At the climax of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, holo-Luke Skywalker bid his angry nephew farewell after their intense duel: "See you around, kid." This wasn't just a cheeky way to inflame the already red hot Kylo Ren further. Luke was clearly foreshadowing his return as a Force ghost, which has since been confirmed by Mark Hamill's name being on the Episode IX cast list.

Force ghosts are how skilled Jedi Masters can cheat death in the Star Wars Universe, popping up to dispense guidance -- and misguidance in the case of Obi-wan "from a certain point of view" Kenobi. But there's another potential specter beside Luke who could make for a more surprising appearance. That is, of course, his father. As the Skywalker family saga comes to a probable close with the series' ninth installment, what are the chances that we'll see Darth Vader for the last time on the big screen?

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Rumors of a cameo from the character (as Anakin Skywalker, Vader or both) have been floating around since the sequel trilogy began -- rumors that almost came to fruition in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Concept artist Ian McCraig revealed in The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens that he'd pitched the idea of Hayden Christensen's Anakin playing a role in the film as a Force ghost. "When you light a candle, you cast a shadow." This "shadow" ended up taking a more physical form in the finished product -- Vader's damaged helmet, accompanied by the echo of his labored, mechanical breathing woven into the musical score.

However, Inverse's Ryan Britt points out that, in this particular scene in Kylo Ren's quarters, Vader's Force ghost is confirmed to still be around, even if we don't get to see it. "'Show me again,' Kylo says to the helmet of Darth Vader, implying that yes, he has spoken to a Dark side spirit." Even without seeing artifacts or hearing the former Sith Lord's name, Vader's presence is evoked strongly enough through his grandson's fanboy worship -- from his allegiance to the Dark Side to his choice in headwear -- for the audience to feel the "shadow" the iconic villain continues to cast.

There was far less of this in The Last Jedi, which makes a lot of sense considering the trajectory the sequel series is on. Despite the thematic parallels between The Force Awakens and A New Hope, the new trilogy has been about saying goodbye to what came before: the death of Han Solo in The Force Awakens, the sacrifice of a very prickly Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi and that film's hints of the "democratization" of the Force. Kylo Ren even vocalizes this mission statement when he tells Rey, "Let the past die. Kill it if you have to."

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Closing this chapter means concluding the Skywalker arc that's so consumed the franchise for the past 40 years. It's why the seemingly non-reveal about Rey's lack of Skywalker (or any other famous family) heritage was actually a big reveal, one that J.J. Abrams would do a lot of damage to if he were to unpick it in Episode IX. If Star Wars is to continue, which Disney quite plainly wants it to, things have to progress past the fate of one single family.

Episode IX's function as the Skywalker saga's finale is why some argue that a Vader ghost should be included. "Anakin Skywalker is the most central figure in that saga," Nick Evans writes for CinemaBlend. "So it is only right that he shows up in some way, one last time to help bring closure to this story as it ends." It's an appearance that The Force Awakens has also made both possible and plausible.

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As previously mentioned, the ghost of Anakin, who popped up at the end of Return of the Jedi, seems to already be on speaking terms with his conflicted grandson. While his presence was less obvious in The Last Jedi, his influence on Kylo was still strong. From sparring with Luke to murdering his Master, the parallels across the Skywalker generations were undeniable even as the film forged its own path forward.

As Kylo heads into uncharted waters in Episode IX, an impromptu commune with his idol could prove instrumental in what might be the end of his journey. A popular theory is that, during a lightsaber showdown between Kylo and Rey, the Supreme Leader could see a vision of Vader if he manages to finally get his gloved hand on the Skywalker family lightsaber currently in Rey's possession. This would mirror the vision Rey had of Luke when she first touched the weapon in The Force Awakens.

There are also the persistent rumors that Hayden Christensen is in talks with Disney to come back to the franchise. As the Express reports, these rumors started after the actor appeared at 2017's Star Wars Celebration, though two films later, we're still none the wiser about how much truth there is to this. The report also adds that Christensen's potential involvement could be limited to audio only, the same way we heard snippets of Ewan McGregor and Alec Guinness as Obi-wan in The Force Awakens during Rey's Force vision. Putting The Holiday Special aside, the prequel series is widely regarded as Star Wars' lowest point, but nostalgia from younger generations of fans means that a Christensen cameo would likely be welcomed as a nod to the series that was a jumping-on point for many.

Having said that, the actor being edited into that Force ghost roll call in Return of the Jedi was far less appreciated, and, to be honest, do we really want to see a repeat of this six movies later? As we saw in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, stories can go awry when continuations become too wrapped up in self-referentiality. While we did get a cameo from Yoda in The Last Jedi, it was more of a subversion than a callback, emblematic of the great pains the film went to in order to resist fan service. Plus, if fan service is what you're after, you only need to watch Vader delivering one hell of a corridor fight scene at the end of of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story to get your fix.

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Instead of our last look at the Skywalker patriarch being a treacly and predictable appearance among an Obi-wan, Luke, Yoda (and maybe Leia?) spooks line-up during the closing moments of Episode IX, or even as part of a forced hallucination while Rey and Kylo are in the grips of their last battle, wouldn't it be far more powerful to make that spine-tingling shot of his dusty, crushed helmet and the ripple of his breathing in The Force Awakens be the last we ever see of him?

In a fictional world where the living chit-chatting with the dead has become an expected staple, there's little dramatic value in seeing spiritual apparitions of Vader anyway, particularly when that "spirit" already haunts the people and objects he's left behind so potently. Anything more would be like the third Death Star, i.e. overkill.

Maybe it's time to let Anakin, Darth Vader and their Force ghost rest in peace.

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