Despite all the controversy and differing reviews regarding The Last Jedi, I liked the movie and thought it gave some great insight into where the franchise is going. I like some of the changes; I’m not as fond of others. Fair warning, there will be a lot of spoilers in this post, so if you haven’t yet seen The Last Jedi, please stop reading now.
The Business Side of the Franchise
The way the plot of The Last Jedi unfolded left a lot of unanswered questions. I’m sure that some of them will be resolved in Episode IX, but I think there are others that were left open for business reasons. Things like:
Snoke dying opens the door for another movie
I didn’t particularly care for Snoke as a villain. Mostly because he wasn’t involved enough. I know there are theories about him being Darth Plagueis, and others say he’s not a true Sith. In The Force Awakens, it seems like anything is possible because so little information is given. By the time he dies in The Last Jedi, we know nothing more. I think that the producers are looking ahead to a movie set between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens that will use Snoke as the villain, and that’s where we’ll get his backstory.
The Knights of Ren
Not much is known about the Knights of Ren. They are mentioned by Snoke in The Force Awakens, but no new information is given about them in The Last Jedi. Ben Solo takes the name Kylo Ren upon turning to the dark side, but it isn’t clear why. It could be that when he leaves Luke’s training, the students he takes with him form the knights, or it could be that the group is already in existence, and Kylo binds himself to them when taking the name. Either way, they’re another story that could be told, and I fully expect a movie to be made about the Knights of Ren at some point.
Disney is looking beyond Episode IX and beyond the Skywalker family
J.J. Abrams has gone on record saying that the main Star Wars episodes are about the Skywalker family, and the episodic trilogies are starting to be called the “Skywalker Saga.” So, when Kylo tells Rey about her parentage and that they weren’t anyone special, that shifts the narrative (provided he was telling the truth). Rey is the main character of Episodes VII and VIII, but Kylo Ren and Leia are the last Skywalkers. Leia won’t be in Episode IX, which leaves Ben Solo as the last of the Skywalker line. Kylo will be the primary villain of Episode IX, which leaves the heroic side of the franchise in the hands of someone who isn’t a Skywalker. I think that’s a good thing and will open the door for a wider array of stories to be told in the universe.
Hints About Episode IX
Rey/Kylo must be a new kind of Jedi/Sith
One recurring theme in the movie is letting the past die. Both Kylo Ren and Luke Skywalker tell Rey that it’s time to let go of the old ways. Luke doesn’t want any more Jedi. Kylo kills Snoke and offers Rey the chance to start a new empire with him. Both the light and the dark are trying to convince Rey that things need to change. With the deaths of Luke and Snoke, there are no true Jedi or Sith left in the galaxy. Rey and Kylo are set to create a new kind of Force user.
Poe is the new leader of the Resistance
Abrams has said that Carrie Fisher’s likeness will not be used in Episode IX, so my guess is that Leia’s death will occur offscreen and referenced in the opening crawl. I don’t know how much of Poe’s ascension was planned in the initial production and how much was added after Fisher’s passing, but it’s clear that Poe Dameron is the new leader of the Resistance. Much of Poe’s story line in The Last Jedi is focused on him learning to be a true leader, not just a hero. It is a little heavy-handed and clumsy at times (like Leia outright saying, “Follow him”), but it’s a change that needed to happen. Episodes VII and VIII have been about a new generation, and Poe taking control of the Resistance is just another part of that. Episode IX should be about what the new generation does with the power they get.
Luke only gave Rey two of the three lessons he promised
Lesson one is that the Force is independent of Jedi or Sith. Lesson two is that the Jedi legacy is failure. Lesson three isn’t in the movie. Episode IX should contain that lesson. Either Force-ghost Luke will make an appearance (which I think is likely) or Rey discovers it on her own. What’s interesting is that director Rian Johnson filmed the third lesson, but cut it from the movie. The lesson is that only action can lead to change, and the Jedi refused to act. Whether or not that stays the third lesson will be up to the Episode IX writers, but I think it’s a solid lesson that fits into Luke’s belief that it’s time for the Jedi to die.
Rey will learn how to build a lightsaber
Luke’s lightsaber is destroyed, and Rey is without a weapon at the end of the movie. That means it will be up to her to create a new lightsaber for Episode IX. Given the training sequence in The Last Jedi, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see her convert her staff into a Darth-Maul-style lightsaber, or even a glaive. It may not be shown on-screen, but she will need a weapon of some kind before she faces off against Kylo Ren again.
General Hux has something planned
Hux comes across as a sniveling underling, but he’s also shown a level of competence. He was in line to lead the First Order after Snoke’s death but steps aside in the face of Kylo Ren’s rage. While it may have been portrayed as fear, I think Hux was making the most pragmatic move available to him. I don’t think his character is just for the comic relief he provides in Episode VIII. I think Hux will be the secondary villain of Episode IX. There’s a reason that, as a villain, he’s survived both Episodes VII and VIII. His ambition of leading the First Order is not yet realized, and he’ll turn on Kylo Ren the moment he has the advantage.
Finn hasn’t figured out why he’s fighting yet
Finn was great in Episode VII. He was thrust into a protector role, fleeing for his life at the same time. It made for a great character. In The Last Jedi, he’s not as clearly defined. He thinks he’s still protecting Rey, but he’s no longer in a position to do so. He also doesn’t have a personal connection to the Resistance, so his support there is more of convenience than conviction. Rose may have given him a connection, but he still lacks a real reason to fight. That will need to be addressed in Episode IX. My feeling is that it will be Finn, not Poe, who is called to lead the new galactic government once the First Order is defeated.
Kylo Ren cannot be redeemed and a part of the new government
The First Order will be overthrown by the Resistance; that’s pretty much a given. The question is what will happen to Kylo Ren. Rey explicitly states that Kylo can be redeemed, but he is still feared by the people of the galaxy. With that in mind, if Kylo turns from the dark and becomes Ben Solo again, I don’t think he can take part in the new government. He is too well-known as a villain. It’s the same reason that Vader dies upon his redemption in the original trilogy. Which leads me to my next theory…
Kylo will survive and be redeemed, but will be exiled (perhaps self-imposed)
Upon the First Order’s defeat, Kylo will be expected to face justice for his crimes. I have no idea if he will face that justice officially, but I do believe that he will turn back to the light and be pivotal in overthrowing the First Order. The problem is that one good act will not fully compensate for the atrocities he committed. That leaves exile. It may be self-imposed as Kylo goes to a secluded system to rediscover who he is as Ben Solo.
Rey will found a new Jedi order that is not as rigid as the old Jedi, but not as corrupt as the Sith
Going back to Luke’s lessons, you have to admit that he’s right. The Jedi didn’t work. They failed in their goals and allowed the dark side of the Force to gain strength. The prequels show that the Jedi were not the pillars of morality they claimed to be; Jedi Master Mace Windu forgoing a trial and attempting to execute Palpatine is the clearest example. I don’t doubt that the Jedi code was an effort to alleviate the corrupting influence of power, but it wasn’t enough. When Luke founded his new Jedi order, he attempted to recreate the old order, but it had become too corrupted and the influence of the dark was too strong, so he failed. I think that’s one reason he’s so bitter in The Last Jedi. He believed in the old Jedi order, but it wasn’t strong enough to overcome the power of the dark side.
Rey, as the heir of the Jedi, will have to make a similar choice. My guess is that she keeps the name, but changes the order. She has the ancient Jedi texts, but she wasn’t trained by an old Jedi, she was trained by a transitional Jedi. Luke saw that Rey was willing to explore the dark, and it scared him. I think Rey uses that lack of fear about the dark side to her advantage. The new Jedi will truly seek to find balance and use the full Force, not just the light side. As Luke taught in his first lesson, the Force isn’t the property of the Jedi, it’s a life force, and death and darkness are a part of life. Embracing that fact will make her and those who follow her stronger Force users. Plus, we may get to see some really cool things, like light-Force lightning.