The Rise of Skywalker and the Questions that Spark New Ideas

by Eric Onkenhout

Episode IX not only sees the rise of Skywalker but the rise of several questions. Several clues give some context. Some of these thoughts are explored here.

In just over two months, the Skywalker saga that started over 40 years ago with Star Wars (1977) will reach its climactic end with the release of Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (12/20). What an incredible journey it has been! So many iconic characters, classic starships, and locations, have come and gone. Now, those iconic characters have passed the torch to a new group of heroes who have, themselves, become household names: Rey, Finn, and Poe. Since the teaser trailer dropped during Celebration Chicago in April, and ever since The Last Jedi, questions remain. What’s going to happen? Will Kylo Ren be redeemed? Will Rey carry on the Jedi legacy? Where does Finn and Poe’s story go after Episode IX? Will Leia survive? Always in motion is the future. And cloudy, the outcome is.

The Return of Palpatine

One of the most memorable parts of The Rise of Skywalker teaser is, of course, the cackle. The evil Emperor Palpatine has seemingly returned from the dead to rise again. How will Palpatine be used is one of the most intriguing elements leading to the film’s release. With Snoke gone, Palpatine returns as the big baddy. But how can Palpatine return from exploding inside the Death Star II, which, in itself, got destroyed?

The Rise of Skywalker

One possible solution is that Palpatine pulls A World Between Worlds scenario in which he opens a portal to speak with Rey or Kylo as he did in Star Wars Rebels, where he tempted Ezra with visions of his parents. Palpatine could try to coerce Rey to the dark side with the same promise. It’s unlikely the films will get that existential. It was an alluring concept for hardcore fans to digest. However, it could be a hard pill to swallow for casual fans. Bringing back Maul in Solo threw so many people for a loop, repeating that idea with Palpatine could work if done right. If there’s one thing Lucasfilm loves to do, is bring back one thought dead characters, and usually, it works.

The easiest way to explain Palpatine’s return is that he left clones of himself. In the Dark Empire comic book series published by Dark Horse in 1991, the Emperor returned through the cloning process. He kept batches of his clones stashed away for a rainy day. But why wait until now to return? According to Dave Filoni, Sith cannot return as Force ghosts, so it’s likely Palpatine returns via hologram message or in the flesh.

Kylo vs. Ben

The Rise of Skywalker

It can be deducted that Palpatine will take Snoke’s place as Kylo’s teacher, but is that what Kylo wants? Kylo wants nothing to do with the Sith, the Jedi, or any of it. Perhaps this is where Kylo makes his final decision. recently posted an excerpt from the upcoming novel, Resistance Reborn (11/5) by Rebecca Roanhorse, which includes a conversation between General Organa and Rey in which Leia says, “No one can save Ben but himself.”

How does Ben help himself? Will Ben do that? Why would Ben do that? So many questions surround Ben Solo, who has become one of the most engaging characters in the entire saga. The only child of Leia Organa and Han Solo. How can anyone live up to that legacy? The expectations entering Luke’s Jedi training are virtually sky high. There is a line in a song by The Who that goes, “Don’t pretend that you know me. Because I don’t even know myself.” That is the mental state Kylo has been in for years, and it’ll come to a head in The Rise of Skywalker.

In The Rise of Skywalker, Rey may join Ben to defeat Palpatine; in doing so, Ben will sacrifice himself. The son, the daughter, and the father was introduced during the Mortis arc of The Clone Wars. The idea may reemerge with Luke as the father, with Rey (daughter) and Ben (son). Why would Ben do this? Kylo is already torn. Snoke even said the act of killing Han has split him to the core. Kylo also hesitated when he had the chance to kill Leia. Rey and Leia have influenced his direction. Palpatine will show him what it takes to destroy the Jedi, this is when Ben will decide this isn’t what he wanted.

It’s interesting to note that Kylo hasn’t fought anyone while wearing his mask. Ruling out Lor San Tekka, Poe, or Rey on Takodana. None of those were lightsaber duels. More like one-sided bullying. But why hasn’t he? He’s had temper tantrums while wearing it. If the mask is his safety blanket, one could wonder why not wear it during a lightsaber duel? Does it have any use other than a souvenir? He drops it when he faces Han, to prove to his father that he doesn’t need it.

The truth is, he doesn’t need it, but he’s not sure about it yet. Snoke despises the mask, possibly because he believes it distracts Kylo from relying on his own power. It’s likely Kylo built the mask after he started his apprenticeship with Snoke. Kylo destroys it when Snoke shows his disapproval of him, but during the Episode IX teaser, it’s seen getting repaired by a pair of hairy hands. It’s nothing but a symbol. Perhaps the hands seen repairing it aren’t not doing it at Kylo’s request. Kylo Ren is strong enough in The Rise of Skywalker, where he doesn’t need the mask anymore, and he knows it.

Where Does Rey Take the Jedi?

The Rise of Skywalker

Rey taking the Jedi in a new direction could be very satisfying. After Luke explained to Rey the failings of the Jedi, one could argue that Rey could take the Jedi in a direction that is more receptive to the rules of life instead of the dogmatic rules of the Jedi. Another piece of dialogue taken from the excerpt of Resistance Reborn has Leia asking Rey if she reads minds because she brought Leia a cup of tea. Rey fumbles with her response, “What like a Jedi? I… I’m not—” But Rey is well on her way, whether she wants to admit it or not.

Dark Rey is either a vision or a dream. In other words, it’s not real. But whose vision is it? Most likely, Rey or Kylo’s, but in what context? Is Rey seeing her possible future? Perhaps one that Palpatine is showing her. Is Kylo seeing a future rival or a test? One of the aspects of the Force is that despite the ever-changing future, possible paths will present themselves, and dark Rey is one of them. Whatever is going on, it’s highly unlikely Lucasfilm would end the saga with Rey going dark. In that way, they are keeping George Lucas’ vision of hopeful endings.

What Happens to Leia?

The Rise of Skywalker

Ending Leia’s arc is not necessary, and despite the Skywalker saga ending, removing her character doesn’t serve a purpose, and honestly, it would’ve been done by now if that was their intention. Han died to propel (or halt) Kylo’s growth, and Luke has the same effect on Rey. Leia can live on in the books and comics post-Episode IX. If Lucasfilm can use old footage of Carrie to keep her character going, then there’s no reason why she can’t continue.

Some might claim that Force-ghost Anakin is fan service, but it makes total sense since it’s his grandson who’s causing all the galaxy’s problems. Why wouldn’t Anakin pay Ben a visit and tell him that maybe he’s not the best role model? Anakin was redeemed before his death in Return of the Jedi and, therefore, can cross back into the physical realm. If Anakin can be redeemed within the span of three films, it’s likely his grandson will do so as well. Ben’s journey mirrors Anakin’s, whereas Anakin begins as a boy; his physical appearance darkens as the prequel trilogy advances. On the flip side, Ben begins The Force Awakens in full black donning the mask. By the end of The Last Jedi, his mask is off, and the darkness within him is cracking.

Connecting the Star Wars Dots

The Rise of Skywalker

J. J. Abrams said there will be callbacks to the entire saga in The Rise of Skywalker. It’ll be interesting to see how they are going to fit nods to the whole saga in a two-hour movie. It wouldn’t be outrageous to get a reference to Padme finally, and possibly even visit Naboo. It’d be shocking if Tatooine didn’t make an appearance. During the Triple Force Friday livestream, Joonas Suotamo let it slip that Lando is seen in Cloud City. If that’s true, then it’s likely that Lando regained his Administrator position after the fall of the Empire.

Sith Troopers

The Rise of Skywalker

The Sith troopers look threatening, but if history repeats itself, many of the early toy releases won’t see much screen time. See Boba Fett, Captain Phasma, Constable Zuvio. The all-red look is curious, one has to wonder if the sith trooper comes from the same branch as Imperial guards or Praetorian guards. Major Vonreg in Star Wars Resistance also featured all-red armor. Perhaps Vonreg is a pilot version of a sith trooper. But the name sith troopers sparks interest. Are they force-sensitive stormtroopers kind of like inquisitors? Or are they servants of Sith Lords? Sith troopers are reminiscent of the Massassi warriors of the old Dark Horse comics. The Massassi warriors were servants of the sith lord Exar Kun on Yavin IV. Perhaps Sith troopers are a stormtrooper faction of the Imperial guards. The infantry vs. the special forces.

Poe Dameron’s Journey

The Rise of Skywalker

The Poe Dameron comic book has been setting up Poe’s story where Leia is grooming him to take eventually take over as leader of the Resistance, with Leia in an advisory role. Leia taking a back seat to anyone is unthinkable, but even Leia must realize that she can’t do this forever. Leia is tired. She has lost so much throughout her life. Conversely, Poe won’t want to deal with the political aspects of being a leader, so maybe someone else will take on that role. What will happen to the Resistance after Episode IX? It’s hard to imagine members of the Resistance wanting to rejoin the New Republic after being left out to dry against the First Order. Perhaps the Resistance will remain separate as its own entity.

Finn and Rose and The Republic

The Rise of Skywalker

Having said that, it’s plausible the ships coming out of hyperspace is the Republic finally heeding the call. Again, in an excerpt from Resistance Reborn, Poe informs Leia that Black Squadron has successfully landed on Ikkrukk, a potential new ally in the fight against the First Order.

Finn and Rose could stay with the Republic, they have found their purpose. Especially Finn who went through self-discovery in The Last Jedi, and now is fully involved in the Resistance cause. The Empire didn’t fade after the death of Vader and the Emperor, so there’s no reason to think the First Order will do so.

What will be the fate of General Hux? Hux is too deeply entrenched in the First Order to surrender, and he is too manic to live a long life. In Age of Resistance: General Hux, Hux is shown to be manipulative and quite heartless as a result of an abusive relationship with his father. With no Kylo or Snoke by his side, will Hux have the courage to move on? It remains to be seen, but even Hux bailed on Starkiller before its destruction. Meaning he won’t stand around waiting to be killed or captured. Hux will run. Either he will commit suicide or die in an attack. Very Hitler-like.

Zorii Bliss

The Rise of Skywalker

What will Zorii Bliss bring to the Star Wars galaxy? She has such a cool outfit! And having Keri Russell in Star Wars adds to the incredible talent involved with the franchise. Her costume is definitely a throwback to the golden age of science fiction. It’s very Rocketeer or Buck Rodgers. Even her name Zorii is similar to Zorro, this could lend a clue to her purpose. Perhaps she’s some kind of vigilante. Her character has a history with Poe; therefore, Zorii could assist in helping out with gaining allies or weapons in the war. That is as long as they ended amicably. Whatever her role, it should have significance.

Red-Eyed Threepio

The Rise of Skywalker

What’s going on with Threepio’s red eyes? It has to be some sort of reprogramming or glitch. Teasers can be misleading, but this should be in the movie. It’s too intriguing to show and not be used. The question is, was this always inside Threepio, or did Anakin install this when he built him? Another recent reveal on was the Anzellan droidsmith, Babu Frik. Arguably, Babu is the one who has reprogrammed Threepio that gives him his red eyes. Perhaps Babu is unlocking some decades-old tech in Threepio that Anakin installed as a boy. Why? Maybe there’s something in there that could help turn Kylo back to the good side.


In two-plus months, most if not all of these answers will be revealed, and no doubt, more questions will emerge. It falls into the cycle of storytelling. New characters develop, wars rage on, the rise and fall of good and evil all perpetuate the mythology that is Star Wars.

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