Today, a new piece of information about a character in the upcoming Star Wars show Ahsoka went viral and promptly set off an online debate about Jedi surviving the infamous Order 66 aka Jedi Purge. Once again, people seemed upset to learn that another space monk—like Jedi: Survivor’s Cal—survived the Purge. But you know what? It’s not a big deal. Thousands of Jedi still died because of Palpatine’s Purge, and a few surviving doesn’t ruin the franchise.
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Before continuing, a heads up: I’m going to be sharing some early details from the upcoming Disney+ show Ahsoka, as well as minor spoilers from Star Wars Jedi: Survivor and past films, too. So consider this your warning!
So here’s what’s causing the uproar: Empire Magazine revealed that the late Ray Stevenson’s orange lightsaber-wielding Ahsoka character, Baylon Skoll, is actually a Jedi who survived Order 66 and has become a galactic mercenary. This promptly led to a whole new round of discourse and debate over Order 66, the Jedi, all the survivors, and how effective the Purge was (or wasn’t).
How many Jedi were there and how many survived Order 66?
So we are all on the same page, Order 66 was the moment first seen in 2005’s Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith when the Republic’s clone army—ordered by the evil Emperor—turn on all the Jedi in the galaxy. Since then, we’ve seen different perspectives of this event across games, comics, and TV episodes. And in most of these flashbacks, we see a lot of random Jedi getting blasted and killed by clone troopers. But you might be wondering: How many Jedi were even around at that time?
In canon, there were roughly 10,000 Jedi Knights spread across the massive Star Wars galaxy in the time period of Episode III. Killing thousands of Jedi was only possible thanks to millions of clone troopers who, with the help of Jedi, were fighting in the Clone Wars. Once Order 66 happened, well, the clones did most of the work. But Darth Vader and his dangerous Inquisitors (themselves Jedi who escaped the Purge to join the Empire) hunted down many of the remaining stragglers.
With 10,000 space monks hanging around, it’s pretty damn impressive that shortly after the fall of the Republic, Order 66, and Vader’s Jedi hunts, there were only around 50 confirmed Jedi left according to current canon stories. That means that Order 66 and Vader were 99 percent effective at wiping out the Jedi. That’s as effective as most popular anti-bacterial soaps!
However, if you look online now, you’ll see a lot of people acting as if Order 66 was a failure, suggesting that very few Jedi died and that there are too many survivors in this current era of Star Wars. But is that true? (No, it’s not.)
Jedi survivors are incredibly rare in the Star Wars galaxy
When it was revealed on June 6 that Skoll is another surviving Jedi, a lot of people began posting the same jokes and complaints that always pop up when a new Order 66 survivor comes to light. Most of these revolve around the idea that Order 66 only killed a few Jedi or that Star Wars is ruining its legacy by continuing to reveal more survivors, etc. Others point out that it makes no sense that these Jedi (or former Jedi) survivors are running around the galaxy and not helping in future films or being mentioned by other characters in various Star Wars media.
But these complaints often ignore the sheer number of Jedi who did die during Order 66 and shortly afterward. We are talking about, at least, a few thousand. Considering how few survivors there are—less than 100 as of 2023—the actual death toll is probably closer to nine thousand or so. That’s still a lot of dead Jedi!
Sure, it might seem like there are Jedi survivors everywhere. I mean, we just got a new game that not only stars a Jedi survivor but also features five other living Jedi. And the movies and TV shows have depicted surviving Jedi, like Kanan and Grogu, as well. Plus many of the books and comics deal with Jedi survivors. This is where I think a lot of people, understandably, get confused. So many stories in Star Wars (both pre- and post-Disney) revolved around or starred Jedi survivors of Order 66. It’s very easy to misinterpret these characters popping up in media all the time as proof Jedi survivors were everywhere.
But remember that the Star Wars universe is massive. It’s not just a few planets or cities, but an entire galaxy filled with thousands of planets, moons, space stations, towns, bases, ruins, temples, villages, old religions, billions of people, alien monsters, droids, and more. The stories we see in Star Wars are just small fragments of the entire galaxy’s impossibly large story.
The reality is that most people in Star Wars have never seen a Jedi. Many people don’t even really understand what they are or if they exist. People are too busy dealing with giant space gators or nasty spice raiders or some new form of the Empire. Jedi, even before Order 66, were rare in the galaxy. And after the Purge, Jedi became a myth, or were just forgotten. And a few dozen of them running around with lightsabers in the heyday of the Empire wasn’t going to change that.
Order 66’s aftermath is the most interesting time for Jedi stories
When it comes down to it, I don’t have a problem with the current era of Star Wars and its 50 or so survivors. For one, most of these survivors won’t last until Return of the Jedi or beyond, so it doesn’t affect Luke’s journey in the Original Trilogy. And yes, I know Yoda tells Luke he will be “the last of the Jedi” but Yoda isn’t God. It’s very possible (and likely) he didn’t know the whereabouts of every Jedi survivor then or if they were even still alive. (Some may have also cut themselves off from the Force, making them harder to sense.) I also assume Yoda was just trying to really put some pressure on young Luke to, you know, save the galaxy and stop his evil dad.
The other reason I don’t have a problem with more Jedi survivors popping up after Revenge of the Sith is that post-Order 66 is such an interesting era for Star Wars’ space monks. They are outnumbered and part of a dying order that is barely remembered by the galaxy they once tried to save and protect. They are being hunted down by former Jedi, and there’s little hope left in the galaxy.
When you think about it like that, it’s obvious this is a great time to tell a story about a rogue Jedi or a young surviving padawan. There’s so much inherent conflict and excitement in this period of the franchise. Plus, a single Jedi can make a massive difference in this period. So I’m not surprised that creators keep coming back to this era and keep introducing new Jedi survivors.
Now, I do think that if the number of survivors ever cracks like 700 or 900, I’ll probably start to roll my eyes and get frustrated. But I don’t think that’s going to happen, as Disney and Lucasfilm understand how careful they have to be when introducing new Jedi who evaded the pincers of Order 66.
But, when it comes down to it, what’s more believable and interesting? That the Emperor’s supermassive plan worked perfectly and all of the powerful Jedi—but two—were killed, or that some of them survived and helped the galaxy escape total darkness? I know which one I prefer.