Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is drawing closer. In many ways, The Last Jedi felt like the conclusion of a story. Snoke is dead; Rey has chosen to abandon her brief dalliance with the dark side and embrace the light with her friends; Kylo Ren has taken complete command of the First Order.
The Resistance is still on the run though, and the future for the rebel heroes is unclear. What’s next for the Star Wars saga? Based on the character development and much-anticipated reveals in The Last Jedi, as well as what we know so far about The Rise of Skywalker, here’s what we predict might happen in Episode IX…
Emperor Palpatine Returns
Actor Ian McDiarmid made a brief appearance on stage after the Star Wars Celebration Episode IX panel, a follow-up to the sinister laugh that closed out the first The Rise of Skywalker trailer. Emperor Palpatine’s return is shocking twist for the Resistance, who see him as long gone after the fall of the Empire. Star Wars Expanded Universe fans might be less shocked since Palpatine returned as a clone several times in the Dark Empireand Dark Empire II comic series.
So what does this mean for Rey and Kylo Ren? Palpatine might be a ghost haunting the ruins of the Death Star shard if that is indeed the large structure that the Sequel Trilogy’s trio is headed toward in a clip from the teaser trailer. Will Kylo Ren take to Palpatine in the same way as he took to his grandfather’s dark side, or is helping the former Emperor a step further than Ben Solo will go?
The final Rise of Skywalker trailer features two major hints about Palpatine’s role: a spiked throne and a possible appearance in person. Rey looks up at a dark figure while Palpatine speaks of everything going according to plan. A major fan theory posits that the white hallways Rey fights through are a cloning facility designed to bring the Emperor back from the dead. Perhaps a combination of Force magic and Kaminoan cloning technology could restore his drifting spirit to a body. The throne, marked with an ancient-looking (but new to the fans) symbol of the Sith, might have been the seat of his power before Return of the Jedi. Is Rey part of Palpatine’s long plan?
The Future of the Jedi
After her turning point in the throne room in The Last Jedi, Rey proved that she had learned the lessons that Luke had taught. Now Rey needs to come into her own as a Jedi, possibly developing her own unique powers and becoming capable of training Force users herself. She has lifted rocks; now let’s see her do the equivalent of stopping blaster bolts mid-shot. Based on the trailers for The Rise of Skywalker, it looks like she’s ready to face down a starfighter on her own, a sure sign of her increased powers and faith in the Force. She also leaps across a canyon and displays some sweeping lightsaber moves, fighting Kylo Ren and destroying a mysterious statue.
And what about that title? Will Rey take the title of Skywalker as the mark of a new kind of Jedi? That would mesh well with Luke’s insistence that the Jedi need to die, making way for something new. Even if Rey doesn’t literally take Luke’s name, she will have become the next leader of the Jedi and wear it symbolically. And based on her acrobatics in the trailer, she is plenty comfortable in the sky. Maybe the Jedi Order is over and the Skywalker Order is next. The final trailer suggests this by framing Rey between Luke and Leia’s dialogue. “The Force will be with you…always,” the Skywalker twins say together. Far from rejecting the Force, Rey seems to be finding her own place within it.
The Sequel Trilogy has introduced a less stark difference between the Force-sensitive and the non-Force sensitive than was seen in the ritualized Jedi Order of the prequels. Maz Kanata can feel the presence of others in the Force but doesn’t label herself a Jedi. Many fans have speculated that Finn is Force-sensitive because he used Rey’s lightsaber in The Force Awakens. Using a lightsaber doesn’t necessarily mean one is Force sensitive (look at Han Solo), but showing that Finn has Force abilities would be a dramatic arc for the former stormtrooper. His dialogue in the final trailer shows an understanding that the Force brought him and his friends together. Whether or not he can feel the mystic energy, part of Finn’s story seems to be about learning to trust it.
Maybe Rey will end up training a new generation of Jedi, possibly including Finn. Luke’s Jedi academy didn’t pan out, and Rey might not be experienced enough to start a school just yet, but it’s time for her to move beyond her search for her parents and complete the work of defeating evil in the galaxy. Which brings us to …
Rey and Kylo Ren
Whether or not Kylo Ren should or will be redeemed is a huge debate among fans. At the heart of that question is also one about Rey: Has she decided that she should kill Kylo instead of trying to save him, as she already attempted to do? A model for how their Episode IX confrontation could go might be found in one of the episodes of Forces of Destiny.
In the second season episode, “Run Rey Run,” Rey helps a Teedo, one of the aliens that captured BB-8 in The Force Awakens. Both she and the Teedo are scavenging inside a Star Destroyer on Jakku. The Teedo steals a mechanical part from her at blaster point, but when he moves a part that she’d warned him might collapse, she rescues him from the crumbling ship. At the end of the episode, the Teedo reluctantly gives the part back, leaving Rey alone but not trying to double-cross her again.
Can’t you imagine Kylo Ren reluctantly doing something good for Rey, complaining all the while, because she has already saved (or spared) him once? After all, Snoke said that Kylo feels the call to the light, tempting him as the dark side sometimes tempted Luke.
Concluding Kylo’s story with a selfless act like this wouldn’t be a redemption per se; Kylo wouldn’t join the Resistance and, sadly, won’t reconcile with his mother. But he could make a choice to intentionally do something good just as he has so often intentionally copied the evil acts of Darth Vader.
This arc would also emphasize Rey’s goodness and pragmatism. It would show that she is strong and skilled enough to save Kylo from something he wouldn’t have been able to fight off himself. She wouldn’t become his ally, but like Luke refusing to kill his father, she wouldn’t remain his enemy forever either. In this way, she would follow in Luke’s footsteps.
The final trailer embraces this ambiguity. Rey and Kylo Ren seem to be right back where they were in The Last Jedi, Kylo insisting he’s the only one who understands who Rey is. Is this an emotional plea or some kind of reference to Palpatine’s plan? Or both? Additionally, Rey and Kylo the trailers show the duo fighting on the Death Star ruin but also smashing a statue together. Is this footage meant to be misleading about their relationship?
Leia and the New Republic
Leia Organa also has her own lessons to impart to Rey. On July 28, Lucasfilm announced that Leia will return for The Rise of Skywalker using “previously unreleased footage shot for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” This is a great way to keep her character alive after Carrie Fisher’s passing. We know from the trailers that some of this footage involves some kind of conversation or possibly a farewell to Rey. But is this all there is of the Leia portion of the movie?
Whatever her role, if anyone can create a compelling new scene out of unreleased footage from The Force Awakens, it’s the moviemakers at Lucasfilm.
Finn, Rose, and Poe
It’s hard to predict how things are going to go for these three Resistance heroes. Hopefully, Rey, Finn, Poe, and Rose will all spend more time together in The Rise of Skywalker.
As far as the Resistance goes, we’ll likely see way more leadership from Poe, who learned a couple of valuable lessons in The Last Jedi. His dialogue in the final trailer, asserting that people will fight for good if they have a leader, seems to indicate so. When Leia tells the remaining Resistance members to follow Poe on Crait, it sort of seems like a passing of the torch if Leia herself declines the role. Becoming the new Resistance leader would certainly make sense for the growth of the character. Although first he’ll have to finish the adventure The Rise of Skywalkersets for him. Director J.J. Abrams said at the Episode IX reveal panel that all three of the Sequel characters (and BB-8) will work together in the final saga film.
Finn has finally decided to join the Resistance in earnest. So what’s next for him? If the aforementioned Jedi path isn’t ahead of him, might the search for his own parents occupy his time? After all, we know Finn was taken at a very young age and that he was never given a proper name. Searching for his parents might give Finn more than enough to do in Episode IX. That said, it’ll be a lot to cram into one movie. We assume this search would have to run parallel to Rey’s final battle with Kylo. Finn is also occupied on a mission that lands him on a planet where he meets Jannah, played by Naomi Ackie, and rides shaggy space horses.
There’s also Finn and Rose’s budding romance. By the end of The Last Jedi, it’s clear that these two heroes have developed feelings for each other. Perhaps another undercover mission would be a chance for them to get closer? Many fans are also rooting for Finn and Poe to show romantic feelings for one another, either obviously or subtly.
Rose is the newest character in this group of heroes and so the hardest to predict a path for. Her mechanical skills, strength, and determination will undoubtedly prove to be an asset for the fight ahead though. She can be seen among the Resistance fighters in the final trailer.
We know Mark Hamill will return in The Rise of Skywalker, so expect Luke’s Force ghost at some point in the movie. Luke may make a spectral appearance in order to support Rey as she sets out on her journey to confront Kylo for the last time. Most importantly, this would allow these two characters to reconcile after the rocky time they spent together on Ahch-To.
The story beat that J.J. Abrams introduced in The Force Awakens—Rey’s hero-worship and longing to find Luke—was picked up by Rian Johnson in an unexpected way, as Luke refused to train her. If he chooses to pursue Rey and Luke’s relationship as student and teacher, Abrams will likely have the Jedi duo come to a more congenial conclusion.
Rey has a lot to talk to him about now that she knows she may never find her parents. There’s also the matter of those Jedi texts Rey took from the temple. Luke may also share more about his academy’s past since we still know barely anything about it.
Then there’s the other loose thread. Right before Luke disappears during his duel with Kylo on Crait, he tells his nephew that “he’ll see him around.” This could be an informal goodbye, but the words sound too purposeful to be anything but a promise that he’ll be back to haunt the new Supreme Leader. This is an angle of the Force we’ve not seen in the films before: a light side Force ghost appearing before a dark side user to torment him.
While “torment” might be a strong word, considering that Luke has usually been a kind figure, Kylo will undoubtedly be shaken by his uncle’s presence in Episode IX.
At long last, Lucasfilm announced that Billy Dee Williams will be re-joining the Star Wars saga in The Rise of Skywalker. It’s about time for us to see the rogueish businessman in the Sequel Trilogy, especially because of his close connection to the Solo family. In the final trailer, he’s back in the pilot’s seat of the Millennium Falcon with Chewbacca.
In the novel Last Shot, Lando visits Han in the home where the former smuggler lives with Leia and Ben. Han and Lando’s relationship is rocky (he punches Han in the face in the book), but there’s also camaraderie between them. Lando’s emotional connection to the Solos may very well be an important part of Episode IX.
Maybe we’ll see Lando reacting to Han’s death and Ben Solo’s turn to the dark side. In the novels, Lando is both a businessman and a military commander. Since he’s loyal to the New Republic, he has a vested interest in joining the fight now that the tiny Resistance fleet is facing the First Order, and has experience like no one else with the second Death Star.
The First Order
Now that Emperor Palpatine is back in some form, the differences between the First Order and the Empire might become more stark. Or could Palpatine be the foe that both sides need to fight against?
Perhaps the most positive possible ending would be the defeat but also the liberation of the First Order. Finn proved that stormtroopers can have their own inner lives and make their own choices. It would be inspiring to see him lead other stormtroopers away from the First Order. Many were raised in the stormtrooper corps and don’t know any other life, but Finn could show them how to live without the yoke of the First Order.
Captain Phasma is probably dead now that she has fallen into the fiery underbelly of Snoke’s flagship. Although fans insist that they never saw a body, John Boyega asserted at Star Wars Celebration Chicago that Finn’s fight with Phasma was at an end, and that Finn could now develop further as a unique person instead of a regimented stormtrooper.
Abrams and Johnson both wrote Hux as an over-the-top embodiment of oppression. Johnson leaned harder on the humor, making him more ineffective than Abrams did. In The Last Jedi, Hux nursed some serious homicidal urges, almost killing Kylo while he was unconscious in Snoke’s throne room, so it wouldn’t be surprising if he ends up betraying the new Supreme Leader in the end.
It’ll be especially interesting to see what a Kylo Ren-led First Order looks like. We know that Kylo is emotional, prone to outbursts, and is nowhere near as calculating as Snoke was (or the Emperor, for that matter). Could a series of brash decisions send the First Order tumbling into chaos? Or will we meet a more mature Kylo in The Rise of Skywalker, one who has become a capable ruler, if also overwhelmingly cruel?
Tell us what you think will happen in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker in the comments below!
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