Credit: Jonathan Olley/ILM/© 2017 Lucasfilm Ltd.; ILM/© 2017 Lucasfilm Ltd.

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“These are your first steps …”

That’s what the voice of Obi-Wan Kenobi said to Rey when she first grasped the Skywalker family lightsaber, and this past week, EW took fans on the first part of her journey to The Last Jedi.

The movie opens on Dec. 15, but in our new cover story, we spoke with writer-director Rian Johnson about the themes that define this part of the saga – from newcomers seeking their heroes to monsters retreating to darkness, and some unusual beings who are drawn to the Force.

Here’s the full rundown of our eight-part series previewing The Last Jedi.

Part I: Can Rey save Luke Skywalker from his own darkness?

Credit: Jonathan Olley/ILM/© 2017 Lucasfilm Ltd.

This isn’t the Luke she’s heard about. It’s not the one we know either. This is a broken man — one who would have preferred to stay lost. And he feels the same way about this strange young woman and that familiar lightsaber.

Part II: With Finn and Rose, a ‘big deal’ is redeemed by ‘a nobody’

Credit: David James/ILM/© 2017 Lucasfilm Ltd.

Finn is just getting used to being an ex-Stormtrooper. Now, he’s considering becoming an ex-hero. John Boyega says his character is considering quitting the Resistance – but he is drawn back in by the admiration of Rose (Kelly Marie Tran), a mechanic who is starstruck by the hero who defied the First Order.

Part III: Meet the porgs and The Caretakers from Luke Skywalker’s island

Credit: ILM/© 2017 Lucasfilm Ltd.

The Last Jedi will introduce some new creatures to the Star Wars menagerie: cuddly penguin-like porgs, and ominous, alien-nun beings known as The Caretakers.

Part IV: Supreme Leader Snoke and his elite Praetorian Guard

Credit: ILM/© 2017 Lucasfilm Ltd.

Kylo Ren will venture to the side of his malevolent icon, and fans will finally get their wish to see Andy Serkis’ Supreme Leader Snoke in the flesh – flanked by his crimson-armored Praetorian guard.

Part V: Leia sees Poe Dameron as a surrogate son – and future leader

Carrie Fisher
Credit: Lucasfilm

In her final performance as Leia Organa, Carrie Fisher brings warmth to the princess-turned-warrior-turned-general through her bond with Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron, the hotshot X-wing pilot she has come to see as family – and perhaps a future leader for the galaxy.

Part VI: Details about Benicio Del Toro’s new character DJ

Credit: Lucasfilm

Is he a villain? A bystander? A hero who just dresses badly? Benicio Del Toro has sent mixed signals about his new Star Wars character, but his costars reveal more about why this devious figure matters to the Resistance.

Part VII: No spoilers, but here’s why Rey has to unlock her family history

Credit: ILM/© 2017 Lucasfilm Ltd.

Fans have been guessing and creating elaborate theories for two years. Here’s why Rey’s lineage matters so much – and why Finn’s may, too.

Part VIII: Tales from the Dark Side

Credit: ILM/© 2017 Lucasfilm Ltd.; David James/© Lucasfilm 2015; Lucasfilm (2)

In our final story, a look at some of the shadowy elements of The Last Jedi, from Kylo Ren’s recovery from humiliation to more of Captain Phasma. We also explore Chewbacca in mourning and a little bit of bad news – there won’t be as much Maz Kanata this time.

Star Wars: Episode VIII — The Last Jedi
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