We’re four months removed from “Star Wars: Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker” and yeah, Star Wars is still a flaming mess. Rather than provide a cohesive conclusion to all nine episodes, Lucasfilm and its producers decided to pander to fans by concocting a nostalgia-filled non-ending that leaves the Star Wars universe much more poorer off than when the sequel trilogy started.
There will be heavy “Rise of Skywalker” spoilers in this post, so read any further at your own risk. In this column, I will explore a highly-unlikely theoretical hail mary pass Lucasfilm could put into motion to give the Skywalker saga the closure it deserves, and lay down the foundation for new and interesting tails for them to commit to the silver screen long after Episode IX.
The theory: Produce in secret an Episode X, that adds more context to the events of Episode IX, while telling its own unique-standalone story that truly looks at all nine Star Wars episodes as a whole, and attempts to learn something from them. The film would either star or feature prominently Rey (Daisy Ridley), who many assume will build a new order of force users after Episode IX, one not as strict and dogmatic as the prequel Jedi Order, and one not as undisciplined and fragile as Luke Skywalker’s Jedi Order.
In order for this to work, there should be some form of revisiting the past, which Star Wars can do through already existing time travel mechanics established in “Star Wars: Rebels,” or they can invent some new force mediation power to have Rey connect with the Jedi of old. Such a film would visit the first Jedi and Sith, heavily leaning on pre-existing cannon (We don’t want to retcon them terribly like “Doctor Who” did with the Doctor in “The Timeless Child.”), some version of both groups during the Knights of the Old Republic era, and finally, both groups during the prequel and post “Return of the Jedi” eras. While many might accuse such a film of being too similar to “Avengers: Endgame,” it’s the exact right move to put an ending to the episodic saga while finding a way forward for new films, something “The Rise of Skywalker” had no time to do because the film tried to do too much.
SET IT DECADES AFTER IX
An Episode X would need to firmly distance itself from the clusterfuck that was IX, which it would be inextricably linked to if X were to go into production today. But there’s an easy solution.
Dump the ensemble cast of the sequel trilogy, set it decades after IX, and cast an older actress as Rey. Give us an aged Rey who, like Luke before her, tried to remake the Jedi Order but failed, and like the sequel trilogy itself, finds herself doomed to repeat history, because she hasn’t had the opportunity to properly learn from those that came before her. Sure, she had a few books from “The Last Jedi,” but those accounts could only get her so far, and in order for Star Wars to move forward, it needs to realize that the way the Jedi went about using the force was wrong, as was how the Sith used it. In order for her to bring force users back to the galaxy, she needs to go on a journey of discovery and understanding that both sides of the force are valid and have their proper uses, and her new order should reflect that.
Here’s another tall order: Don’t include any space battles. Not one. Make every fight intimate and relatively-low-scale, relying on good choreography and character conflict. Essentially make it the complete opposite of the loud nightmare that was IX. Make X tasteful, and relatively-low budget. Take the focus away from the effects and firmly on character.
Let old Rey struggle. The Rey we see in X should not be good at everything to the point where nothing challenges her. X should see a version of her akin to Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine in “Logan”; washed up, one of the last of her kind, in a world that has moved on from force users. Rey’s task would be to find a way forward for the future.
An Episode X is certainly not going to happen anytime soon, as Lucasfilm is keen on telling tails set during the High Republic era (set before the prequels), because IX was so embarrassing with its Palpatine retcon and whatnot that it damaged the franchise so much that there really wasn’t a way forward after IX. The only way to change that is to make a smaller-scale film like the theoretical Episode X described here that is free of all the fluff and nonsense of the sequel trilogy.
But a smaller-scale Episode X could bring back balance to the force, repair Star Wars as a brand, and lay out the foundation for exciting, new tales. It’d be worth a try, for sure.