Top Gun 3’s Character Return Fixes Top Gun: Maverick’s Tragic Twist

Jennifer Connelly's Penny and Tom Cruise's Maverick in Top Gun: Maverick

Although Top Gun 3’s story is not yet clear, the news that one star from Top Gun: Maverick hopes to return is great for Maverick’s franchise character arc. Top Gun: Maverick was a perfect sequel to the original 1986 cult classic, but there is no denying the fact that the follow-up completely undid the sunny, optimistic ending of Top Gun. In its opening scenes, the sequel revealed Maverick’s life was a mess. In Top Gun: Maverick’s ending, Tom Cruise’s eponymous antihero was finally triumphant again, but it took the protagonist a long time to turn his life around.

In the years after the original Top Gun ended, Maverick’s professional career stalled, leaving him working as a pilot while Iceman rose up the ranks to become a decorated Vice Admiral. His love life was also a tragic disaster, and Top Gun: Maverick’s returning characters notably did not include his original love interest Charlie. These struggles just made Maverick’s eventual redemption all the more impressive, and the revelation that he still needed to forgive himself for Goose’s death explained his personal and professional mistakes. However, Top Gun 3’s story shouldn’t leave Maverick despondent again for the sake of drama.

Top Gun 3’s Penny Role Fixes Maverick’s Sad Love Life

Top Gun: Maverick Justified Charlie’s Exit Via BackstoryCustom image of Tom Cruise's Maverick and Jennifer Connelly's Penny in Top Gun Maverick

Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Jennifer Connelly confirmed that she was ready to reprise the role of Penny Benjamin in Top Gun 3 whenever the sequel entered production. Connelly’s promise to come back makes up for Charlie’s franchise exit after Top Gun, proving that Maverick’s love life isn’t unsalvagable after all. Top Gun: Maverick never even mentioning Charlie proved that, while Top Gun seemed to give its hero an optimistic ending, he was still secretly struggling with his role in Goose’s demise. The guilt over this ate away at him for years, resulting in Maverick losing Charlie and never settling down.

Since Penny was mentioned in the original movie (albeit in passing), the sequel managed to fix the protagonist’s romantic life by reuniting him with a love interest who predated Charlie. Now, Top Gun 3’s story needs to keep Maverick and Penny together to prove that Cruise’s antihero has grown and changed. Maverick working with Goose’s son Rooster gave him a chance to fix his biggest mistake. The sequel’s ending implied that he finally settled down with Penny after the mission’s success. Connelly’s return could confirm that after decades of struggling, Maverick finally found stability.

Top Gun: Maverick Was Right To Drop Charlie

The Sequel Had To Prove Goose’s Death Reshaped Maverick’s Life

Kelly McGillis as Charlie in Top Gun riding in a car

Maverick losing Charlie proved that his life didn’t go to plan after Top Gun ’s upbeat ending, and the protagonist’s problems were what made Top Gun: Maverick ’s mission and his relationship with Rooster so compelling.

While it was a sad revelation, Top Gun: Maverick was right to drop Charlie from the sequel’s story. Maverick and Charlie’s romantic ending was sweet and, in the context of the lightweight, cheesy original movie, it made tonal sense. However, since Top Gun: Maverick aimed to take its lead character more seriously and interrogate his flaws more deeply, the sequel had to jettison this relationship. Maverick losing Charlie proved that his life didn’t go to plan after Top Gun’s upbeat ending, and the protagonist’s problems were what made Top Gun: Maverick’s mission and his relationship with Rooster so compelling.

In Top Gun’s cut original ending, Maverick visited Goose’s grave accompanied by Iceman and Charlie after the triumphant final mission. This downbeat scene didn’t fit the tone of the surrounding movie, but it did prove that Maverick wasn’t over his friend’s death and was still troubled by guilt. Top Gun: Maverick took this idea further, revealing that the next four decades of Maverick’s life were defined by running from his past. Maverick maintaining a stable relationship with Charlie wouldn’t have fit his arc whereas, in contrast, revealing he had flitted in and out of Penny’s life was more fitting.

Penny’s Top Gun 3 Return Fits Maverick’s Character Arc

Maverick Sticking Around Proves He Has Matured Into Responsibility

Tom Cruise in Top Gun Maverick-1

If the Top Gun franchise wants to drop Tom Cruise and continue its story without centering Maverick in the future, the series needs to give the cocky hero’s story a perfect ending. Penny’s return would make this easier in Top Gun 3. Connelly’s character came to represent the human connections that Maverick avoided over the years between the original movie and its sequels. Penny, after all, noted that Maverick dropped into her life once every few years but never stuck around for long.

As such, if Maverick is to stay with Penny and Connelly’s character is to play a supporting role in Top Gun 3, viewers can rest assured that Cruise’s character outgrew this flaw. This would make sense since saving Rooster’s life has already allowed Maverick to make up for his worst mistake. Maverick now has every reason to forgive himself, and the untimely death of Iceman should have taught him that he isn’t going to live forever. Maverick can prioritize his relationship with Penny in a way that he never prioritized Charlie, allowing Top Gun 3 to end Top Gun: Maverick’s story perfectly.

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