Reason number one: I refuse to believe it.
Since the release of the trailer for The Last Jedi, speculation has run rampant about what Luke means when he says, “it’s time for the Jedi to end.” As was the case with the lack of Luke in the Force trailer, fans seized on the line as proof that Luke has followed his father’s footsteps. Not only do I refuse to accept this theory on strictly emotional grounds, but I can offer alternative meanings for Luke’s declaration, which still allow for a compelling character arc.
Why not the Dark Side?
Luke joining the Dark Side has been explored in expanded universe stories in the past, and after having read them, I can report that the stories weren’t very compelling. The authors never truly commit to the idea and it fizzles out pretty quickly, leaving a character’s innocence sullied for no real payoff.
The story of Luke’s fall would also be too much of a rehash of his father’s story. It’s possible that Luke needs to be redeemed for some of his actions, but Luke being revealed as Snoke would be a bit too close to a big reveal you may know from Empire Strikes Back. While the movies may be poetic, that would be viewed as less of a rhyme and more of a repeated word.
More importantly, Luke’s fall would harm the legacy of the Original (read, Holy) Trilogy. Return of the Jedi, despite its faults, ends with a compelling story of Luke overcoming the power of the Emperor and paving his own path, distinct from his father’s. If Luke’s fall is treated as an inevitability, the power of RotJ is greatly lessened.
Luke is needed as the moral rock of the franchise. He’s made mistakes, but he’s always looking to do good. If he falls, the magical, fairy tale qualities of the space opera are diminished, and Star Wars becomes just another sad movie about human failure, something of which George Lucas would never have approved.
What Luke Probably Means
Luke is probably just disillusioned. As Daisy Ridley said at the Star Wars Celebration, sometimes it’s better not to meet your heroes.
Luke Skywalker was never the Jedi Master that Yoda was. Luke is human, prone to all the failings that come with the title, and is thus deeply flawed. Unprepared even, for the tasks he was asked to endure. The burden of the Jedi legacy is too much for one man to handle. Under immense pressure, Luke failed.
It’s natural for him to find fault in the system and the burdens, and not himself. Grief over his failures has turned to guilt, has turned to anger, has turned to hate and suffering, but has not led to the path of the Dark Side.
Luke simply needs Rey to remind him why the Jedi are needed to bring balance to the galaxy. Without them, there can be only darkness.
What Luke’s Words Should Mean
The Jedi do need to end.
It may be an unpopular opinion, but the Jedi are morally bankrupt, power hungry, corrupt, and anachronistic in a technologically advanced galactic society.
If you watch all Star Wars movies, both cartoons, and read much of the expanded universe, take a step back, and analyze the stories without emotional attachment, you too will see the very scary truth: the Jedi aren’t the answer.
The desire for a messianic hero to come and save the day is a natural one, especially in a Galaxy full of problems. When the government appears corrupt, the corporations profit on war, and wars themselves are manufactured for personal aggrandizement, it’s easy to cling to the belief that one strong man can come and fix everything. It’s why Turkey was willing to vote away much of its democracy, in a moment that could have been pulled from an Episode III script.
But one man can’t do everything. It’s the truth Rogue One acknowledges. Palpatine can’t restore order alone, Trump can’t fix the US economy, and a Jedi Chosen One can’t restore balance to anything. Even institutions can’t save us in a vacuum. Police, military, and the Jedi Order need to be kept in check by an informed citizenry, lest they fall into the same problems of corruption and incompetence.
The Galaxy’s need for hero worship leads to its downfall in the prequels. Raised from birth to believe the magical Jedi are capable of anything, disillusionment must set in when things fall apart. But still, the galactic citizenry has seen that individuals with great power can do great things. It’s not a difficult leap then to believe that a strong politician with great power can do even greater things. It’s much easier to accept dictators that way.
The Jedi Chosen One theory comes from a prophecy, “which misread may be.” The prophecy led the Jedi to blindly ignore their own judgments and work against what makes sense to them, in order to follow some ancient text. Their religiosity directly resulted in the fall of the Republic and the rise of Darth Vader. If you’re a citizen of the Galaxy, do you really want to leave your trust with these monks again, after their last mistake plunged everything into darkness?
Beyond their arrogance, the Jedi have lied several times throughout the movies, tried to overthrow the government without allowing the Chancellor an opportunity for a proper trial, dragged an entire military into battle without Republic approval, and in the shows, used their mind trick capabilities to essentially torture a man, expelled a padawan without giving her a chance to prove her innocence, and frequently found themselves on the wrong side of a complicated conflict that had no clearcut heroes and villains.
The follies of fallible men wouldn’t be that consequential if not for the reverence given to the Jedi Order and the fact that they, you know, have extreme magical powers.
The ability to manipulate the weak-minded is not something that should be used lightly, and brings up way too many ethical questions to count. And by the way, the Sith never exercise that power in any of the canonical movies. The Jedi also apparently have a license to kill, and never express moral regret after utilizing it.
All of it adds up to a regrettable truth: the Jedi aren’t the heroes the galaxy needs. The stakes are too high, their power too great, the risk of another Kylo Ren almost inevitable. It’s time for the Galaxy to move on. It’s time for the Jedi to end.