Well, now that we’ve all seen Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, let’s talk about the spoiler moments we couldn’t review before without ruining the experience. Like, did Rey and Kylo Ren actually make out before he force-vanished Yoda-style? Spoiler: that happens at the end of Rise of Skywalker, and it is equally upsetting and necessary and retrospectively obvious. And is this really the end of the Skywalker Saga? Spoiler! It is. ALL the Skywalkers are dead by the end of the movie…or are they?
We Need to Talk About Palpatine in Rise of Skywalker (Seriously—Spoiler!)
Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker Spoiler! Shadowy presence is Palpatine…in the shadows. (Image: Disney)
Rey is Emperor Palpatine’s granddaughter. Wait, that’s stupid—there was never any indication that she would be easily drawn to the dark side, except, you know, the entire plot of The Last Jedi. How Rise of Skywalker follows up perfectly on Last Jedi is an article for another day (editor’s orders), but this one moment is an important part of Rise of Skywalker and needs to be addressed in a Spoiler review.
When Luke was training Rey, there was a spot on his island that represented the Dark Side—and, to his horror, she dove right in without hesitation. The Dark Side was strong in her, so being the granddaughter of the most powerful Sith works. It’s also a flip on what happened to Anakin. Palpatine turned someone who had a strong connection to the Force into a Sith. Luke and Leia turn someone with a strong connection to the dark side into a Jedi. Poetic justice is the best justice! The film suggests that both Luke and Leia knew she was a Palpatine, though this is arguably a retcon. Still, it works if you let it. Luke’s hesitation to train her, and Leia’s unwillingness to lose hope in her, can be retroactively applied to this revelation. That this also mirrors how they feel about Kylo Ren is merely a bonus.
Wait, Is There Really Not a Single Skywalker Left? Spoiler: Yup
Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker Spoiler! They fight and then they don’t. (Image: Disney)
Yep—and nope. The Skywalker bloodline is over. Done. Ended. Luke force-faded in Last Jedi, Leia, weakened by the war and the loss of her brother and ex-husband, Han, sacrifices the last of her energy to reach out to Kylo Ren. And Kylo Ren, after a devastating battle with Palpatine, sacrificed the rest of his lifeforce to bring Rey back to life (easy to understand why she would want to kiss him after that). And instead of calling him by his Sith name, Rey calls him by his real name. Ben—as in Ben Solo.
Many fans, especially those who “shipped” Rey and Kylo/Ben were upset at his death. Yet, because these films follow the mythical, epic template, Ben’s fate was sealed. He was a mass murderer, killed his father (who forgave him in a surprise cameo), and tyrant, there was no happy ending for him. Still, he did finish what his grandfather Darth Vader started. He helped to defeat the Sith and, more importantly, used his power to save the person he cared for the most.
In the last scene of Rise of Skywalker, Rey introduces herself to a woman on Tatooine as “Rey Skywalker.” Really, the title, Rise of Skywalker is the spoiler. We knew this was the end of the Skywalker saga, but it’s also called “Rise.” Ben’s death and Rey becoming a Skywalker, even in name only, was obvious. Star Wars has always been about found family, and this film takes that idea to its next step. Rey is a Skywalker because she chooses to be, not because of some accident of birth. Given what she rejects to take up this name, it’s a more meaningful ending than some disappointed in the film suggest.
Honoring Princess Leia and Carrie Fisher
Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker spoiler! Yes, that’s a lightsaber she’s holding. (Image: Dinsey)
It’s amazing to consider that Fisher didn’t film a single scene for Rise of Skywalker, and yet Abrams was able to conclude her story as a general and, spoiler, a Jedi. Her scenes all carry an emotional weight to them. How could they not? Even though we know this has to be her last film, her death doesn’t feel real at first. Sure, we see Rey, Finn, and Poe saddened by the news, but it isn’t a crushing moment…until we see Chewbacca.
When Chewbacca learns that one of his closest and oldest friends—one of the last ones left at that—is gone, he howls and beats his fists against the ground. In every film of the new trilogy, one of the original three dies, starting with Chewie’s best friend, Han Solo. Chewie is generally there for some comic relief and small emotional beets, like his joy in seeing Luke or Lando again. But this moment—this is devastating. This is several years of losing everyone he loves crashing down on him.
While some folks may have missed it, the scene in which Chewie is given a medal is more than just a nod to the end of A New Hope. The medal he’s given is Han’s medal, which we see Leia with in the trailer for the film. Just as the dice were given to Leia by Luke on Crait, Chewie is now the custodian of the literal symbol of when his best friend the pirate became a hero.
Also, check out the lovely tribute to Fisher from Lucasfilm.
How Lando Saves the Day—with Leia’s Help
Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker spoiler! They hug. (Image: Disney)
It was one of the big questions of the new trilogy: Where’s Lando? Well, we have him now, and not a moment too late. We needed Lando, the character who charmed his way into the core team in the original trilogy. The final plan doesn’t work without him, even if the characters don’t realize this. It’s Lando who convinces the entire galaxy to basically pull a Dunkirk, inspiring everyday civilians to take up arms and end the “Final Order” once and for all. Hearing from one of the heroic generals of the Battle of Endor? Of course that’s more convincing than Poe Dameron’s call for help in The Last Jedi. Spoiler: Rise of Skywalker is about legacy, so we needed a legacy character to pull this off.
But he wasn’t alone. And I’m not talking about Chewie, though I’m sure his growls helped. Emperor Palpatine makes a critical mistake when he tries to scare the Galaxy into submission. He announces that “the princess is dead,” and thinks this will break the galaxy’s resolve. Instead, it brings them together. Leia was the hero of the Galaxy, more than Han, Luke, Lando, or anyone else. Those men were legends who helped beat the Empire, but Leia dedicated her life to helping people. First she was the leader of the Rebellion, then a Senator, and finally the heart of the Resistance. The enemy revealing her death only inspires people to fight back. Do they spell this out for us? No—they didn’t have to.
Grade: May Leia Be With You
(Featured Image: Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker, Disney)
Roman Colombo finished his MFA in 2010 and now teaches writing and graphic novel literature at various Philadelphia colleges. His first novel, Trading Saints for Sinners, was published in 2014. He's currently working on his next novel and hoping to find an agent soon.