “Dark Disciple,” Vos was tasked by the Jedi Council with assassinating Count Dooku and bringing an end to The Clone Wars. Under the tutelage of Ventress, and after the two had become lovers, Vos skirted with the dark side in order to lure Dooku into leading him to Darth Sidious and ending the threat of the Sith once and for all. The ends did not justify the means, however, as both Dooku and Sidious escaped. Vos’ quest to end the war failed and, like Qui-Gon before him, cost him dearly.
12. ASAJJ VENTRESS
First introduced in Genndy Tartakovsky’s 2003 “Clone Wars” micro-series, Asajj Ventress was Jedi padawan and later apprentice to Count Dooku’s alter ego, Darth Tyranus. Born as a member of the Nightsisters of Dathomir, she was given up by the witches as a child and then bounced between Force affiliations before settling into life as a bounty hunter.
After the Clone Wars ended and the Nightsisters were destroyed, Ventress struggled to find meaning in her life. While working as a bounty hunter, Ventress and her Jedi lover Quinlan Vos attempted to assassinate Count Dooku. Rather than return to the dark side in order to exact revenge on her former master, Ventress sacrificed herself to save a corrupted Vos and return him to the light. The tragedy of Asajj Ventress and her search for a purpose at both ends of the Force spectrum has made her a fan favorite in the new canon and a great example of a character not directly aligned with the light side of the Force who does good.
11. NIGHTSISTERS OF DATHOMIR
The Nightsisters were a clan of matriarchal Force-sensitive witches on the planet Dathomir, which debuted in a 2011 episode of “The Clone Wars.” The planet was a source of dark side energy, which the witches used as the source of their “magick,” which they in turn used to manipulate the local flora and fauna and subjugate their counterparts, the Nightbrothers. As straying from Dathomir meant a great diminishing of their powers, the Nightsisters spent much of their history intentionally isolated on their world until the shaman Talzin came into power and brought them into conflict with Darth Sidious.
Their powers were fueled by the dark side of the Force but the Nightsisters were able to use it as a tool and retain control over themselves unlike, according to Asajj Ventress, the Sith. While their use of necromancy and other powers land them decidedly on the dark side of the Force, they were dedicated to their isolationism until they were brought into competition with the Sith. This dedication to a sort of self-interested neutrality leaves them much closer to the center than many dark Jedi or any of the Sith. The eradication of the Nightsisters by General Grievous and with the deaths of Ventress and Talzin signalled the end for the witches.
10. JAL SHEY
A nomadic group of Force-sensitives who traveled the galaxy studying the Force from an intellectual point of view, the Jal Shey are ancient and mysterious. Very little is known about them save for a few words from Jal Shey mentor, Peet Sieben from the novelization of the 2008 “The Clone Wars” movie and a few pieces of equipment from “Knights of the Old Republic 2.” This documented history of over 4,000 years makes them one of the oldest orders of Force users in the galaxy.
Eschewing the martial and physical pursuits of the Jedi and Sith, the Jal Shey pursued an intellectual understanding of the Force. While still constructing lightsabers and practicing basic defense skills, they focused on constructing intricate armor that boosted their scholarly and diplomatic efforts. They abhorred war and conflict but understood its ability to bring out the best in individuals. Though essentially limited to codex entries and novel prefaces, the balanced philosophy of the Jal Shey may survive the fall of the Jedi and the Sith in all but name.
9. THE FATHER
The Father was the patriarch of a mysterious, shape-shifting family of incredibly powerful Force wielders who lived on the planet Mortis. He and his family were living embodiments of each aspect of the Force. His Daughter personified the light side of the Force, his Son the dark side, and the Father himself was the manifestation of the balance between the two.
As part of “The Clone Wars” 2011 “Mortis” storyline, Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Ashoka Tano were lured by the Father to his hidden world so that he could evaluate Skywalker and discern whether or not he was The Chosen One. Skywalker passed the Father’s tests and was invited to take the Father’s place as the fulcrum between the two siblings and their representative aspects. Skywalker declined and was warned that his selfishness may lead the galaxy to ruin. The downfall of the family supposedly symbolized the restoration of balance but with the recent revelation by Obi-Wan in “Rebels” that Luke is, in fact, the Chosen One and the impending events of “The Last Jedi,” a retcon is probably in order.
8. IMPERIAL KNIGHTS
More than a century after the death of Emperor Palpatine, a new empire dedicated to the preservation of a balanced will of the Force (as embodied by their Emperor) exists and is preserved by the Imperial Knights. Also known as the “Imperial Jedi,” each knight is equipped with an identical gray lightsaber and set of crimson armor similar to Palpatine’s royal guards. They follow no code save that they serve the Emperor as long as he remains uncorrupted by the dark side.
An integral part of the now non-canonical “Star Wars: Legacy” comic series from 2006, the Imperial Knights fought alongside the survivors of the New Jedi Order against Darth Krayt and his new One Sith. They were similar to the Jedi but forgo the monk-like meditations and introspections and simply used the Force to enforce the will of Emperor Fel. Believing that their empire brought order and that order was the will of the Force, the Imperial Knight philosophy is unique, although non-canonical, in the Star Wars galaxy.
7. CADE SKYWALKER
A descendant of Anakin Skywalker who came of age 130 years after the battle of Yavin during the “Star Wars: Legacy” series, Cade Skywalker’s turbulent life led him to both ends of the Force spectrum and back again as he fought against a brand new Sith, himself, and the ghosts of his legacy. As a padawan during the third Jedi purge led by Darth Krayt, a young Cade Skywalker saw his father and most of the rest of the order killed before he was able to escape with his gravely wounded master. As his master died in his arms, Cade focused his emotions and used the Force to resurrect him, finally fulfilling his ancestor’s desire to cheat death and experiencing the power of the dark side for the first time.
Cade became a bounty hunter and was visited by the Force ghosts of his ancestors, including Luke, who begged him to continue his Jedi training and rebuild the order. Instead, Cade took to using death sticks (the hardcore drug offered to Obi-Wan in “Attack of the Clones”) to inhibit his sense of Force. He eventually rejoined the Jedi but not after dangerously flirting with the dark side.
6. JOLEE BINDO
During your adventures across the galaxy in the 2003 video game “Knights of the Old Republic,” you find an eccentric old hermit on the Wookiee homeworld of Kashyyyk who turns out to be an ex-Jedi in exile with an emotional and tragic story to tell if you can coax it out of him. Jolee Bindo was a Jedi who was principled but with his own sense of right and wrong, which, like Qui-Gon Jinn after him, lead him to clash with the Jedi Council on several occasions and defied them by taking his wife as his own padawan.
During the war with the Dark Lord Exar Kun, Bindo’s wife was seduced by the dark side. Unable to persuade her husband to join her and him unable to strike down his own wife, Bindo allowed her to escape, costing several Jedi their lives at her hands. After the war, Bindo faced judgment from the Jedi Council but instead of being punished, was offered a promotion. Disillusioned with the wisdom of the Council, Bindo left and exiled himself on the forest world where he was found by your character in the game and serves as a voice of caution against the Jedi Council and their methods.
Four thousand years before Luke Skywalker destroyed the Death Star, the Old Republic and the Jedi Order waged war against a different Sith Empire led by a man called Darth Revan. Before being corrupted by the dark side of the Force, Revan was a Jedi during the Mandalorian Wars and, frustrated with the Jedi Council’s refusal to act against the rampaging menace, led a schism in the Order to assist the faltering Republic. Revan defeated the Mandalorians and turned on the Republic as a dark lord of the Sith just before the events of “Knights of the Old Republic.”
Given the interactive nature of the game and the shake-up following the Disney acquisition, the canon story of Revan is nebulous at best. The core parts of the story — that he rebelled against the Jedi Council to act in a way he thought was in the best interest of the galaxy — cement Revan as a Gray Jedi and one of the most popular such characters in the saga.
4. ASHOKA TANO
In “The Clone Wars” film from 2008, Anakin Skywalker was assigned a padawan named Ashoka Tano. The two would become inseparable during the Clone Wars, fighting against the Separatists countless times and forming a close bond. Towards the end of the war, Tano is framed for several murders and a bombing in the Jedi Temple and is expelled from the Jedi Order. Though she has her name cleared by her master and is invited to rejoin the Jedi, Tano’s faith in the Jedi had been shaken and she refuses.
Tano reappears as an integral part of the burgeoning Rebellion in 2014’s “Star Wars: Rebels,” feeding information to the rebels as the informant Fulcrum. Tano’s appearance in the show culminates in a duel with her former master during which she declares that she is no longer a Jedi. Though she has apparently died, the show’s creators have remained ambiguous about her return. Tano’s loss of faith in the Jedi but continued fight against the Empire in whatever capacity she could showed that a Star Wars character with a lightsaber doesn’t have to follow the rules in order to do good.
3. EZRA BRIDGER
The main character of “Star Wars: Rebels,” Ezra Bridger was an orphan from the planet Lothal who became a padawan and helped lead the rebellion against the Empire before the battle of Yavin. His journey in the Force has seen him pulled between the philosophies of the Jedi and Sith, having both the Jedi Kanan Jarrus and the former Sith Lord Darth Maul as teachers. Struggling to find the most effective way to combat the evils of the empire, Bridger has utilized the dark side on several occasions, most notably to access the knowledge inside a Sith Holocron.
Without a source of complete understanding for either Jedi or Sith teachings (Maul and Kanan both ended their respective training prematurely) Bridger’s understanding of the Force could remain incomplete. As with other characters from the Expanded Universe, this could lead him down a dark path, but all signs so far indicate him beginning to develop his own, more neutral understanding of the Force. With Rebels ending with season four, it remains to be seen what fate will befall Ezra Bridger and how he fits into the future of Star Wars.
His name taken from an earlier draft of “Star Wars,” which referred to the “Jedi-Bendu,” the Bendu was a supposedly ancient being “in the middle” that represented the center of the Force between the two extremes of the Jedi and the Sith. During the third season of “Rebels,” Ezra Bridger and his master encounter the Bendu, who proceeds to assist them in their search for knowledge of the Force. Though he seems friendly with the rebels, he refuses to take sides in their fight against the Empire, even when that fight arrives on his doorstep. He eventually turns against both the rebels and imperials by taking the form of a massive storm that blasts both sides.
The Bendu is an embodiment of anti-interventionism and neutrality in the Star Wars galaxy. With the emphasis placed on the character in “Star Wars: Rebels,” and his influence on Ezra Bridger that his influence will remain even beyond his possible death at the end of season 3. His philosophy will, hopefully, continue to be explored and, given the proposed fate of the Jedi in Star Wars, may become integral to its future.
The biggest question in the Star Wars galaxy since the first information from “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” hit the internet was this: “Who is Rey?” Strong in the Force, Rey’s history and heritage are sure to be fleshed out in “The Last Jedi,” but what about her future? With all signs pointing to Jedi ending with Luke Skywalker, Rey may be the first of a new order of Force users that will cultivate a more balanced view of the galaxy. With so little of her character to speculate on and such a legacy laid at her feet, whatever Rey does is sure to shape the Star Wars galaxy for a generation of fans.
With the great emphasis in recent years on a truer definition of balance and understanding of the Force that incorporates more than the absolutes of the Sith or the Jedi, along with the clear messages from the men and women behind the franchise that Luke is the titular last Jedi, it’s clear something very different is in store for Rey. Whether that is a fall to the dark side or a more a firm stance in grayer areas of the spectrum, we cannot know until December.
What do you know about the Gray side of the force? Or, what questions do you still have? Let us know in the comments!