Recently, Daisy Ridley expressed her desire to move on from Star Wars after Episode IX. As the possible Chosen One in the sequel trilogy, Rey’s departure would surely be rather detrimental to the Skywalker saga. Or would it?

Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi brings with it a great deal of uncertainty, both for the franchise’s development and nature of the Force itself, although it’s Episode IX, the potential finale, where things will really change. And that’s why Rey’s rumored departure is so important. We don’t know how things will go down in Episode VIII, let alone J.J. Abrams trilogy-capper, but the loss of its lead would definitely feel like a resolute end. However, even if Rey does exit the series, Luke and his bloodline don’t necessarily have to take their final bow.

What Would Rey’s Departure Mean For Star Wars? (This Page)

First and foremost, Ridley’s intended departure might not stick. She’s a 25-year-old actress recently catapulted into stardom and is looking to define herself beyond Rey, understandable given her critique of her own performance and the stigma associated with other Star Wars actors’ (such as Mark Hamill) career paths, which didn’t always work out right away. She could also change her mind if given more of a breather between Episodes IX and X (especially as a tenth entry wouldn’t be expected until at least a decade has passed).

Ridley’s only under contract, as far as has been revealed, through Episode IX for the moment. After that, Disney’s key players might already be heading for a hiatus. Her admission could also be a contract negotiation tactic: clearly, fans want to see more of Rey, Finn (John Boyega), Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), so her lip service departure sends a message right to Disney’s studio heads (and their wallets), who may have big plans for her character. Plus, eBay recently named Rey the most popular female movie character in the United Kingdom – something which could push Lucasfilm to compensate her handily for her further cooperation.

Of course, disinterest in further storylines might also be a contractually obligated way of avoiding spoilers. It certainly takes the suspense out of the next two films if we know Rey survives… even though Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy’s announcement about further chapters in development sort of constituted just that.

Even if Ridley genuinely wants to leave the series, it certainly doesn’t mean the end of the Skywalker story. Indeed, Rey hasn’t even been positively identified as a member of the central clan, much less as the Chosen One – although there’s a possibility she’s both. Johnson insists her parentage might be less-important than fans assume it is, though, which means one of two things: the young scavenger’s personal connection to the Force has little to do with the storied first family of Star Wars or the Episode VIII director is putting up a smoke screen.

If she isn’t related, it could be the first major shift away from the central narrative. Her tale certainly mirrors her cinematic predecessors of Anakin and Luke: a desert-raised child pushed into a pivotal role in a galactic conflict due to her incredible abilities. It certainly suggests a seismic shift in the nature of the Force – much less the Jedi-Sith dynamic – as implied by Luke’s research into the Jedi origins and his concession that “it’s time for the Jedi to end,” as well as the establishment of nonaligned Force beings (such as the Bendu) or Maz Kanata.

Recent plot threads in the Poe Dameron comic also suggest that Jedi documentarian Lor San Tekka – who held the missing piece of the literal puzzle to Luke’s whereabouts and appears to be a cohort of the exiled master – was researching a grayer concept of the mystical energy field before his demise. References to balance and Snoke’s purported non-Sith status also suggest the sequel trilogy will step outside the gravity well of previous monochromatic concepts of the Force, possibly even cutting a proletarian relationship between the mysterious energy source and its users – something Rogue One touched upon with the Church of the Whills.

Despite her overall importance, Ridley’s departure could turn Rey into the franchise’s biggest fool’s errand. Admittedly, Lucasfilm is already trying to refocus their efforts by introducing anthologies focused on more “secular” accounts, such as Rogue One and Solo. But the fabled family’s goose isn’t cooked just yet.

Some fan theories purport, and Luke himself once believed, that Kylo Ren was the true Chosen One and still is. It certainly would keep with his family’s rocky tradition (again assuming Rey isn’t a Skywalker). There is some precedence for it, as his Legends counterpart Jason Solo struggled with the dark side for many years (suffice to say, it didn’t end well for the eventual Darth Caedus). However, if the nature of the Force changes, clearly the Story Group and Johnson left aspects of Ren’s inspiration in the dustbin of the EU.

Of course, presuming Rey and Ren aren’t related and given their unique connection in The Force Awakens, the Skywalkers may have another outlet: Rey and Ren’s purported interpersonal dynamic in The Last Jedi is most often assumed to be familial, and as Driver noted in Rolling Stone, “the relationship between Kylo and Rey is awesome.” However, the “relationship” he’s referring to could also suggest something very different (Star Wars’ history of icky romantic entanglements aside). Are Rey and Kylo destined to become a Force-wielding power couple? Given the continual teases of a team-up, it’s not beyond the realm of plausible. Force bun in the oven definitely leaves Lucasfilm an out if Ridley turns down the truckload of cash they’ll likely park in front of her home

The survival rate of the increasingly dark sequel trilogy is also up in the air. Even if Luke, Leia, and Kylo don’t survive, the family legacy could survive in Rey’s children. Once again, though, that would make Ridley’s character a massive red herring. She may be the hero of The Force Awakens triad, but if she refuses to return, Abrams’ could turn Kylo Ren’s salvation into the true narrative thrust – assuming it isn’t already – and bringing the family drama full circle again.

With so many shattered prophecies about Force-balancers in one lifetime, Luke seems to believe the Chosen One is nothing more than a dark side stopgap, if not a one-way ticket to heartbreak city. For the sake of argument, let’s assume The Last Jedi and its successor follow this mandate. Johnson and Abrams could tweak the established rules to gray-out the saga. Rather than an ultimate evil along the lines of Emperor Palpatine, Snoke might represent one end aspect of a cosmic continuum (even though he seems pretty freaking evil). If so, Lucasfilm can set up a richer Star Wars universe (just in time for Johnson’s trilogy, perhaps), one reflected by somewhat morally ambivalent galaxy displayed in shows like The Clone Wars and Rebels as well as Rogue One and, presumably, Solo. With the next decade of Star Wars under construction, Lucasfilm then has a less-dogmatic clay to mold with.

If the next two chapters discredit the Chosen One concept or displace it from the Skywalker lineage, the preternaturally powerful family would still play an important role in galactic history, just in a more legacy sense. In the real world, that would also allow Johnson and others explore the franchise without the requisite callbacks to its most famous gene pool.
The Last Jedi is about to fill in a few blanks left by The Force Awakens, but the story is far from chiseled in stone. Lucasfilm is expanding the parameters of one of the contemporary era’s most beloved and universal fables of as it plots the future. Moving away from the Skywalkers is smart from a diversification standpoint, but Disney understands the clout of their conflicted clan. After all, the original trilogy team sustained a highly lucrative Expanded Universe and merchandising empire for decades.

If Rey is a Skywalker and the Chosen One and Daisy Ridley returns for another round, the bloodline will continue through her. If not, Lucasfilm isn’t restricted to it; Kylo Ren, like his grandfather before him, could find redemption and reclaim his birth name – or not, which would also take Star Wars to a neat, dark place – and reemerge as a force for good in the universe. The Skywalkers might be down in the trenches with a flock of TIE fighters breathing on their necks, but don’t count them out. Never doubt the power of a reliable legacy.