After seeing The Force Awakens in theaters for a third time, I found myself thinking more and more about that last scene—the one where Rey and Chewie ride out to recover Luke from his self-imposed exile, trusty droid in tow.
Half of my brain wishes they would have rolled credits as they entered space, leaving the mystery of Luke’s whereabouts open-ended for Rian Johnson and his team to figure out. Alas, Luke was promised to appear in The Force Awakens and so on that outcropping he stood. I’m sure J.J. wanted to see him on screen in his slice of Star Wars just as much as everyone else did. So apart from the multitude of exchanged glances and the out-of-place helicopter shot, I’m okay with it. In fact, after my third viewing, I think I’ve gleaned some deeper meaning behind the silent greeting.
The key component of this scene is of course the lightsaber—Anakin’s lightsaber. The history that weapon has been witness to says much more than words could. Whether or not the look Rey is given as Luke turns and lowers his hood is one of recognition, surprise, or fear, it’s not the look that matters. It’s the meaning of her gesture that matters above all else. Rey offering the historic weapon to Luke signifies three things: That the Resistance needs a warrior, that his father’s dark legacy again needs to be quelled, and that Rey needs a teacher.
When the crawl fades away at the start of Episode VIII, I predict the film will skip the rest of that mountain-top greeting.  This won’t be a “last time… on Star Wars…” moment. Like the rest of the films, time will have passed. Rey will be amid training with her new master, Luke Skywalker. I don’t think it would be fair to Luke’s legacy for the filmmakers to continually project him as a self-labeled failure, so I don’t expect much more of that. I predict that in his years of solitude and meditation he came to terms with what happened and what needs to be done from there. His nephew and Snoke are still present threats, but with a powerful Padawan like Rey, and the talent among the ranks of the Resistance, hope still has a chance.
It’s hard to say whether or not I think Luke himself will rejoin the fight. I’d love to see that and I think the world over is waiting for Luke to wield his Jedi weapon once again in battle. Either way, Luke is getting involved. He knows he is needed. No doubt the loss of his friend Han will be the last bit of motivational incentive he needs to react to sustain his family’s legacy and bring his nephew back to the light—if he can.