WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi, in theaters now.
While Star Wars: The Last Jedi is already a critical and commercial success, audiences apparently are divided by the storytelling choices of writer/director Rian Johnson, who doesn't play it safe with the blockbuster franchise. Instead, he embarks on a bold, dark narrative, in the process subverting aspects of the lore George Lucas introduced 40 years ago.
We're left with a lot of unanswered questions, but still, Johnson covers a lot of ground. He deals with the literal war for the galaxy between the First Order and the Resistance, as well as the metaphysical push and pull between the light and dark sides of the Force. By the time the films ends, Kylo Ren has usurped Supreme Leader Snoke, the Resistance is in tatters, and Rey is seemingly left as the last of the Jedi following Luke Skywalker's self-sacrifice.
Seeing our heroes in this state of disarray, and a villain on the rise, evokes the end of The Empire Strikes Back, which left the Galactic Empire (momentarily) triumphant, and Han Solo in the hands of Jabba the Hutt. With that in mind, we consider some of the directions J.J. Abrams could take the trilogy in its finale with Episode IX.
The Resistance Reborn
As the First Order corners the Resistance on Crait, Luke saves the day by projecting himself to the planet to trick Kylo Ren into a fight. That serves as a distraction, and gives General Leia Organa's troops time to escape. However, the Resistance is greatly diminished, to the point that no one responds to its distress signal. That leaves the audience to wonder whether there's anyone left alive no hear it. Clearly, the Resistance needs to rebuild.
Poe Dameron is the perfect leader for that task, which would help to explain the absence of Leia from Episode IX following the death last year of Carrie Fisher. Poe is a hothead, but he matured a lot over the course of The Last Jedi, learning diplomacy from Leia and Vice Admiral Holdo. Couple this with his extensive field experience and you've got that extra edge needed to inspire people from all corners of space to join the fight against the First Order dramatically while changing the Resistance's tactics.