Top Gun: Maverick’S Biggest Unanswered Questions


Top Gun: Maverick is a monumental success at the box office, but the sequel still leaves some big unanswered questions. Directed by Joseph Kosinski (Tron: Legacy), Top Gun: Maverick brings back original star Tom Cruise to the role that launched his career as the renegade Navy pilot who rises to the many challenges he must face when attending the United States Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor program. The Tony Scott-directed 1986 original Top Gun went on to become a global phenomenon that’s still celebrated today, creating characters that have stood the test of time and created a legacy that’s frequently revisited.

The sequel has picked up the threads of the original 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 the 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 soars to the heights of its predecessor. All 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 of 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 & The Rest Of The 1986 Top Gun Class?

Both Jester (Michael Ironside) and Viper (Tom Skerritt) featured prominently in the first Top Gun in mentoring roles but there’s no mention in Top Gun: Maverick about what happened to them in their careers afterward. Viper, in particular, had some key scenes with Maverick, which helped turn the tide in getting him back in the cockpit after Goose’s death. Ironside’s Jester is an equally important character who holds sway over the pilots in the original.

Both Skerritt and Ironside could’ve potentially appeared in the sequel, but it’s possible that it was just too much to squeeze in, as they played their roles well enough to bring 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’ve been easy enough to work in at least some of these actors for a cameo reappearance, but the focus was shifted mostly to Maverick and the newer pilots, making it hard to fit everyone in.

What Happened To Rooster’s Mother (How Did She Die)?

Maverick reveals that Rooster’s mother died, but no cause of death is ever 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 flashed back to in the sequel, particularly the scene where he plays “Great Balls of Fire” at the Hard Deck Bar. But no mention is made of his mother until later in the film when Maverick is talking to Penny (Jennifer Connelly), revealing that Rooster’s mother didn’t want him to become a pilot after the death of his father.

She apparently asked Maverick “before she died” to stop Rooster from becoming a pilot, prompting Maverick to pull Rooster’s papers from the Naval Academy, setting him back four years in his career. Nothing more is revealed about Carole’s passing, but the way it’s phrased makes it sound like she died of a terminal illness of some sort, as she was able to relay to Maverick what she wanted to be done before dying. Rooster never mentions his mother in the film and Meg Ryan only appears in flashback, leaving the cause of her death vague.

What Happened To Charlie?

Maverick’s love interest in the first Top Gun, Kelly McGillis’ Charlie, has no mention in the sequel. It’s likely that the two characters simply broke up at some point, but it feels like a missing link in Top Gun: Maverick, as their relationship was a huge 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 back for the sequel, saying, “I’m old, and I’m fat, and I look age-appropriate for what my age is. And that is not what that whole scene is about.” Still, the question of what happened to such a passionate relationship between the two characters of Maverick and Charlie 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?

Jennifer Connelly’s Penny Benjamin is the owner of the Hard Deck bar in Top Gun: Maverick and is revealed to be the same character that’s mentioned in the first who had a fling with Maverick. Penny is named as an “admiral’s daughter” in Top Gun, which means she’s a military brat, which is how Maverick surely met her early on. It’s revealed that Maverick and Penny have had multiple recurring romantic entanglements throughout the years, but it never seemed to last. However, Penny met someone else at one point, roughly 13 or so years prior, as she has a daughter, Amelia (Lyliana Wray), in Top Gun: Maverick. Maverick asks Amelia about her dad at one point and she says he’s in Hawaii with his new wife, making it sound like it’s not the greatest situation for her. Seeing as Penny is deeply rooted in the military, despite not being enlisted, her ex is almost certainly in the service, be it current or retired, but his identity remains a mystery. It’s possible that Maverick knows Penny’s ex personally, especially if he is or was also in the Navy, but his identity is left ambiguous.

Why Did Rooster Want To Become A Pilot?

While Maverick’s career trajectory is explored deeply in Top Gun: Maverick, very little is shared as to why Rooster followed in his father’s footsteps and become a pilot as well. Rooster is angry with Maverick for pulling his papers from the Naval Academy, setting back his career for years, but he never explains or elaborates on why he wanted to be a pilot. Much is assumed about Rooster, but almost nothing is explained about his ambitions outside of simply following in his father’s footsteps. As a result, the movie feels a few scenes short of understanding his character, such as why he’s reluctant to push his limits. While not everything needs to be expressly stated, Rooster’s choice to become a pilot (as well as what his personal life is like) is far too understated in Top Gun: Maverick, leaving some key motivations of a major character left in the dark.

Did Maverick Retire At The End Of Top Gun 2?

While it’s explained that the Top Gun 2 assignment would be Maverick’s last (and the last time he’d fly for the Navy), it’s never definitively answered if he retired or not. Maverick flies as team leader in the final mission of Top Gun: Maverick, leading the team to a mostly successful outcome. However, nothing is shown of Maverick actually retiring, which is usually a ceremonious event/awards ceremony in the military, with the sequel opting for a more open-ended finale. Closure on 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 not as clear. It’s also possible that Maverick’s status was left that way so that his story could be continued in a possible third movie without having to untangle a retirement issue.

Who Were The Enemy Fighters In Top Gun: Maverick?

Just as in the first Top Gun, the enemy is kept ambiguous, but much can be implied based on the locations and the aircraft used. In the first Top Gun, it was largely assumed that the enemy was the Soviet Union, as the planes used in the film, the MiG-28, were derived from the Soviet Bloc that existed during the Cold War. Top Gun: Maverick keeps the same ambiguous playbook, this time using the Russian-made Su-57 5th-gen stealth fighters, which are high-tech aircraft used predominantly by Russia and China. The location, as well, is snowy and mountainous, which also points to the likelihood that it’s one of those nations. One of the reasons for this is twofold: the producers didn’t want to paint any one country as the specific villain, as it could potentially cause poor diplomatic relations, as well hurt the international box office, particularly in China. While it can be denoted by aircraft and location, Top Gun: Maverick ultimately never leaves the viewer with an answer as to who the American pilots are battling.