Ever since the trailer for The Rise of Skywalker has been released, people have been speculating about what the title could mean, who is going to be involved, and how this incredible 9 movie arc with resolve itself. But, it seems like most of the speculation out there on the internet has been missing one key figure, Anakin Skywalker.
Anakin Skywalker, aside from the mentions of Darth Vader, has been completely left out of this new trilogy after being the primary focal point of the entire Star Wars saga pre The Force Awakens. In some respects, this is a totally understandable move by Disney and Lucasfilm. Anakin’s arc was wrapped up beautifully at the end of Return of the Jedi. The self sacrifice to save his son, his redemption, and eventual death gave the character that was introduced to us as a child in The Phantom Menace a clean ending. What else could be needed from Anakin in the sequel trilogy?
Well, the answer to that question comes in 2 ways. First, his grandson, Kylo Ren aka Ben Solo, is completely obsessed with the dark visage of his grandfather, Darth Vader. Kylo keeps Vader’s melted helmet in a place of honor and reaches out to Vader through the force for strength and resolve when the light is pulling at him. From what we have seen in the films though, Vader is never there to guide Kylo down the dark path. This is likely due to the fact that Vader no longer exists in the Force. When Anakin was redeemed and immortalized within the Force as Anakin Skywalker at the end of ROTJ, Vader became unreachable through the Force as only Anakin has achieved immortality. Kylo’s constant seeking of affirmation from Vader could eventually cause Force Ghost Anakin to confront his grandson in the Force and give him the truth about Darth Vader and reveal the folly that Kylo is pursuing. This would be a surefire way to ensure that Kylo sees the error of his way and comes back to the light side before it is too late.
The second part of this question was revealed with that sinister laugh at the end of The Rise of Skywalker trailer. Yes, Emperor Palpatine, the Sith Lord who created, seduced, and ultimately killed Anakin Skywalker is the 1 person in this universe who could awaken his immortal spirit. Palpatine is the master of the long con. His plans to control Anakin and rule the galaxy were shattered when Anakin turned back to the dark side, but if Palpatine is still alive, or alive enough within the Force, to influence another Skywalker, say Ben Solo, he could have another chance at his ultimate goal. His presence alone would cause Anakin to re-emerge from the Force to save not only his grandson, but possibly the spirits of his whole family.
In our The Rise of Skywalker title speculation podcast, I talked about the possibility of a Force Ghost showdown between all of the dead Skywalker force users, Leia, Luke, and Anakin, and Palpatine as he tries to regain power in the galaxy. Physical beings like Rey or Kylo cannot destroy a Force Ghost through physical acts like cutting with a lightsaber or force powers; they would need to perform a powerful banishment ritual to rid the galaxy of Palpatine’s evil for good. This type of act would be the perfect act of final rebellion against the Emperor for Anakin Skywalker to be involved in. He would not only be protecting the galaxy, but he would be protecting his family, the 1 person left to carry on the Skywalker bloodline (that we know of at this point) Ben Solo.
Adding Palpatine into this film opens a ton of new directions the movies could go, and as JJ Abrams stated, The Rise of Skywalker is the culmination of a 9 film series and it not only has to wrap up the story that we have seen in TFA and TLJ, it also has to wrap up the overall story of all 9 films. If this is JJ’s ultimate goal, Anakin Skywalker has to be involved. He is the tragic hero that was seduced to the dark side for love and redeemed to the light side for love. Anakin’s family has always been the motivating factor for decisions in his life. He wanted to become a Jedi so he could free his mother; he fell to the dark side in an attempt to save his wife from dying, and he was redeemed by saving his son. His final act in the Star Wars saga should be another powerful act for his family, the Skywalkers.