For a franchise that has spanned more than 40 years and now nine total entries — not counting the stand-alone universe films, TV shows, and even video games — it seems hard to believe that it’s, well, over. When ending a franchise, studios have in the past seemingly left things hanging just enough to latch onto something new in the future, so it’s not hard to see why Star Wars fans are questioning whether The Rise of Skywalker actually is the end of the saga.
But back in 2018, Disney and Lucasfilm basically told fans as much. In a lengthy press release announcing Episode 9′s full title, cast, and production details, Lucasfilm described the third film as “the final installment of the Skywalker saga.” Then, earlier this year, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy doubled down on this fact. While speaking to The Hollywood Reporter at the 2019 Star Wars Celebration in Chicago, Kennedy revealed when the studio officially knew it was “the end.” She stated, “We knew we were going to close this up, we knew that even before we started The Force Awakens.”
Additionally, there are clues within The Rise of Skywalker that prove Abrams was dedicated to not just tying all three of the Star Wars trilogies together, but also to using this tale to wrap the Skywalker saga in a tight bow. In a 2017 BBC interview, Abrams touched on his expectations for Episode 9, and discussed how bridging the Star Wars story of his youth with the present and ultimately future of the franchise was important. “I feel like we need to approach this with the same excitement that we had when we were kids, loving what these movies were,” Abrams said (via Star Wars News Net). “And at the same time, we have to take them places that they haven’t gone, and that’s sort of our responsibility.”
In many ways, that’s what Abrams has done. The Rise of Skywalker essentially exists both in the universe’s past and present. It does this by pulling together threads — some amazing and some pretty lackluster — from all three Star Wars trilogies. For example, Emperor Palpatine came back, but he wasn’t just there – Abrams used the villain’s presence and dialogue to call on recurring themes like fear and mentions of the first and final “orders,” creating a direct link between the saga’s beginning and end. More obviously, Palpatine tempted Rey towards the dark side in the same ways that he tempted both Anakin and Luke Skywalker: through the people she cared about. It’s in the final narrative decision to name Rey as both the granddaughter of Palpatine and to later have her declare herself as Rey Skywalker that the full-circled nature of The Rise of Skywalker shines brightest. She is the culmination of Luke’s chosen light and Anakin’s chosen dark — a living, breathing balance.
And still, that final character decision wasn’t as finite an end to the Skywalker saga as it could have been. The Rise of Skywalker was no Rogue One, and the revelation about who Rey was and who she becomes still leaves the door open for yet another entry because, yes, there’s still another Skywalker — not by blood, but by soul, heart, and purpose. As far as every other Star Wars trilogy before this one has been concerned, the mere existence of a Skywalker has been enough to keep the saga alive.