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All the Questions We Still Have After Watching Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

14 minute read

Warning: This post contains major spoilers for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker purports to be the final entry in the Skywalker saga. It answered many lingering questions, including who Rey’s parents really are—the son and daughter-in-law of Emperor Palpatine—whether Kylo Ren would turn to the light side—he did—and why Snoke existed—because Palpatine made him, for some reason. (OK, so maybe that’s not much of an answer.)

But many mysteries were left unsolved, from basic plot questions like how Maz Kanata got her hands of Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber to grander political problems like how the galaxy will structure itself now that the First Order has been defeated and what seems to be a pretty weak republic remains.

Rise of Skywalker also seemed to go out of its way to undo events from the previous film, The Last Jedi, and this retconning of the past also created some questions. What does the cave sequence from Last Jedi mean now, if anything? And what happened with that burgeoning romance between Finn and Rose that Rise of Skywalker totally ignores?

Here are all our remaining questions—and our best attempts at answers—following the release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

What happened in the cave in The Last Jedi?

Jonathon Olley— Lucasfilm Ltd

The Rise of Skywalker ignores several plot points from Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi, including Rey’s visit to the cave on Ahch-To. Luke warns Rey in that movie that the cave has a strong connection to the Dark Side of the Force (like the cave on Dagobah where Luke ventured in The Empire Strikes Back). When Luke visited the cave on Dagobah, he confronted his worst fear: turning to the Dark Side. He cut off Vader’s head and saw himself under Vader’s mask. (The scene also presaged the Vader-as-Luke’s-father reveal.)

Rey ventured to the cave hoping to find out about her parents. However, she finds herself surrounded by mirrors. When she approaches one of them and asks to be shown her parents, she sees only herself in the reflection. Later in the movie, Kylo tells Rey that her parents were nobodies—junk traders who traded her for drinking money. The revelation in the cave seems to confirm that Rey’s parents don’t matter.

Except of course now we know that they do. Rey’s father was the son of Emperor Palpatine. It’s unclear given this new information what Rey’s adventure into the cave is supposed to mean. Perhaps she is facing her own greatest fear when she sees only herself: loneliness.

Where did Maz Kanata get Luke’s lightsaber?

In The Empire Strikes Back, Darth Vader cuts off his son Luke Skywalker’s weapon-wielding hand, and his lightsaber with it. The hand falls down a shaft, and we never find out where it goes. Luke constructs himself another lightsaber, this time a green one.

In The Force Awakens, Rey finds Luke Skywalker’s old lightsaber in Maz Kanata’s bar. Han Solo asks Maz where she got the lightsaber from, and she replies that it’s a story “for another time.” Yet we never get to hear how the well-connected alien acquired on the coveted weapon—and whether Luke’s severed hand was still attached to it when she did.

What’s the deal with the Sith wayfinders?

The latest Star Wars MacGuffins are something called Sith wayfinders, objects which direct their possessor toward the planet Exogal where Emperor Palpatine has been hiding.

A lot of details about the wayfinders are left unanswered, like who exactly made them and when, why there are only two of them in existence and how Kylo found out about them in the first place.

What happened with Finn and Rose?

Kelly Marie Tran is Rose in The Last Jedi
Jonathan Olley—Lucasfilm Ltd

It’s clear that The Rise of Skywalker would like to pretend that the events of the The Last Jedi never happened. The new movie erases entire plot points from that movie. Among them: What happened with Finn and Rose? At the end of The Last Jedi, Rose saves Finn’s life and tells him that she loves him. She kisses him before passing out. At the beginning of this movie, she is fully recovered, but she and Finn never discuss their feelings for each other. In fact, Rose is basically edited out of the film, staying behind on key missions. She only gets a handful of lines.

Rose’s excising from Skywalker is particularly concerning given the trolling that actor Kelly Marie Tran endured online after The Last Jedi. Tran received so many messages containing harassment on social media that she quit Twitter and Instagram. Giving her a more minor role in the next film feels like a tacit capitulation for that toxic fandom.

What did Finn want to tell Rey?

Speaking of Finn’s love life, the movie hinted several times that Finn wanted to confess something to Rey—first when they fell into the sandpit and thought they were going to die, again when Rey asks him what he wanted to tell her and a third time when Poe brings up the topic when they’re taken prisoner by the First Order. But we never find out what his big secret was.

It’s possible he wanted to confess his feelings for her: He seems to have been crushing on her since The Force Awakens. It’s also possible that he feels guilty about the kiss he shared with Rose and wants to tell her about that. Or maybe it has nothing to do with romantic triangles at all. Throughout the movie Finn seems to be able to feel the Force—he gets a feeling that propels him toward destroying the correct ship during the final battle, and he feels a change in the Force when Rey (temporarily) dies. Perhaps he wanted to tell her about that.

Can Finn feel the Force?

Historically, only Force-sensitive characters have been able to feel disturbances in the Force, like the death of a powerful Jedi or Sith. Characters like Jyn Erso certainly believe in the Force, and she probably succeeded in transmitting the Death Star plans to the rebels in Rogue One because her success balances the Force in some way. But we have no hint that she would be able to see the future or learn to be a Jedi.

And yet Finn, who has betrayed no Force sensitivity in the last two films, seems to be able to sense Rey’s death in this film. Perhaps he’s a burgeoning Jedi too?

How did Palpatine resurrect himself?

Emperor Palpatine.
Emperor Palpatine.Lucasfilm Ltd.

Ever since the emperor first cackled in the trailer, fans have been wondering how Palpatine managed to return. Last we saw the emperor, Darth Vader had thrown him down a chute to save Luke Skywalker. The emperor seemingly exploded upon impact, but somehow in The Rise of Skywalker he has returned not just as a force ghost but in corporeal form.

So how did he do it? The long-awaited answer is…the Force? Kind of? Palpatine gives a very brief explanation at the beginning of The Rise of Skywalker, saying that Sith powers are potent and, some say, “unnatural.”

The use of “unnatural,” in particular, parallels his speech to Anakin Skywalker in Revenge of the Sith. In that movie, Palpatine convinces Anakin to turn to the dark side by convincing him that only the Sith know how to keep people they care about from dying. Anakin eagerly does the emperor’s bidding in hopes of saving his wife, Padme, whom he believes will die in childbirth. However, once Anakin has turned to the Dark Side, the Emperor backtracks a bit: He doesn’t know how to save another’s life but promises Anakin that they will discover the secret together.

Palpatine must have found the answer on his own while Darth Vader was off conquering the galaxy for him because Vader never was able to save Padme or himself. Palpatine, however, knew the secret.

How did Palpatine get from the Death Star to another planet?

Palpatine dies on the second Death Star. But Kylo finds him on Exagil. It’s unclear how he got from one place to another.

Who was Rey’s grandmother?

We finally get the real answer about Rey’s parentage: Rey is the granddaughter of Emperor Palpatine. But who, exactly, makes up the rest of her family?

For Rey and Kylo to be around the same age, the emperor would have had to have Rey’s dad around the time that Luke and Leia were born. It’s possible he had a wife and son that he never referred to in the prequel films. It’s also possible he had children between the prequel and original films, though it’s harder to imagine that everyone in the galaxy would not know he had a family in either of those scenarios.

There’s also a wilder theory. Anakin Skywalker supposedly had no father. Basically midichlorians (things that live inside a person’s blood and determine how Force-sensitive they are) impregnated Anakin’s mother. Yes, it’s strange, but it’s canon. Some fans theorize that the emperor created Anakin, using force powers from afar to make midichlorians impregnant his mother. (That origin story seemed to be confirmed in a Star Wars comic that has since been declared non-canonical since Disney took over the Star Wars franchise.)

Perhaps the Emperor created his son too. How the Emperor—the most powerful person in the galaxy—let his son escape, marry and producer an heir is unclear.

How did Rey and Finn mix up what ship Chewie was on?

Partway through the film, Finn watches Chewbacca get taken prisoner by the First Order. Finn watches the ship containing Chewie take off and yells to Rey, who is fighting Kylo, to save Chewie. Rey, in fighting with Kylo over the ship, accidentally destroys it using Force lightening—a major hint that she’s Palpatine’s granddaughter—and believes that she has killed Chewie.

We later find out that Chewie was, in fact, taken to another ship. It’s unclear how Finn, who watched Chewie get pulled in handcuffs onto the freighter, mixed up the two transports.

How long was General Hux working undercover?

Presumably General Hux turned between The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker. Perhaps Kylo Ren taking over as Supreme Leader pushed him over the edge. This would certainly be plausible, given that his reason for helping the rebels is to prevent Kylo from succeeding. But we never find out when, exactly, Hux turned spy.

Who were the Knights of Ren?

Knights of Ren Rise of Skywalker
The Knights of Ren in Star Wars: The Rise of SkywalkerJonathan Olley—Lucasfilm Ltd.

We first saw glimpses of Kylo Ren’s disciples, the Knights of Ren, in The Force Awakens. They seemed poised to play a major role in the story: They are would-be Jedi who followed Kylo when he left Luke Skywalker’s tutelage, and they seemed to be his personal guard.

But they don’t get names, faces or even distinguishable weapons in The Rise of Skywalker. They feel a bit ancillary, like slightly more skilled stormtroopers. We never really find out their purpose beyond looking evil.

Jedi can resurrect people now?

Both Rey and Kylo heal each other’s wounds in this movie. Kylo even brings Rey back to life at one point by transferring his life force to her. He died in the process, but resurrected her nonetheless.

As far as we know, this is not a power that other Jedi possessed in the movies. (In some Star Wars video games, you can learn to “Force heal.”) If Anakin had known how to use the Force to heal someone’s wounds or even resurrect them, he no doubt would have tried it on both his mother and Padme.

Why did a bunch of ships show up to help the rebels this time but not last time?

Thee Rise of Skywalker never makes clear how much time has passed since the events of The Last Jedi, but it certainly feels like just a few months. The number of rebels does not seem to have grown much since their desperate battle to survive on Crait. During that fight in The Last Jedi, Leia sent a signal out to the galaxy begging for reinforcements. No one came.

And yet, just a few months later, when Lando sends out a similar distress signal during the final battle with the First Order, thousands of ships appear to help fight alongside the rebels. It’s never clear what, exactly, has changed their minds. Perhaps the First Order regaining planet-destroying abilities has frightened them into fighting. Perhaps Lando used the word “please,” and Leia didn’t.

What have the Ewoks been up to?

An Ewok in Star Wars: Return of the JediLucasfilm Ltd./ Everett Collection

When the rebels defeat the First Order, we get shots of galaxy celebrating, including the Ewoks. We haven’t seen those little guys since The Return of the Jedi when they helped Luke, Leia and Han take down the Empire.

There’s likely a very specific, very nerdy reason that the Ewoks show up in this shot. A well-researched paper written by an astrophysicist made the rounds a few years ago. It contends that the destruction of the Death Star would inevitably lead to the destruction of the Ewoks’ home planet, a moon of Endor, and thus the mass genocide of the teddy bear-like creatures.

Fans were so up in arms about this hypothesis that LucasFilm officially responded by calling the “Endor Holocauast” Imperial propaganda and asserting that the rebels erected a shield to block debris from destroying the Endor moon. Not everyone has bought this explanation, though, so Abrams perhaps flashed to the Ewoks to reassure fans that the little critters survived.

When did Rey get her own lightsaber?

At the end of the film, Rey buries Luke and Leia’s lightsabers on Tatooine. (As a side note: It’s great that Leia did end up doing her Jedi training and had her own lightsaber. It’s weird that she didn’t bring up the fact that this lightsaber existed to Rey.) The audience may think, for a second, that Rey is burying the Jedi order with it. After all: George Lucas always said that the saga would only end when someone brought balance to the Force, the dark side and the light. Destroying the Jedi, as Luke wanted to do in The Last Jedi, would fulfill that promise.

But it turns out that Rey, at some point, made a lightsaber of her own. It’s yellow, and she certainly looks like she intends to continue to use it. What she will do now that the First Order is destroyed is unclear.

When will the cycle of failed republics and burgeoning empires end?

The end of The Rise of Skywalker may conclude Rey’s story, but it leaves the galaxy’s future open-ended. Remember, Luke, Leia and Han routed the Empire at the end of The Return of the Jedi. The Republic was restored. But it quickly fell apart, and the First Order rose from the ashes of the Empire to terrorize the galaxy.

The new trilogy seems utterly uninterested in the politics of the galaxy, but presumably the republic that Mon Mothma and others built after the events of The Return of the Jedi still exists after the First Order is defeated, albeit in a rather battered state. The characters in The Mandalorian, which is set between The Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, treat the Republic as a joke. And Leia broke off with the Republic to lead a military force to fight the threat of the First Order, so it seems that the Republic was ill-equipped to handle empirical sympathizers.

What is to say that the Republic can become a stable governing force now that the First Order has collapsed? And why can’t Palpatine resurrect himself again, for that matter? Will this story go on and on, repeating itself each generation? LucasFilm claims that this is the last entry in the Skywalker Saga. That may be true. But it’s possible that Rey could become an instructor for a future Jedi who does not hail from either the Skywalker or Palpatine families.

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Write to Eliana Dockterman at eliana.dockterman@time.com