Star Wars: The Force Awakens Explained – Your Guide To Episode VII

Did you find anything in the movie unclear? Lost a plot point between fire fights with the First Order? Well, we’re here to help.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is here, friends. After nearly three decades of waiting we have our sequel to Return of the Jedi. It’s no understatement to say that the movie had to pull off the balancing act of both continuing plotlines from the previous film and laying groundwork for Episode VIII. With so much to do, the film still manages to move faster than the Millennium Falcon making the Kessel Run, so it was probably pretty easy to miss something while the audience was cheering.

Well, lucky for you we’ve got you covered.


Alright, what’s the set up for the film?

Well, here’s the opening title crawl for your viewing pleasure:

Episode VII

Luke Skywalker has vanished. In his absence, the sinister FIRST ORDER has risen from the ashes of the Empire and will not rest until Skywalker, the last Jedi, has been destroyed.

With the support of the REPUBLIC, General Leia Organa leads a brave RESISTANCE. She is desperate to find her brother Luke and gain his help in restoring peace and justice to the galaxy.

Leia has sent her most daring pilot on a secret mission to Jakku, where an old ally has discovered a clue to Luke’s whereabouts…

Anything to add to that crawl? Can you shed some light on the First Order and the Resistance?

We can! Luckily, we’ve created a handy guide that really goes into detail laying out both groups.

So, why has Luke Skywalker vanished?


He was training a new generation of Jedi and one of those students went very, very bad. He killed the rest and jumped ship to the First Order. Luke blames himself and has been living in exile ever since.

So, Luke isn’t evil or anything?


Are people trying to find Luke?

Everyone is trying to find Luke. The Resistance wants to find him to help fight the bad guys and the bad guys want to kill him.

How are they searching for Luke?


General Leia has sent Poe Dameron to meet with Lor San Tekka on Jakku, who gives him a piece of a map leading to Luke’s location.

Wait, who is Lor San Tekka and why would he know anything about Luke?

Well, there’s some back story about him that’s come out, but he’s no one we’ve met before. As for why he would have info about Luke, apparently he had a few adventures with Luke after Return of the Jedi and became a trusted ally.

So, basically this guy is a plot device.

A plot device played by Max Von Sydow, but yes. All those rumors that he was Kanan Jarrus or Boba Fett built up to a pretty anti-climactic conclusion, huh?

So what happens next?


The First Order shows up, guns blazing. Stormtroopers led by the dark side user Kylo Ren attack the village, killing everyone they see.

Who’s this Kylo Ren guy?

Remember Luke’s student who went bad?



That’s the guy.

Gotcha. Let’s get back to it.

Poe hides the map inside BB-8 and sends him off. Meanwhile, Stormtrooper FN-2187 realizes he really isn’t up for the wanton slaughtering of innocents and refuses to fire. He watches as Kylo Ren kills Lor San Tekka and takes Poe hostage in a pretty cool display of Force powers.

So, is Poe tortured?


Yup, but that does jack. Kylo Ren, however, knows that and uses the Force to break him. They learn about BB-8 and start looking for him.

What about FN-2187?

Well, the heat’s onto him. Captain Phasma ain’t too happy he didn’t slaughter civilians and asks him to submit his weapon for inspection, but the minute anyone takes a look at it he’s toast.

So what does he do?

He breaks Poe out of jail because he’s a nice guy looking for redemption.

… it’s because he needs a pilot, isn’t it?

… yes.

Do they escape?


They steal a TIE Fighter and bond over shooting down missiles. Poe decides FN-2187 is a bit of a mouthful and shortens it to “Finn.” Poe tells Finn all about his mission and BB-8, which is  when they’re hit with a missile and crash land on Jakku.

Finn wakes up on his own and can only find Poe’s jacket minus the Poe.

How does Rey fit into all of this?

Her parents dropped her off on Jakku when she was young and she’s been waiting for their return.

Who are her parents?

We don’t know, but we have our theories.

So what’s she been up to since?


She’s been living as a scavenger. Turns out there’s a whole business set up around people dismantling old wrecks from the Galactic Civil War and trading them in for meager portions of food.

One day, she’s chilling in her AT-AT turned home when she finds BB-8. The two become fast friends over the fact they’re both waiting for their loved ones to return.

Does Finn run into them?

He does! Finn ventures into a settlement and finds Rey with BB-8. He claims to be a member of the Resistance and they join up moments before First Order stormtroopers start shooting at them.

Wow, this is moving pretty quickly.

Yeah, keep your head steady or you’ll get whiplash.

How do they escape this one?


They run into a ship yard and steal the Millennium Falcon, which is kinda rusting sitting in the open.

How’d it get there?

We find out later that the Falcon was stolen from Han a few years ago and has been changing hands ever since until it ended up in Jakku.


Well, the real bummer is for Rey and Finn, because the Falcon breaks down thanks to some modifications made in Han’s absence. This leaks Rey and Finn stranded in space. But they’re picked up by a freighter commanded by the one and only Han Solo.

How’d he find them?


Seems he’s been keeping an eye out for the Falcon all this time and now that the ship was in the open it showed up in his scans.

What does Han do?

Well, first he wants to leave them somewhere and take the Falcon, but when Rey name drops Luke Skywalker Han gives them the lowdown on how Kylo Ren turned to the dark side and destroyed everything that Luke had built. Then he decides to help them.

How does Han know all this?

Well, aside from the fact he was Luke’s friend… it’s much more personal than that. We find out that Kylo Ren has been having some problems with wanting to turn to the light side lately. The leader of the First Order, Supreme Leader Snoke, tells him the only way to secure his continued place on team Dark Side’s bench is by killing his father: Han Solo.

Oh boy.

Yeah, pretty heavy huh? In case you were wondering, Leia is also the mother.

What about this Supreme Leader Snoke dude?


He’s definitely a dark side user and he likes to communicate with his followers via a fifty foot tall hologram.

Oh, thank God he’s not really that big.

I know, right? Five bucks says he’s compensating for the fact he’s actually four feet tall in real life.

So what happens next?


Han, Chewbacca, Rey, and Finn fight off some pirates who have come to collect on Han’s debts and escape in the Falcon, then head to the planet Takodana where they meet Maz Kanata, A friendly space pirate who’s a Resistance sympathizer. She’ll help them get back to the Resistance, but Finn has other plans.

And they are?

The First Order scares the Force right outta the guy, so he tries to go his own way and as far away from them as possible. Han and Rey aren’t too thrilled with that decision.

It’s then that Rey feels a strange pull in the Force, which she follows to open a box containing Anakin Skywalker’s lightsaber. Rey has a vision of the lightsaber duel from The Empire Strikes Back, Kylo Ren slaughtering Luke’s students, and even hears the voices of Obi-Wan and Yoda calling to her.

… how’d that get there?

We never get an answer.

Seriously? That weapon is a huge deal in the original films. They couldn’t have had her say “Oh, I found it in a trash heap on Bespin?” or “I bought it from a guy who bought it from a guy who stole it from Bespin?”

Apparently there’s no time for rational explanations to questionable plot points.



Because spies from the First Order and the Resistance saw BB-8 and called in back up. Unfortunately, the First Order arrived first and are doing what they do best: shooting up the place.

Uh oh.

Oh, it gets even worse. The First Order has a planet killing device called Starkiller base they fire at the Republic’s capital, destroying it.

Where did the First Order get a planet killer?

Presumably they’ve been building it for some time into a snow planet.

How does it work?


It sucks energy from a nearby star until it’s spent, then fires that out across the galaxy to destroy multiple planets in a system.

So… it’s a one shot weapon?

Um, no. The star going dark is just how you know it’s going to fire.

But how do they reload if the star is depleted?

Um. That’s an excellent question.

I mean, I can follow the Death Star firing a giant laser, but how does this even line up?

It’s Star Wars. They’re not interested in physics, to be fair.

Alright. Fine. So… what about Maz Kanata’s crib? That’s all going to hell right?

Yeah. It’s particularly bad for Rey, who stormed off after her Force vision because she’s afraid it’ll take her from going back to Jakku and thus missing her chance to be reunited with her parents. She goes off into the woods where she encounters Kylo Ren, who realizes she’s Force sensitive.

What does he do with her?


He captures her.

Do Finn and Han have anything to say about that?

Well, they’re too busy being shot at by stormtroopers. Finn takes Anakin’s saber for safe keeping and uses it to fight, but he’s pretty crummy with it. Lucky for them, the Resistance shows up. Poe’s X-Wing squadron starts shooting up stormtroopers and TIE Fighters, sending the First Order reeling away.

How did Poe survive that crash?

He fell out before Finn did and lost his jacket in the process. After that, he made his way back to the Resistance.

That seems a little convenient.

It does, but Poe’s awesome so we’ll let it slide.

So, the First Order escapes?

Yup. Finn and Han, however, see Kylo Ren running away with Rey in tow.

Do they try to save her?


Nothing they can do. Kylo escapes. The Resistance lands, and Leia and C-3PO shows up just in time to have banter with Han. Turns out they know their son is Kylo Ren and his turn to the dark side is what split them apart. Leia went back to being a Resistance fighter and Han went back to smuggling.

Finn agrees to stay with the good guys, since he feels like he owes Rey a rescue.

What are they going to do about the First Order’s sun weapon of doom?

They go back to the Resistance base on the planet D’Qar, which the First Order is targeting next. They plan to take it out, but a ground team needs to take down the shields around the base before Poe’s fighters can move in.

This sound very familiar.

Yeah, yeah.

Where’s R2 in all of this?


He’s been powered down for years. After Kylo Ren’s actions forced Luke into exile, R2 became depressed.

Awww. That’s sad.

It is, but our heroes don’t have time to worry about that. They have a castle to storm.

So, how do they infiltrate the First Order base?

They come out of hyperspace into the planet’s atmosphere.

That’s freaking awesome.

Yup. They almost crash into a mountain but manage to land near the base.

What’s happening with Rey?


Kylo Ren uses the Force to interrogate her, but realizes she’s super strong in the Force. She resists him and the two talk about father figures. Seems Kylo Ren was super disappointed by Han as a dad, which is probably why he turned to Snoke for direction… though we’re not sure why it wasn’t Luke. We guess they’re saving that for Episode VIII.

Rey’s resistance shakes up Kylo Ren, so he leaves her. She uses the Force to use a mind trick on a stormtrooper (played by Daniel Craig!) to let her go and give her his weapon.

Wait a second, how does she know what a mind trick is?

Umm… we don’t know.

I’m only asking because she’s lived this sheltered life on Jakku all this time… so how could she know about this stuff?

Kylo Ren tries to use one on her when he interrogates her. She’s a quick study.


Yeah… yeah… but how about those silly stormtroopers always letting Kylo Ren’s prisoners escape, eh?

He must have been pretty pissed.


He starts slicing shit up with his lightsaber. It’s adorable, really.

What about our strike team?

They capture Captain Phasma and force her to help them. Then they stash her in a garbage chute.

Wow, Phasma’s really got shafted in this movie didn’t she?


Maybe her last thought before she fell was “Oh, chute.”

That was a garbage pun.

… touché. Anyway, do they find Rey?

Yeah, roaming the halls of Starkiller base like a BAMF. Anyway, they lower the shields so Poe’s squadron can attack. They start setting up explosives, but Kylo Ren arrives. Han decides to confront him and calls him his birth name, “Ben.”

As in Ben Kenobi?

We’re willing to be that’s the case, yes.

Man, major bummer for Obi-Wan.

We bet he’s rolling in his ethereal grave.

So what does Kylo Ren do?

Well, he faces his dad. Han tells him to abandon the dark side and just for a second you think it might be working. Kylo Ren even seems sad and regretful, but it’s really because he’s working up the nerve to stab Han through the chest with his lightsaber.

Oh snap.

Yup. Han gently caresses his son’s cheek before falling into an endless chasm.

A… shaft if you will?

Um, yes.

So, you’re telling me Han got stabbed and fell down a —

No. You’re not doing this.

Oh, I think I am. You could say that Han got —

Please God no.

— shafted? TWICE?


God dammit. Well, if it helps, Chewbacca is about as pissed as I am right now. He shoots Kylo Ren, wounding him, and sets off the charges which gives Poe an opening to damage Starkiller base. He does, and the whole planet literally starts coming apart at the seams.

What happens to Rey, Finn, and Chewie?

They get separated. Unfortunately, Kylo Ren attacks Rey and Finn. He Force pushes Rey into a tree, which forces Finn to step up and fight Kylo with Anakin’s saber… which pisses Kylo Ren. Lucky for Finn, Ren is wounded so he’s slower. Unlucky for Finn, Ren keeps punching his own wound to make him angrier.

How does that end for Finn?


He gets disarmed and sliced across the back. He’s out for the count. When Kylo tries to Force pull Anakin’s lightsaber, Rey Force pulls it to her instead and they fight each other. Rey wins, wounding Kylo and giving him a rather nasty face wound. When they’re separated by the planet coming apart, Rey takes Finn back to the Falcon where Chewbacca is waiting for them. They escape the planet just as it comes apart entirely.

What about Kylo Ren?

We assume he escaped somehow. Let’s face it, there’s no way they’ll kill him like this. He’s in this trilogy for the duration.

So, everyone gets back home and…?

They’re happy to be alive, but sad Han died. Finn is also in a coma, it seems. BB-8 talks to R2, who suddenly awakens and has the other piece of the map to find Luke.

Wait, seriously?


Everyone’s been trying to find Luke this whole time, but R2-D2 had most of the map and didn’t say anything?

Pretty much, yeah.

What a dick.

He was sad! And apparently BB-8 woke up him with the other part of the map or something.

This feels very unearned.

Hey, look on the bright side. We’re about to find Luke.

Is that what Rey does?


Yup. Leia sends her off in the Millennium Falcon, which Rey is now the captain of. Chewbacca is now her co-pilot.

To be fair, that’s pretty awesome.

It is.

So, does she find Luke?

She travels to an ancient Jedi temple (perhaps the first ever?), where she meets Luke. She takes out Anakin’s saber and presents it to him. The end.


What is it?

So, you could say –

Oh no.

That’s she’s giving Luke –


The shaft!


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