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Breaking Down That Mind-Blowing Luke Skywalker Scene in Star Wars: The Last Jedi

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Warning: This post contains major spoilers for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

The climactic final battle of The Last Jedi saw Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) make his long-awaited return from exile to battle Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) on the salt fields of the planet Crait — or so it seemed. In one of The Last Jedi’s greatest twists, it was revealed that Luke had never actually left Ahch-To and was using the Force to project a manifestation of himself to the site of the Resistance’s stand-off with the First Order.

However, if you were paying close attention, this may not have come as a surprise. Director Rian Johnson made sure to drop several hints that Luke wasn’t physically present at the battle. Luke appears to look younger than he did earlier in the movie, and there’s a sequence in which Kylo Ren’s foot noticeably marks the ground where Luke’s does not.

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But for many, the moment of truth didn’t come until, following a head-to-head lightsaber duel with his former apprentice, Luke allowed Kylo to land a blow that should have cut him in half but instead did absolutely nothing. The Jedi master was then shown perched on a rock on Ahch-To focusing his entire being on maintaining his presence at the faraway battle.

Luke successfully completed what seems to have been his mission all along, distracting the First Order while the remaining members of the Resistance — including his sister Leia (Carrie Fisher) — escaped with the help of Rey (Daisy Ridley). But in the end, the effort was apparently too much for him.

After disappearing from Crait, the real Luke was shown peering up at a binary sunset — a callback to his memorable introduction in A New Hope — before vanishing into thin air and (presumably) dying. However, as we’ve seen with Jedi masters such as Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda, this manner of death in the Star Wars universe usually signals that the character has the ability to reappear in the world of the living as a Force ghost.

We have no doubt Luke will be back to guide Rey away from the Dark Side when Star Wars: Episode IX hits theaters on Dec. 20, 2019.

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Write to Megan McCluskey at megan.mccluskey@time.com