Less than a week remains until the final episode of the sequel trilogy hits the screens. Both Episode VI and Episode III faced the difficult task of ending a trilogy, but Episode IX may have the most difficult job of them all.
One could come up with about a billion questions The Rise of Skywalker should answer. These include questions raised in the previous films that have not been sufficiently addressed: the origin of Rey’s (Luke’s) lightsaber, the fall of Kylo Ren, how did the First Order come to be, and so on. Many of these are “secondary” questions that do not have to be, and likely won’t be, answered in the films themselves. Some of them (such as the origin of the First Order) have been addressed in novels, comics or other media. For some, an encyclopaedia entry would suffice.
But what are the issues the film definitely should address and resolve?
1. Good Prevails – But How?
The obvious goal is that the Resistance has to win and the First Order has to be destroyed. That is an easy thing to do, and “how” is not much of an issue either. You can always pull an army of Ewoks out of your hat if you provide at least somewhat believable excuse for it. And TLJ already dropped enough hints that there are allies and good people, they only need to mobilise.
The more difficult task is to show that good somehow prevails more permanently than after Return of the Jedi. Which, incidentally, includes another question the sequel trilogy has not yet addressed at all – why was the RotJ victory insufficient. “Every generation needs to fight their own battles” may be true statement, but it is the premise of the Star Wars saga that some battles are more important than others. In the prequels, the Sith prevailed after a thousand years. RotJ made it look like they were defeated again. TRoS needs to show how they are REALLY defeated this time, and at least briefly explain why RotJ was not enough.
2. Kylo Ren Redeems Himself (?)
Kylo Ren’s possible redemption has been a long-discussed topic ever since TFA. It is not like he is making it easier for himself. He started perhaps as a poor insecure guy brainwashed by an evil leader, but after that, he has been intentionally suppressing his good side – first to kill his father, then to become the Supreme Leader himself.
The main problem with this issue is how to make Ben Solo redeem himself in a way that makes an average viewer accept his redemption. It cannot be a “cheap” redemption, and at the same time it ideally should not be too much of a cliché (such as self-sacrifice).
And if Kylo Ren does not redeem himself, then the film faces a much bigger problem – how to portray this as anything but a terrible tragic ending to the Skywalker family saga.
3. Romantic Triangles To Be Sorted!
Regardless of what various groups of fans like or dislike, the couples in this saga need to somehow conclude their relationships. At least two potential romantic couples need to be addressed: Finn and Rose and Rey and Kylo Ren. The latter is intrinsically linked to the plot itself and Ben’s redemption arc. No fan can dispute that the prequel saga is built that way. It needs to be explicitly stated whether the two are going to “become a thing” or not, and why.
Finn and Rose are a bit more difficult. But since we have seen Rose’s crush on Finn and the kiss at the end of TLJ, the question also needs to be addressed. At least vaguely (it would be enough to show Finn and Rose holding hands in every scene to confirm that they are still together and that it is serious).
Finn’s relationship with Rey and Poe should also be addressed – not necessarily in a romantic way, but both have had so much interaction before that Finn cannot be just “dumped” with Rose and his friendship with the others ignored for the remaining film. Any other relationships between characters could also be addressed, but there likely won’t be time for them.
This is the bare minimum that The Rise of Skywalker needs to deal with. And that already is more than enough for some two hours of a film. TRoS better not open new cans of worms, and it probably should endeavour to mention other questions only in passing. These include:
4. How Did Kylo Ren Fall?
With at least one more flashback, the film should make it clear what really happened between Luke and Ben. Classic story from the filming of RotJ tells about how George Lucas had to include the dialogue where Yoda confirms to Luke that Darth Vader is indeed his father. Reputedly, it had been concluded that many children would not necessarily believe what Vader said in TESB, and as he was the bad guy, they might presume that he lied. TLJ was worse – it presented two conflicting stories that were, on top of everything, very counter-intuitive. The audience may need more clarification on this one.
5. Who are Knights of Ren?
This would not be an issue had TFA not made the existence of the Knights of Ren such a notable topic. The mysterious nature of these Knights has been further emphasised by their complete absence in TLJ, but also in all supplementary materials from novels to comics and TV series. This theme is also very strongly linked to 2. and 4., so it cannot be just glossed over.
The following are not necessary, but they would be the marks of a well-written saga that knows what it is doing:
6. Where Did Snoke’s Power Come From?
You should not just pull a super-powerful dark Force User out of your hat. What was his relationship to Palpatine and the Sith? Was he a successor, a renewer, or only a pawn in some sort of Palpatine’s contingency plan?
7. Don’t Forget the Old Heroes!
We know that Lando is going to appear in TRoS. Leia will also play some role – however much the filmmakers have managed to salvage using Carrie Fisher’s earlier material. But what about the others? The story should find a way to feature them at least briefly. Luke has threatened to always be around Kylo Ren and the subject of Ben’s dead father should also somehow resurface, if only as a reminder that he has done some terrible things. Chewie, for one, is unlikely to just let it slide even if Kylo Ren suddenly made a 180-turn.
And if TRoS is going to heavily feature literal ghosts of the past as implied, then Anakin Skywalker, so easily visible at the end of RotJ but notably absent in the sequels, should make an appearance. (The same goes for Obi-Wan – but his voice, at least, spoke to Rey in TFA.)
We shall know in less than a week. And as usual, you can be sure to expect first, spoiler-free impressions of the film here on Thursday evening. We can then try to see – at least in a generic, spoiler-free way – whether or not has the film managed to address these questions.