I love love love ATLA (“NFB” is derived from an old username NextFireBender) so I’m not opposed to cribbing from it! That concept works really well with the themes of the film and would have added so much more to the Rey Palpatine (even Palps’ return itself) stuff; as much as I fundamentally disagree with that plot thread.
Anyway, I’m thinking about posting to this entire section with a more in-depth rewrite/treatment, but the idea(s) I had for an alternate Ep IX are pretty drastically different from TROS. I was just so frustrated with the film around Jan/Feb that I ended up digging in to do an alternate script/fanfic thing myself. I lost motivation around the third-way point, but I think I’ll get back to it soon.
Basically, following TLJ, I liked the idea that Ben’s First Order actually tries to be a benevolent faction for the galaxy. Its conquests become fairly protected vassals; especially in the historically neglected Outer Rim. The First Order’s presence ostensibly cleans up crime and assuages poverty there. I’d tap in a bit into how much the NR might have failed these lesser systems, and frame TFO as less of The Empire 2.0. Ben’s words in TLJ should’ve meant something. If not the old, then it’s because the new might actually try to be better. Ben hasn’t turned to the light side or anything, and it’s not like the Resistance aren’t still pursued - but The First Order has the support of people who would have helped fight that cause.
Ben in all this is like the desperate ex-boyfriend trying to win back Rey. “Isn’t this what you and your friends wanted?” (It’s not like he wouldn’t be doing war crimes on the side to achieve his goals, either.)
So that sets up an arc where Ben has to learn the “right” reasons to do good, and in the process be exposed to flaws in his arrogant, authoritarian thinking. Learn that part of redemption is more than just moving forward, it’s also admitting and trying to atone for what he’s done. He relinquishes power at the end when he better understands the limits of one man, and how others can help each other if they can agree to; if Ben can let others help him. That understanding would tie into how he would be able to forgive his parents/mentors for not being perfect.
The Rey/Finn/Rose/Poe side of things would be about finding the drive to fight when no one else will, when you lose sight of what you’re fighting for or it becomes complicated. Essentially building on TLJ’s “when to fight” philosophies. The GROUP would be a spectrum, from Poe’s (having learned from Holdo/Leia) approach with more diplomacy, to Rey as eager to take the fight to Ben. Finn and Rose in the middle going back and forth between that pragmatism and thirst for justice.
Rey with her newfound sense of purpose wants to carve out her own legend and fulfill a perceived destiny as next Jedi/hero of the galaxy. Her parents would only factor in that she doesn’t want to dwell on that anymore. She’s on a quest to rebuild Luke’s saber, find more Jedi texts, and lead the Resistance in a war against the The First Order - for the crimes against the galaxy that got them to power. Basically, her desires become desperation and Ben’s initial dark side “reasonings” from the top of the rewrite begin to influence her. Even when Ben begins sliding towards good. She loses sight of why she’s fighting, it becomes personal. In a way, Ben “becoming and doing good” takes away from her the bright new purpose she thought she had.
Finn would become uncomfortable with Rey’s dehumanization of the enemy; after all he was once a stormtrooper. And this is where the thematic pieces of Finn’s arc in other rewrites/DoTF would come in. He frees/rallies stormtroopers as a way to undermine The First Order, and avoid the war Rey is trying to start.
Rey doesn’t become like an evil villain, but I did want there to be a role reversal. She is something of an antagonist until everyone can come together to defeat Hux’s coup. Which will be an obvious plot element to include and build from the beginning: Snoke’s old followers and the ambitious Hux would absolutely be against Ben’s run as a benevolent Supreme Leader. The Knights of Ren and new designs like the Sith Troopers could be on this side.
There’s a bit more to it than that of course, like the narrative plot of the entire damn thing, but like I said, this was just a broad overview of the thematic elements I would have wanted out of a follow up to TLJ. I was going to get back to writing it for fun if anyone was interested, but yeah. Idk. Those were some of my ideas.