If 'Star Wars IX' Is the Final Episode, What Story Is Being Told?

Star Wars The Last Jedi -Rey - Daisy Ridley - Publicity - H 2017
Courtesy of David James/Lucasfilm Ltd.
J.J. Abrams has said that the 2019 movie may finish the 'Skywalker Saga,' but what is that saga all about?

As if anticipation for Star Wars: The Last Jedi wasn’t high enough, the possibility that it could be the penultimate movie in what has become known as “the Skywalker Saga” has ramped things up even further — and also potentially changed the way audiences will view the new movie when it opens next month.

The idea that the core Star Wars series will end with its 2019 installment comes from Episode IX director J.J. Abrams himself, who told Rolling Stone “I do see it that way,” when asked if the movie will complete the Skywalker Saga. (He did add, “But the future is in flux,” however.)

With that in mind, it’s worth considering what the Skywalker Saga actually is, and speculating on what The Last Jedi and Episode IX will have to do to bring the story to a satisfying conclusion. Obviously, Episode IX won’t bring any kind of permanent finale to the eponymous space skirmishes that have been the backdrop to the story so far — Disney has already announced an all-new trilogy from Rian Johnson, just to underscore that point — but the core Star Wars series has never really been about that, anyway. So what story is actually being told?

Well, it’s certainly a family story, as if the “Skywalker Saga” name didn’t give that away. Although Luke is a large part of The Last Jedi, if we view the core series purely as a generational narrative, it raises the odds that Rey is going to be revealed to be a Skywalker of some kind … unless the current trilogy turns out to be more about Kylo Ren — the grandson of Anakin Skywalker, remember. Based on Force Awakens, however, Rey is the central character of the core trilogy, and therefore almost certainly a Skywalker of some stripe if the story is only about family.

Except, of course, the Skywalker Saga is about more than just the Skywalkers. There’s a promise made in Episode I: The Phantom Menace that goes unfulfilled to this day — the notion of someone bringing “balance to the Force.” Anakin was believed to be that person, but he clearly wasn’t, because he became Darth Vader and was quite clearly a bad guy up until his final sacrifice to save his family. Luke, too, isn’t that figure, because he’s purposefully aligned himself with the good guys and dedicated himself to rebuilding the Jedi Order; he’s overcorrection, not balance.

This, then, is where Rey comes in. The first teaser for The Last Jedi laid the groundwork for this, with Luke telling her (and the audience) that it’s time for the Jedi to end, with the first trailer doubling down with teases that Rey is unusually powerful and might reject the Jedi Order. In doing that last thing, Rey might become a Force user who is neither Jedi nor Sith, and finally personify the Balance the series has promised all along.

Daisy Ridley has hinted at this herself, telling Good Morning America, “Rey is trying to find out about herself and about the universe. And those questions don't entirely fall to the good, nor do they entirely fall to the bad. She's trying to do her own sort of personal growth.”

Rey, then, could be the key to a thread that been at the core of the Skywalker Saga all along, but never properly addressed. Even more important than her heritage — although, come on, she’s probably a Skywalker somehow; maybe Anakin’s mother had another child after he left Tatooine or something — she could be the character the story has been looking for all along.

Presuming, of course, that is the story that Star Wars has been all along. Next month’s The Last Jedi is almost certainly going to make that clear one way or another.