What Does The 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' Ending Mean For The Future Of The Trilogy?

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is in theaters now, so you know what that means – it's time to start thinking about Star Wars: Episode 9, due out in theaters on December 20, 2019!

I'm joking, of course. The Last Jedi is a full meal of a movie and one that should keep us talking for a long time to come. But we can't forget that this is part two of a series and that Star Wars: The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams is returning to cap off the trilogy he started...and The Last Jedi writer/director Rian Johnson has left him in a very interesting place.

So let's talk about it. And, of course, major spoilers follow.

The Ending

Luke Skywalker is dead. Long live Luke Skywalker.

The last Jedi knight didn't go down in battle like Obi-Wan Kenobi and he wasn't victim of a cold and calculated murder like Han Solo. Instead, the weary master allowed himself to pass on after using the last of his strength to project his consciousness onto the battlefield from Ahch-To, challenging Kylo Ren to a duel and allowing the Resistance time to escape without ever actually leaving the island where he had exiled himself. Luke goes through hell in this movie – he's revealed to be a guilt-ridden wreck, bitter and waiting to die in isolation. He created Kylo Ren, he failed himself and his family, he set the stage for the First Order to gain a foothold in the galaxy.

But he goes down swinging. Metaphorically. Or literally. Or both. How do you go about describing someone projecting themselves across the vast distances of space using the Force? Watching Luke fade away, as two suns rise in the Ahch-To sky, says everything. Those suns bookend where he began – a farm boy looking to the stars above Tatooine as the twin suns set. Luke is gone, his physical form reclaimed by the Force, but he leaves behind...well, a new hope. In his final moments, Rey comes into her own. There is another last Jedi.

Anyway, Rey rescues the last of the Resistance by using her Force powers to lift a bunch of rocks (a dramatic moment and also a hilarious callback to a line of dialogue from earlier in the movie), leading Poe, Finn, Rose, Leia, and the others to the Millennium Falcon, which takes off just in time to avoid capture or destruction by the First Order. In the final moments, the few remaining members of the Resistance have their first calm moment in days. They have no resources and no army, but they have Rey, a Jedi, who managed to sneak off with Luke's sacred Jedi texts. It's not much, but it's a start. They are the spark.

But What Happens Next?

Of course, a lot of other stuff happens in The Last Jedi: the death of Supreme Leader Snoke, the ascension of Kylo Ren, a wild cameo appearance from Yoda, and the revelation that Rey's parents weren't important at all. In other words, a lot of the stuff that fans were probably expecting to happen in Episode 9 has already happened. In many cases, Rian Johnson has essentially burned some of J.J. Abrams' carefully laid mysteries and plot threads to the ground! Some will hate this and some will love it (I'm in the latter camp), but it does place Abrams in a very interesting position for the next chapter of saga.

First of all, I can't help but wonder if Abrams is going to attempt to retcon some of Johnson's more extreme decisions. After all, I have hard time believing that Abrams intended for Rey's parents to be nobodies and I have harder time believing that he expected Snoke to get abruptly killed off halfway through the second movie. Johnson really goes to town on the lingering threads from The Force Awakens – does Abrams roll with it or does he roll it back just a bit? I imagine he's a graceful enough storyteller to see Johnson's ending point as a challenge...but if Episode 9 reveals that Rey was secretly a Kenobi all along, I will riot.

But while Johnson does burn down a lot, he leaves an open field to grow something new. The First Order is shaken and under new leadership. The Resistance is nearly obliterated, but they have a new home base in the Falcon, a renewed sense of purpose, and a Jedi to rally around. What happens next? Well, anything can happen. Nothing is boxed in. Other than Luke being dead, Johnson has left Abrams a lovely gift in that way.

Here's what I'm wondering. In Star Wars canon, a few years pass between the original Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. Because this gap is much larger than the space between Empire and Return of the Jedi, this space has become fertile ground, ground zero for novels and comics and other stories set in the Star Wars universe. You'll find countless stories (both canon and non-canon) set in these years, because the possibilities are endless! Plus, the main crew (Luke, Han, Leia, Chewie, the droids, etc.) are all together during this time, allowing writers to take advantage of having the cast all in one place.

So here we are: the entire core cast is one place, at the start of brand new journey that will require a lot of rebuilding and will probably take a few years. I can't help but wonder if a few years will pass in-universe before Episode 9 begins, allowing the Resistance to rebuild its forces for the final battle...and to give future creators a space to tell all kinds of new Star Wars stories starring Rey, Finn, Poe, Rose, and the rest of the group. Plus, this will give Abrams and Lucasfilm an ideal way to gently write the late Carrie Fisher out of the series – she's off recruiting and commanding Resistance forces on the other end of the galaxy while our heroes face Kylo Ren for the final time.