I’m Still Mad About How the Star Wars Sequels Wasted Jannah

The mysterious Jannah was one of the best things to come from Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Why haven’t we seen her since?

Naomi Ackie as Jannah in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

In 2019, The Rise of Skywalker was the last hope for many Star Wars fans. The films that preceded it had divided the fandom, perhaps irrevocably. However you felt about the first installment of Star Wars’ sequel trilogy, The Force Awakens — or The Last Jedi, its polarizing follow-up — the franchise had one more chance to get it right.

It wasn’t that fans wouldn’t continue to harbor burning questions about the characters introduced here: even now, five years on, frustrating mysteries remain. But a tangible sense of fatigue was coursing through the fandom. If The Rise of Skywalker couldn’t solve the mystery of Rey’s (Daisy Ridley) true parentage, confirm whether Finn (John Boyega) was, in fact, Force sensitive, or figure out what to do with Big Bad Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), then what was the point in reviving the Star Wars saga in the first place?

Director J.J. Abrams, taking the reins back from The Last Jedi’s Rian Johnson, seemed to recognize the pressure. He took the stage at Star Wars Celebration Chicago with something to prove — and for the most part, he didn’t disappoint. From the unveiling of the film’s official title (previously known just as “Episode IX”) to the premiere of a teaser trailer, The Rise of Skywalker felt like a promising conclusion for everyone. But the detail that felt the most promising (to this writer, at least) wasn’t an ending at all. Sure, the Skywalker saga was coming to a close, but the introduction of Jannah, a mysterious new character played by Naomi Ackie, seemed to stoke hope for a new adventure down the line.

The cast and crewo of The Rise of Skywalker introduce Jannah at Star Wars Celebration Chicago.

Barry Brecheisen/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Abrams, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, and the Rise of Skywalker cast first introduced Jannah to the world at Celebration, just a few short months before the film’s premiere. She was making history, as one of the first Black female characters to enjoy a significant role in a Star Wars film. And in a way, Jannah was almost like a new Rey: one whose story was ripe for exploration, and hadn’t yet been tarnished by a convoluted story.

Things got more interesting once the mystery behind her origins was finally revealed. Jannah was once a Stormtrooper, and just like Finn, she defected from the nefarious First Order due to a “gut feeling.” What else could they have in common? Was Jannah also Force sensitive? Where did she come from? Would she ever get the chance to find her family, or return to her home planet?

The Rise of Skywalker had its hands full tying up so many other loose ends, but it seemed to leave the door open for Jannah to continue her adventures. Even Ackie had high hopes of returning, ideally for a spinoff with Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams). In a perfect world, her adventure could have kicked the door open for more earnest representation across the board. Women of color rarely get the chance to take up much space within that galaxy far away, but Jannah represented an opportunity to confront 40-odd years of missed opportunities.

The Rise of Skywalker laid the groundwork for a new adventure with Jannah, but after five years, she hasn’t popped up in any Star Wars project.


As promising as that was on paper, Lucasfilm never delivered on Jannah’s potential. The Rise of Skywalker was the first and last time she has appeared in the Star Wars franchise... unless you count the companion books released alongside the film. That may have something to do with Lucasfilm’s five-year abstinence from anything sequel-related, as The Rise of Skywalker was the worst-received film in the trilogy. The franchise has spent the last few years trying to clean up its mess, like the baffling resurgence of Emperor Palpatine. For all its focus on damage control, however, Lucasfilm is still overlooking the parts of Skywalker that actually worked.

Sure, Rey and the core cast were always easy to root for, but their supporting cast are just as compelling. Jannah was just one of the new characters that deserved some more attention: her mystique felt like a virtue at first, but as the years go on without any further development, she becomes little more than a narrative device. Jannah exists solely to support the emotional journey of characters like Rey and Finn; though her own emotional journey is clearly laid out at the end of Skywalker, it likely won’t be explored any time soon.

It’s not the first time a Star Wars story has built up a promising character, only to cast them aside before capitalizing on their potential. When Jannah was first introduced at Celebration, it felt like the franchise was finally striving to address its issues with representation, particularly for women of color. But after five years, the same issue remains, making the sequels little more than a failed experiment for Star Wars.

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