The best Star Wars theories you need to know about for Episode 9

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However in tune you are with the ways of a galaxy far, far away, coming up with accurate Star Wars theories is a tricky business. With every pre-release talent interview, photograph, and trailer seemingly put out there with the aim of keeping things ambiguous – and sometimes being downright misleading – even superfans can come unstuck in the (sonic?) minefield of Star Wars theories. 

Look at Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Anyone who claims they guessed Rian Johnson’s shock twists in Episode 8 is clearly a disciple of the dark side – lies, deceit, and creating mistrust are their ways now. Indeed, after Star Wars: The Force Awakens left several key plot points hanging, who would have predicted that Rey’s parents were nobodies? That Luke Skywalker’s first move on Ahch-To would be to toss his old lightsaber off a cliff? Or that Supreme Leader Snoke wouldn’t make it to the end of The Last Jedi in one piece? Even though the internet was packed with Star Wars theories in the run-up to release, and a few factual rumours were bang on the money – Yoda’s return as a Force ghost, for example – Lucasfilm did an amazing job of keeping the actual plot under wraps.

Now, with JJ Abrams, a man who relishes keeping a secret, back as the writer/director for the upcoming Star Wars 9, even an entire army of Bothan spies would struggle to get concrete intelligence on the final movie in the latest trilogy of the Star Wars saga. But that hasn’t stopped the internet hive mind turning detective, activating its collective imagination, and coming up with a plethora of Star Wars theories of varying quality. Here we analyse many of the most intriguing Episode 9 rumours floating around the web – much like Leia Organa floated through space...

Star Wars 9 is set years after The Last Jedi 

While The Last Jedi picked up within hours from where The Force Awakens left off, a big time jump is certainly not out of character for Star Wars. After all, the original trilogy left years between movies, and the prequels covered more than a decade over the course of their run. Aside from all that, however, a big time jump to Episode 9 would solve some big storytelling challenges brilliantly.

First of all, there's Leia. Following Carrie Fisher's tragic passing in 2016, General Organa can't possibly continue to have such a prominent role in the sequel trilogy – JJ Abrams says he's “found a way to honor Carrie's legacy and role” using unseen footage from The Force Awakens, but how that's going to work with the story is anybody's guess. It would be a big surprise if there was enough material to construct anything other than a cameo role, but explaining why Leia's not a key player in proceedings is going to be all kinds of tricky, particularly if Episode 9 carried on where The Last Jedi left off. 

A quick, off-screen death would be distasteful and unsatisfying, and some manner of voluntary self-removal from the main story – by way of an away-mission, or perhaps a retirement – would be both weak and entirely out-of-character. But if Star Wars 9 is set five to ten years later, Leia's absence will be much more justifiable, whether we lose her through natural causes or the long-term effects of her space-exposure injuries.

Then, we have the overall galactic situation to deal with: the war is effectively over, the First Order has won, the Resistance has been reduced to a few brave survivors hiding out on the Millennium Falcon, and the rest of the galaxy has apparently given up hope. Any sort of swift turn-around is going to risk feeling cheap and contrived. Logistically and dramatically, it would be much more effective to allow the Resistance time to properly rebuild enough to be in a position to take on (assuming he hasn't been overthrown by his troops) Kylo Ren's new-look First Order – the Broom Kid scene at the end of The Last Jedi is a brilliantly-judged hint of vague, future hope, tempered with a melancholic sense that victory will be a long time coming. 

And with several key characters now in states of serious personal flux – Poe Dameron, in particular, seems primed to take the Resistance reins – a big time-jump will give them a chance to become the people The Last Jedi hinted they could be. 

The sequel trilogy is actually a prequel trilogy 

Given that The Last Jedi ends on such an unrecoverable downer – The Empire Strikes Back has nothing on the death of Luke Skywalker and the near-complete destruction of the Resistance – some Star Wars theories suggest that with so much to cover in Episode 9, the next film won’t actually be the traditional redemptive, happy-ending finale at all. The idea is that the new film will see the last handful of surviving heroes battle an increasingly powerful Kylo Ren and ultimately fail, leading into a new ‘Empire vs Rebellion’ storyline in Episodes 10 to 12.

While you can see the logic behind this idea – there's a hell of a lot to wrap up in one movie – this particular Star Wars theory has apparently been left dead in the water by the fact that the Lucasfilm's official Star Wars 9 cast announcement refers to it as the "final installment of the Star Wars saga”. This could be a really cunning piece of misdirection, of course, but we suspect it's true. There's so much more galaxy to explore – not least the new Star Wars movies series from Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and DB Weiss – that it seems likely Star Wars 9 will be the last to carry an "Episode" title.

Hux will be the real villain 

So if the First Order (or rather, Kylo’s New Order) is allowed to take control of the galaxy, where do things go from there? In Supreme Leader Kylo Ren, we don’t have an all-out Bad Force Wizard intent on crushing the galaxy under his Dark Side boot. In fact, we don’t really know what we have, because Kylo doesn’t yet particularly seem to know what he wants at all. His actions at the end of The Last Jedi are the product of pure, knee-jerk, emotional instinct rather than any kind of long-game strategy or manifesto. He doesn’t advocate Sith or Jedi, Republic or Empire. He just wants to burn down all the constructs of failure and betrayal that led to his misery, and replace them with… something.

So some plausible Star Wars theories suggest that whatever that something is, it won’t echo anything we've previously seen in the Star Wars saga – The Last Jedi's breaking of the mould made sure of that. And it’s possible that key First Order figures, who had previously come very close to realising the victory they’d worked toward for years, are going to be particularly displeased by the new state of affairs. General Hux, for example, has never been a big fan of Ren, and he'll have been particularly wound up by the former Ben Solo snatching the First Order leadership after Snoke's demise. Captain Phasma, assuming she survived her fiery fall on the Supremacy, may also be tempted to join a Hux insurrection.

So how about, as a cool subversion of Star Wars’ traditional themes of evil Empires and heroic Rebellions, the next big insurrection comes from within the bad guy heartland, as Hux rallies his loyalists to overthrow Kylo and turn the First Order back into what he always wanted it to be. That would also be very effective dramatically, given that Hux was treated as an inept clown throughout the majority of The Last Jedi, his importance in proceedings increasingly downplayed in comparison to Rey, Kylo, Snoke, and Luke. Also, after eight movies where the fate of the galaxy has been decided by Force-wielders, it would be fun new ground for the saga to see an ‘ordinary’ character truly seizing the day.

Crucially, a Hux-led First Order would give us a catalyst for the next real phase of the war. With the Resistance crushed, bereft of either people or resources, there’s little scope for actual conflict with them as the sole protagonists. But if Kylo Ren went up against a Hux-ruled First Order (the Second Order?), with the remnants of the old Resistance still milling around awaiting an opportunity, then we have the makings of something very interesting. Something interesting which would lead directly into Star Wars theories suggesting that… 

Star Wars 9 is going to do the Gray Force properly 

The Last Jedi gets really, really close to making it official, but never quite cements the idea. Kylo Ren is neither Sith nor Jedi, taking power in order to enact an entirely new path, devoted to neither the Light or Dark Sides of the Force. Rey has decided to discover her own, new way of being a Jedi, free from the doctrines and limitations of old. She has Luke and Yoda’s blessing in doing this. The core theme of the whole movie is that the ways of the past always hold back progress if adhered to too closely. Everything is set up to explore a galaxy attaining peace and progress through a rejection of binary viewpoints and outdated ways of thinking. And if Ren now finds himself battling a resurgent First Order representing an attempted return to tradition, then that opens the doors up wide for a new, combined faction of ‘Gray Side’ progressives to come together – made up of Ren supporters and resistance remnants alike – to shut down the old ways for good.

Could we see Kylo Ren and Rey fighting side by side? Poe Dameron leading orange-clad Resistance fighters alongside reformed First Order pilots? What if – and this would be truly wonderful – we saw Finn finally exorcise his demons by leading a squad of fellow Stormtrooper deserters against a platoon of Phasma’s own. Narratively and thematically, this all fits together brilliantly, making a complete, shared arc out of Kylo and Rey’s but conflicting viewpoints, and entirely realising the forward-looking philosophy of The Last Jedi. And it would do so in a way that still allows for a massive, climactic fight, delivering traditional Star Wars highs wrapped around a fresh new meaning. 

Ren and Rey have, up to now, been Yin and Yang, equal but opposite Forces – maybe they will belatedly bring the mythical “balance to the Force” the prophecy mentioned all those movies ago...

Snoke will return from the dead. Or maybe isn’t dead at all 

There are several Star Wars theories on how this could happen. One idea – which possibly still clings to the theory that Snoke is Palpatine’s long-thought-dead master, Darth Plagueis – posits that if Snoke is powerful enough in the Force, then he could resurrect himself. Another idea suggests that, even if Snoke cannot repair his now decidedly broken (and possibly incinerated) body, then his Force Ghost could possess another, living character, in order to hitch a ride and cause trouble anew. And then, of course, there’s the suggestion that Snoke never died at all, and what Kylo killed was actually just a Force projection, similar to the one Luke himself uses to outsmart Solo Jr. a little later on.

This is a hard one to call – though we reckon it's unlikely. Logically it would be a major feat of improvisational smoke and mirrors (or Snoke and mirrors?) for Snoke to simulate having been cleaved in two upon realising that Kylo was going to attack him and not Rey. And Snoke has to have been surprised by that betrayal. The entire point of the throne-room scene – in which Kylo subverts Snoke’s prediction that he will cut down “his true enemy” by handing that designation to his master before he follows through – is based on the certainty and arrogance of tradition has been felled by its own, overconfident belief in itself.

Snoke interpreted his vision in his own favor, because he believed that the old ways will always dictate the fate of the future. He hadn’t reckoned on Kylo’s progressive free will. That’s why the Supreme Leader’s rather off-hand assassination is so great. He’d built himself up to be a big deal, but was ultimately proved irrelevant in the face of a world evolving beyond his point of view. Having Snoke somehow survive to remain a major player again flies in the face of Kylo Ren's mantra that you should “let the past die, kill it if you have to”. One of the major themes of The Last Jedi was the importance of escaping destiny and not being bound by what what's gone before – to bring back an Emperor substitute for a final act battle would seem a retrograde step for the saga.

Darth Vader will be back – along with other Dark Side users

Kylo Ren’s disciples the Knights of Ren were mentioned and sighted in The Force Awakens, but despite all the hype, never made an appearance in The Last Jedi. We’d be very surprised if that situation wasn’t remedied in Star Wars 9 – especially with plenty of big-name actors having joined the cast, yet to have their roles confirmed. (Could Dominic Monaghan, Keri Russell, and Matt Smith be Knights of Ren?)

One of the more interesting Dark Side-related Star Wars theories suggests that Darth Vader will use Force ghost powers to communicate with his grandson, Kylo Ren. We’d file this under highly likely: we know Anakin Skywalker has a Force ghost from the end of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi and, from a storytelling point of view, it’s too intriguing an opportunity to pass up. Which incarnation of his grandfather would Kylo Ren speak to? The original badass Vader, or the redeemed Anakin from Return of the Jedi? We’d love to find out if there’s still conflict in him.

Luke is coming back as a Force ghost 

This has more substance than most of the other Star Wars theories we've mentioned, simply because Lucasfilm has officially confirmed that Mark Hamill will definitely appear in the movie. We don't, of course, know what form his role will take – and after The Last Jedi's storytelling experiments with flashback, it's plausible we could be seeing a younger Luke Skywalker in the movie. 

But the Force ghost option seems much more likely for a variety of reasons. First, Luke disappeared at the end of The Last Jedi, suggesting he is now one with the Force. Second, with Han Solo dead and Leia (for aforementioned reasons) unlikely to play a key role in the Star Wars 9 plot, he's the only member of the original Star Wars movie's core cast who can still be proactive in the narrative. Third, there's clearly unfinished business with Kylo Ren, the pupil who went bad – surely that brilliant “See you around, kid” on Crait wasn't just an idle threat. All the way back in the original movie, Obi-Wan Kenobi warned Darth Vader that he'd “become more powerful than you can possibly imagine” – maybe Luke's about to show his nephew what that actually means.

Lando might not be a good guy

Again, Lucasfilm have confirmed that original Lando Calrissian is back in the fold for the first time since Return of the Jedi. This is great news – he'd been the only one of the key surviving characters not to come back for the Disney movies – but there's no reason to suspect he's still the redeemed scoundrel who led the assault on the Death Star. If there's one consistent factor in the rebooted trilogy it's that the intervening three decades haven't been kind to returning characters, with Han, Luke and Leia all having been put through the wringer in various ways. We'd be surprised if things hadn't been the same for Lando when we catch up with him in Episode 9 –ever the opportunist, perhaps he's been forced back into his old pirating ways. 

There are also a couple of plot beats from Solo: A Star Wars Story that some Star Wars theories suggest we might see picked up in the latest entry in the saga. We'd love to see a reunion with his old droid sidekick L3-37, who we now know is joined with the Millennium Falcon. And also a return to the Calrissian Chronicles, the diaries we hear him recording in Solo – maybe it'll turn out the whole Star Wars saga was based on Lando's memoirs... 

Richard E Grant is playing Grand Admiral Thrawn

Some Star Wars theories are based on cold, hard logic. Others look like they may just be based on coincidence. One persistent rumor suggests that Richard E Grant – long confirmed to be part of the Episode 9 cast – is playing Grand Admiral Thrawn, the iconic blue-skinned Imperial officer from classic novel Heir to the Empire who subsequently showed up in Star Wars Rebels.

The theory is seemingly based on the fact that Grant bears an uncanny physical resemblance to the character, but Star Wars canon makes it unlikely. At the end of Rebels, Thrawn was seen being blasted off into unknown space with Jedi apprentice Ezra Bridger – it seems a little over-convenient that he might make it back. And who knows whether he'd want anything to do with the First Order.

Episode 9 could spell the end for the Millennium Falcon

This one is perhaps the saddest of all the Star Wars theories – yet also has so much potential for emotional resonance that we fear it could be true. Han Solo’s ship has been as much of a part of the saga as any organic character – to the point it’s now the life raft for the Resistance. If this really is the end of the Skywalker saga, what better – or tearjerking – way to sign things off than with the destruction of Star Wars’ most iconic ship? We're not sure we could handle it...