It’s taken the internet a little while to settle down from the incredible new Star Wars: Episode IX trailer and title reveal. Now that we’ve all rewatched the trailer multiple times, we’ve moved onto the but what does it all mean portion of events, which will basically last until the movie comes out in December.
One thing Lucasfilm is very good at is littering clues as to what might happen within its Expanded Universe. And while it’s pretty much guaranteed that Lucasfilm is already hard at work on books and comics that tie in to The Rise of Skywalker, there are still places we can look for clues as to what might happen, and explanations for what the trailer revealed, in the current Expanded Universe.
Master and Apprentice by Claudia Gray
The prequel trilogy focuses on the politics and intrigue in the Jedi Council, but if it’s the mysticism of the Jedi you’re interested in then Claudia Gray’s recent release is what you need to pick up. Part of the criticism of the Jedi (and one made again and again by Qui-Gon Jinn throughout this book) is that they became too involved in the day-to-day affairs of running the Republic. They became politicians, rather than staying true to the ideals of Light Side of the Force and trying to help people. Palpatine was obsessed with the mysticism of the Force, which the Jedi neglected; is that how he found a way to live again?
Master and Apprentice focuses on the stormy relationship between Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi a few years before the events of The Phantom Menace. And specifically, it zeroes in on Jedi prophecies, a subject that hasn’t been explored much in the current Expanded Universe. If you’re convinced that Rey is actually the Chosen One who will bring balance to the Force, this is a must-read.
The Thrawn Trilogy by Timothy Zahn
Timothy Zahn is most well known to Star Wars fans for writing the original Thrawn trilogy (Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command), which follows the events of Return of the Jedi. After Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm, though, the old canon was set aside, becoming “Legends,” to make way for a new trilogy of movies. However, many elements, stories, and characters from those old stories were brought forward into the current Expanded Universe — including Thrawn.
Thrawn is a Chiss (full name Mitth’raw’nuruodo), a blue-skinned species with red eyes from the Unknown Regions of space. This distant area is beyond the Outer Rim and has largely been unexplored. It’s a minefield of solar storms, black holes, and other space anomalies and weather events that make it nigh impassable. However, the Emperor was very, very, very interested in the Unknown Regions, and specifically in mapping them because he believed that the source for the Dark Side’s power came from these regions and beyond. Presumably, this may also be how the Emperor found a way to cheat death, based on information from Chuck Wendig’s Empire’s End.
When Thrawn presented himself to the Emperor and offered to serve the Empire, Palpatine saw a way to learn more about the Unknown Regions and eventually traverse them. The first two books in the trilogy, Thrawn and Thrawn: Alliances, cover the Chiss’s journey in the Empire, working with Darth Vader, navigating the politics of the Imperial Navy, and just what exactly is out there in the Unknown Regions. The third novel, Thrawn: Treason, comes out at the end of July.
Star Wars: Rebels
Star Wars: Rebels is a four-season long TV show that’s set before the events of Rogue One and A New Hope. The show (which is excellent in its own right and highly recommended) delves deep into Force lore and Jedi mysticism. In the fourth season episode “A World Between Worlds,” the teenage protagonist and Jedi padawan Ezra Bridger enters the World Between Worlds, which allows him to reach through and alter time. Palpatine was obsessed with this plane of existence (or whatever it is) and tried to use Ezra to gain access to it. The World Between Worlds could be the key to Palpatine’s survival in The Rise of Skywalker.
The Aftermath Trilogy by Chuck Wendig
Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath trilogy is one of the few Expanded Universe stories that takes place after the events of the original trilogy of movies. It’s set about seven months after Return of the Jedi and tells the story of the remnants of the Empire leading up to the Battle of Jakku.
It turns out that the location of the final battle between the Empire and the Rebels wasn’t just random. Emperor Palpatine had a secret observatory on the planet, and he was storing ancient Force artifacts and using powerful computers to plot a navigable course through the Unknown Regions. He planned to send the bulk of the Imperial fleet to safety in these far reaches of space, where they could wait, recover, rebuild, and become a new organization — the First Order. You’ll have to read the books, though, to learn the details of this plan, as well as how it might factor into Palpatine’s survival/rebirth.