Spoilers ahead for Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Two years ago, during the final moments of The Force Awakens, major Star Wars fans and casual viewers alike both gasped and cried at the sad loss of Han Solo, one of the franchise's most beloved characters. And one year ago, upon the death of the legendary Carrie Fisher, fans mourned again knowing that The Last Jedi would be the final Star Wars movie to feature Leia Organa. Now that we've lost Han and (likely soon) Leia, the fact that Luke Skywalker seems to die in The Last Jedi is even more upsetting to deal with.
But there is a silver lining: Luke doesn't die in the tragic way you might think he would. In fact, Luke's death can actually be seen as an inspiring one in the story. Throughout much of The Last Jedi, Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Luke (Mark Hamill) remain on the island where Luke has been hiding out from the First Order. Luke teaches Rey some of the ways of the Force, but ultimately they both part on kind of bad terms, with Rey begging Luke to return to the fight and be the beacon of hope that everyone wants him to be, and Luke rejecting his duty.
Towards the end of the movie, many of the rebels, including Poe Dameron, Finn, Rose, and General Leia Organa are hiding out in a bunker on a remote planet where a former rebel base once stood. They're essentially trapped inside, barred by the First Order's army, equipped with a giant cannon blaster. With no way out, there's little hope left that any of the rebels will survive. Until, that is, Luke Skywalker mysteriously appears inside the cave.
Luke heads out to face the dark side to give the rebels a chance to get away. During an epic final face-off, Kylo Ren thrusts his lightsaber through Luke's body, only to find that Luke has no reaction, and that the lightsaber has no affect on Luke at all. After a few more tries, with Kylo Ren totally confused as to why his attempted murder has failed, the movie cuts to Luke, the real Luke, sitting peacefully on a cliff back on his secluded island. His eyes are closed, and he is seated in a meditative position. He's been projecting himself through the power of the Force the entire time. Luke survives a barrage of weapons being unleashed at him and Kylo Ren's lightsaber because he's not actually there. Even an emotional scene with Leia was projected to her, all with the power of the Force.
Luke's incredible skill with the Force allows him to distract Kylo Ren long enough for the rebels to escape. But the whole encounter, projecting himself across galaxies, intense emotional scenes, and even a physical lightsaber fight no doubt took a lot out of him. Once he is no longer needed, and with his energy completely expended, Luke, still seated atop that lovely cliff, stares out at a gorgeous double sunset (just like when we first met him) and fades away, his cloak dropping to the ground.
But look, the way Luke "dies" isn't actually bad, right? He doesn't lose his life to Kylo Ren or to the Dark Side. In fact, Luke essentially gives his life so that his sister and his new protege, Rey, could survive. Also, the peaceful way he departs essentially mirrors the peaceful disappearing of his own mentor, Yoda, in The Empire Strikes Back. And knowing that Yoda can still appear in a kind of ghost-like form through the power of the Force makes it pretty clear: he may be technically dead, but The Last Jedi is definitely not the last we'll see of Luke Skywalker.