For a certain subset of Star Wars fans, there is in particular a face that, strangely, does not appear in modern films. While I was more than a little overwhelmed by the movie I saw in theaters last night, there was a second-long gig that made me smile.
And no, it wasn’t Dominic Monaghan from Lost.
(Ed. Note: What follows includes spoilers for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.)
Fans of the original trilogy will remember Luke Skywalker’s right-hand man, Biggs Darklighter, who was tragically killed in the last attack on the first Death Star in A New Hope. The same fans will also remember Luke Skywalker’s other right-hander, Dak Ralter, who was tragically killed in the last attack on Echo Base in The Empire Strikes Back.
None of them were in Rise of Skywalker.
But Wedge Antilles was.
The same fans will surely remember Wedge as Luke Skywalker’s other right-hander, who somehow managed to survive any major engagement with the empire unscathed. He may be the only surviving member of the Rebellion Starfighter Pilot Corps in all three of the original films.
How did Wedge get so happy? Nobody really knows, but if you sew all of your interstitial appearances together, the guy actually has a decent little character arc. We first see him shooting the shit with Luke in the ready room on Yavin 4 in A New Hope. In this scene, he’s as tearful as the farm boy from Tatooine. But at the end of Return of the Jedi, Wedge is a star with steel eyes who hardly hesitates because he wants to shoot into the superstructure of the second Death Star and tear up some proton torpedoes.
Imagine I am pleased to see actor Denis Lawson put on the old orange flight suit for another battle. He appeared at the climax of Rise of Skywalker, without a helmet and under the control of an unknown ship, fighting the Final Order fleet via Exogol.
Why did it take so long for a hero of the rebellion to return to the screen like Wedge? It turned out that he went bankrupt when Disney cleared the expanded universe. Much of his heroic antics happened in dozens of books and comics banished to non-canonical status. However, I cannot say that his re-appearance in Rise of Skywalker was unexpected.
In the months before the premiere of Rise of Skywalker, Wedge had suddenly reappeared in the canon. In the new fiction, he’s the stepfather of Temmin “Snap” Wexley (Greg Grunberg), a member of the Black Squadron and Poe Dameron’s right-hand man. Wedge even played a prominent role in Star Wars: Resistance Reborn, a particularly good novel whose story resembles Marvel’s Poe Dameron comics and even Star Wars Battlefront 2.
Ultimately, the fate of Wedge after Rise of Skywalker is unclear. We saw Snap snap it in the final moments of the film, and even fan favorite Nien Numb experienced a fiery fate from the Emperor’s forces. We hope Wedge made it back to his farm and beloved wife Nora on the planet Akiva. After more than 40 years of war under the stars, he deserves a little rest.