This article contains Star Wars: The Last Jedi spoilers…
The losses were heavy, the sacrifices gigantic. The Resistance has managed to escape the First Order’s clutches, but the damage wrought by Star Wars: The Last Jedi’s events are deep and long-lasting: its entire fleet is lost, and Luke Skywalker, considered a beacon of hope for those who stand against the First Order, is no more.
Then again, the bad guys are far from unscathed. The kamikaze effort of Vice Admiral Holdo cut a swathe through the First Order’s ranks. Worse still, the calculating Supreme Leader Snoke is dead, leaving the entire regime in the volatile hands of Kylo Ren and the hapless General Hux.
Episode IX – the third and presumably final chapter in the Sequel Trilogy – is due out in 2019, and it’ll be up to director J.J. Abrams and co-writer Chris Terrio to pick things up where Rian Johnson has left things. A certain amount of finality hung over The Last Jedi, for sure, but that doesn’t mean that Episode VIII doesn’t leave all kinds of plot threads and unanswered questions for Abrams to follow up in two years’ time.
Here are a few of the ones that jumped out for us…
The Sacred Jedi Texts
In the drama of the burning Force tree scene in The Last Jedi – not to mention the surprise reappearance of Master Yoda – this detail is easily overlooked. When Rey left Luke on Ahch-To, she managed to smuggle the sacred Jedi texts onto the Millennium Falcon with her. At the end of the movie, we’re reminded of this when the books are shown stashed in a drawer.
If Skywalker’s wish was for the Jedi religion to end, then this brief shot offers a potential life-line to any writer who wants to pick up on it in the future. Luke begrudgingly admits to Yoda that he never read the texts in any great detail. Might they contain something boundary-shifting about the balance between Jedi and Sith? We’ll return to this topic a bit later, so keep it tucked away in the back of your mind.
The exertion of Skywalker‘s confrontation with Kylo Ren may have caused his physical body to fail, but as we know from previous Star Wars movies, death isn‘t the end in this universe – at least for the Jedi. This year’s film also established that Force ghosts can have a tangible effect on our plane of existence beyond offering pearls of wisdom: when Luke hesitated to burn the tree on Ahch-To, Yoda summoned a bolt of lightning to finish the job on his behalf.It’s almost certain, then, that Luke will be back in Episode IX, no doubt shrouded in a nimbus of holy light.
His last words to Kylo Ren were “See ya around kid,” which may be more than just a casual goodbye. With Kylo already haunted, to a degree, by the murder of his own father, it seems that another ghost will be appearing to nag at his conscience in the near future.
Skywalker’s Jedi Academy
Here’s another detail that might go unnoticed on a first viewing. While recalling the moment when Kylo Ren – then known as Ben Solo – ransacked his Jedi academy, Luke mentions that Ren took off with ”a handful” of his students. This leads to the obvious question: what happened to them?
With Snoke gone and his retinue of elite guards bested, not to mention Phasma once again ejected from the franchise, there’s an opening for some more mysterious villains to join the fray. Perhaps the former trainees joined the Knights of Ren, and will make a dramatic reappearance in Episode IX.
Let’s face it, DJ, played by a twitchy Benicio del Toro, seemed like a bit of an untrustworthy rogue from the moment Finn and Rose first met him. That he eventually sold out the whole Resistance to General Hux was probably inevitable – but that doesn’t mean we’ve seen the last of del Toro’s codebreaker. Might he have a chance to redeem himself in Episode IX, or will he wind up lending his services to the First Order again? Whatever happens, we’d be surprised if DJ didn’t emerge in the next chapter.
The Rest of the Galaxy
If there are more Resistance forces out there, they didn’t exactly rush to Leia’s defense when she was cornered on Crait. But that doesn’t mean that help won’t rally to the cause in Episode IX, and Rian Johnson’s final shot – that of a downtrodden kid on Canto Bight looking up at the stars – offered a classic, Star Wars-style ray of hope. And didn’t he quietly use the Force to pick up his broomstick? It’s a clear message that there are other Force users out there in the galaxy.
Forget ancestral lines and Chosen Ones: the Force can manifest itself in the humblest of places. Now that really is a ray of hope.
Leia’s Force Power
In the heat of the dramatic first act, maybe we should forgive Poe, Finn, and other members of the Resistance for not asking themselves how Leia managed to float from the vacuum of space and back to the damaged cruiser. Leia is, of course, Lukes sister, and we know that the Force is strong with her too – but not quite this strong.
In the past, we heard from producer Kathleen Kennedy that Episode IX would have focused more heavily on Leia – a plan no doubt out of the question following the tragic death of Carrie Fisher. Was Leia’s life-saving use of the Force a sign of her true, hidden power – a power that would have really come to the fore in the next film? It’s possible, and something we’d have dearly liked to have seen.
This one’s a bit of a long-shot, but they’re all the rage in the Star Wars franchise anyway. Snoke’s dead, and the Sequel trilogy has lost its Emperor Palpatine figure. Here’s a thought, though: Jedi can return as Force ghosts. Could a being skilled in the dark side of the Force do the same? The Sequel Trilogy’s willing to change our perceptions of what the Force can do – see Luke’s astral projection in The Last Jedi – so there might be an outside chance that Snoke could return from the grave and whisper in Kylo Ren’s ear as an evil Force specter.
At the very least, there are unanswered questions left behind by Snoke. Where exactly did he come from? How did he and Kylo Ren first meet? These questions surely will have to be answered in Episode IX.
A whirlpool of fan fiction appeared in the wake of The Force Awakens – largely focusing on the potential relationship between Kylo Ren and Rey. You can check out the Reylo hashtag on Twitter to see just how delighted some fans are by the growing chemistry the two displayed in The Force Awakens. But in real Star Wars terms, what does their relationship mean for Episode IX? Well, the notion of the protagonist trying to turn the antagonist away from the dark side is one we’ve seen before in the series, but that was between Luke and his father, Darth Vader. In the Sequel Trilogy, we have a very different dynamic: there’s a definite frisson between Rey and Ren.
If it weren’t for the good-bad chasm that lies between them, it’s easy to imagine that they’d fall in love. Kylo’s half-whispered “please” in Snoke’s throne room certainly sounded to us like a buried sliver of passion.
If Kylo isn’t entirely beyond redemption, maybe it’ll be he and Rey’s affection for one another – rather than the business end of a lightsaber – that brings him back to the light. One further thought: Rey has the Jedi texts. Could it be that those pages contain something Luke and his predecessors never considered? Could it be, for example, that it’s possible for the dark and light to exist in perfect equilibrium, rather than constantly trying to repress the other? If so, then Kylo and Rey might be the ones who can establish that balance.