When the cast announcement for Star Wars: Episode IX was released almost two weeks ago, it confirmed that J.J. Abrams' upcoming film would be the final installment of the Skywalker Saga. The return of Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker and the revelation that Carrie Fisher's Princess Leia would be brought to life using unreleased footage are both huge deals for Episode IX, but the confirmation that this is the end of the Skywalker Saga contains a galaxy's worth of implications for not only this film but the entire franchise.
I think many of us suspected that after the sequel trilogy concluded, the episodic films might take a break before picking back up with X, XI and XII somewhere down the line. I suppose that Disney could eventually do just that and just not feature any Skywalkers, thus staying true to Episode IX being the end of the saga. But for now, let's take Lucasfilm at its word and operate under the knowledge that the Skywalker Saga will end, as it may or may not have always been intended to, at nine films. That puts a massive burden on this film to deliver a satisfying ending.
J.J. Abrams' film has the unenviable, and possibly impossible task of bringing closure to not only a trilogy that began in 2015, but an entire film saga that stretches all the way back to the original Star Wars in 1977. The expectations are sky high for this film to deliver, and closure for everyone will probably look a little bit different. However, I think that there are certain things that Star Wars: Episode IX needs to do bring proper closure to this beloved and pivotal chapter in cinematic history.
Leia Has To Live
Given the tragic passing of Carrie Fisher, Episode IX found itself in a precarious position, not wanting to use CGI or recast Princess Leia, but still needing to complete her story. So it seemed plausible that the most viable option was to have a time jump and announce Leia's death in the crawl and then start the film with her funeral. And given the circumstances, fans would have totally understood that approach. However, we now know that unused Carrie Fisher footage will be used to bring Leia to life in Episode IX. This means that she has to live. Leia's death was already teased in The Last Jedi, and it just seems somewhat cruel and unnecessary to kill of Princess Leia now. Han and Luke are dead, and this trilogy should end with at least one of the original three still alive to witness true victory and peace. Having that be Princess Leia, the very first rebel we met in this saga, would be fitting. Obviously there are probably challenges to this given the limited footage they have, but this should be the goal.
Answer The Big Lingering Questions
The Last Jedi answered one big Force Awakens question and rendered the other one irrelevant, not leaving much in the way of huge mysteries for Episode IX. Sure, Rey's parents could be retconned and Snoke's past could still come in to play, but those questions are likely answered. There are, however, still some things we need answers to before the credits roll on this saga. First, what's the deal with the Knights of Ren? Hopefully we will see these dark side users, if only to prove Kylo is capable of making friends who aren't imaginary. There is also the lingering question of Anakin Skywalker's lightsaber. It was destroyed in the power struggle between Rey and Kylo, but we still don't know how Maz Kanata got it in the first place. It seems possible that she got it from Lando, but we need confirmation of that on screen. There are also questions like how exactly Snoke influenced Ben Solo, how many other Jedi are out there and what other Force and Force ghost powers are possible. As another of J.J. Abrams' projects, Lost, makes plain, closure is difficult to come by when answers to lingering questions are in short supply.
Establish A New Government
Seemingly not wanting to get in the muck and mire of trade and tariffs, the sequel trilogy hasn't given us a good idea of the government in the galaxy. We don't really know the state of things or even how the First Order came to power. Some of this stuff has been covered in the canon novels, but the lack of clarity on the politics in the galaxy has made it feel smaller (does no one care about the First Order other than these 20 rebels?). In The Force Awakens, the First Order used Starkiller Base to destroy the seat of the New Republic on Hosnian Prime. Presuming that the First Order is defeated in Episode IX, the film should see the establishment of a new New Republic or some form of government to carry the galaxy into a bright future free from dictatorial rule. Seeing tons of species and worlds coming together to start a new government would be a nice nod to the prequels, while also making the galaxy feel bigger and giving the victory against the First Order more weight.
Tie Back To the Prequels
The sequel trilogy has, by and large, ignored the prequels, and understandably so. But now that we are at the end of this saga, it is time to unite the three trilogies. There is an entire generation of people for whom the prequels were their gateway into Star Wars, and the events of those films chronologically started this saga, so Star Wars: Episode IX should tie back to them to bring everything full circle. This could entail different things. For one, it would be nice to revisit Coruscant again. That planet plays a huge role in the galaxy and it should play a role in its future. Episode IX should also mention Padmé. She has been largely forgotten, but as Luke and Leia's mother, she deserves more acknowledgement. To that end, I'd also like to see Anakin brought up again, not just Vader, but Anakin. He was the most important character in this saga and he is also one of the two people responsible for setting the galaxy down a dark path it's still on. He could be seen as a Force ghost alongside Yoda and Luke, Obi-Wan and maybe even Qui-Gon Jinn to really tie things back to the beginning.
Bring Balance To the Force
The Sith were presumably destroyed when Anakin Skywalker killed Darth Sidious, yet darkness still rules the galaxy. Whether its Rey, Luke, Broom Kid or a redeemed Ben Solo, someone needs to bring balance to the Force and give us a happy ending. Rey and Luke could restore the Jedi Order using knowledge from the Jedi texts and incorporating the lessons of the past to reinvent the institution and the role of the Jedi into something that actually works, perhaps with a Gray Jedi approach. And just because Episode IX gives us a happy ending and brings balance to the Force doesn't mean there can't be more movies. Other films in this universe can be set in different times and places in the galaxy with different problems. An ambiguous ending or just defeating the First Order isn't enough; these characters should have achieved more than just a military victory. The Skywalker Saga should get a true happy ending, not just until next time. This struggle that began so long ago should finally reach its end, and with that triumph should come true balance in the Force and a new hope for real and lasting peace.