After 42 years, nine movies, three animated series, decades of books, and hundreds of comic books, all buoyed and supplemented by endless fan theories, the Skywalker Saga has finally reached its epic conclusion. And naturally, we have some very strong opinions about how it all went down.
If nothing else, J.J. Abrams' The Rise of Skywalker was designed to satisfy hardcore Star Wars fans. Its depiction of the original trio characters felt more or less how a latchkey kid in 1984 might have imagined Luke, Leia, Han, and Lando in their hand-written fanfiction, while it made sure to tie the new heroes to old myths wherever possible. Some of the choices irked critics, who have given it the lowest aggregate Rotten Tomatoes score since 1999's The Phantom Menace, while others felt consistent with the narrative developed over the last three (and in some places six!) episodes.
In order to work out our feelings on The Rise of Skywalker, we're taking a look at how the movie treated each of the main characters and finished off their storylines. (Note: We didn't include Babu Frik, not only because he just joined the franchise, but because we want an entire trilogy about the little droid-cracker and refuse to accept this is any kind of ending.)
**Spoiler Warning: There are ultimate spoilers for The Rise of Skywalker below. Obviously.**
Rey got a last name in Episode IX — two, actually. First there was the reveal that, contrary to what Kylo Ren said in The Last Jedi, her parents were not nobodies. Instead, Rey is Emperor Palpatine’s granddaughter.
If you didn’t like the idea of Rey’s parentage not mattering, there is likely nothing I can say to convince you at this point, but the idea that anyone could be strong in the Force spoke to what it felt like Star Wars was about. Anybody can be the hero. Instead, by retconning The Last Jedi, the galaxy feels small, and only a handful of people really matter. Rey’s agency suddenly feels inherited, rather than chosen.
But, if you ignore Rey’s unfortunate family tree (and that’s a big “if”), the conclusion to her story feels right. Her chosen surname, “Skywalker,” honors the legacy of Luke, Leia, and Anakin. Rey isn’t going to follow the same path as them. Her yellow lightsaber — a color we haven’t seen before (in the movies, at least) — suggests that she’s forging something new, albeit one that’s linked to the past.
For Rey, who we first met scavenging for parts in the desert, looking for a family and wondering what her place in the universe is, it’s satisfying that the trilogy ends with her having found what she’s looking for, even if it’s not exactly what she expected. Rey got to choose who she was. It’s just unfortunate that she needed to do that in opposition to a familial tie that limits who she — and Star Wars as a whole — could be.
Rating: 5 (the average of a 0 and a 10) out of 10
On one level, at least, Finn didn’t get a conclusion to his story. Rise of Skywalker hinted at his feelings for Rey when he (presumably) almost told her before getting sucked into quicksand. He doesn’t get around to telling her by movie’s end, though. Instead, Kylo Ren dies after getting kissed, Rey and Finn are close, and Finn and Poe share some glances that you’re free to read into if you want.
In short, Rise of Skywalker punts on explicitly confirming or debunking any ship, which means that all of your headcanons or fan fiction prompts are technically still valid thanks to this quantum dating status. (Except for Finn and Rose, because Rise of Skywalker did Rose dirty).
However, Finn’s story in Rise of Skywalker does revisit the most interesting aspect of his character as introduced in The Force Awakens and then largely ignored in the brilliant-but-flawed Last Jedi. Finn was a Stormtrooper — a child soldier kidnapped and brainwashed who managed to overcome his conditioning and live a free, self-determined life. By having Finn meet Jannah and her fellow former Stormtroopers, Finn learned he wasn’t alone, and we got to see more of what it actually meant for Finn to be Finn, and not FN-2187. That, honestly, is more important than who he ends up with.
Also, it’s strongly implied that Finn is Force-sensitive, which is a nice callback to his days as a lightsaber fighter in The Force Awakens, and perhaps hope for the idea that, in Star Wars, anyone can be a hero, even if their last name isn’t Skywalker or Palpatine.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Poe was going to be killed off in the early drafts of The Force Awakens, and now it's hard to imagine the sequel series without Oscar Isaac's brash Resistance fighter pilot. He was essential to the story every step of the way, providing the main trio and rebellion at large with some never-say-die leadership while taking the piss out of the First Order's goons at every turn.
He was this trilogy's Han Solo character, quick with a quip and what proved to be a bit of a shady past life. But unlike Han, you could never question his devotion to the cause or willingness to take charge. In fact, his quick trigger dedication is what got him in trouble in The Last Jedi, during which he routinely ignored orders from his superiors, including launching a mutiny against Admiral Holdo after she takes over for a concussed General Leia. To be fair, Holdo didn't exactly treat Poe with much respect or give him any information during some dire times, but still, Poe had to learn some hard lessons about leadership in The Last Jedi, which come in handy in The Rise of Skywalker.
After being demoted to Captain in Last Jedi, Poe is elevated acting General in one of Leia's last acts, an endorsement of his growth and acknowledgment of his absolute allegiance to the Resistance. And whereas he was once cocky and thought he could do things on his own, he now asks his buddy Finn to step up and lead with him. Seeing them work together is one of the best parts of The Rise of Skywalker — they continue to be the series' true comic relief — and Poe casually handling of Zorii Bliss rejecting his subtle proposal of an intimate victory celebration was a nice capper.
Rating: 9 out of 10.
Kylo Ren’s ending will doubtlessly be a contentious point amongst Star Wars fans. Does a man who was, at best, complicit in the slaughtering of billions of innocent lives deserve a real redemption arc? There are sections of fandom who will never see Kylo as anything more than Han Solo’s murderer, and nothing he did in The Rise of Skywalker could ever change that.
Still, Kylo’s return to the Light — signified by his throwing away his red lightsaber and shedding his Sith robes — with help from his mother’s Force powers and his father’s memory was simply a more drawn-out version of his grandfather’s redemption arc. That’s why it works.
Wearing nothing but his black undershirt and pants (an unkempt, slightly roguish look that resembles something Han might wear), Ben Solo races to Rey’s side, defeats his former followers, the Knights of Ren, and uses the final vestiges of his strength to bring Rey back to life after fighting like hell.
Kylo’s story is very much a slightly more complicated version of Darth Vader’s. It always has been, and, therefore, it only made sense for Kylo to return to the Light for a short time and then die in the end. The only question was how it would happen.
He dies, likely full of regrets but having succeeded in his final mission, in Rey’s arms before the Force takes him. That his Force ghost doesn’t appear to Rey at the end of the film alongside Luke and Leia’s while she’s on Tatooine — similar to how Anakin’s ghost appeared to Luke at the end of Return of the Jedi — feels a bit odd. Otherwise, this was an appropriate ending.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Luke is still dead, but he seems like he’s back to his old self, although he hasn’t forgotten the pain, struggles, and lessons from his failure and self-imposed exile. It’s like Yoda told him in The Last Jedi: “The greatest teacher, failure is.”
Luke, now a Force-ghost like both of his mentors before him, is ready to pass on what he’s learned, and, like both of his mentors before him, watch approvingly as they succeed. Not a bad afterlife — I just hope they have green milk in Force-heaven.
Rating: 9 out of 10
Leia’s story in The Rise of Skywalker was in danger from the moment Carrie Fisher passed in December 2016. While Lucasfilm was able to cobble together enough archive footage from shooting The Force Awakens to give Leia some dialogue and a minimal role, it still felt off. Other characters’ lines were clearly hindered by what was already in the can and Leia’s death was, of course, less visceral than it likely would have been otherwise.
In the end, Leia’s final act is to bring her son, Ben Solo, back to the Light. We learn that she once trained as a Jedi alongside Luke Skywalker and, eventually, would give her lightsaber up. But her becoming Rey’s Master and using the powers we only just learned about to save her son were her final acts. She sacrificed herself to pass on power to the next generation in one final act of love.
Whether or not this is a fitting end for Leia’s decades-long journey from capable princess in peril to Rebellion leader, senator, and general will likely be a topic of debate. Whether you view Leia’s end as erasing her power for the sake of others or proving her legacy as a leader willing to sacrifice herself for the greater good will likely determine how you view this end.
We like to think Lucasfilm and Abrams did their best in bringing Leia’s story to an end with what they had. It’s miraculous we even got her ending in the first place, so this feels warranted.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Rose was done dirty in The Rise of Skywalker. Rather than join in on adventures with Rey, Finn, and Poe, Rose was cast aside and used as a vague voice to throw Resistance jargon around.
And — let’s be honest — there was no mention whatsoever of the burgeoning relationship (whether that be romantic in nature or just comfortably platonic) between Rose and Finn. Plus, BB-8 barely looked at her. It was like The Last Jedi didn’t even happen.
Rose deserved way better.
Rating: 1.5 out of 10
C-3PO has always been the conscience of the Star Wars movies, which makes his willingness to sacrifice his own consciousness to aid a desperate Resistance a perfect final arc for the golden human-cyborg relations droid. This was by far his most active movie in the sequels, and thanks to a memory wipe that allowed his friends to locate Palpatine's base, he spends much of it with a sunnier disposition, re-introducing himself to old friends and carrying out one of the film's funnier minor subplots ("my very first laser fight!" is a highlight.
Once again played by Anthony Daniels, 3PO re-cemented his status as the galaxy's foremost reluctant hero, driven by duty and friendship to override his own hard-wiring and do the right thing.
Rating: 9 out of 10
A sniveling First Order officer who Snoke himself calls a "rabid cur," General Hux gets a blaster to the chest when it's revealed that he's the mole leaking valuable information to the Resistance. It's not exactly a redemption arc, but it's a fitting one for the scheming dummy, as he straight-up says that he's not trying to help the good guys so much as screw over Kylo Ren, his long-time rival.
The only shame here is that he bites the dust in such an unceremonious way just halfway through the movie. Domhnall Gleeson was fantastic in these movies, injecting the humorless Hux with a hollow arrogance and callowness that made it so much fun to watch everyone dunk on him. No one wanted to see him finally get any ultimate satisfaction, but it'd have been nice to witness a bit more braggadocio before he ate it.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Man, Chewie really had a rough go of it in these movies. One by one, the loyal Wookie watched each of his closest friends bite the dust, starting with Han in The Force Awakens and then Luke in The Last Jedi and finally Leia in The Rise of Skywalker. The big furball's reaction to Leia's death is one of the most heartbreaking moments in the movie — he's inconsolable — and you wouldn't blame him for just calling it quits right then and there, coming on the heels of his brief imprisonment aboard Kylo Ren's Star Destroyer.
But loss and suffering have been par for the course in some ways. Chewie's origin in Ron Howard's Solo: A Star Wars Story reveals just how crappy life has always been for the walking carpet, so it's no wonder that he continued to fight against the First Order even as his pals dropped like flies. It made his reunion with Lando especially sweet, and getting that medal from Maz Kanata represented a recognition long overdue. (Yes, he supposedly got a medal at some point, according to a tie-in novel, but we'd never seen him receive that much-deserved honor.)
Rating: 8 out of 10
The old smoothie is back! With Han and Luke gone, Lando steps up to the plate to help the young heroes of the sequel trilogy, once again coming through in the clutch for the good guys. He's lost none of his trademark charm — Billy Dee Williams is good — and his connections and friendships all throughout the galaxy are crucial in the third act. We wish he'd returned sooner, if only because he's so fun to watch.
Rating: 7 out of 10