Warning: Major SPOILERS ahead for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
When Episode IV: A New Hope premiered — then, simply titled Star Wars — George Lucas’ film introduced movie fans to a host of characters that have since become iconic: from Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader to Leia Organa, Han Solo and the Wookie Chewbacca. The remaining films in the original trilogy followed these characters, while the prequels introduced new (or new versions of these) characters like Anakin Skywalker and Padme Amidala. With Lucasfilm now under Disney’s umbrella, 2015 saw the official relaunch of the Star Wars universe in J. J. Abrams’ Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens — which continued the saga storyline with a mixture of new and returning heroes.
Now, as part of Disney and Lucasfilm’s new plan for the Star Wars universe — which includes an episodic Saga installment every other year, with an anthology movie hitting theaters in the off years — the beloved sci-fi action/adventure franchise sees the debut of its first non-episodic live-action release in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The anthology film takes place just prior to A New Hope, following the group of Rebels who steal the plans for the Death Star that become instrumental to the Alliance in Episode IV.
Leading the charge in Rogue One is criminal-turned-rebel Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), who is recruited by Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly) due to her father’s connection with the team building the Death Star. Jyn receives help from various rebels throughout Rogue One, including Clone Wars veteran Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker), Alliance intelligence officer Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), the droid K-2SO (Alan Tudyk), blind warrior Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen), pilot Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed), and assassin Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen).
However, as the first standalone film to be released in the Star Wars universe, it’s unclear whether fans will see these characters again on the big screen — especially since Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy made it clear there won’t be a sequel to Rogue One. But, even if there isn’t a sequel planned, will the heroes of Rogue One appear in other Star Wars anthology movies down the line?
Let’s get this out of the way first: Based on the events of Rogue One, it appears all the main heroes die by the end of the film. Saw Gerrera perishes on Jedha, and K-2SO is destroyed while protecting Jyn and Andor. Then, Rook, Chirrut, and Baze are killed in the process of stealing the plans for the Death Star, and Jyn and Andor seem to die as a result of the Death Star firing on Scarif. There is some room for argument about certain characters’ fates — K-2SO most notably could have been “transferred” (given that he was plugged into the Imperial archives at the time of his death), while others didn’t necessarily die definitively (we see Jyn and Cassian engulfed in fallout from the Death Star blast but not explicitly vaporized). Still, it would seem (both in appearance and theme) that the ending of Rogue One saw all of its core heroes sacrifice their lives to aid the Rebellion.
Of course, many fans speculated prior to Rogue One’s release that the film may conclude with many of the heroes being killed in the process of their mission. The ending of the movie’s story is well-known in Star Wars canon: Princess Leia obtains the plans and hides them in the droid R2-D2, setting the events of A New Hope into motion. Considering none of the heroes of Rogue One appeared in the original Star Wars trilogy, the anthology film was tasked with explaining their absence from the Rebel forces in A New Hope — and arguably the easiest way to do so was to either depict or insinuate their deaths.
That being said, one of Star Wars‘ strengths has always been its characters. The trios of Luke, Han, and Leia from the original series; Anakin, Padme, and Obi-Wan Kenobi in the prequels; and Rey, Finn, and Poe in The Force Awakens have all become some of the most beloved aspects of the long-running sci-fi property (not to mention the most profitable from a merchandising standpoint). As such, Rogue One is the first instance on the blockbuster side of the Star Wars universe that fans won’t be able to watch the heroes over multiple film installments.
Not to mention, the movie, the marketing leading up to it, and the merchandise surrounding Rouge One made a concerted effort to develop these heroes — particularly Jyn, whose father Galen Erso was the subject of Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel — into fully formed characters with which the audience could connect. As a result, both the viewers and the studio have invested in these characters, and it may seem a waste for the heroes to have died in the events of Rogue One. But, when commenting on whether the heroes of Rogue One would return, Kennedy stated that it is “doubtful,” leaving little hope that fans will see Jyn, Andor, or K-2SO again. Still, there may be other ways for the Rebel heroes of Rogue One to return.
The events of Rogue One lead directly into A New Hope, providing zero room within the storyline to insert a sequel – unless it were to take place concurrent with Episode IV, and the new trilogy picks up a few decades after the events of Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. Although it’s possible, if Lucasfilm were so inclined, for the heroes of Rogue One who didn’t definitively die on screen in the film to return as their older selves in the new episodic installments — with the explanation that they were healing or otherwise occupied during the original trilogy — it seems unlikely. Not only would it take away from the impact of Rogue One’s ending in which so many sacrificed their lives to obtain the plans to the Death Star (punctuated by the scene where one Rebel after another scrambles to hand-off the plans only to be killed by Vader in the process), fans would undoubtedly question the validity of whatever explanation is given for their absence from the original trilogy.
That said, unlike the episodic installments, the anthology films of the Star Wars franchise can be set at any point during the universe’s timeline — as proved by Rogue One. For instance, the next spinoff film scheduled to debut in the Star Wars universe follows a younger version of Han Solo than the character who appeared in A New Hope (to be played by Alden Ehrenreich). Although exactly where in the timeline the Han Solo movie will take place has yet to be revealed, it will need to be set between the events of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and Rogue One. Depending on how long before Rogue One the Han Solo film ultimately takes place, Jyn and/or any of the other heroes could potentially appear as younger versions of themselves.
Additionally, a third anthology film is in development from Lucasfilm and is expected to hit theaters sometime after Star Wars: Episode IX. It was rumored the third spinoff would follow the bounty hunter Boba Fett, but Lucasfilm may go in a different direction and, again, depending on when the film is set, it could feature an appearance from one or more characters introduced in Rogue One. Of course, even if the Rogue One heroes were to appear in another Star Wars anthology film, they likely wouldn’t be part of the main cast and would probably be relegated to cameos or small supporting roles.
However, though there may be ways of having the heroes of Rogue One return in future Star Wars films — or other media within the extended universe — it seems unlikely. Certainly, the marketing for Rogue One and the film itself established these characters well enough that fans may want to see more of them. But, considering Rogue One was always meant to be a standalone anthology film, without any plans for sequels or future installments following the movie’s heroes, it’s entirely possible this will be the last we see of Jyn Erso, Cassian Andor, Bodhi Rook, Chirrut Îmwe, Baze Malbus, Saw Gerrera, and K-2SO — though it remains to be seen why the Rebel Alliance didn’t simply rebuild the droid. While that might be disappointing at face-value, fans can take heart in the fact that the original saga is forever changed by the addition of the characters – as Luke Skywalker’s fateful run on the original Death Star is the culmination of a much greater story and is, as a result, all the more poignant because of Rogue One‘s heroes.