[Note: this post contains speculation, but no spoilers]
Hope y’all had an awesome Thanksgiving! Here’s an early Christmas present for you:
Want to know how the upcoming final chapter in the latest Star Wars movie trilogy will end? I’ll tell you!
…Okay, I don’t know exactly how it’ll end. I haven’t read the leaked script, and I don’t have any insider info. However, the trilogy as a whole has been remarkably thematically consistent – as if the screenwriters have an overarching vision and understand how themes shape a narrative (unlike another couple of high profile writers I know – I’m looking at YOU, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss…Expect an upcoming post about how the ending of Game of Thrones screwed the pooch due to its failure to adhere to its original narrative themes).
So, using the POWER OF THEMES, I will tell you how The Rise of Skywalker will end…or at least should end, based on what’s come before.
I’ll caveat my analysis by first admitting I’m not a Star Wars super fan; I’m much more of a Trekkie myself – TNG4evah, baby! And I didn’t love The Force Awakens or The Last Jedi; I thought they were generally okay movies, but that’s my personal taste (they needed more Picard screaming about four lights, IMHO). But I appreciate that the films were trying to do something different when it would’ve been easy to expand one of the eight million TV, book, or video game spinoffs to movie-length and call it a day. I’m also fascinated by what makes a movie/book/TV show “work” or not, and spend a lot of time routing around this particular rabbit hole.
To begin to guess how The Rise of Skywalker will play out, we first need to understand how the newest Star Wars series sets up the themes of the story, and uses those themes to structure the narrative. The YouTube vlogger Just Write does an awesome job summarizing the narrative structure of The Last Jedi, and how the wants and needs of each major character shape what happens in the story.
The major themes of this Star Wars series, as in the original series, are Good vs Evil, Duty, and Family. The main characters of the new series – as in the characters with narrative arcs – are Rey, Kylo Ren, Poe, and Finn. As Just Write alludes to in his video, Poe and Finn’s narrative arcs center around the theme of Duty – as in committing to a higher cause, even if it’s in conflict with your own wants (just like Han Solo in the original series, who started out as a selfish rogue and became a dedicated resistance fighter). Their arcs seem to wrap up in The Last Jedi – Poe learns the importance of following orders, and Finn learns to dedicate himself to the Rebel cause – so it’s unlikely they’ll get new arcs to work through in the final movie, especially when Rey and Kylo Ren’s arcs are still unresolved.
So, to start with, I predict Poe and Finn will play supporting roles to Rey and Kylo Ren, while Rey and Kylo Ren’s character arcs will be the main focus of the movie.
While Poe and Finn’s arcs centered around the theme of Duty, Rey and Kylo Ren’s arcs center around the themes of Family and Good-v-Evil (aka Light-v-Dark in the Star Wars universe). Rey has always wanted external validation, in the form of her parents returning and justifying her existence. Though Kylo Ren dropped the truth bomb that her parents didn’t care about her and were never coming back (which might or might not be true…but it’s probably true), by the end of the movie she was still uncertain of her place in the galaxy. She never received any real Jedi training or closure with Kylo Ren’s temptation to the dark side (oh those abs…keep tempting me, Adam Driver! And keep going to the gym!).
Meanwhile, Kylo Ren is constantly struggling with committing to the dark side, even lamenting outright in the first film how he’s still “tempted by the light.” By killing Han Solo, he attempted to finally do away with his light side so he could be more like his grandpa (Darth Vader). However, his hesitance to kill his mother Leia and the fact he’s drawn to Rey show he still has some light in him.
Bringing it back to themes: both Rey and Kylo Ren need the same thing – to break free of their family’s influence and accept who they are.
Rey needs to gain confidence in herself without relying on her family – both her blood family who abandoned her, and her adopted family in Poe, Finn, et.al – to tell her who she is. On the flip side of the same coin, Kylo Ren needs to stop trying to be another version of Darth Vader, his grandfather, and accept that he is both light and dark at the same time.
There are a lot of ways these wants, needs, and themes could play out, but since the Star Wars series is a hopeful one, the main characters will probably get what they need in the end – known in the writing biz as a positive story arc, aka a “happy ending.”
Therefore, finally, here’s my prediction for what will happen in The Rise of Skywalker: by the end of the movie, Rey will have achieved self-actualization and taught herself to become a full Jedi, or begin training under a reformed Kylo Ren. After defeating the first order for good, she’ll split from the Rebels completely – mainly Finn and Poe – to make her own way in the galaxy. Meanwhile, Kylo Ren will finally accept that he can be both light and dark at the same time – like a delicious Thanksgiving turkey! By realizing he doesn’t have to choose – that good and evil can in fact coexist – he’ll finally be at peace with himself and give up his futile task to rule the galaxy in his grandfather’s footsteps. He’ll become Rey’s teacher, they’ll blow the Rebel/First Order pop stand, and fly off to parts unknown together.
That’s my prediction! We’ll find out on December 20th if I’m right or not!