Top Gun: Maverick is a monumental success at the box office, but the sequel still leaves some big questions unanswered. Directed by Joseph Kosinski (Tron: Legacy), Top Gun: Maverick returns original star Tom Cruise to the role that launched his career as the renegade Navy pilot who faces the many challenges he must face when attending the United States Army’s Combat Strike Tactics Instructor program. The original 1986 Top Gun directed by Tony Scott became a worldwide phenomenon that is still celebrated today, creating characters that have stood the test of time and creating an oft-reviewed legacy.
The sequel has picked up on the original’s threads in many ways, reuniting audiences with the saga they fell in love with 36 years ago, reminding them of what made the original such a beloved classic, while implementing new characters and situations to take proceedings in a new direction. New stars, new characters, new settings, new enemies, and new situations make Top Gun: Maverick a fresh take on the franchise that still delivers on the promise of what made it special to begin with. From the real jets, catchy soundtrack, interesting characters, and suspense-driven spectacle, Top Gun: Maverick rises to the heights of its predecessor. All of that said, Top Gun: Maverick still leaves a list of unanswered questions in its wake, including the fate of certain characters from the original. All these unanswered questions deserve an explanation. Here’s a breakdown of the biggest unanswered questions left by Top Gun: Maverick.
What happened to Viper, Jester, and the rest of the Top Gun class of 1986?
Both Jester (Michael Ironside) and Viper (Tom Skerritt) figured prominently in the first Top Gun in mentoring roles, but there’s no mention in Top Gun: Maverick of what happened to them in their later careers. Viper, in particular, had some key scenes with Maverick, which helped turn the tide for him to return to the booth after Goose’s death. The Ironside jester is an equally important character who dominates the pilots in the original.
Both Skerritt and Ironside could have potentially appeared in the sequel, but it’s possible that it was too much of a hassle, as they played their roles well enough to achieve all the closure that was needed in the first Top Gun. However, the other pilots, including Slider (Rick Rossovich), Merlin (Tim Robbins), Cougar (John Stockwell), Wolfman (Barry Tubb), Sundown (Clarence Gilyard Jr.), and Hollywood (Whip Hubley) are nowhere to be seen in the sequel, with only Val Kilmer’s Iceman making a small but impactful appearance. It would have been easy enough to work with at least a few of these actors for a cameo reappearance, but the focus shifted mostly to Maverick and the newer drivers, making it difficult for everyone to fit in.
What happened to Rooster’s mother (how did she die)?
Maverick reveals that Rooster’s mother died, but the cause of death is never revealed. Meg Ryan played Carole Bradshaw, Rooster’s mother/Goose’s wife, in Top Gun, showing up at one point to visit her husband. Rooster appears in the first Top Gun as a child, which is recalled in the sequel, particularly in the scene where he plays “Great Balls of Fire” at the Hard Deck Bar. But his mother is not mentioned until later in the film when Maverick is talking to Penny (Jennifer Connelly), revealing that Rooster’s mother did not want him to become a pilot after his father died.
Apparently, he asked Maverick “before he died” to stop Rooster from becoming a pilot, prompting Maverick to withdraw Rooster’s papers from the Naval Academy, setting him back four years in his career. Nothing else is revealed about Carole’s passing, but the way it’s worded makes it sound like she died of a terminal illness of some sort, since she was able to convey to Maverick what she wanted to do before she died. Rooster never mentions her mother in the film and Meg Ryan only appears in a flashback, leaving her cause of death vague.
What happened to Charlie?
Maverick’s love interest in the first Top Gun, Kelly McGillis’ Charlie, is not mentioned in the sequel. It’s likely the two characters just drifted apart at some point, but it feels like a missing link in Top Gun: Maverick since their relationship was such a big part of the original. McGillis has worked sporadically in Hollywood since Top Gun and bluntly stated in a recent interview that she was not asked to return for the sequel, saying: “I’m old, I’m fat and I look age appropriate. And that’s not what the whole scene is about.” Still, the question of what happened to such a passionate relationship between the two Maverick and Charlie characters will always linger, especially with decades of rewatching the original and wondering where they would end up.
Who was Penny’s ex-husband/Amelia’s father?
Penny Benjamin, played by Jennifer Connelly, is the owner of the Hard Deck bar in Top Gun: Maverick and is revealed to be the same character mentioned in the former who had an affair with Maverick. Penny is referred to as an “admiral’s daughter” in Top Gun, which means she’s a military brat, which is how Maverick surely knew her from the start. Maverick and Penny are revealed to have had multiple recurring romantic entanglements over the years, but it never seemed to last. However, Penny met someone else at one point, roughly 13 years earlier, as she has a daughter, Amelia (Lyliana Wray), in Top Gun: Maverick. Maverick asks Amelia about her father at one point and she says that he’s in Hawaii with her new wife, so it seems like it’s not the best situation for her. Seeing as Penny is deeply entrenched in the military, despite not being enlisted, her ex is almost certainly in the service, either current or retired, but her identity remains a mystery. It is possible that Maverick knows Penny’s ex personally, especially if he is or was in the Navy, but her identity is ambiguous.
Why did Rooster want to become a pilot?
While Maverick’s career path is deeply explored in Top Gun: Maverick, very little is shared about why Rooster followed in his father’s footsteps and also became a pilot. Rooster is mad at Maverick for withdrawing his papers from the Naval Academy, which set his career back for years, but he never explains or explains why he wanted to be a pilot. Much is assumed about Rooster, but almost nothing is explained about his ambitions other than simply following in his father’s footsteps. As a result, the movie feels like it is missing some scenes to understand his character, such as why he is reluctant to push his limits. While it’s not necessary to state everything outright, Rooster’s choice to become a pilot (as well as his personal life) is far too understated in Top Gun: Maverick, leaving some key motivations of a main character in the dark.
Did Maverick retire at the end of Top Gun 2?
While it is explained that the Top Gun 2 assignment would be Maverick’s last (and the last time he would fly for the Navy), whether or not he retired is never definitively answered. Maverick flies in as the team leader in the final mission of Top Gun: Maverick, leading the team to a mostly successful outcome. However, nothing is shown of Maverick’s retirement, which is usually a ceremonious event/award ceremony in the military, and the sequel opts for a more open ending. The closure of the relationship between Maverick and Penny is given, showing both characters reconnecting at the end, along with Rooster also making peace with Maverick. But Maverick’s status in the Navy is less clear. It’s also possible that Maverick’s status was left that way so that his story could continue in a possible third movie without having to unravel a retirement issue.
Who were the enemy fighters in Top Gun: Maverick?
As in the first Top Gun, the enemy is kept ambiguous, but can be hinted at a lot based on the locations and the aircraft used. In the first Top Gun, it was largely assumed that the enemy was the Soviet Union, since the aircraft used in the film, the MiG-28, were derived from the Soviet bloc that existed during the Cold War. Top Gun: Maverick sticks to the same ambiguous playbook, this time using the Russian-made Su-57 fifth-generation stealth fighters, which are high-tech aircraft used primarily by Russia and China. The location is also snowy and mountainous, which also points to the probability that it is one of those nations. One of the reasons for this is twofold: the producers did not want to paint any country as the specific villain, as it could cause bad diplomatic relations and hurt the international box office, particularly in China. While it can be denoted by the aircraft and the location, Top Gun: Maverick ultimately never leaves the viewer with an answer as to who the American pilots are fighting against.
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