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Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Is a Complementary Sequel to The Last Jedi and We’ve Got Proof

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BY March 12, 2020
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The Star Wars fandom is a double-edged sword. They will nitpick a stray hair on the face of a character only seen in the background of one episode of The Clone Wars. At the same time, they will take great leaps in logic to justify Han Solo using “parsec” as a unit of time not distance in the first film. Over the past 40 years, they’ve built an empire. It wasn’t Lucasfilm or George Lucas who made Star Wars what it was. It’s the fans. Unlike other franchises that helped guide fan excitement, Star Wars was a phenomenon despite originally ending in the early ’80s. There was a sixteen-year gap between Return of the Jedi and The Phantom Menace. And did the prequels, as maligned as they were, stop this fandom? Hell no. In fact, they embraced it more than they might want to admit.

Now we’re seeing it all over again, especially between The Rise of Skywalker and The Last Jedi, the last chapters in the “Skywalker Saga.” Many fans are now complaining that The Rise of Skywalker retcons and ignores everything about The Last Jedi—even though they also said they hated it. This suggests this isn’t good faith criticism, but rather just a way to justify not liking the film. If you look at these movies for what they are instead of what they aren’t, you’ll see that they complement each other quite nicely.

1. The Rise of Skywalker Happens After Our Heroes Rebuild the Resistance

TROS, TLJ, Lightsaber, Rey, Luke Skywalker, Leia The Rise of Skywalker Last Jedi (Image: Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Disney)

At the end of The Last Jedi, the Resistance is in shambles and Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber is split in two. Rey asks Leia if they can really rebuild from “this”—and motions to the broken lightsaber. Leia tells her “we have everything we need right here.” The Rise of Skywalker follows this sentiment. We see that not only have they rebuilt the Resistance, but they also rebuilt Luke’s lightsaber. Yet, they are still struggling. They don’t have enough ships, and Poe still struggles with both his failure in the film and how no one answered their call for help. Zorri Bliss pushes the Resistance onward by reminding him that there are more “of us,” meaning those who reject the authoritarian philosophy of the First Order, or the Empire, or whatever they call themselves.

2. Poe Dameron’s story in The Last Jedi Heavily Influences His decisions in The Rise of Skywalker

Poe Dameron, The Rise of Skywalker, Star Wars, Oscar Isaac The Rise of Skywalker Last Jedi (Image: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Disney)

In The Last Jedi, Poe screwed up—a lot. He sent Finn and Rose on an unsanctioned mission that actually put the Resistance fleet in more danger. He led a dogfight against a dreadnought destroyer and lost all of their bombers. Oh, and he committed mutiny. He should be in prison. But General Leia Organa knows the value of a roguish pilot with a big heart. The Poe in The Rise of Skywalker is a much different Poe than the one in The Last Jedi. Gone is the trigger-happy pilot, and in his place is a humbled leader who puts the people above the fight. He still has a crisis of faith that lasts until he learns the lesson Holdo and Leia wanted to teach him: you need to trust others to share the burden of leadership.

3. General Hux Was Always Going to Betray Kylo Ren

General Hux, Star Wars, Kylo Ren, The Last Jedi The Rise of Skywalker Last Jedi (image: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Disney)

After Kylo Ren and Rey take down Supreme Leader Snoke in The Last Jedi, General Hux finds Ren passed out on the ground. What does he do? He reaches for his blaster, ready to finish him off. Too bad for him, Ren wakes up just in time. That damn Force—always ruining normal power-hungry peoples’ plans. Hux couldn’t get Kylo Ren out of the way in The Last Jedi, so what does he do in The Rise of Skywalker? He feeds information to the Resistance in hopes that they will defeat Kylo Ren. And the crazier part? He succeeded. Sure, he didn’t live long enough to see that victory, but his plan did work. Despite his respect for Snoke, Hux never seemed to believe in the Dark Side of it all. As the expanded universe reveals, Hux was raised by a cold-hearted Imperial father. He respects the authoritarian structure, but rejects the mysticism. He believed, wrongly, that the First Order could survive Kylo Ren’s failure.

4. Luke Skywalker’s Character Arc from The Last Jedi Continues In The Rise of Skywalker

Luke Skywalker, Last Jedi, Kylo Ren, Crait, Episode VIII The Rise of Skywalker Last Jedi (Image: Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Disney)

Towards the end of the second act of The Rise of Skywalker, Rey hurls Luke’s lightsaber into a fire—only for Luke’s force ghost to catch it and lecture her on respecting the Jedi weapon. Now, a lot of fans complained that in his first scene in The Last Jedi, Luke tosses the lightsaber away, but in The Rise of Skywalker he “suddenly” respects it. Um…did they watch the next two hours of The Last Jedi? Luke realizes that he was wrong to walk away from it all, which he admits in The Rise of Skywalker. And the change began in The Last Jedi.

After Rey leaves Ahch-To to face Kylo Ren (more on this later), he goes to burn down the Jedi tree and the Sacred Texts within. But, Luke changes his mind and is even shocked when Yoda does it instead. He regained his respect for the ways of the Jedi before The Last Jedi even ended.

And his line about the “weapon of a Jedi?” Totally a joke. Looking at the smirk on Mark Hamill’s face in The Rise of Skywalker, it’s clear his line is meant to play as sarcastic. Luke’s Force Ghost is not going to be stuffy and cryptic. By self-deprecating and telling Rey the answers to her questions straight away, he shows he’s keeping his promise to pass on what he knows without repeating the mistakes his mentors made.

5. The Rise of the X-Wing in The Rise of Skywalker makes The Last Jedi More Tragic

X-Wing, Rey, Last Jedi, TROS, TLJ The Rise of Skywalker Last Jedi (Image: Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Disney)

The big twist at the end of The Last Jedi was that when Luke battled Kylo Ren through Force projection—he never left Ahch-To. It turns out that, if he wanted to, he could have lifted the X-Wing out of the water and flew there but decided not to. He knew he had to fight Ren long enough for the Resistance to escape, but also knew he wouldn’t stand much of a chance if he went there physically. If he did survive, it would likely mean that he would have struck down or seriously injured his nephew. And his whole message to Kylo Ren is that Luke failed and hurt him enough already. Plus, going off and fighting wars started the downfall of the last Jedi Order.

The Jedi use the Force for defense, never offense. If Luke showed up physically on Crait, he might have survived, but people would have died. If Luke Force-projected to the battle, everyone would survive but him. The Resistance would escape, Kylo would live to find redemption, and even the First Order cannon fodder would make it through another day. It was the perfect light side solution to the problem. While physical exertion may be why he died, we have another theory below. Either way, by becoming one with the Force in that moment, Luke Skywalker “leveled up” to become more powerful than we could possibly imagine.

6. The Last Jedi Foreshadows Rey’s Connection to the Dark Side

Luke Skywalker, Rey Skywalker, TLJ, TROS The Rise of Skywalker Last Jedi (Image: Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Disney)

During her first lesson with Luke, Rey freaks him out by diving right into the dark side. No hesitation. All throughout The Last Jedi, Rey flirts with the Dark Side (in some ways, literally). She chooses to embrace the places of darkness on Ahch-To, and then holds regular conversations with Ren. Now, whether the Palpatine twist was always the plan or created just for The Rise of Skywalker, the seeds of her Sith connection definitely started in The Last Jedi. Even with the (arguably dubious) choice to suggest Luke knew she was a Palpatine from the beginning, it makes what happens next all the more powerful. Luke doesn’t refuse to train her because of her Dark Side-loving nature. He doesn’t trust himself enough to be able to keep her on the right path. Rey’s true victory in The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker is her unwavering commitment to the Light Side. Just like her true master, Leia.

Having Leia do the bulk of Rey’s training is a brilliant move, not because of her skill as a Force-user. The Last Jedi showed us her ability with the much-maligned sequence where Leia survives open space for a few seconds. Then she uses the Force to pull herself to safety on her damaged ship. She’s the daughter of Anakin Skywalker, and she’s powerful in the Force as Luke said at the end of Return of the Jedi. Yet, one thing Leia has never been is tempted by the Dark Side. She loses her childhood to the Rebellion, and her home planet to the Empire. She’s tortured by a man who is later revealed to be her father. And 26 years after her last war, she has to fight another one against her own son. Never once, through all of this, does Leia give in to fear, anger, or hate. She is the most consistently Light Side character in the entire Star Wars universe, save for maybe Yoda. An example she clearly passes on to Rey.

7. Kylo Ren and Rey’s Force Connection in The Last Jedi Grows in The Rise of Skywalker

Kylo Ren, Darth Vader, Ben Solo, TROS, TLJ, Rey, Star Wars The Rise of Skywalker Last Jedi (Image: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Disney)

Speaking of dark connections, Ren and Rey resume their Force projection conversations. Only now, they can physically touch each other and their surroundings. Uncle Luke would not approve. This development in the Force, first seen in The Last Jedi, plays a heavy role in The Rise of Skywalker. Ren grabs the festival necklace from her through the Force. Their fight while Rey is in his quarters and he’s searching for her on Kijimi. But the most important part, of course, is when Rey Force delivers Luke’s lightsaber to him on Exegol. This wasn’t the first Force FedEx package, however. In The Last Jedi, Kylo Ren ends up with rain from Ahch-To on his glove after one of their conversations. They were able to touch hands in the hut on the island. Later, Luke gives Leia Han’s dice through the Force (but they disappear after he dies).

8. Luke May Be the First Person to Force Heal Someone—and He Does It Remotely

Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa, TROS, TLJ The Rise of Skywalker Last Jedi (Image: Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Disney)

When Luke finally accepts the Jedi ways again in The Last Jedi, he reaches out to Leia. At the time, Leia is convalescing from her injuries sustained in the First Order attack. She was on the command deck earlier in the movie, which the First Order blew up. (Though Kylo Ren refused to take the shot.) When he finds Leia again after so long, she’s close to death in more ways than one. When he kisses her forehead, perhaps he Force heals her? This move would cost him a lot of energy, which probably also led to his death. Leia tells Commander Holdo that she’s seen too many people die. This could even be why she’s weakened when The Rise of Skywalker begins. Thus, she reaches out to Ren with the last of her energy, the way Luke did for the Resistance. We can now theorize that Luke used the Force healing technique on her, so she could be there to reach out to her son when he needed her. The Skywalkers’ story is all about sacrifice, which is yet another reason why Rey choosing that name makes good story sense.

9. General Leia Continues Her Jedi path to its End in The Rise of Skywalker

Princess Leia, Star Wars, the Force, TROS, TLJ The Rise of Skywalker Last Jedi (Image: Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Disney)

As we said above, The Last Jedi revealed how strong Leia was in the Force, but we see more of that play out in The Rise of Skywalker. Rey very deliberately calls her “Master”—the term for the highest-ranking Jedi. (Take a seat, young Skywalker.) Luke explains that she didn’t want to follow the Jedi path after her training since she saw the end of the journey—her son’s death. But she was a fully trained Jedi and a damn good one. She might not have used the name or titles, but she was still a Jedi nonetheless. Yet, and perhaps the prequels are to blame, we think being a Jedi means kicking ass with a lightsaber. Yet, the Jedi serve life. If they can end a dispute without violence, they will. Leia did the work of the Jedi but in her role as a diplomat and public official. The novels Bloodline and Resistance Reborn highlight this, giving insight to how she uses the Force in her daily life.

10. The End of The Rise of Skywalker is Foreshadowed in The Last Jedi

Kylo Ren and Knights of Ren Variant Cover The Rise of Skywalker Last Jedi Variant cover image via Marvel Entertainment

Rey tells Luke if Ren could be turned from the dark side, they could win. She turns him from the dark side, and they win. Sure, you could argue that Ren didn’t actually do much to help the Resistance or Rey, but he does take down his own Knights of Ren while Rey defeats Palpatine’s guards. But, in true Skywalker fashion, he sacrifices his life (or returned the life-saving Force energy Rey gave him earlier?) to save Rey.

Talking about fictional romantic relationships can be a tricky and unpleasant part of fandom, so let’s leave that for later. They loved each other that way, or maybe you think they didn’t. (Remember Leia kisses Luke just as many times as she kisses Han in The Empire Strikes Back.) What matters is that they are bound as a Force Dyad. One of the most disappointing things about The Rise of Skywalker is that they don’t explain this concept at all. Nonetheless, without Ben Solo’s presence, Rey wouldn’t survive the final battle. This is foreshadowed in the Throne Room fight from The Last Jedi, though Kylo Ren’s motivation in that scene is much different.

11. The Rise of Skywalker Kills the Past; or, MORE FORESHADOWING!

Rey And Kylo Ren in The Rise Of Skywalker The Rise of Skywalker Last Jedi Image via Disney.

One of the best lines in The Last Jedi came from Kylo Ren: “Let the Past die. Kill it, if you have to. That’s the only way to become who you were meant to be.”  Now, to be clear, Rian Johnson has said that this was not the thesis of the film. In fact, since the villain said it, he wanted audiences to reject that idea. Yet, J.J. Abrams and Chris Terrio twisted that idea around. Kylo gives Rey that advice in The Last Jedi to convince her to join him, and she actually takes it in The Rise of Skywalker. Grandpappy Palpatine is her past. She’s meant to be a Jedi. In destroying the part of her that comes from the past, she is finally free to become who she is meant to be.

12. Wait—The Last Jedi Foreshadows The Rise of Skywalker Even More!

Rey, Kylo Ren, TLJ, TROS The Rise of Skywalker Last Jedi (Image: Star Wars

In The Last Jedi, Rey and Ren both claim that they see each other standing together and triumphing over their enemies. Rey interprets this as Ren turning from the Dark Side, while Ren believes it means she will turn to the Dark Side. So, which vision from The Last Jedi was right? Well, Kylo’s was right because he was able to kill Snoke and the Praetorian Guards with Rey’s help. However, in the climax of this film, they are standing side-by-side in the face of evil.

Together, with Luke and Leia’s lightsabers, Rey and Ren mount their defense against Palpatine. Ultimately, since the power or spirits of every Sith inhabits Palpatine’s vessel, it takes the power of all the Jedi to defeat him. Ben Solo, however, isn’t there, and Rey nearly doesn’t survive. In sacrificing his life for hers, the movie could be suggesting that her vision of the future is the one Ben believed to be worth carrying out further.

13. One More Way The Last Jedi Foreshadows The Rise of Skywalker

Rose Tico Scenes Cut The Rise of Skywalker Kelly Marie Tran The Rise of Skywalker Last Jedi (Image: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Disney)

When the First Order rolls out a miniaturized Death Star battering ram, Finn nearly sacrifices himself to destroy it, but Rose knocks him off his course to save him. When Finn asks why she stopped him, she tells him, “That’s how we win. Not fighting what we hate. Saving what we love.” This is basically the crux of Kylo Ren’s journey in The Rise of Skywalker. Ren falls in love with Rey in The Last Jedi. Rey, in a moment of anger, fatally wounds him in The Rise of Skywalker—with the help of Kylo’s own mother, no less. But instead of letting him die, she Force heals him and says that she wanted to stand not with Kylo Ren but with Ben Solo. Later, the memory of Han tells us that Kylo Ren died and Ben Solo lives. She saved him, and this is what turns the tide: Rey saving someone she loves.

14. The Ren and Rey Romance Started in The Last Jedi, not The Rise of Skywalker

TROS, TLJ, Rey, Kylo Ren, Star Wars The Rise of Skywalker Last Jedi (Image: Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Disney)

Ren and Rey certainly had a strong connection throughout The Last Jedi, and that helped establish what romantic plotline there is in The Rise of Skywalker. However, Ren tells her, after revealing that her parents were nobodies, “You come from nothing. You’re nothing—but not to me.” The subtext of their being a romantic connection is pretty easy to read. Rian Johnson joked that the scene in which the two characters touch fingertips was the closest to a sex scene one would ever get in Star Wars. Luke, while scolding her, comments on how she opened herself to the Dark Side for ” a pair of pretty eyes.”

Yes, there is no denying that their first meeting in The Force Awakens was not the best meet-cute. Yet, because of Rey’s undying commitment to the light side, she not only sees the good in Ben Ren, she admires it. As Anakin once said, “you could say Jedi are encouraged to love.” Rey’s unwillingness to give up on saving Ben Solo is the kind of tragic love story Homeric epics and the like have drawn on for millenia.

(Editor’s Note: You could say they are Star Wars-crossed lovers! Ok, I’ll see myself out.)

15. Rebuilding Kylo Ren’s Helmet

Star Wars The Last Jedi Backlash Kylo Ren Let the Past Die Helmet Smash The Rise of Skywalker Last Jedi (Image: Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Disney)

In a fit of rage, Kylo Ren smashes his signature helmet to pieces in The Last Jedi, but he has it welded back together in The Rise of Skywalker. This isn’t a retcon. It was Snoke who wanted him to take the damn thing off in the first place. His smashing it was a response to that. Palpatine tells him what Snoke would not, that he is the true heir to the name Darth Vader. So, he decides to get back under the mask because he idolizes his Sith grandfather.

But more than that, he says multiple times in The Rise of Skywalker that he has no intention of serving the Emperor. He just needs Palpatine to think he will. Perhaps the mask helps him with that deception or helps dull the pull of the Light Side he’s felt throughout the sequel series. Perhaps the very act of scheming against the version of Palpatine we get makes that Light Side pull even stronger. Thus, when he finally loses the mask for good, it helps to symbolize that he’s again Ben Solo and not Kylo Ren.

16. The Sacred Texts of the Jedi are Super Important

Jedi, Sith, Ahch-To, Luke Skywalker, Yoda, TLJ, TROS The Rise of Skywalker Last Jedi (Image: Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Disney)

Remember when Yoda set that tree on fire and Luke was like “You burned the Sacred Texts!” Well, Rey had them with her, and she’s studying them in the beginning of The Rise of Skywalker. These texts, which didn’t exist before The Last Jedi, play a critical part in The Rise of Skywalker. In the texts, Luke had notes about the Sith wayfinder to Exogol. Oh, and the complaint that there was never any mention of the wayfinder before The Rise of Skywalker—there was never any mention of the Sacred Texts before The Last Jedi.

George Lucas’s major complaint about The Force Awakens was that it offered nothing new in terms of how the Force works. The Last Jedi set out to remedy that by introducing the Force projection, the communication between Kylo and Rey, and the Ahch-To Temple. As the movie makes clear early on that Rey is also studying these texts, it provides a nice way out for sexist cries that she’s a “Mary Sue” character. She is literally the most studious Jedi we’ve met since Jocasta Nu. No wonder she can do so many amazing things with the Force.

17. Luke Completes His Role as Rey’s Mentor

Luke Skywalker was disappointing in The Rise Of Skywalker The Rise of Skywalker Last Jedi (Image: Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Disney)

When Leia sent Rey to find Luke, she wanted her brother to train her to be a Jedi—and come back and help them defeat the First Order. Rey tells Luke that she needs “someone to show me my place in all this.” That someone is Luke. He fails her in The Last Jedi, but he does help her find her way in The Rise of Skywalker. Rey’s journey in The Last Jedi is actually what inspires Luke to to believe in himself again. This is why he jokes about respecting “the weapon of a Jedi.” It amuses him that the untrained girl who helped him remember what’s important (along with Yoda, of course) is in the midst of her own crisis of faith. What Luke tells Rey in The Rise of Skywalker is the same as the first lesson in The Last Jedi, just from a different angle.

He told her that the Jedi did not own the power of the Force, and that people could be good, heroic, and effective without the Order. The democratization of the Force is a theme that carries on through the new film, both with Finn’s Force talent and Jannah and the rest of the First Order troopers who defected to Endor. When Rey last went to Ahch-To, she went there believing she was destined to be a Jedi, a hero. This next time she’s there, she believes she’s destined to be a villain and failure. Having experience with failure himself from The Last Jedi, Luke is able to get her to look at what’s important. She is “good” because she chooses to be “good.” Making mistakes and feeling the temptation of the Dark Side doesn’t mean she’s evil. Rather, her consistent rejection of that call is what makes her heroic.

18. The Rise of Skywalker Shows Respect to Commander Holdo

Star Wars The Last Jedi Backlash Poe and Holdo The Rise of Skywalker Last Jedi (Image: Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Disney)

When discussing a plan of attack against the Sith fleet, Charlie from LOST (Dominic Monaghan) says they should pull a few “Holdo Maneuvers” to take down the fleet. Finn replies that it was a “one-in-a-million shot.” Many fans took this as dismissing Holdo’s sacrifice as luck. That’s not what it was at all. Poe’s comments indicates the difficulty involved in the maneuver. If you look closely at Holdo’s attack in The Last Jedi, she actually hits multiple ships. It takes a very skilled pilot willing to sacrifice their life to pull off a Holdo Manuever.

This is perhaps a commentary to the fans, specifically the ones who wondered why hyperspace ramming doesn’t become the de facto way to fight a Star War. This film reveals it’s difficult to pull off, meaning that what Admiral Holdo did wasn’t just a heroic sacrifice but a pretty impressive bit of hyperspace navigation. Yet, it’s not impossible to repeat either. At the end of the film when we get the montage of planets rising up against the First Order, some brave pilot pulled off a Holdo Maneuver over Endor’s 4th moon, but against only one Star Destroyer and not a whole fleet.

19. “Strike Me Down In Anger and I’ll Always Be With You, Just Like Your Father.”

Rise of Slywalker, Palpatine, Rey, Spoiler The Rise of Skywalker Last Jedi (Image: Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker, Disney)

Luke says this to Kylo Ren during their battle at the end of The Last Jedi, so how does this come up in The Rise of Skywalker? Well, it turns out that Han Solo really is with Ren, haunting him. We even get to see Han talk to his son. They replay the scene from The Force Awakens where Kylo killed Han. It’s fair to assume that this is not the first time that this particular memory haunted Kylo Ren. However, the reason we’re seeing this on the screen, is that this is the first time the scene plays out with Ben Solo. He’s able to imagine that it went a different way, where he dropped his weapon instead of using it on his father.

But there’s another part of that quote that reflects in The Rise of Skywalker. Luke tells Ren that if he kills him, Luke will become a part of him. Palpatine says the same thing to Rey. If she strikes him down in anger, he’ll become a part of her. The contexts are, of course, very different. Luke’s comment is about how the Light Side would pull even harder at him. Palpatine’s request is part of some macabre Sith ritual. Still, it’s one of those little mirrors that enrich the films. As George Lucas famously said, “It’s like poetry; they rhyme. Every stanza kind of rhymes with the last one. Hopefully….”

20. Rise of the Animal Fleet!

Fathier, TLJ, TROS, Canto Bight, Star Wars, Finn The Rise of Skywalker Last Jedi (Image: Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Disney)

Admittedly, this might not be the most important connection between The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker, but it’s one of my favorites. One of the most ridiculous—and fun—scenes in The Last Jedi involves Rose and Finn setting a stampede loose on Canto Bight. When it comes time to launch a ground attack, Finn says he “has an idea” for how to pull it off. His idea? Use the beasts they met earlier in the movie in the Endor system instead of Speeders, which can be jammed. Where did he get that idea? Canto Bight! He and Rose were able to evade the Canto Bight security forces, using ships, with the hooved animals. If it worked on that beautiful city that Rose wanted to put her fist through, it would work against the Final Order.

There’s Probably More The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker Connections

In a few years, Star Wars fans will point out hundreds of connections, not just between The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker, but every film, tv show, novel, and comic. And when the Episodes 10-12 come out one day, they will repeat the cycle of “complain” and then “defend.” In fact, I’m sure most of you saw a list of 20 and went “20? That’s it?”

Well, fine—which ones did I miss? Write your own observations in the comments below.

MoviesRise of SkywalkerStar WarsThe Last Jedi

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.

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