It's commonly believed that Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker refers to Rey, but that may not be the case; instead, the title for the final installment in the Skywalker saga may actually refer to the original Skywalkers: Anakin and Luke Skywalker. While both characters are technically dead, the Star Wars franchise has proven time and again that death doesn't mean what it does in the real world, and there's already a way for them to come back - it's just not what most people think.
Lucasfilm finally unveiled the title - The Rise of Skywalker - and teaser trailer for Star Wars: Episode IX at Star Wars Celebration in April. It was met with much fanfare, but one of the biggest things to come out of the teaser was the return of Ian McDiarmid as Palpatine/The Emperor. Though immediately shocking, this revelation actually makes sense given the fact that sequel trilogy is meant to complete the entire saga, not just the current trilogy's story.
One of the obvious ways Palpatine can come back is by being a Force ghost, but that may be the easy way out. It's already been revealed in Star Wars canon that Palpatine learned how to survive death, and while he never taught his apprentice, Darth Vader, this power, nor did Luke ever learn how to cheat death, there may be a surprise in store for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker - with Anakin and Luke returning from the dead to defeat Palpatine once and for all.
Theory: Anakin & Luke Return In Rise of Skywalker
The original Star Wars trilogy focused on oppression and the depiction of good versus evil, but the Star Wars prequels took a different approach; it told the story of a chosen one who would bring balance to the Force. Of course, as all Star Wars fans know, Qui-Gon Jinn and, therefore, Obi-Wan Kenobi believed that Anakin Skywalker was the chosen one. But when he turned to the dark side, it appeared that they were both wrong. However, it's theoretically possible that Anakin is still the chosen one and he has yet to complete his sacred task.
The thing is, he won't do it alone. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker will presumably conclude with an ultimate battle against Palpatine, which will unite all corners of the Star Wars franchise and all three trilogies together to defeat the story's main villain. Therefore, it won't be just Anakin who tries to stop the Emperor, but Luke as well. Father and son, united for the first time (not counting Darth Vader's turn at the end of Return of the Jedi). But rather than them trying to conquer the galaxy, they're saving it and balancing the Force.
All of this may sound far-fetched and inconceivable for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, but it's actually not. In fact, there's some amount of precedent for this exact scenario.
This Was Originally George Lucas' Idea
Quite a bit of the overarching story of the Skywalker saga was decided on shortly after the original Star Wars movie hit theaters in 1977. Of course, George Lucas refined the saga as he went along, and several ideas that he planned on introducing in either The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi were abandoned until the prequel trilogy came about. But there's one thing that has yet to return: the return of Jedi from the Netherworld. (When Jedi die, some of them have their souls ascend to this realm which allows them to appear as Force ghosts.)
In a revised rough draft of Episode VI (via StarWarz) - then titled Revenge of the Jedi - Lucas wrote that someone strong in the Force can bring another person back to the physical realm, but only as long as that person hasn't "spent" their power staying in the Netherworld. Luke wanted Obi-Wan to help him defeat Darth Vader, but he was angry; according to Yoda, that anger prevented Obi-Wan from coming back to the material world. However... it didn't. At least, not in the end when it truly mattered.
Later in the rough draft, Obi-Wan says he "could no longer stay in the Netherworld" and chose to return to help Luke defeat Darth Vader and the Emperor, despite Luke being "angry" with him and seemingly preventing him from doing so. Plus, Yoda chose to help out from that realm beyond, which is something we've already partly seen with Yoda returning in Star Wars: The Last Jedi and using the Force to burn down the ancient Jedi temple. So at least one part of this concept has happened.
Why It Makes Sense For Episode IX
Sure, Star Wars is continuing after The Rise of Skywalker releases, but the core Skywalker saga ends here; this is the war to end all wars, so to speak. That means the franchise throwing everything it has at defeating Palpatine, who's considered the ultimate evil. Looking back at all the movies that have come before, it's clear that the Star Wars saga is Palpatine's story as much as it is Anakin's. And so, defeating him is perhaps the end-goal. But if Anakin couldn't do it and Luke couldn't do it, it would be considered undeserved if Rey could do it on her own, while also somehow either defeating or saving Kylo Ren at the same time. Therefore, bringing Anakin and Luke back to help her, and everyone else, makes sense.
Star Wars: Episode IX is titled in such a way that it can be considered singular and plural. Unless Kylo Ren is redeemed in the new film, which would mirror Return of the Jedi too much, The Rise of Skywalker title should be regarded as referring to the two original Skywalkers: Anakin and Luke. It's not The Rise of a Skywalker or The Rise of the Skywalker, it's just The Rise of Skywalker. It's a legacy that will continue to live on - both in-universe and in the real world - and the only way to truly do that is to bring both of them back from the Netherworld to destroy the person that has been against them from the very beginning. It would be a proper end to the Star Wars saga, one that Lucas envisioned back in 1981.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019