Warning: This article contains spoilers for Star Wars 7: The Force Awakens.
By now, it's safe to say Star Wars: The Force Awakens has surpassed expectations. Fans of the series (and Disney execs alike) are happy to see a new Star Wars film in the spirit of the original trilogy, rather than that of the prequels. But while many see the film as a return to the Star Wars of yesteryear (too much so, according to some), The Force Awakens may have done something greater. Episode VII has the potential to completely redefine, not only the prequels, but the entire saga up to this point. It changes the entire Star Wars story by taking what once seemed to be a firmly-established fact and throwing it back into question. By the end of VII's opening crawl, Star Wars fans have reason to wonder, "Was Anakin Skywalker really the Chosen One?"
Some may see this question as irrelevant, since Anakin is gone and the new trilogy is set to focus more on the new characters than the old. Others may see it as a question already asked and answered in the affirmative by the prequel trilogy, and thus unrelated to what is essentially a brand new series. But when the saga is viewed holistically, it becomes clear how drastically the over-arching story has changed with the advent of episode VII.
Before The Force Awakens, Star Wars was a six-story cycle centered on the life of Darth Vader, the Chosen One who was destined to bring balance to the Force. George Lucas was emphatic on this point. In a featurette video released in conjunction with Revenge of the Sith, Lucas explained,
"The prophecy is that Anakin will bring balance to the Force and destroy the Sith. He becomes Darth Vader. Darth Vader does become the hero. Darth Vader does destroy the Sith - meaning himself and the emperor - he does it because he is redeemed by his son. So the prophecy is true, and by doing that he redeems himself and goes from being Darth Vader back to being Anakin again."
This was, at least according to George Lucas, how we were meant to understand the franchise. Star Wars was a complete story, told in six chapters, all about the fall and redemption of Anakin Skywalker, the Chosen One.
At the start of The Force Awakens, we see that Anakin may not have restored balance after all. His legacy is certainly not a positive one. His son is in exile. His grandson has turned to the dark side and strives to repeat his grandfather's bad choices. The empire Anakin helped create has morphed into the First Order and is terrorizing the galaxy. While the Sith are indeed gone, so are the jedi, and as Lor San Tekka points out, "without the jedi, there can be no balance in the Force." Apparently, 30 years after Anakin's death, the galaxy is still in need of a Chosen One.
But wasn't Anakin the Chosen One? Maybe not. While George Lucas did go on record saying Anakin was the Chosen One, he has contradicted himself before. When episode III was released, Lucas was interviewed on 60 Minutes and said there was absolutely no episode VII in the Star Wars saga. (Yet, in 2012 he was prepared with story treatments for episodes VII, VIII, and IX).
Even the prequels have evidence against the Anakin-as-Chosen-One interpretation. Both Mace Windu and Yoda expressed doubt about Anakin's destiny in Episode I, and in Episode III Yoda goes so far as to say the jedi may have "misread" the Chosen One prophecy altogether. Perhaps Anakin wasn't the child of prophecy. Maybe one of the reasons he fell from grace was because the jedi burdened him with a role he was not destined to fulfill. Maybe the mantle was really meant to fall on someone else.
Episode VII changed everything. We now know the galaxy isn't saved. Anakin didn't destroy evil or ensure the resurrection of the Jedi Order. The galaxy still needs a Chosen One. Although Anakin Skywalker is gone, the prophecy remains, and the new trilogy has the opportunity to tell us who the prophecy was really about and what "bringing balance to the Force" really means. Whether or not Kathleen Kennedy and crew will tell us explicitly or leave it up to our interpretation remains to be seen. Perhaps at the close of Episode IX we'll see a new Chosen One specified, or maybe it will always be a matter of debate. But while we wait for the new trilogy's next installments, here are a few speculations about who the Chosen One could be in light of Episode VII's revelations:
Theory #1: Luke is the Chosen One
In this version of the story, the Skywalkers were indeed the chosen line, but it was Luke who would ultimately bring the Force into balance, not his father. With three trilogies in place, Luke's journey in IV, V, and VI serves as the meridian of the story, the fulcrum on which the narrative stands. By redeeming his father and defeating Palpatine, and then later overcoming Kylo Ren and Snoke, Luke could ultimately restore balance to the Force by extinguishing evil and reviving the jedi.
Theory #2: Rey is the Chosen One
Perhaps while we've all been preoccupied with the Skywalkers, we should have been waiting for another desert-grown, force-sensitive youth to save the day. While Rey's backstory remains concealed, she has already shown incredible, inborn force abilities. If she is able to bring Luke out of hiding and redeem, or defeat, Kylo Ren, perhaps it is Rey who will turn out to be Chosen One. This would be especially intriguing if Rey turns out to be a Skywalker. Star Wars would then be the story of how two generations of Skywalker men tried and failed to bring balance to the Force, only to see it finally accomplished in the third generation by a woman, specifically Darth Vader's granddaughter.
Theory #3: Kylo Ren is the Chosen One
While Finn and Rey both show jedi potential, Kylo Ren is the ultimate force-user in The Force Awakens. Ren seems to have (arguably) mastered the Force better than anyone we've seen so far. Able to tap into others' minds, freeze his opponents mid-stride, and suspend a blaster bolt in the air without even looking at it, Kylo Ren may be more powerful than even Darth Vader. If the former Ben Solo ends up turning back to the light and defeating leader Snoke, he may indeed finish what Anakin started and prove himself to be the jedi of prophecy.
Theory #4: Anakin/Vader was the Chosen One After All
Although we can assume he'll be absent for the last trio of films, Skywalker senior is not out of the running for Chosen One. Subsequent movies may not explicitly lead to that conclusion, but they could leave it plausible. After all, Anakin did have an unbelievable midi-chlorian count (hold the groans please), he may have been conceived by the Force (keep holding them), and he was the main character for much of the series. Star Wars would then be the story of how the Chosen One rose and fell, and then rose again, leaving a legacy future generations would call upon, for both good and evil, as the galaxy faced new threats to the balance of the Force. Any of the above interpretations would make the larger Star Wars saga a killer story. Only time will tell which one will be chosen.