'Star Wars: Episode IX' Needs to Deliver These Answers

'The Last Jedi' has blown the door open for J.J. Abrams.
Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

[Spoiler Warning: Don’t read any further if you haven’t seen Star Wars: The Last Jedi yet. No, really.]

By the end of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, audiences are likely to feel a complicated mixture of emotions — elation, exhaustion, sadness — but one question is sure to be on everyone’s minds as they leave the theater: What happens next?

After all, The Last Jedi changes the status quo of the series significantly, seemingly killing a number of characters and drastically altering the scale of the conflict (or, at least, the size of the Resistance). It leaves the series in a very different place than where Episode VIII found it…but also keeps core mysteries and questions intact as it moves toward the conclusion in 2019’s Episode IX. Here are some of the questions and tasks the final movie in the current trilogy has to address, if not outright answer.

How Can the Resistance Rebuild?
It’s not just that the Resistance is now small enough to fit onboard the Millennium Falcon — and a Falcon filled with Porgs, it seems — the end of The Last Jedi suggests that the galaxy isn’t prepared to put itself at risk to fight the First Order. Clearly, some large inspirational event is required, but what could that be, with Luke Skywalker dead and Leia likely to be missing entirely from Episode IX due to the tragic death of Carrie Fisher last year? (That said, an in-universe death of Leia offscreen between movies could provide a “Do it for Leia’s memory” motivation, as cynical as that might be.)

Can Kylo Ren Be Saved?
Luke believed that Ben Solo was beyond redemption, but Rey believed he could be turned to the light for much of the movie before he betrayed her. Star Wars has a strange relationship with its central villains: Darth Sidious/The Emperor was literally irredeemable, but the same wasn’t true of Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker, ultimately. Kylo Ren, meanwhile, has shown to be far more conflicted than either of those two, suggesting that he’s not as evil as he wants to be…. But who would be able to convince him of that, with Leia no longer an option? Note that Kylo Ren hasn’t actually been face-to-face with Leia in the trilogy so far — even though he’s shared the screen with every other central character — suggesting it was something planned for a future that will never happen.

What Is the Connection Between Rey and Kylo Ren?
If Luke is to be believed — and he’s hardly as reliable as he once seemed, judging by his behavior in The Last Jedi — then both Rey and Kylo Ren are unusually powerful Force users. They are also able to telepathically talk, for reasons that neither of them understands. Clearly, something is going on between the two of them, but what? And between the two of them, can they bring balance back to the Force?

Does Rey Really Know the Truth About Her Parents?
Kylo Ren told Rey that she knew the truth about her parents, but there was an obvious out given just earlier in the movie, Supreme Leader Snoke admitted to playing with both Kylo's and Rey’s minds when they were talking, which is when Kylo saw the “truth” about Rey’s background. Was Kylo Ren mistaken when he declared that Rey didn’t come from “important” parents? And either way, what was going on with that sequence when Rey asked to see her parents and only saw herself…? Has Star Wars suddenly become a metaphor for becoming our own selves through a process of intentional creation and reflection?

Is [Insert Character Here] Really Dead?
It depends who you’re talking about, really. Luke? Sure, although he has Force Ghost potential if needed (just ask Yoda). Supreme Leader Snoke? Unless he comes from a planet where it’s no big deal to be cut in half, I think it’s safe to assume that he’s a goner, too. Phasma? Well, that’s far more uncertain. Sure, she fell into what looked like a fiery grave, but she was wearing armor…. Don’t be too surprised if she somehow shows up again, either in Episode IX or some canonical spinoff somewhere, looking a little charred for the experience. (Han Solo, though, he’s totally dead.)