REY MUST END KYLO REN
Ben Solo can be "proud" that he surpassed his grandfather and role model Darth Vader. Vader massacred the Jedi, helped conquer the galaxy, and oversaw the genocide on the planet Alderaan. Kylo Ren began his fall to the Dark Side by killing his fellow Jedi students. He watched as Starkiller Base destroyed multiple planets and wiped out billions of lives. In The Last Jedi, he killed his evil master Snoke, just as his grandfather killed the Emperor, but unlike Vader, Kylo has reaped the rewards: he's now Supreme Leader of the First Order. Kylo Ren essentially rules the galaxy. It's the fitting conclusion to the Skywalker family's legacy of evil.
This means Ben Solo needs to be brought down in a way Vader never was. Rey already tried to redeem him in The Last Jedi and failed in her noble attempt. What she found instead was a monster more interested in his own personal power than in redemption. Ben did want a companion, but someone to rule beside him; sharing in his power is what he offered Rey, who flat out refused. Rey believed there was good still inside Ben that can be reached - and there's still that flicker of light - yet as we saw in when they came face to face a final time via the Force at the end of The Last Jedi, Rey literally slammed the door shut on Ben Solo and the idea of redeeming him.
Rey redeeming Ben Solo seems unlikely at this point because, simply, Ben doesn't want to be redeemed. The light in Vader was stirred by Luke, his son; though he couldn't pull the trigger on killing his mother Leia, Ben doesn't seem to want a way out of the Dark Side. At this point, it seems inevitable they will fight one last time - to the finish. And, of course, the end of Kylo Ren would mean the end of the Skywalker bloodline. That would ultimately be the best thing for the galaxy (even Leia agrees when she confesses to Luke her son is lost).
THE RESISTANCE VS THE FIRST ORDER
Star Wars will and should always contain themes of good fighting evil, but the galaxy has now endured decades of repeated wars with the Skywalker family at the center. The Clone Wars lasted three years, followed by over twenty years of the Empire ruling while the Rebel Alliance fought them tooth and nail. The First Order's rise ignited a new war, and while it looks like evil is now dominant, there remains the spark of Rebellion aiming to bring down the First Order's rule. This fight isn't over.
But Episode IX should end it, somehow bringing down the First Order, and with it, the repetition of an evil, fascist military fighting an outmatched rebellion, along with the trope of the bad guys deploying evil planet-killing super weapons. Star Wars has been over-reliant on this form of storytelling. True, it's right there in the title: 'Star Wars', but once this saga concludes, there can be other stories set in this universe about other kinds of conflict.
Inevitably, a new saga will commence and it will surely be about an overpowering evil force taking on a plucky band of rebels. That formula is too ingrained in Star Wars' DNA - and per DJ's worldview, all but inevitable in the canon. But for the sake of resolution, the Empire/First Order vs. Rebellion/Resistance conflict as we know it feels like it needs to be brought to a definitive close, at least for this generation. As Star Wars is ultimately about hope, good must triumph over evil and give the fans that all-important spark of inspiration to continue to carry our love of the franchise forward.
Star Wars won't end. The Last Jedi's director Rian Johnson is poised to launch a new and unrelated trilogy in the years after Episode IX, and standalone stories like Solo and Obi-Wan Kenobi continue apace. But these are exemplifying how things can grow and diversify from just being about the Skywalker brood.
By coming up with a definitive way to end the First Order vs. Rebellion war and the elimination of Kylo Ren in some fashion that would cap the story of the Skywalker family, Episode IX is poised to conclude this entire 40+ year saga that has now involved three generations of Skywalkers and as many wars spanning decades that have affected and cost the lives of billions in the galaxy.
The awesome challenge for J.J. Abrams and his team is how to bring it all to a satisfying and resonant conclusion... with a new sense of hope.
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019