It seems incredibly early to start speculating on what will happen in the ninth installment of Star Wars, and yet after that spectacular trailer release for The Last Jedi, it’s hard to stop wondering. Rian Johnson’s latest peek at the movie was full of intrigue and misdirection; it’s hard to predict where the movie will go. But between clues from the trailer, what we know about Star Wars more generally, and some incredibly irresponsible theorizing, we’ve got some ideas for what might happen in Episode IX.
The Last Jedi trailer seemed to center on Rey and Kylo Ren as opposing poles of the light and dark sides of the Force — or is it? This is the real question. There’s probably quite a bit of misdirection in the trailer, but one thing we can take away is that there will be some focus on these two characters.
Will Rey turn against the light, joining Kylo Ren and the First Order, as the trailer implies?
The Star Wars mainline stories are about the Skywalkers. It’s a generally accepted truth. Let’s put aside Rey’s parentage for the purposes of this discussion — it’s important to the narrative, to be sure, but it’s just too difficult to be certain. We need to consider Kylo Ren, who is certainly a Skywalker. This is his story too.
Now, Kylo Ren hasn’t exactly endeared himself to the audience. He’s impulsive, dangerous and — oh yeah, he murdered his father, Han Solo. That’s difficult to forgive. But Kylo is also torn. Snoke took advantage of a confused young boy and warped him for his own purposes. Consider that Han may have known exactly what was going to happen to him if he confronted his son, and was willing to give his life to bring him back. It doesn’t mean that Kylo shouldn’t take responsibility for his actions, but he isn’t unredeemable.
The Last Jedi will start Kylo Ren’s redemption arc, but it will take center stage in Episode IX.
That could be the central plot of the ninth movie. It will set up the pieces for a spectacular showdown between master and apprentice — not Kylo Ren and Luke, but Kylo Ren and Snoke.
The loss of Carrie Fisher means that Leia’s role for Episode IX — originally planned to be large — had to be rewritten altogether. Other characters have to step into that void. Poe Dameron will step into her shoes to lead the Resistance; after all, he’s a natural leader and they clearly were close. It’s even possible she was grooming him as a successor. But who will guide Kylo Ren back to the light in Episode IX? If Leia isn’t there to do it, then maybe Luke and Rey will.
We already know that Kylo Ren feels the call to the light; he said as much in The Force Awakens. And in the novelization of the seventh movie, author Alan Dean Foster makes clear that killing his father, Han Solo, wasn’t a satisfying experience. Kylo expected this action to sever his ties with his family, and his connection with the light side of the Force, forever. Instead, it made him more conflicted than ever.
Kylo Ren’s interest in Rey is clear, so she must influence his arc.
Rey’s connection to the Force is strong, perhaps as much as Kylo’s himself. Rey, and to a lesser extent, Luke, will play a pivotal role in turning Kylo back to the light and redeeming him. This isn’t about whether Rey will fall to the dark side or not; she’s an analog for Luke. He may have been tempted, but he never fell. Ren, meanwhile, is an analog for Vader. But his redemption will come before the last moments of the final movie, unlike Anakin’s.
In fact, the plot of Episode IX could consist of Rey and Kylo Ren teaming up to go find and kill Snoke. After all, he’s the real evil here; Kylo is just a pawn. What role will Luke play in all of this? He should play a crucial role in bringing Kylo back to the light, even if he dies trying.
After Snoke is dead, Rey and Kylo Ren, or Ben, as he might prefer at that point, will break from the cycle of tragedy that has haunted their family for generations. The title of the eighth movie makes clear that Luke is the last Jedi. Maybe the prophecy surrounding Anakin, and that has plagued each of the Skywalkers that came after him, wasn’t about slaughtering the Sith and making the Jedi supreme. Perhaps it’s about bringing both the dark and the light into balance within one person. That’s how Episode IX could end.