Analysis

22 burning questions for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

This movie has a lot of explaining to do

Only now, at the end, will we understand the true shape of the Star Wars saga in The Rise of Skywalker.

With this allegedly final chapter, J.J. Abrams has an enormous task ahead of him, needing to not only open his own mystery boxes from The Force Awakens, but also bring the 42-year Skywalker story to a satisfying close, and tie up decades of plot lines in the process.

Before The Rise of Skywalker's debut, let's take one last look at some of the key burning questions that remain.

1. How has Palpatine returned? Emperor Palpatine is back in The Rise of Skywalker after he seemingly died in Return of the Jedi. How could he possibly have survived being thrown down a reactor shaft in a Death Star that subsequently exploded?

Supplementary material like the Aftermath books have explained Palpatine formulated a complicated contingency plan to be enacted in the event of his death, which involved certain Imperials fleeing into the galaxy's Unknown Regions. Perhaps some previously unrevealed aspect of his plan involved his resurrection, and he's been rebuilding in the Unknown Regions and preparing to return for years. Another option is that Palpatine isn't alive and it's merely his spirit that has returned, although Star Wars canon suggests Dark Side users can't become full Force ghosts like Jedi.

Equally as important, what's Palpatine's endgame here, and what's taken him so long to show himself if he's been around for decades? If he has some grand plan, was Supreme Leader Snoke at all involved in it? The Rise of Skywalker has a lot of explaining to do.

2. How will Leia's plot be wrapped up? The late Carrie Fisher will appear in The Rise of Skywalker as Leia Organa by way of unused footage from The Force Awakens. But how does Abrams plan to wrap up the storyline of one of the series' main characters without her being able to say any new lines?

3. What's the deal with Rey's parents? Normally, we'd consider this question answered after The Last Jedi, in which Kylo Ren said Rey's parents were junk traders who sold her away for drinking money. But it was never entirely clear whether that was true, and Abrams has since said that The Rise of Skywalker will reveal "more to the story."

Might this involve a flashback showing the circumstances of Rey being abandoned? Or will The Rise of Skywalker reveal she truly is the daughter of a famous character after all?

4. What's up with Rey's Force Awakens flashback? The Rise of Skywalker can hopefully make sense of that mysterious Force-flashback in The Force Awakens showing a young Rey shouting "come back" at a ship, implied to be carrying her parents, flying away from Jakku. But didn't Kylo Ren say Rey's parents are buried on Jakku? If that's true, why do we see them leaving the planet? Were they just flying to another part of Jakku, where they then died? Did they later return to Jakku but not come back for Rey? Or does this scene relate to something entirely different?

5. What's Finn's new backstory? Rey apparently won't be the only character to have their backstory expanded upon in the film, as Abrams has also teased we'll be getting some additional information about Finn's past. He mentions in The Force Awakens the First Order took him away from a family he'll never know, but could we actually see them in The Rise of Skywalker?

6. Who are the Knights of Ren? The Force Awakens introduced the enigmatic Knights of Ren, briefly seen with Kylo in that Force-flashback and who Kylo is said to be the master of, but the film provided no explanation as to who they are. They're nowhere to be found in the present during that movie and disappeared entirely from The Last Jedi, but The Rise of Skywalker will see them return.

Luke in The Last Jedi mentioned that some of his students vanished with Kylo when he turned to the Dark Side, leading some to assume they became the Knights of Ren, but a recent description of an upcoming comic makes clear the group existed before Luke's temple was destroyed. So who the heck are these guys, and where have they been during the last two movies?

7. Will Kylo Ren be redeemed? Rey appeared to give up on trying to turn Kylo back from the Dark Side at the end of The Last Jedi, but considering one of the series' primary themes is redemption, we'd wager money on Ben Solo becoming a Jedi like his grandfather before him during the battle against Palpatine, proving to be the titular risen Skywalker.

8. Will Kylo Ren live? The bigger question surrounding Kylo Ren is what will happen after his probable redemption. Will this be an Anakin situation, in which Kylo redeems himself by sacrificing his life? Or might this trilogy take a more unique approach by allowing Kylo to survive, requiring him to reckon with his actions?

9. What's Luke's role? After dying with peace and purpose in The Last Jedi, Luke Skywalker is set to return in The Rise of Skywalker as a Force ghost. What will his role in the movie be? Obi-Wan Kenobi in The Empire Strikes Back told Luke he couldn't interfere in the fight against Darth Vader as a Force ghost, and it seems Luke may tell Rey the same in The Rise of Skywalker based on the trailers. But Force ghost Yoda did interact with the real world by calling down lightning in The Last Jedi, so perhaps Luke will take a more hands-on approach when it comes to defeating Palpatine?

10. Will General Hux attempt a coup? The Last Jedi teased some juicy conflict between Kylo and General Hux, who actually came close to killing Kylo after finding him unconscious in Snoke's throne room. Might Hux try — and presumably fail — to seize power for himself this time? Could Allegiant General Pryde, the new First Order character played by Richard E. Grant, be a part of that?

11. How many prequel tie-ins will there be? The controversial prequel trilogy hasn't really been relevant to the plot of the sequels so far, other than a few brief references to things like clone armies and the name Darth Sidious. But Abrams has said The Rise of Skywalker will serve as a conclusion to all nine episodes, so could this be the first film in the new trilogy in which the prequels truly matter to the plot? If so, could the opera house sequence from Revenge of the Sith, in which Palpatine tells Anakin of a Sith Lord named Darth Plagueis who could save others from death, end up being crucial to his return?

12. Was the chosen one prophecy wrong? The prequel trilogy revealed the prophecy of a chosen one who would bring balance to the Force. This was thought to refer to Anakin, who did exactly that in Return of the Jedi by killing Palpatine. But if Palpatine actually wasn't killed at all, does that mean Anakin didn't fulfill the prophecy? Was he not the chosen one?

It wouldn't really make sense for the true chosen one to be Rey or Kylo since the prophecy's wording, as revealed in a recent book, specifies the person will be a male "born of no father." Then again, it also says that "through him will ultimate balance in the Force be restored," perhaps leaving room for Anakin to be the chosen one but for ultimate balance to be restored through his bloodline, i.e. his grandson, Kylo.

13. Will Reylo become a thing? The shipping of Kylo and Rey might have seemed a bit odd after The Force Awakens, but they certainly had chemistry in The Last Jedi, and writer-director Rian Johnson has even described the moment their fingers touch as "the closest thing we'll get to a sex scene in a Star Wars movie." Could their romantic coupling truly be the trilogy's endgame?

14. Will the Jedi Order return? With Luke gone, what will become of the Jedi Order by the end of this saga? After Rey swiped the ancient Jedi texts from Ahch-To, will the Order make a full return? Might Rey start some sort of reformed Jedi Order, learning from the previous generation's failings and maybe, as one fan theory has suggested, renaming the Jedi the "Skywalkers" to continue Anakin's and Luke's legacies? If so, we know a certain broom boy who might be interested in joining.

15. What's the status of the Resistance? Last time we saw the Resistance, nearly all of its recruits could be captured in a single shot on the Millennium Falcon. Since then, they've been working to increase their numbers and make new allies, as seen in books like Resistance Reborn and the Allegiance comics, with the latter showing Mon Calamari like Admiral Ackbar's son rallying to their side. But just how big of a rebellion is the Resistance by the time the movie picks up?

16. What's Lando been up to? Lando Calrissian's whereabouts in the sequel trilogy have so far been unknown, but he's finally back in The Rise of Skywalker. What's he been up to lately, and why, when Leia and the Resistance sent out their distress call in The Last Jedi, didn't he respond?

17. Will Lando get the Falcon back? After Solo: A Star Wars Story revealed Lando's beloved droid L3-37 was uploaded into the ship after her death, it could be a fitting end for Rey to pass the Millennium Falcon back to Lando in The Rise of Skywalker. At the very least, some sort of L3 nod after Solo would be appropriate.

18. Will Anakin and Obi-Wan cameo? Some Force ghost cameos to close the saga are probably inevitable, perhaps including an appearance by Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi ahead of his Disney+ series. Even better, though, would be the return of Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker. For years, Kylo Ren has idolized his grandfather, so it seems only right for Anakin to pay him a visit and help set him straight.

19. Is C-3PO a goner? The final Rise of Skywalker trailer teased C-3PO's possible demise, as he's forced to take "one last look" at his friends. But after Han Solo's and Luke's deaths, and the potential death of Leia, Abrams may not want to tragically kill off another classic original trilogy character he doesn't have to, which could make the odds of 3PO's death approximately 3,720 to one.

20. What's with Dark Rey? A baffling Rise of Skywalker teaser revealed footage of a Dark Side version of Rey. What's going on there? Rey almost certainly won't actually turn to the Dark Side, but Palpatine showing her a vision of what would happen if she did would make sense. Alternatively, could Palpatine possess Rey for a brief period of time?

21. Could there be a Mandalorian crossover? Disney and Lucasfilm knew The Mandalorian would debut on Disney+ before The Rise of Skywalker, so it's not unreasonable to think some sort of light crossover may have been planned. Baby Yoda probably wouldn't make a full appearance, but could there be a more minor connection that, while not crucial to the plot, still teases a future in which the live-action Star Wars movies and shows regularly interact?

22. Is this truly the end? Lucasfilm has described this as the end of the Star Wars Skywalker saga, and future films are planned starting in 2022 to focus on separate storylines. But it's still a little hard to believe we'll never see a proper Episode X. So how definitive will this ending be?

Perhaps The Rise of Skywalker will close the book on the Skywalker storyline that began in A New Hope, but still leave room for an entirely new book to open with some of the same characters in a 10th episode. After all, returning following what seemed like a conclusive ending is practically a Star Wars tradition at this point — and no one's ever really gone.

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