Late last week, the cast for the highly anticipated Star Wars: Episode IX was announced. Among the names returning for the conclusion to the sequel trilogy, and the Skywalker Saga as a whole, was Mark Hamill. This means that Luke Skywalker himself will be returning to end the journey that he began in 1977's Star Wars: A New Hope. Although fans have been convinced for some time that Mark Hamill would be back for J.J. Abrams' film, the fact that it was officially announced was particularly notable. This means that Luke Skywalker's presence in the film is not a secret and not part of some J.J. Abrams mystery box.
So although Mark Hamill's return was expected, it is still intriguing considering where we last saw Luke in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. In an incredible display of power, force projecting himself across the galaxy, Luke Skywalker became a symbol for hope and the spark to reignite the rebellion. He then disappeared, dying and becoming one with the force like Obi-Wan before him. We assume that Luke will be a Force ghost in the movie, but beyond that, we enter Star Wars: Episode IX with probably as much curiosity about Luke Skywalker's role as we did heading in to Episode VIII.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi gave us a CliffsNotes, Rashomon-esque set of flashbacks that elucidated what happened between Luke and his nephew, Ben Solo (Adam Driver), but there is still a lot we don't know. There are decades of time between Return of the Jedi and the end of The Force Awakens and we only know the broadest of strokes about what went on with Luke during that time. Flashbacks can provide texture and shading to the Luke we met in The Last Jedi that some fans didn't recognize. Flashbacks could also illuminate how he knew about Snoke, his other students, what other adventures he had, if he ever met a girl and any number of questions we still have. Including flashbacks would also give Mark Hamill more to do other than being a Force ghost teacher like we all imagine he will be.
The announcement that Carrie Fisher's Princess/General Leia Organa will appear in Star Wars: Episode IX was a huge relief for fans of the franchise. Coupled with Mark Hamill's return, this raises the possibility of seeing two of the original three leads together again. We saw Leia and Luke say goodbye in The Last Jedi, but I have to wonder if the return of Mark Hamill and the inclusion of unused Carrie Fisher footage from The Force Awakens means that there is some way Leia could have another scene with Luke. Technically this would probably be difficult, but seeing Force ghost Luke communing with Leia or giving her guidance would be a great way to reunite the two siblings and provide a nice bit of closure to this saga. It's really just a matter of if this is even possible given the footage they have.