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Ways they could be misleading us about Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

The first footage from Star Wars: Episode IX was finally revealed at Star Wars Celebration 2019, and we also finally got the closely guarded title of the film: The Rise of Skywalker. Since then, fans all over the internet have analyzed every scrap of footage over and over again for clues about the film's plot. As straightforward as much of the teaser trailer seems to be, we also know that this is a J.J. Abrams film, and J.J. Abrams loves to preserve mystery. 

That means that even though we think we understand what we're seeing and hearing in many of the teaser's scenes, the final film might present something very different from the conclusions we've drawn. That could mean that footage is edited or certain way, or digitally altered, or just presented in a context that doesn't allow us to see the bigger picture. With that in mind, it's time to talk about all of the possibilities contained in this footage, and all the ways in which we could be deceived by it.

The mystery TIE Fighter

The trailer for The Rise of Skywalker begins with an instantly unforgettable sequence in which Rey (Daisy Ridley) stands alone on a desert planet (which could be a new planet or a familiar one) and waits as a First Order fighter approaches. When it enters her path, she ignites her lightsaber, then runs until she's between its wings, and leaps. The implication here is that she's preparing to cut the ship in two with her blade aimed right for the cockpit, and the even deeper implication is that Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is the pilot of the ship.

That may indeed be the case, but look closely at that ship and it becomes clear that it's not one we've necessarily seen before. In The Last Jedi, Kylo flew a TIE Silencer with an all-black paint job, red-tinted windows and a very angular cockpit. This ship looks more like a traditional TIE Interceptor with a brighter paint job around the rounded, more typical-looking TIE cockpit design. While it's entirely possible that Kylo is flying the ship, it's also possible that this is a scout fighter of some kind flown by an unnamed pilot who's simply looking for our Resistance heroes, and Rey is using her Jedi skills to take the ship out quickly and quietly.

Who is 'we'?

The Rise of Skywalker trailer is accompanied by a voiceover in which Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), seemingly addressing Rey, offers her words of encouragement. He begins by declaring, "We've taught you all we know." Viewers of The Last Jedi may assume that the "we" in that sentence refers to Luke himself and, perhaps, Master Yoda (Frank Oz), who returned in the last film to offer wisdom to Luke during a crisis of conscience.

We know very well that Force ghosts can manifest at the time when a Jedi warrior needs them most. It happened for Luke more than once, and now that Rey is alone in her training, it's likely to happen for her. Still, we shouldn't assume Luke and Yoda will be the only ones who appear to her. Remember, in The Force Awakens she also heard the voice of Obi-Wan Kenobi in the vision she had when she touched Luke's lightsaber, and that lightsaber also once belonged to Anakin Skywalker. It's possible that one or both of these old friends will somehow make returns of their own to offer help, adding more weight to Luke's declaration that "a thousand generations" live on in Rey.

Rebuilding Kylo Ren

In Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Kylo Ren smashes his helmet to pieces in a fit of rage after Supreme Leader Snoke declares it "ridiculous" and demeans him for wearing it. The loss of the helmet is about Kylo's anger, yes, but also seems to be part of his growing philosophy of "letting the past die." Despite this, the Rise of Skywalker teaser trailer shows that same helmet being pieced back together by a pair of furry hands.

When we see Kylo Ren in the teaser, though, he's not wearing the helmet. He's charging into battle with his head uncovered, burying opponents with his lightsaber. Now, it's obviously possible that the helmet simply isn't reforged yet when that scene takes place, but it's also possible that Kylo isn't even the one who decides the helmet needs to be put back together. Yes, that's likely, but it's also worth considering that someone else within his sphere decided to remake it for him… perhaps even a member of the fabled Knights of Ren who we've only glimpsed briefly onscreen once in the sequel trilogy. Could this be the way they make their way into the spotlight?

Leia's last appearance

Among the details revealed during the Rise of Skywalker panel at Star Wars Celebration was the news that when the story begins, some time has passed since the events of The Last Jedi. You may remember that the previous film ended with Leia, Poe, Finn, Rey, Rose, and the rest of their friends flying off onboard the Millennium Falcon to attempt to rebuild the Resistance.

What we don't know yet is exactly how much time has passed between the films, and that could allow Abrams and company plenty of room to pack the intervening weeks, months, or years with events we never actually see. One such event could be the death of General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), who will appear in the film through unused footage from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The teaser trailer shows us footage of Leia hugging Rey, but we're given no other clues as to how this moment will appear in the film. That means we shouldn't assume that she's alive in the story's present time. She may already be gone, and Fisher's remaining footage could be used as flashbacks and memories.

What's left of the Death Star(s)

There have been two Death Stars in the Star Wars galaxy so far, both destroyed by the Rebellion at different locations. The first exploded near Yavin IV thanks to Luke Skywalker's careful aim, and the second was destroyed over the forest moon of Endor by Lando Calrissian, Wedge Antilles, and the Rebel fleet. In The Rise of Skywalker teaser, we see Rey, Finn, Poe, Chewbacca, C-3PO, BB-8, and D-0 looking out over what's obviously a fragment of a destroyed Death Star. The image is immediately followed by the sound of Emperor Palpatine laughing, which would suggest the Death Star wreckage is from the second station — the one Palpatine died on.

That's not necessarily the case, though. Yavin IV is a planet full of jungles, while the forest moon of Endor is full of… well, forests. The footage we see features a vast sea and sparse grassy cliffs. Now, it's possible that this could be a part of either the planet or the moon that we've never seen before, or it's possible this wreckage landed on another planet entirely. Whatever the case, we can't necessarily assume we know which Death Star that is.

What that laugh really means

Speaking of Emperor Palpatine's laugh, it was easily the biggest surprise to emerge from the Rise of Skywalker teaser, and was only enhanced by the appearance of Palpatine actor Ian McDiarmid at the end of the panel for the film. It's truly a shocking development, but at the moment, all we know for sure is that McDiarmid is involved, and that we heard Palpatine's laugh.

Now, it's certainly possible the Emperor found some way to survive his fall at the hands of Darth Vader on the Death Star II, but it's more likely that if Palpatine really is returning, he's doing it in some other form. A Palpatine clone, something explored in past Star Wars Expanded Universe stories before the Disney era, is a popular possibility, as is the idea that he has found some way to come back as a Dark Side Force ghost and manifest himself in the living world. The clone would, of course, have more of a physical presence, but that still wouldn't really be the original Emperor. Whatever the case, we can't assume that the Emperor is just going to show up again in the film.

The form of The Emperor

Right now, Star Wars fans around the world are extremely excited about the potential return of Emperor Palpatine, who remains the scariest villain the films have produced. That said, we just don't know exactly how this can happen, and there are a number of ways which might prove more satisfying than others. A Palpatine clone would allow him to manifest in a physical form, though it wouldn't really be "him" anymore in the strictest sense, while a Force ghost would allow him to retain all of his memories and past deeds with less ability to interact with the physical world.

All of that said, it's perfectly possible that the Emperor isn't actually returning as a character in the films at all. For all of the hype now surrounding his resurgence, it's possible that Rey or Kylo or both of them could simply see him in a vision, or that our heroes might find an old hologram recording of him somewhere in those Death Star ruins. As Luke said, "No one's ever really gone," but their preservation could simply be an echo of the real thing.

The redemption of Ben Solo?

Now it's time to talk about that title, The Rise of Skywalker, and the many possible interpretations of what it could actually mean. Keep in mind that we still know very little about the film's plot. If we begin with the argument that the simplest explanation is often the best, then we have to first talk about Ben Solo, a.k.a. Kylo Ren. Kylo Ren is the grandson of Darth Vader, who in his light side form was known as Anakin Skywalker. Kylo has embraced his familial ties to Darth Vader and vowed to finish what the Dark Lord of the Sith started and wipe out the Jedi.

Much of The Last Jedi was devoted to examining this mission, and to Rey's growing belief that she could perhaps redeem Kylo Ren and bring him back to his former identity of Ben Solo. If that's true, and Ben really is redeemed, then it's possible that he would emerge from that crucible of change as a new man who instead embraced the light side surname of his grandfather and his uncle who tried to save him, and become Ben Skywalker. 

That's the simplest route to an explanation for the title, but it also feels pretty unlikely. A movie made by J.J. "Mystery Box" Abrams in which the key villain converts to the side of good again isn't going to telegraph that twist right there in the title, so we should maintain our skepticism with regard to this theory.

The reveal of Rey's parents?

If we set aside the "Kylo Ren is redeemed" version of the title's interpretation, that naturally leads us to turn to Rey, the desert scavenger turned Force user whose origins remain shrouded in mystery. The Force Awakens spent a lot of time teasing that we would eventually learn Rey's origin, even throwing in a big Force vision the first time she touched Luke Skywalker's old lightsaber. This prompted waves of speculation that Rey was a secret Skywalker, or perhaps a secret Solo or Kenobi. The Last Jedi seemed to shove those theories aside when Kylo Ren told Rey her parents were just junk traders who sold her off to a slaver on Jakku, but many fans believe Kylo was lying.

So now we're facing a film literally called The Rise of Skywalker, and Rey's action-heavy moments in the trailer certainly make her look like a person on the rise. Is she the Skywalker the title is referring to? Again, it just feels too easy for a film this shrouded in secrecy to give something like that away up front, no matter how much the trailers might make a case for it.

A new meaning for 'Skywalker'

So if it's not Ben Solo's redemption, and it's not Rey's secret Skywalker heritage, then what could The Rise of Skywalker be referring to? Well, there are a number of possibilities that present a more convoluted journey. If you really want to parse it out and think about it, we could be here all day simply talking about every possible option, including theories that Luke has a secret son, that there's a copycat villain out there taking the Skywalker name for themselves, and even the notion that Luke isn't really dead at all and is about to come back as some kind of Force superhero.

Here's something that's a little more elegant to consider, though. The first two Star Wars trilogies ended with films that featured the words "Jedi" and "Sith" in their respective titles, each concluding with the "rise" of a group of warriors. The Last Jedi featured numerous references to Luke Skywalker's belief that the Jedi were too self-righteous to be preserved and that the order should end. Yoda confirmed that belief by destroying the great tree at the heart of the first Jedi temple, so the Jedi are indeed gone in some form. 

But what if light side Force users and those on the periphery of the light (like, for example, a Dark Side user on their way back to redemption) need something new to call themselves? What if Rey chooses a new direction, and uses the name of her mentor as a moniker? What if "Skywalker" is not a person, but a group of people?