Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker never had a chance to complete every thread from the eight films in the Star Wars series. But Polygon employees hadn’t expected that so many strange questions would remain unanswered. We didn’t want to go into CinemaSins with nitpicks, but we were pretty surprised at all of the elements of Episode IX that seemed rushed, incomplete, confusing, or just missing. It is always a bad sign when people come out of a film, confused by parts of what they have just seen, and try to confirm to each other that they have not fallen asleep in the theater and have missed a key moment. Here are the biggest questions that Rise of Skywalker has been thinking about.
(Ed. Note: Extremely massive spoilers in front of The Rise of Skywalker.)
What was Finn’s big secret from Rey?
If Finn thinks he’s going to die, he tries hard to tell Rey something he kept away from her, but he’s cut off. Later, when it looks like he and Poe and Chewbacca are all all going to die, Poe brings it up again and Finn pushes him off. So what should he say? Standard clichés indicate that he wants to confess his love for Rey or that he wants to tell her that he is also sensitive to strength and perceives her emotions from across the galaxy. (Wishful thinking from certain senders suggests that he would instead confess his love for Poe.) But why should any of this be useful before he is consumed by space quicksand?
Action meaning: At some level, it is probably not important for the audience whether Finn finishes the thought. And yet it is a strange story beat to always tell something unresolved and then never to solve it, especially if it comes from a loved one whose story arc never fully develops or pays off.
Farewell, whoever you were Photo: Lucasfilm Ltd.
Who did Kylo Ren murder in his opening scene?
Kylo is reintroduced into The Rise of Skywalker in the middle of a battle in which he slaughters a small army of warriors to get his hands on one of the film’s many MacGuffins, a Sith Wayfinder that leads him to Exegol. Who guards the wayfinder and why do they have it? Are they Sith guards or resistance fighters or neutral parties who worship Wayfinder or use it as a campfire or what? And why didn’t Luke find a clue to this pathfinder, which apparently was much easier to reach? And if it’s in the hands of Sith or First Order, why don’t you hide it at Exegol, where it’s safest?
These questions are briefly answered in the newly published book Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – The Visual Dictionary. This book states that Kylo is on Mustafar, the lava planet on which Anakin Skywalker lost his limbs in a duel and practically became Darth Vader. And it is said that Kylo fights his way to Vader’s old fortress, where he finds the pathfinder. Why is none of these backgrounds mentioned in the film? Because the fight is only really there to remind us that Kylo is a powerful warrior, which is necessary to establish him as a threat, since he spends most of the film being circumcised by Rey, and then the pages change. Given that this film offers its salvation and rejects its Sith beliefs, it is still worth wondering about the morals with which it opens this film by killing dozens of faceless people comfortably to steal something from them.
Action meaning: Star Wars has repeatedly claimed that bad guys can redeem for absolutely anything as long as they die immediately afterwards. In theory, we cannot target this latest massacre against Kylo’s morality. Still, it’s a little offensive to note that we are not expected to know or care about the people he kills, and that they are only there because J.J. Abrams wants the film to start with as much thoughtless, fast-paced action as possible. Speaking of what …
How did these TIE fighters follow the Millennium Falcon through hyperspace?
We have spent 40 years star wars not only jumping into hyperspace as an iconic, symbolic image on the screen, but also as an image of freedom. This way, all of these smugglers, rebels, and people on the verge of escaping from a much larger and stronger escape are enemy. Then the last Jedi gave the first command a “hyperspace tracker,” a device that overruled all previous hyperspaces. Suddenly the bad guys could follow the good guys everywhere, even through hyperspace. Still, it was a resource-intensive process that required a particular device on a particular star destroyer that the rebels blew up. And now suddenly every TIE fighter in the fleet can easily and seamlessly follow ships in the hyperspace jump after the hyperspace jump, no matter how quickly they happen.
Action meaning: Even if you assume that this new technology is only an optimization and miniaturization of the existing hyperspace tracking technology, it will radically change the Star Wars universe. Suddenly there is no way to escape a gun battle against a superior enemy. Space battles will now mean something completely different – provided the authors do not choose to ignore this in the future simply because it is too restrictive.
Where exactly was Chewbacca’s “second transport” hiding?
Most of these questions come from rushed storytelling, or from Abrams, which gives an action sequence priority over creating a context explaining what that sequence does or what it means. On the other hand, this comes from unbroken apathy and contempt for the audience. Finn sees a group of stormtroopers take Chewbacca and load him onto a vehicle in the middle of a flat, open desert with no hiding place. He runs to point the ship to Rey and tell her that Chewbacca is on it when it takes off into the sky – another expanse with maximum visibility. Then Rey and Kylo fight over the transport ship until Rey accidentally shoots it with Force Lightning. It goes down and supposedly kills Chewbacca. But everything is fine! A few minutes later, the First Order reveals that there were two transport ships and Chewbacca on the other. Apparently the second was invisible. And hides behind the first. Or maybe the furry guy Finn saw loaded onto the ship was another bandolier wearing Wookiee with a Sith artifact meter.
Action meaning: Chewbacca’s survival is hugely important to both the fandom (a long-time favorite) and history, as half of the storyline remaining, Hux’s death, and Reyl’s discovery by Kylo all come from the following rescue. However, the gimmick “Your Wookiee is in a different castle” is mainly important to reveal how little the film team was interested in keeping the story together. You don’t make the slightest attempt to make this plot hit meaningful.
“Too bad that won’t get us anywhere now.” Photo: Lucasfilm Ltd.
Are the Sith gone for good?
If Kylo is converted and dead and Snoke halved and dead and the emperor crumbles and dead again, is there really anyone left to continue the Sith line? Various other Sith trainees and offshoots from the expanded Star Wars franchise were also killed until it is unclear whether anyone is still there to maintain the line.
Action meaning: Theoretically extremely significant for the future of the franchise, given the size of the Sith in the myth. On the other hand, Star Wars franchise authors have repeatedly proven that they can bend their own rules to keep old enmities alive. The rule of two in The Phantom Menace explained that there were only two Sith at a time, one master and one apprentice, but subsequent stories fiddled this line considerably to bring in more Sith-associated antagonists. Since both the Emperor and Darth Maul canonically survived seemingly deadly attacks, and proof has been furnished that Supreme Leader Snoke was only one of several clones, it is always possible that later books or games or films will find a way out of one of the Bring both core villains back or uncover another secret apprentice somewhere. Maybe there is an entire planet full of these saved snoke clones. You never know when you’ll need replacement snokes.
Wait, did the emperor have a plan for the replacement snakes?
The tub full of additional snokes bothers some Polygon employees. It probably shouldn’t. These are probably unfinished or broken clones or even backups. Abrams almost certainly included a few of them in this shot and not just one, so no one would mistakenly believe that Snoke had risen next to the emperor. The Küpen snokes are probably the discards. You don’t have to worry until the franchise tells us.
Action meaning: Probably just a creepy picture with no meaning other than proof that Snoke was a puppet all the time. That means, of course, that the one we saw dying might have been one of many who effectively served as his own body double to prevent an assassination attempt. A mixture of canonical and expired traditions can offer a somewhat more precise explanation.
Why did the emperor change his plans in the middle of the climax?
It’s strange how the emperor announces that Rey will kill him, and then he’ll inhabit her body and take over the galaxy, and then absolutely nothing will happen. For a brief second, the idea that she can’t solve her problems with a quick and easy murder seems a fascinating mystery. It’s a parallel to the bond Obi-Wan Kenobi brings back to Darth Vader in A New Hope when he says, “You can’t win, Darth. If you knock me down, I will be more powerful than you can imagine.” Vader hears not to and by killing Obi-Wan, he makes him one with the Force. Rey is more careful when it comes to making progress, which gives her conflict a brief thrill because it looks like she can’t just solve it in the most obvious way. And then – it deprives her of most of her life force and she kills him anyway, with no obvious negative consequences.
Action meaning: It would be nice if there was an explanation for it – usually if an antagonist’s plan fails, there is a reason for it, something that he did dramatically wrong or didn’t expect. But if we read between the lines (and look at all of the obvious parallels from Rise of Skywalker to Return of the Jedi), we can guess that the reason this plan failed is not some-something-power-dyad magic but that Rey was supposed to be in her anger and dark side to murder him, which would give the Emperor a way into her, and she channeled the Jedi and instead destroyed him with his own strength. Therefore, do not tell the good guys all your evil plans in advance.
“I was ready to redecorate this place anyway.” Photo: Lucasfilm Ltd.
What exactly happened to Rey and Kylo Ren in the end?
The characters’ last moments take place like the end of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, with one of them waking up just in time to share a kiss and then see the other die. Except … what actually happened there? It certainly looked like Rey had exhausted himself to channel the Jedi and end the Emperor, and then died and Kylo gave her all of his life energy to bring her back, but then he died. Except … since the Force users of the Light Side evaporate when they die, why didn’t Rey’s body disappear when she was dead, like Kylos?
Action meaning: There is probably a dreamy explanation for this, as if she wasn’t ready to share it yet. It’s just confusing because there don’t seem to be any rules for how and when light-side users evaporate after death. Speaking of what …
Why didn’t Leia’s body disappear until Kylos did it?
This statement “was not yet ready to pass it on” looks better and better now, but it’s still confusing how director J.J. Abrams is keen to show the audience that Leia’s body was still hanging in the cave when all of the other missing bodies of light-side users we saw disappeared within a minute or so of their death. (Within a nanosecond in the case of Obi-Wan Kenobi.) And then Leia and Kylo disappear at the same time.
Action meaning: Probably nothing. It’s probably just meant to be a bit of a parallel closure for the family. Unless you attribute the wild but not really rebutted theory that Leia’s self-sacrifice to reach Kylo was more than it seemed, and that she was somehow sending her mind to inhabit his body. There are already theories that Leia didn’t really die when she lay down in this cave. She just projected her life force onto Kylo to help Rey, so she wasn’t completely dead until he was. Or that Kylo died when the emperor threw him into the pit, and that the Kylo who showed up to save Rey was just a projection of consciousness, like Luke at the end of the last Jedi who showed up to his remaining one Pass energy to Rey. This is the kind of speculation you get from inconsistent and unclear storytelling.
Who was the crew of the Emperor’s massive fleet?
There are many unanswered questions regarding the Emperor’s sudden resurrection and the unveiling that he had hidden a huge fleet on an unknown planet, with planet-destroying weapons that previously required an entire Death Star to support. Who took his body from Death Star II and brought him to Exegol and built and manned all of these ships? When were ship planet destroyers developed? Was the huge audience real, living beings for the intended victory of the emperor, or were they phantoms? Again, the Rise of Skywalker Visual Dictionary has a short answer: These are “Sith cultists” who “continue to worship the late Darth Sidious’ efforts to create a new empire.” It is only unclear how they all came to Exegol, a A secret, hidden planet that is hard to find, navigate, or leave without special instructions.
Action meaning: Of course, the authors of The Rise of Skywalker aren’t interested in any of this, but it’s not confusing when tens of thousands of Sith Loyalists are summoned out of nowhere and then destroyed without a word of explanation. It is also worth asking how many of these questions have already been answered in additional materials.
What exactly is a dyad and how are Kylo and Rey connected?
The biggest secret of the last Star Wars trilogy was the connection between Kylo Ren and Rey, which allowed them to do things the Force had never used before. The fans took this as evidence of a kinship between them, evidence that Rey Luke’s daughter or other Skywalker offshoot. But no, during the climax of the action, the Emperor only mentions that the two are a Force Dyad. What does that mean?
Action meaning: Not only is it important for the plot of Rise of Skywalker, it also falls back on the last two films. Why is this such an apathetic point of action? Are there other dyads? What makes two people uniquely connected by power, and what can we expect from them in the future?
Who were the knights of Ren and are they gone now?
The Knights of Ren, the faction that gave birth to Kylo Ren, was introduced to The Force Awakens with the idea that they would eventually be fleshed out. But then nobody who wrote the films was particularly interested in them, and they became one of the series’ half-hearted afterthought. J.J. Abrams brings them back to Rise of Skywalker just long enough for Kylo to kill a few of them, but the last trilogy really only contains a few sentences, in total, about who they are and what they want. You get a bit more background knowledge in the Star Wars spin-off comics, but not enough to clarify whether there are more of them or what they want in a first-order galaxy.
Action meaning: On the whole, it seems important to just recycle some early Kylo Ren costumes and sell a few more toys.
Photo: Lucasfilm Ltd.
Why is C-3PO programmed to understand Sith runes?
Okay, this is just petty, but come on, someone has bothered to program it to understand a forbidden language that it was not allowed to tell anyone. Why did you bother?
Action meaning: Surprisingly central in history and surprisingly destructive for C-3PO! It’s a good thing that nobody in this film is allowed to stay “dead” for a long time.
What exactly is the Han Solo that appears Kylo?
Harrison Ford’s sudden reappearance in a series he wanted to leave loudly was a welcome shock, but it raises many questions. He has never been a Force user and does not appear to be a Force ghost. It could just be a memory or deception of Kylo that appears to confirm Kylo’s decisions. But that’s a rather unsatisfactory answer that essentially decides how Kylo is haunted by the murder of Han. Allegedly, his entire return to light rests on the fact that he regrets what he has done Self-congratulations that feel shallow and delusional. Making Han just a memory would also be a strange choice in a universe where people clearly live on and often return from death. Perhaps it is a vision that essentially means “a magical projection that never has to follow any rules” in this series. But if Han Solo is actually evidence that non-Force users not only joined the Force after the Force’s death, but since it can manifest later, it’s something new and unprecedented – basically another case in which the authors violate established narrative rules for a cool moment without worrying about how this abruptly changes an entire galaxy.
Action meaning: Who knows? There is a chance that something like this will never reappear in Star Wars, unless Harrison Ford naturally agrees that he keeps coming back for more cameos.
Are there any rules for force spirits at all?
Why did dead Darth Vader show up as a young Anakin Skywalker as a power spirit, but dead Luke and Leia still look like old Luke and Leia?
Action meaning: Zero. This is just one of those frustrated questions arising from George Lucas’ digital tinkering with previous Star Wars films. If he hadn’t felt the need to force Hayden Christensen to return the Jedi retrospectively, it would not come up again and again. The only reason it’s important is the continuing hope that power spirits can choose their own looks from any era in their past. Maybe one day we’ll see Force-Ghost Yoda as a baby, and he and The Mandalorian’s Baby Yoda can hang out together and be kids.