How is Episode IX going to follow up ‘The Last Jedi’?
So Episode VIII was pretty awesome right? And despite being funny as hell, it also ended on a incredibly downbeat note, with the Resistance all but whittled down to a few survivors aboard the Millennium Falcon, a pyrrhic victory that’s as evocative an illustration of the world’s mood in 2017 as any. So where next for Rey and company?
Like The Dark Knight, The Last Jedi exists as it was originally intended, without reediting or reshoots in the wake of a cast member’s death to open up other storylines for the sequel. According to Kathleen Kennedy, Episode IX was meant to be Leia’s film, just as Episode VII was Han’s and Episode VIII is Luke’s, but Carrie Fisher’s passing means Luke’s Force ghost may have to play a bigger part than originally envisioned.
Fisher’s passing also means Episode IX needs to pick a few years after The Last Jedi, so it feels natural that Leia died between films. It’s to be expected, as The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi’s sequential nature was the exception to the norm (before that, the shortest gap between films were the six months between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi), and both the Resistance and First Order need a serious amount of time to recover as it is.
It would be amazing if Episode IX jumped a decade or so with General Dameron and Jedi Master Rey leading the next generation of freedom fighters teased in The Last Jedi, but like the kids in It, the cast just can’t age quickly enough, so only a few years will probably pass. Finn and Rose will likely be married by then, while Rey will have constructed a new lightsaber (fingers crossed for a double-bladed one ala her quarterstaff).
With Rey having finally accepted that her parents abandoned her, perhaps it’s time to shine the spotlight on Finn’s family, assuming they’re still alive and weren’t killed by the First Order when they abducted him as an infant. Perhaps Maz Kanata could be the one who discovers the whereabouts of Finn’s parents and alerts him. It would certainly have him confront his past in a hard-hitting way that infiltrating the Supremacy didn’t.
Speaking of the Supremacy, is Supreme Leader Ren going to have the ship repaired, or will he set up a capital for the First Order on solid ground? Given his obsession with his grandfather, might he reclaim Darth Vader’s castle on Mustafar? Wherever the Republic and the First Order have their last battle, there should be a no-holds barred epic final duel between Rey and Kylo Ren. Perhaps the fallen Jedi’s obsession with Rey will be what finally undoes him, given she recognised he was well and truly beyond saving.
Yes, last battle: it may be tempting to have Hux cut a deal to get rid of the wannabe Sith Emperor, and order the First Order to retreat into the shadows, but the whole galaxy should remember cutting off the head of the snake in Return of the Jedi did not work, and fight to extinguish every First Order garrison in the galaxy. Either way, here’s hoping Hux dies a hilarious death.
Who’s going to put up the resources for that fight? Perhaps JJ Abrams and co-writer Chris Terrio will build on the theme of the elites profiteering from war by having them want to redeem themselves for Hosnian Prime’s destruction. That could pave the way to reintroduce one Baron Administrator Lando Calrissian, who could become the Resistance’s new benefactor and provide a base for them at Bespin.
JJ Abrams has a major challenge with Episode IX, building a satisfying conclusion to not one but three trilogies, though The Last Jedi has already finished the task of concluding the original trilogy heroes’ tale, so he can just focus on a satisfying finale for Rey, Finn, Poe, Rose and Kylo Ren. The Last Jedi was a sprawling and ambitious film, so the return of Abrams’ economic direction could be seen as a disappointment for some, but perhaps we don’t need such a extended ending. May the Force be with him.