Or perhaps the more accurate question is, how could it not?
Spoilers for ‘The Last Jedi’ below.
Though the inclusion of numerous space battles earns Star Wars its name, the heart and soul of the franchise thus far has been the Skywalker family. In spite of an abundance of X-wings and TIE fighters, Star Wars is far less intergalactic war epic than it is space soap opera. It’s the Skywalker family show.
However, between the decisions of the creative powers that be and that depressing thing that is reality, the Skywalker family tree has grown incredibly sparse since landing in Disney’s hands. While The Last Jedi at least appears to hint that Kylo Ren has some redeeming qualities beyond his pectoral muscles and impeccable hair, he’s still a seriously bad apple. But he is now also unless the series pulls a third act secret Skywalker child out of thin air now that the “Rey Skywalker” theory has been given an official veto, the sole surviving member of his family tree. Which means there are exactly two possibilities:
1. Episode IX marks the end of the Skywalker/Organa/Solo line.
2. Kylo Ren/Ben Solo/Darth Darcy (come on, “You’re nothing, but not to me,” is basically the condensed version of Fitzwilliam’s first proposal to Elizabeth) survives Episode IX and lives to procreate, producing a new generation of Skywalkers.
As Star Wars has yet to even cinematically dip its toes into the water of a Skywalker-free universe—even Rogue One had its Darth Vader and CGI Leia cameos—quitting the veritable first family of the franchise cold turkey would be an incredibly ballsy move, especially since Disney shelled out over $4 billion to acquire said franchise only five years ago.
If you think about it from the perspective of a galaxy far, far, away, the end of the Skywalker line would not actually be the worst thing. They’re a pretty dramatic bunch, and they don’t exactly keep it to themselves. Entire planetary systems have gotten blown to smithereens because they happened to get caught in the crossfire of Skywalker family disputes. The galaxy would probably be a far quieter place without any Skywalkers in it. But really, at the end of the day, isn’t that why we love them so much?
Even the most ridiculously happy conclusion to Episode IX—the Resistance dismantling the First Order with no complications and quickly replacing the huge power vacuum left behind by a stable, galaxy-wide democracy—will end up being something of a downer if Kylo Ren dies, marking the definitive end of the family that’s been at the heart of one of our most culturally beloved franchises since A New Hope first burst onto the scene.
That is not to say that there isn’t a chance Disney might go there, though it seems to undermine their bottom line of continuing to make the maximum possible profit off of Star Wars until the inevitable heat death of the universe. The Last Jedi’s emphasis on Rey’s heritage being irrelevant and the subtext of the whole rebel children of Canto Bight subplot could potentially be a subtle warning that this is indeed the road the sequel trilogy is heading down. But what would a Skywalker-free Star Wars universe even look like? Do we even want to go there?
So let’s address the second possibility: Kylo Ren lives. Or more accurately, Ben Solo lives, because Star Wars is ultimately intended to be the sort crowd-pleasing fare that will rake in serious box office cash and then even more through literally every form of merchandise imaginable. That is to say, the space Nazis are not going to win. If he’s going to make it through the end of the trilogy, Ben Solo will have to go through some sort of redemption arc and survive it, unlike his grandfather before him. What this arc could look like or how J. J. Abrams and company could possibly manage to pull it off in a compelling way, I honestly have no idea, but Ben Solo is the Skywalker family tree’s only chance to avoid extinction.
That said, if Ben Solo should be so lucky as to survive a redemption arc, he should keep his family’s history of father-son relationships in mind and sincerely hope for daughters. Otherwise, it won’t take a Force vision to guess who will be up on the chopping block when the next trilogy rolls around.