It was never going to end in a way that pleased everyone, but it ended the way the Skywalker Saga needed to.
It should be obvious, but there will be SPOILERS for Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker herein. So conduct yourself accordingly.
After seeing Star Wars: The Last Jedi — which was very, very good, let’s be clear and not let the Twitter narrative dictate the legacy — I praised it for its attempt to push Star Wars off the Skywalker carousel and how its message of leaving behind the old ways set up Episode IX to go anywhere. This was all immediately after the release of the movie, when Episode IX had no title, no director, and we had nothing but the movie’s own inevitability to go by. It was also well ahead of the arrival of Disney+.
I stand by everything I said about Last Jedi, but I have since realized something else. Rian Johnson was pointing us towards Star Wars’ future, but that future would not be realized in film, or at least not in this story. The threads teased in Last Jedi would actually be picked up by things like The Mandalorian, which would carve a new story in this sandbox, one that exists under the pall of what has come before, but is also free to move beyond it.
What I was wrong about was the potential for Rise of Skywalker to go anywhere, and not follow the same patterns as the other films. Because that’s what this story is. George Lucas himself always said that these movies were poems that rhymed, and that patterns and circles and echoes are part and parcel of the Skywalker Saga. And for years, the Skywalker Saga was the only Star Wars we knew. That’s not the case now. There will be more daring, more adventurous, and more out-of-the-box Star Wars to come, and ending the Skywalker Saga with echoes and patterns and rhymes is exactly how it was meant to be.
Yes, there was initial disappointment in discovering that Rey was a Palpatine — So wait, Palpatine had kids? Please let The Courtship of Sheev Palpatine be the next Disney+ show — but it had to be this way. Look at the fan reactions.
Last Jedi: “Rey is a nobody.”
Twitter: “What? How is she so powerful then? What is this Mary Sue bullshit? YOU ARE RUINING STAR WARS!”
Rise of Skywalker: “OK, fine. Rey’s a Palpatine.”
Twitter: “What? I thought you said she was a nobody in that movie we all irrationally hate! Now you give us blatant fanfic because it was we’re been braying for for years? YOU ARE RUINING STAR WARS!”
It was a no win situation. Where could they go? Making her a nobody didn’t go over, so what choice did they have? Think about it — would it have been better is she’d been a clone of Obi-Wan Kenobi? A lost Solo twin? A Rule 63 Qui-Gon Jinn? I think the choice they made, although puzzling in some ways, was the right one. Johnson cleverly left a door open, but not for the Skywalker Saga. The Skywalker Saga had to remain stubbornly repetitive and incestuous, because that’s what this story is. It was never going to take a bold left into entirely new territory, not now. Not when it was so clearly being wrapped up so that the world teased by Last Jedi could actually be explored.
Rise of Skywalker couldn’t cover every detail or storyline. Sometimes you’re an important element in one movie only to end up spiraling unceremoniously into a Sarlacc five minutes into the next one. This movie had to wrap up a 42 year, 9-movie story and it couldn’t pause to make sure that characters introduced literally at the eleventh hour got equal screen time. Sometimes you’re Lando, sometimes you’re Wedge. That’s life. You have a finite amount of time to tell this story. Not everyone is going to take center stage.
Again, Rise of Skywalker was about the Boléro. About playing the echoes and refrains. It’s OK to enjoy seeing Rey actually don — for real — the kind of helmet she wore absent-mindedly while daydreaming on Jakku.
It’s OK to enjoy that Lando is first introduced in disguise, a predilection he picked up in Return of the Jedi.
It’s OK to get misty when Chewbacca finally gets his medal.
You’re meant to get all mushy when Rey uses a piece of trash to slide down the sand dune into the Lars homestead.
You are meant to tear up as the movie walks into the twin sunset with the ghosts of Luke and Leia smiling down on us.
These are movies, after all. Movies about magical space wizards having laser battles. They are meant to be fun. No one told you to make “Star Wars Fan” (or “Star Wars Hater” for that matter) your sole personality trait, where you live and die on every creative decision.
At the end of the day, Rise of Skywalker could only end this way. With echoes and callbacks and mirror imagery. In other words…
Exactly as we have foreseen.