The cast for Star Wars Episode IX has been announced, and along with it, the news that the film would be the “final instalment of the Skywalker saga”.

Star Wars has been defined by Leia, Luke and the rest of their dysfunctional family since things began in 1977, and even when things haven’t focused directly on the Skywalkers, they have loomed large (often in the form of Darth Vader’s distinctive silhouette) in the background.

So, to leave them behind will mean big changes for the galaxy far, far away. Here’s what the end of the Skywalker saga could mean for Star Wars.

The newest stars

The immediate assumption is that – once Luke and Leia are out of the picture – the new stars that have been established will finally replace the old guard completely. We’re talking Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Isaac) and Rose (Kelly Marie Tran).

Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren – aka Ben Solo – is more up for debate. We’re not sure whether we expect him to survive Episode IX or not at this point. And could the Skywalker saga really end with him still in the picture?

The question is how much of a break Lucasfilm really plans with the past. Arguably, all the new characters are linked to the Skywalkers to varying degrees. Does a fresh start demand that we leave all these characters behind?

Maybe they’ll take a break to let new characters be established – and return years later to play the Star Wars veterans in their turn.

The Jedi, the Sith and the Force

The trailer for The Last Jedi hinted that Episode VIII might start to break down our old conceptions of the Jedi-Sith dichotomy and the way we understand the Force. That didn’t quite come to pass, but the movie (and Luke) does acknowledge that the Jedi Order as it existed before the rise of the Empire was at best utterly useless and blind to the darkness that surrounded it.

A true break with the past and all that the Skywalker saga represents could involve a complete reassessment of the Force and how it works. Is there a natural division between the light and dark sides?

Snoke and Kylo have already denied being Sith – could Rey abandon the old ways of the Jedi (as Yoda sort-of-implies she should in The Last Jedi) and set about creating something completely new? Or are we asking too much of one little film?

Tales of the Old Republic

One way to put some distance between Star Wars and the Skywalker’s could be a trip into the deep past. The mass de-canonisation of Star Wars ‘Expanded Universe’ stories after Disney acquired Lucasfilm left a lot of fan-favourite stories in the dust.

One of the most popular of these were the ‘Old Republic’ tales, a web of interconnected stories from thousands of years before the movies (and covering thousands of years of history), full of political wrangling, enormous wars between the Sith and the Jedi, and immensely powerful Force users with weird and wonderful abilities.

Lucasfilm has slowly been reincorporated fan favourites back into canon, including characters from the Old Republic era. Darth Bane showed up briefly in The Clone Wars animated series, and there has been speculation that Darth Revan might have stealthily entered canon, too.

Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and DB Weiss are working on a series of Star Wars films “separate from… the episodic Skywalker saga” for Disney. With a history of looking to fictional and fantastical pasts – as in Game of Thrones, Troy (which Benioff wrote) and the controversial Confederate – the Old Republic era would be a good fit for the pair.

The ongoing saga

So, what does the future hold? Will JJ Abrams’ upcoming movie be the last of the ‘episodes’, leaving future films to exist as part of Star Wars outside the structure of the ‘main movies’ or ‘A Star Wars Story’ spin-offs?

Perhaps Rian Johnson’s next trilogy, which was billed as “separate from the episodic Skywalker saga”, will be less spin-offy than we thought. Could this form a new core for the series, maybe complemented by or contrasted with Benioff and Weiss’ movies?

Alternatively, they might be taking the approach of throwing things at the wall and seeing which sticks. Certainly with these films, Jon Favreau’s live-action TV series and the new animated show Star Wars Resistance in the pipeline, Star Wars won’t be slowing down as it moves into a post-Skywalker world.

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