Episode IX is being billed as the end of the Skywalker Saga. Just what is the Skywalker Saga about and how will Episode IX tie it all together?
Lucasfilm is billing Episode IX as the final film in the Skywalker Saga. Yet, eight movies in, what even is the Skywalker Saga and how does one finish it? Does it mean the end of the Skywalkers or something else entirely? These are important questions and ones we can’t answer without determining what the key question underlying the Skywalker Saga is. The answer lies in the unifying theme of the Sequel Trilogy: Identity and Purpose.
The theme of identity is present in every single major character arc (with the exception of Poe) and is the glue for the trilogy. Rey seeks to learn who she is and what her purpose is, Kylo seeks to destroy all traces of Ben Solo and Finn must decide whether he is to be a warrior against the dark. Indeed the first time we see Kylo, Rey and Finn they are all wearing masks. So too with the legacy characters – both Han and Luke hide from their pasts and must remember who they really are, whereas Leia has never fully accepted who she came from.
Each movie has focused on exploring one OT character’s arc while moving the new characters further along theirs. In The Force Awakens, Han finally stops running from his past and reconciles with Leia, then completes his arc by confronting his son. In The Last Jedi, Luke is a broken man who’s exiled himself from his family, the Force and the galaxy. In the movie’s climax, he remembers the hero he once was and returns to all three. I have no doubt the plan was, and still may be, for Leia to finally come to terms with her parentage in Episode IX and confronting her son.
In each character’s arc we find the core question of the trilogy – what makes us who we are? Is it blood, our friends, our beliefs, our choices…? Each character is an exploration of this question which, in turn, unifies the trilogy and ultimately the saga. To finish the Skywalker Saga there is one question that must be answered in Episode IX:
Who are the Skywalkers and what is their purpose?
As the Chosen One, Anakin was conceived by the Force itself and prophesied to bring balance to it. While he did so in the end by destroying the Sith, he fell to the dark side and inflicted widespread suffering over the course of two decades. Although eventually redeemed by his son, the shadow of his fall remained over his descendants. Further, despite fulfilling the prophecy, Anakin/Vader’s descendants inherited his power in full. Despite the fall of the Empire and the apparent alignment of Luke and Leia with the light side, the questions of whether the Skywalkers are predisposed to darkness and what their purpose is to be still hung over them.
The fall of Ben Solo would seem to suggest Vader really is the true nature of the Skywalkers, and tyranny their purpose. Han himself identified the bleak truth confronting the Skywalker family when he said Ben “had too much Vader in him”. Although Leia countered that Snoke’s influence was to blame, Kylo continues to choose the dark even after betraying and killing his master
Even if Kylo were to turn back to the light in Episode IX, that would be two Skywalkers who have fallen to the dark side and caused tremendous death and destruction in a scant three generations. Thus Episode IX must answer the question: do the Skywalkers have a choice in their destiny, or was it already made for them?