Whether intentional, by coincidence, or because the plot points are obvious continuations of the established characters, there are a number of things in The Force Awakens that tread over ground the old Expanded Universe also walked. Major spoilers ahead.
As in the original-now-Legends Expanded Universe, the Rebel Alliance of the original trilogy becomes the New Republic. Which makes sense, since it turns them from a group of freedom fighters into a “government.” In both cases, the change follows Battle of Endor (i.e. Return of the Jedi) and Mon Mothma becomes the political leader.
Both the Imperial Remnant and the First Order are the results of the Empire losing to the New Republic and being forced to the fringes of the galaxy. In The Force Awakens, the First Order is the militant splinter faction of the Empire, with the original Empire relegated to a “rump state.” In the Expanded Universe, the Imperial Remnant is what remains of the Empire decades into the conflict with the Rebels/New Republic. Like the Empire in The Force Awakens, it has peace treaties with the New Republic and has a faction of hardliners still prevalent.
And, semi-hilariously, semi-horrifically, both iterations of the New Republic don’t even make it one generation before crumbling into dust. At least The Force Awakens lost to a superweapon wielded by the Imperials and not an invading hoard of fanatically religious bug people.
Speaking of the superweapon, Starkiller Base has more than a passing resemblance to another EU nightmare: the Sun Crusher. First, there’s the weird compulsion the Empire seems to have towards planet-killers. Second, both of them destroy suns to do their jobs. In both cases, the result is a whole system being killed in one fell swoop, rather than a single planet.
Weirdly, as much as the Sun Crusher is a ridiculous ship, it has less in common with the Death Star than Starkiller Base does. Starkiller is much bigger than the Death Star, but it’s still got the one soft spot which can be targeted. The Sun Crusher isn’t a base, it’s a fighter. And it’s made out of an indestructible material. The Sun Crusher, and its related books, isn’t good. In this case, hewing closer to the formula actually worked in The Force Awakens’ favor. Where trying to fix all the problems with the Death Star ruined all the fun.
Kylo Ren manages to combine a bunch of elements from the Expanded Universe. His original name, Ben, was given to Luke’s kid in the books. (Which, honestly, makes more sense.) In the books, Han and Leia also send their kids away “for their own good.” In The Force Awakens it’s for training. In the books, it’s to protect them from kidnapping attempts.
In the books, Jacen Solo turned into a Sith under the influence of Lumiya, who trained under both Darth Vader and the Emperor. Jacen Solo was told he had to sacrifice his parents in order to become a true Sith Master. He wasn’t entirely sure he loved his parents anymore, and ended up seeing the death of his aunt—Mara Jade Skywalker—as his sacrifice.
Kylo Ren’s got a lot of that same plot in him. He’s the Solo son who goes dark. Like Jacen, he started out training under Luke Skywalker. Like Jacen, Ren’s lured to the dark side and is under the sway of another. And like Jacen, Ren ends up cementing his turn by murdering a family member. Jacen chose the name Darth Caedus, while Ben Solo chose Kylo Ren.
There’s a lot of speculation over Rey’s family—whether she’s a Solo, a Skywalker, or just specially Force-powerful. For those familiar with the EU, it’s really hard to not assume some kind of familiar relationship between Ren and Rey. When Rey fought him and won in The Force Awakens, that was reminiscent of Jaina and Jacen Solo’s last fight in the books. Jaina is Jacen’s twin.
Timeline-wise, Rey can’t be Ren’s twin. She’s nineteen and Ren is around 30. And Han and Leia don’t react to her strong enough for her to be their daughter. But something about that theory feels right, if only because of the baggage left behind by the EU.
It’s nothing new for Luke to lose a trainee to the Dark Side. It happens a lot in the books, since it’s always a fun dramatic device. Which is likely why we got it again in The Force Awakens. And Luke does spend a significant period of time searching for information about the Jedi, since most of it was lost in the Emperor’s purge.
In the EU, Luke lost around half of his first Jedi class to the Dark Side. They were attacked by the most powerful turned one. Over the years, it happened fairly frequently that Jedi wandered to the Dark Side and back. It’s in-keeping with the EU characterization of Luke’s Jedi training that he lost his nephew to the Dark Side. And so is his search for information on the history of the Jedi.
Anakin Skywalker’s lightsaber, lost by Luke in the battle with Darth Vader on Cloud City, reappears in The Force Awakens. How it ended up in the hands of Maz Kanata is still a mystery. In the books, its reappearance is well-explained. The Emperor recovered it (and Luke’s hand) and stored them in his secret treasure trove. Luke gave it to Mara Jade.
We also see that the lightsaber that Kylo Ren has made for himself has a weak blade, which is much softer looking around the edges. We know that’s because he made it without complete knowledge. That’s also something we’ve seen in the EU, with the most memorable example being the lightsaber of Tenel Ka. She didn’t construct hers with care, and the blade failed during a training exercise, costing Tenel Ka her arm. The way Ren’s lightsaber looks, I half expected a similar thing to happen to him.
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