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Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker trailer, release date, cast and theories

A new Star Wars movie will always generate a certain amount of hype, but the upcoming Episode IX may just be the most anticipated installment yet. The Rise of Skywalker is the final film in the Skywalker saga, a nine-part arc that's been played out over the course of four decades. A lot has happened since George Lucas released the game-changing Star Wars (the Episode IV – A New Hope part was added later) in 1977, but one thing has remained constant — the fandom's undying dedication to all things Skywalker.

2017's The Last Jedi divided fans and critics. Rian Johnson's movie earned an impressive 91 percent on the Tomatometer, but it only managed an audience score of 44 percent. J.J. Abrams (returning to finish the trilogy he started in 2015 with The Force Awakens) will no doubt be aiming to please everyone, though that could be a tall order, even for someone with his credentials. We'll have to wait and see, but in the meantime, here's everything you need to know — and some potential spoilers, too — about Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

Breaking down the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker trailer

The first Episode IX trailer revealed that the film was titled The Rise of Skywalker, but that was just one of several big moments. The opening shot finds Rey facing down a TIE Fighter on a desert planet that is likely Pasaana, a new location revealed during Vanity Fair's set visit. Wielding her repaired lightsaber, Rey flips over the craft as it approaches, showcasing her ever-improving abilities. Finn and Poe Dameron also get in on the action, fleeing unknown assailants on some sort of sand skiff as C-3PO clings on for dear life. And speaking of droids, we also get a cheeky shot of newcomer D-O, who befriended BB-8 after the Battle of Crait.

One of the biggest talking points, however, arrives at the end of the trailer. Despite being thrown to what we thought was certain death by a remorseful Anakin Skywalker in 1983's Return of the Jedi, Emperor Palpatine (a.k.a. Darth Sidious) is back. The Episode IX trailer comes to a close with a shot of some Death Star wreckage and Palpatine's unmistakable cackle, implying that our new generation of heroes will face off against the Dark Lord of the Sith in The Rise of Skywalker. Palpatine actor Ian McDiarmid appeared onstage at Star Wars Celebration 2019 during the big trailer reveal, essentially confirming his involvement.

When does Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker get released?

Like The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi before it, The Rise of Skywalker is hitting cineplexes worldwide in December. The trilogy-capper was originally scheduled to be released in May 2019, but a series of destabilizing changes behind the scenes made that target unattainable. Not long after Disney removed directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller from Solo: A Star Wars StoryColin Trevorrow (Jurassic World) was fired from The Rise of Skywalker. According to The Wall Street Journal (via Collider), Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy considered bringing The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson back for Episode IX at one stage, but the powers that be ultimately opted for the steady hand of J.J. Abrams instead.

The Rise of Skywalker will be released on December 20, 2019 in the United States, though many overseas fans will get to see the film a little sooner. The U.K., Australia, Brazil and Argentina are all getting Episode IX on December 19, while residents of Italy, France, Norway and Sweden can see the movie a day earlier than that. Needless to say, be on the lookout for spoilers from December 18 onward.

Who's in the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker cast?

You probably won't be surprised to learn that Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac are returning as Rey, Finn, and Poe Dameron respectively — they're the heroes of the sequel trilogy, after all. There's a few new faces in The Rise of Skywalker, however, and some really familiar ones from the past, too.

For fans of the original trilogy, one of the biggest moments in the Episode IX trailer was seeing Lando Calrissian back in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon. The Hollywood Reporter revealed that Billy Dee Williams was reprising the role in July 2018, but details of Calrissian's part in The Rise of Skywalker were kept under wraps in the months that followed. Many now believe that Naomi Ackie (who is playing a new character named Jannah) will be revealed as Lando's daughter in The Rise of Skywalker. The up-and-coming British actress was asked about this at Star Wars Celebration 2019, and her noncommittal answer only served to fuel rumors that she's a Calrissian. "Lando is a very charming man, so he could have children all over the universe, that's all I'm saying," she quipped (via IGN).

Dominic Monaghan (Lost) and Greg Grunberg (Alias) are both in The Rise of Skywalker, and they aren't the only Abrams alumni appearing — Keri Russell is playing "the masked scoundrel Zorri Bliss." Vanity Fair released a still of Bliss in "the Thieves' Quarter of the snow-dusted world Kijimi," another new planet.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker theories

One theory that's gained a lot of traction following the release of The Rise of Skywalker's first trailer posits that the title isn't referring to any single character. A number of people now believe that the word Skywalker will become a term used to describe members of a brand new order, one that is at peace with both sides of the Force. "These people, from Rey to Kylo Ren, to that little stable boy with the broom at the end of The Last Jedi, will not be Jedi or Sith," Inverse claims. "They will be Skywalkers."

Comments made by The Rise of Skywalker director J.J. Abrams seem to support this theory. "This movie is about the new generation," Abrams told fans at Star Wars Celebration 2019 (via Polygon). "What they've inherited, the light and the dark, and ask the question about facing the greatest evil: are they ready?" We can assume that the "greatest evil" Abrams is talking about is the returning Emperor Palpatine, but how exactly is the notorious Sith Lord back?

Star Wars theory-crafters have a few different ideas. MovieWeb reminded readers that Palpatine discussed the work of Darth Plagueis (a Sith "so powerful and so wise he could use the Force to influence the midi-chlorians to create life") in the prequels, while IGN believes that Abrams might actually be taking some inspiration from an Expanded Universe comic — Palpatine resurrects himself several times via clones in Dark Empire.

Has Poe Dameron been Force-sensitive all along?

Disney decided to clean house in a big way ahead of The Force Awakens, declaring that all Expanded Universe materials were no longer considered Star Wars canon. The Mouse House then set about creating its own line of short stories, comics, and books to tie in with the new continuity, and one such release might just include a huge clue about a major Episode IX character. In Poe Dameron #27 (May 2018), a conversation Poe has with Rey and Finn seems to confirm that he's been unwittingly channeling the Force all this time.

Marvel's Poe Dameron comics overlap with J.J. Abrams' The Force Awakens. #26 explained how Dameron survived that crash and filled us in on what he did between then and rescuing Rey and Finn from the First Order, but it was the following issue that really got readers talking. In it, Dameron admits that he's been able to tap into some kind of "energy" while flying, prompting both Rey and Leia to suggest he's been using the Force.

The seeds of this reveal were actually planted in the 2015 series Star Wars: Shattered Empire, according to CBR. It's in this prelude to The Force Awakens that we learn how Luke Skywalker gave remnants of The Great Tree (a natural conduit of the Force) to Dameron's parents, who used them to grow a new tree at home on Yavin 4. Dameron even mentions growing up around this tree, further foreshadowing a connection to the Force.

Will Ewan McGregor appear as Obi-Wan Kenobi?

Ewan McGregor confirmed at D23 Expo 2019 that he would be reprising the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi, joining Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy on stage to break the news. The Scottish actor, who portrayed Obi-Wan in the prequel trilogy, will play the Jedi Master in a new Disney+ original series. "We have all the scripts written, we're ready to start shooting next year," Kennedy said (via Variety). It's great news for fans of McGregor's charming take on the character, but is this exciting return limited to the small screen? Not according to various reports.

"Ewan will secretly film for the next Star Wars movie," one insider told The Sun in 2018. According to Star Wars enthusiast Mike Zeroh's sources, Obi-Wan Kenobi will appear as a Force Ghost and offer Rey some much-needed guidance in The Rise of Skywalker. "One of the plans in place is to use CGI mapping on Ewan McGregor's face to give him features of Sir Alec Guinness from the original trilogy," Zeroh said.

McGregor has technically already reprised the iconic role (albeit in voice alone), speaking to Rey during a Force vision in 2015's The Force Awakens. The actor recorded new dialogue for his brief audio cameo, telling Rey, "These are your first steps." J.J. Abrams is apparently aiming to tie all three trilogies together with The Rise of Skywalker, so an Obi-Wan Kenobi cameo does make sense. "Having Obi-Wan's spirit speak directly to Rey seems like a total win," Inverse said.

Could Han Solo be alive in an alternate dimension?

One of the craziest Episode IX rumors yet, the theory that Han Solo is alive is partly backed up by the novelization of The Force Awakens. The book was picked apart by Uproxx, and there's a big reveal about the Starkiller Base in there that has Harrison Ford fans speculating on an unlikely return. The book explained what the movie didn't — how the giant weapon is powered. The assumption was that it harnessed the power of the sun, but the truth is far more complicated.

"Turns out, it was never supposed to be powered by the sun," Uproxx's Donna Dickens reports. "Situated in one place, messing with science they didn't understand, the First Order was harvesting dark matter to power their weapon. As the matter congealed to be sucked into the core, the light was supposed to dim. Then, using more science they barely understood, they beamed the concentrated dark matter through the galaxy instead of across it. Basically, they were ripping holes in time/space."

Solo appeared to have been killed by his own son when we saw him last, but there's now a theoretical chance that he was sucked into an alternate timeline before he bled out. One fan who's excited at the prospect is Kevin Smith. "[if it] allows Lando to repeat his Empire Strikes Back line 'There's still a chance to save Han!' and get us back to that fateful bridge on Starkiller Base? Then I'll kiss J.J. on the mouth," he said.

Returning, Yoda is?

Numerous disgruntled Star Wars fans made their disapproval of Rian Johnson's The Last Jedi known, but the one thing that everyone seemed to agree was done right was the surprise appearance from Yoda. The little green Jedi Master showed up as a Force Ghost to help troubled former student Luke Skywalker come to his senses and embrace his failures, a standout moment in the highly divisive eighth episode. Yoda was rendered in CGI for the prequel trilogy, but Johnson chose to go back to basics and brought in Frank Oz to operate a slightly updated Yoda puppet.

"We just felt that it was absolutely right and proper that we create the puppet in the closest likeness to the original and to give Frank exactly what he had the first time around," creature designer Neal Scanlan said (via CinemaBlend). Renowned puppeteer Oz (who provides Yoda's distinctive voice as well as his movements) could soon be adding Episode IX to his impressive resume if a new report is to be believed.

According to the New York Daily News, a source with apparent knowledge of the production has revealed that J.J. Abrams is going to bring Force Ghost Yoda back. "The success of the scenes featuring Yoda in The Last Jedi were huge," the insider said. "Yoda will again appear as a ghost as he acknowledges Rey's success and growth as a Jedi."

Leia is 'the heart of this story'

When Carrie Fisher passed away in December 2016, Lucasfilm's original position on her inclusion in any future Star Wars movies was pretty clear — it wasn't happening. The idea that they could digitally render a version of Fisher like they did with Peter Cushing's Tarkin in Rogue One was quickly ruled out after execs met with Fisher's daughter, Billie Lourd. All parties reportedly agreed that it would be disrespectful. Thankfully, they found a way to include Fisher's iconic character in Episode IX without having to resort to digital trickery.

Director J.J. Abrams desperately wanted to include Leia Organa in what's to be the last entry in the Skywalker saga, and he was willing to write scenes around the stuff she shot before her death to make that happen. Abrams discussed the late actress "at length" at D23 Expo 2019, according to Variety"The character of Leia is really, in a way, the heart of this story," he said. "We realized we could not possibly tell the end of these nine films without Leia."

It's fantastic news for fans of Carrie Fisher, and her family is pleased with the outcome, too. "Carrie's Princess Leia is forever entrenched in the franchise and her indelible presence is fundamental to the film," Fisher's brother, Todd, said. "J.J. Abrams understood Carrie's iconic role, and he has masterfully re-crafted this final entry to include this unused and very last footage of Carrie ever taken, without resorting to CGI or animatronics."

Could Darth Vader make a shocking return?

Another legendary Star Wars character that could make a surprising appearance in The Rise of Skywalker: Darth Vader. Some previously unseen footage from the upcoming film was screened at D23 Expo 2019, and the Dark Lord of the Sith's iconic helmet was featured in a brief shot. Episode IX director J.J. Abrams used Vader's helmet as a plot device for 2015's The Force Awakens, as Kylo Ren used it to commune with the spirit of his infamous grandfather. Abrams clearly intends to circle back around in the trilogy-capper, as Ren still has the helmet in safekeeping. But will we only see the charred helmet, or will Anakin Skywalker himself pop up?

There was another clue hinting at Vader's involvement in Episode IX at Disney's D23 Expo — his unmistakable breathing could be heard during the sizzle reel shown, right after his former master, Emperor Palpatine, says, "Now your journey nears its end." Of course, this doesn't confirm that Darth Vader will physically appear in The Rise of Skywalker, but what if Disney has been subtly paving the way for the him to play some part in the upcoming installment?

In Marvel's Darth Vader comics, Vader is gifted a mask that once belonged to a powerful Sith called Darth Momin. Momin was able to influence others, and tell his story to Vader, via the mask. Could Vader do the same thing in The Rise of Skywalker, effectively returning as a dark side Force Ghost?

Ed Sheeran has reportedly filmed a cameo

The backlash that Ed Sheeran received following his Game of Thrones appearance ought to have put him off cameos for life, but if rumors circulating in the British press are to be believed, the award-winning singer-songwriter has filmed a scene for Episode IX. Sheeran abandoned his Twitter account after irate Game of Thrones fans told him exactly what they thought about him popping up as a Lannister soldier in the season 7 opener, but if he thinks Star Wars fans will be any more accommodating, he'd better think again.

Kelly Marie Tran quit Twitter and Instagram after a small but vocal minority of Star Wars fans trolled her relentlessly, showering her with abuse (some of it racial) because they hated her in The Last Jedi. Luckily for Sheeran, fans won't be able to spot his mystery scene in the upcoming Star Wars installment, because his famous red hair will be hidden — he's playing a stormtrooper. "I can reveal the world's most successful male singer has been seen suiting up for scenes to appear in Episode IX, which has been filming at Pinewood Studios since August," Dan Wootton, executive editor of The Sun, confirmed.

Sheeran won't be the first famous Englishman to don the iconic white uniform on the sly; Princes William and Harry were in The Last Jedi, though their scene only made the home version as an extra. According to London's Evening Standard, the royals were cut out of the final movie because they were too tall to be stormtroopers.

John Boyega confirms a time jump?

In May 2018, a Redditor with an impressive track record when it comes to spoilers (they accurately predicted the casino sub-pot, Luke's disenchantment with the Force and Kylo Ren killing Snoke in The Last Jedi) claimed to have seen a "very early storyboard" for Episode IX. This alleged storyboard begins some five years after the events of The Last Jedi, and in that time, Kylo Ren has managed to hoodwink the entire galaxy.

"Kylo Ren's rule over the galaxy is seen by most as benevolent," FOOSLS claims. "Many within the Resistance itself are questioning why they should even be fighting." This post came hot on the heels of John Boyega teasing that Finn would have a new hairdo in Episode IX. "I can't wait to start shooting the next and final leg of the franchise," he told Yahoo (via Screen Rant). "The first step is growing out my hair, so you can wait for the trailer to see why."

This all but confirmed that we'll catch up with Finn and the surviving members of the Resistance sometime in the future, but will five years really have passed? Not according to Empire. "John Boyega has confirmed [Episode IX] takes place one year after the events of The Last Jedi," the magazine states in its official 2019 preview (via Star Wars Stuff). There's no direct quote from the actor, but the respected movie mag is reporting this as fact, so take from it what you will.

Richard E. Grant's mystery character finally revealed

With appearances in Doctor Who and Game of Thrones under his belt, veteran character actor Richard E. Grant already had some major fan cred when he was cast in The Rise of Skywalker. As it turns out, he's a big Star Wars fanboy himself. The actor opened up about the moment J.J. Abrams told him he'd be part of the final chapter in the Skywalker saga while a guest on the Happy Sad Confused podcast, revealing how he was so excited that he couldn't actually take anything in.

"I'm sure he was telling me in detail what part I was playing and what the character is called — I have no memory of that whatsoever," Grant admitted (via SyFy). "They kept saying, 'So you are gonna do this, aren't you?' and I said, 'Of course I'm gonna do this!'" The most popular theory was that Grant would be taking on the role of Grand Admiral Thrawn (a popular villain reintroduced into canon in the third season of Star Wars Rebels), but the actor outright debunked that rumor when Radio Times asked him about it. 

"I'm not playing the Star Wars character you just mentioned," Grant said, and he wasn't lying. When Vanity Fair released a huge Episode IX cover story in May 2019, the identity of Grant's character was finally revealed — he's playing a new villain named Allegiant General Pryde. "The Oscar nominee promises to bring on-screen menace and off-screen glee," the mag reported.

Kylo Ren will face the Emperor in the big finale

The first teaser for The Rise of Skywalker gave theorists plenty to work with. Now that the Emperor's involvement has been confirmed, it's safe to assume that he'll be involved in the film's final battle. Who, where, and how he'll be battling we don't know for sure, but according to Making Star Wars editor Jason Ward, there's a huge rumor doing the rounds that pits Kylo Ren against Palpatine — in the form of Matt Smith.

The British actor has been telling journalists that he isn't in Episode IX, but that's contrary to reports. Even international Disney websites are listing the former Doctor Who star among the cast, and Jason Ward believes that he'll play a critical role. "A really solid source over the years passed on something they heard internally," Ward reported. "The rumor is that Matt Smith isn't Palpatine reborn or rejuvenated, but a dark side acolyte... During the final act of the film Rey and Kylo team up to fight the Palpatine possessed Matt Smith."

Ward's inside source claims that Kylo Ren gets possessed by the Emperor after killing his host body, leading to a moment of redemption. The tormented son of Han Solo and Leia Organa has enough light left in him to lay down his arms so Rey can finish the job, becoming Ben Solo again in his final moments. With Kylo Ren dead (and Rey too pure for the Emperor to possess), the fight is won.

New desert planet 'Pasaana' confirmed

The second new location revealed during Vanity Fair's set visit is called Pasaana, a world of sand and unforgiving sun. The planet (which is actually the Wadi Rum desert valley in southern Jordan) will seemingly play host to a pivotal moment in The Rise of Skywalker. We saw Rey jumping over a TIE fighter on a very Jordanian-looking landscape in the first Episode IX teaser trailer, as well as Finn and Poe skidding on sand. Finn and Jannah (Naomi Ackie) are shown riding new horse-like creatures named orbaks in the Vanity Fair shoot, and while this image features a grassy surface, there's a theory that it could also be Pasaana.

"The foliage looks sort of dead or dried up," Den of Geek associate editor John Saavedra pointed out. "Might Pasaana not be completely covered in desert and instead have diverse environments? The first picture of Jannah, which was revealed at Celebration, also shows her standing in a similar environment as the Vanity Fair picture." Saavedra goes on to theorize that, because grass means water, the big Death Star shot from the teaser (the one where our heroes look out at wreckage of the notorious weapon across a body of water) could also be on Pasaana. Biodiversity isn't something we're used to seeing on Star Wars planets, however. At this stage, all we know for sure about Pasaana is that it's home to the Aki-Aki, a native race being played by Jordanian locals.

The Knights of Ren will finally be explained

Most fans seemed to hate that The Last Jedi neglected the Knights of Ren. Kylo Ren's band of warriors appear briefly in The Force Awakens when Rey touches Luke Skywalker's lightsaber and triggers a vision, but they were left out of Rian Johnson's follow-up because he "just didn't see a place for them in the movie" (via io9). According to Vanity Fair's Lev Grossman, we're finally going to get some answers in the upcoming trilogy-capper, with sources at Disney confirming that the "long-rumored Knights of Ren will finally arrive in Skywalker."

We got our first good look at these "elite fearsome enforcers of Kylo Ren's dark will" in Annie Leibovitz's extensive photoshoot, and what's immediately clear is that they're not your typical Star Wars villains. In contrast to the sleek and shiny look adopted by the First Order and the Galactic Empire before it, the Knights of Ren wear dirty, rag-tag armor and carry over-the-top weapons. "Their D.I.Y. look — including one especially lethal-looking gun arm — would be equally at home in one of the Mad Max movies," Vanity Fair's Joanna Robinson observed.

Their identities have not yet been revealed, though fans think they have a pretty good idea about where they came from. In The Last Jedi, Luke reveals that Ren vanished with a handful of his Padawan learners when he set the temple ablaze and turned his back on the Jedi. Did Luke's former students become the Knights of Ren?

Luke Skywalker's return

Luke Skywalker vanishes after helping Leia and what's left of the Resistance escape at the end of the The Last Jedi, passing on peacefully. It was a highly divisive moment, one that director Rian Johnson was forced to defend. As the backlash grew, Johnson reminded everyone that we may not have seen the last of Skywalker. "I don't know where the next movie is going to go," he told Variety. "But it seemed like the potential of Luke crossing into [a] new realm, that offers exciting possibilities for the role he plays in the coming chapter... No one's ever really gone."

Yoda returned as a Force Ghost in The Last Jedi, and rumors that Skywalker will do the same in the upcoming sequel have been around for some time now. In 2018, Pinewood insiders claimed that sets were being erected for two Episode IX scenes involving Mark Hamill. "This may well indicate that Luke will appear as a Force Ghost to Kylo Ren and Rey separately," an Express source said.

Thanks to Hamill himself, we can now classify this rumor as a spoiler — the actor has confirmed he's appearing as a Force Ghost in The Rise of Skywalker. "The fact that I'm involved in any capacity is only because of that peculiar aspect of the Star Wars mythology in that, as a Jedi, you're allowed to come back and make a curtain call as a Force Ghost," he told the AP in June 2019.

Introducing the Sith troopers

Lucasfilm exhibited nine varieties of stormtrooper armor at Comic-Con 2019, showcasing the evolution of the famous Star Wars foot soldier. The TIE pilot, death trooper, shoretrooper and biker scout were among the outfits on display, but it was the latest addition to the franchise's evil-doer wardrobe that had everyone talking. Rumors that red stormtroopers would be appearing in The Rise of Skywalker had been doing the rounds online for months, and they were finally confirmed at the San Diego event. According to StarWars.com, they're to be known as Sith troopers.

"It has some really unique aesthetics to it," Lucasfilm archivist Madlyn Burkert said of the Sith trooper uniform. "And it has some subtle ties to previous stormtrooper designs, which I think fans will enjoy discovering." Episode IX director J.J. Abrams seems equally excited about the introduction of the Sith troopers, explaining why he "cannot wait" for fans to meet this new batch of baddies. "The materials, the color, the lines... there is something about the aesthetic of it that just felt absolutely right," Abrams said.

Sith troopers first appeared in the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic video game, though this infantry unit of the old Sith Empire differ from the ones unveiled at Comic-Con in terms of appearance. Who the movie Sith troopers serve remains a mystery — Digital Spy is convinced they'll do the bidding of the returning Emperor Palpatine, while Making Star Wars sources report that they'll answer only to Kylo Ren.

Dark Side Rey revealed at D23

Disney revealed a brand new poster for The Rise of Skywalker at D23 Expo 2019. Rey and Kylo Ren fight under the grinning visage of Emperor Palpatine in the image, showcasing what appears to be a classic light side versus dark side duel (Rey's lightsaber is blue, while Ren wields red). Either Rey's weapon has some hidden features she's yet to discover or she gets hold of a new lightsaber in The Rise of Skywalker — actually, make that double lightsaber.

The teaser footage first screened at D23 Expo included a number of cool shots, including one of Rey and Ren battling it out on the wreckage of a Death Star. The biggest moment came right at the end, however, when what can only be described as "Dark Side Rey" is revealed. The hero of the sequel trilogy, wearing a Palpatine-esque black hood, ignites a double-bladed red lightsaber.

The footage "blew the roof off of the Anaheim Convention Center" according to CinemaBlend, who spoke with Daisy Ridley about the apparent dark side reveal. "Watching it today, it was weird because I felt nervous with it coming," Ridley said. "And then hearing the audience reaction was amazing." The actress was standoffish when asked if viewers should take the whole dark Rey thing at face value. "I mean, we'll see," she told IGN, grinning.

There's an Episode IX mega-theory doing the rounds that suggests Rey might have been Palpatine's intended host all along. Could she be possessed in this footage?

Poe Dameron has history with Zorri Bliss

Leaked character art gave us our first glimpse of Keri Russell's Zorri Bliss, but it was Vanity Fair that provided Star Wars fans with their first proper look at the new character. The mag described the dual-blaster-carrying Bliss as a "masked scoundrel" who hangs out in "the Thieves' Quarter of the snow-dusted world Kijimi" after its exclusive set visit, reported in May of 2019. That was all the intel we really had on Bliss until the actress portraying her in The Rise of Skywalker arrived at August's D23 Expo 2019 to spill the beans. According to MovieWeb, when Russell took to the stage at the bi-annual Disney event, she described Bliss as a "cool and shady" type, adding, "She's kind of a criminal and old friend of Poe's."

The actress (who is already familiar with director J.J. Abrams, having starred in his series Felicity) went into more detail when Variety got hold of her and co-star Oscar Isaac. "She has a little bit of a checkered past, and maybe some questionable morals," Russell said. "But really she's an old fiend of Poe's and I think the entrance of Zorri is there to sort of describe more of who he was. In a very intimate way and familiar way. The friends are sort of like, 'What do you mean you know him?!'" Does that mean Dameron and Bliss have a romantic history? "It's complicated," Isaac said. Excited Twitter users are already stanning their relationship (but not those who are still holding on to hope for FinnPoe).

The Rise of Skywalker will tie all three trilogies together

Rumors that the The Rise of Skywalker would go out of its way to tie all the previous Star Wars movies together date back to 2017, when a Redditor claimed to have been told by J.J. Abrams that Episode IX will include elements from both the original and prequel trilogies (according to MovieWeb, the poster had photographic proof of meeting Abrams and co-writer Chris Terrio). The specifics of this overarching connection remain a mystery, but from the little we've seen of the movie so far, it does appear as though Abrams isn't skimping on nostalgia.

The first teaser didn't give much away in terms of plot, but it's full of cool callbacks to the original trilogy. We see Han Solo's old frenemy Lando Calrissian flying the Millennium Falcon, and there's a shot of what appears to be Leia clutching the same medal given to Luke and Han in A New Hope. This theme of bringing it all together was central at D23 Expo 2019, where a sizzle reel featuring iconic shots of Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Princess Leia was screened. While The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi have already done quite a bit to call back to the original trilogy, fans can now hope that the mysteries of Star Wars might come full circle, and certain questions posed back in Episode I could finally be answered.

Han Solo brings Kylo Ren back to the light?

Have we really seen the last of Harrison Ford's Han Solo? We've already covered the somewhat far-fetched theory that he's alive in an alternate dimension, but now there's a far more believable rumor doing the rounds — Han will appear as a Force ghost in The Rise of Skywalker and turn his son, Ben Solo (a.k.a Kylo Ren), back to the light. This comes by way of JediPaxis (a Redditor known for in-depth Star Wars leaks), who claims to have compiled a detailed breakdown of Episode IX via various inside sources.

According to JediPaxis, who is "highly confident in the accuracy" of the intel, Kylo Ren and Rey will engage in an epic lightsaber battle on the wreckage of the second Death Star towards the end of the film's second act. Both being Force-sensitive, they realize that Leia (Rey's mentor and Ren's mother) is dying at the same moment. Rey recovers from the shock quicker and plunges Ren's own lightsaber through his chest. It's then that Han appears and coaxes his wayward son back to the light.

Ren's redemption has been a hot topic among Star Wars fans since he killed his own father in The Force Awakens. Many are convinced he'll see the error of his ways in the final installment of the Skywalker saga, mirroring his grandfather's last-minute change of heart. There are some wacky Rise of Skywalker rumors out there, but this one seems to make total sense.

Rey accidentally kills Chewbacca?

Perhaps the biggest shocker in the purported Rise of Skywalker leak shared by JediPaxis concerns everyone's favorite Wookiee. The Redditor's rundown of the film's first act contains a huge bombshell — the death of Chewbacca at the hands of Rey. If this leak is to be believed, the hero of the sequel trilogy will accidentally kill Chewie during a battle with Kylo Ren. Or will she?

According to JediPaxis, Rey, Finn, Poe, Chewbacca, C-3PO, and BB-8 are dispatched to Pasaana (the new desert world that was unveiled during Vanity Fair's set visit) by Leia. General Organa has a contact on the planet that may be able to help them unravel Kylo Ren's new plan — the new Supreme Leader of the First Order is on the hunt for a hidden dark power that he believes was fueling his predecessor, Snoke. This contact turns out to be none other than Lando Calrissian, who tells them about a Sith dagger that he and Luke Skywalker once sought but were unable to locate. The heroes ultimately find this dagger, but not before Kylo Ren learns of their location.

The First Order arrive and Chewbacca is captured. Rey engages Kylo Ren and, using the Force, she attempts to ground the ship that's transporting Chewie. She's unable to, however, and in her frustration she accidentally destroys the ship, killing everyone on board. Don't get too upset, though — it's later revealed that the Wookiee was on a different transport carrier and is actually still alive.

The Oracle, the Wayfinder, and the Force Dyad

Jason Ward of Making Star Wars has been talking about a mysterious device called the "Wayfinder" for months, and thanks to the rumored Episode IX rundown posted to Reddit by JediPaxis, we have a better idea of what it actually is. According to the Redditor's sources, Kylo Ren has been focused on discovering the secrets of Snoke's power since taking command of the First Order from him, much to the frustration of General Hux and Allegiant General Pryde.

Ren's research ultimately leads him to a "forest planet bathed in red light." It's here that Ren (after slaughtering his way through the natives) discovers a character who is being referred to by insiders as "the Oracle." According to JediPaxis (whose account has been corroborated by Making Star Wars), the Oracle is a spider-like alien that sits on top of what can only be described as a giant infant's head. It's apparently as creepy as it sounds.

The Oracle gives the First Order leader the Wayfinder, which "reveals coordinates within the Unknown Regions." These coordinates reportedly lead Ren to "a dead planet of flat, black rock." Here, he discovers an ancient-looking but very-much-alive Emperor Palpatine, who's been living in hiding. He informs Ren that he and Rey are a "Force Dyad" — two incredibly strong users who become even stronger when united. "Palpatine orders Kylo to bring Rey to him and turn her so that the Dyad will be a strong, unified force of darkness."

C-3PO's rumored fate is heartbreaking

Rey accidentally killing Chewbacca turns out to be a big bluff according to JediPaxis' sources, but C-3PO's sad fate is very much real, they claim. The r/StarWarsLeak moderator posits that the aforementioned dagger our heroes discover on Pasaana has a message engraved on it that none of them can understand. According to JediPaxis, "It's then handed over to 3PO who identifies the writing as a Sith language, but he reveals that he is unable to translate the writing due to restrictions in his programming."

Chewbacca takes possession of the dagger before he is captured by the First Order and taken aboard a transport ship as prisoner (this is when Rey tries to intervene and accidentally kills him, or so she believes). Luckily, 3PO has the message committed to memory. It's said that Poe Dameron then intervenes, claiming to have a contact that can help 3PO translate the ancient writing: Keri Russell's Zorri Bliss. Russell's character introduces the gang to an alien friend of hers who knows how to unlock the message. But they face a huge dilemma — the beloved droid's memory will be completely wiped in the process.

"In an act of self sacrifice, C-3PO voluntarily consents to the modifications," JediPaxis claims. "For all intents and purposes, the droid we've all known for years will essentially die. According to my sources, this scene is reportedly one of the most emotional in the film." The hack leaves 3PO with red eyes, as seen in the D23 footage.

Rey reportedly has healing powers

The true extent of Rey's powers will be revealed in The Rise of Skywalker, and according to JediPaxis, one previously unknown ability will come to the fore pretty early on in the movie. The Redditor's sources claim that after the heroes meet up with Lando Calrissian on Pasaana (which we unknowingly caught a glimpse of during the D23 footage, Daisy Ridley has revealed) they go in search of the Sith dagger and end up in a series of underground tunnels. These tunnels were created by a huge sand worm, who isn't particularly pleased with their intrusion. At least, not to begin with.

The crew look like they're done for when the worm corners them, but Rey notices that the creature is injured and uses the Force to heal it. This apparently placates the beast and allows Rey and company to escape. When they return to the surface, they realize that the First Order has seized the Millennium Falcon. Rey faces off against Kylo Ren and his new TIE fighter (which, thanks to official tie-in toys, we now know is called the TIE Whisper) in one of many duels between the pair.

In a later showdown, Rey reportedly uses her healing powers once more. Per JediPaxis' second act breakdown, Rey uses her new-found ability to bring Ren back from the brink of death after plunging a lightsaber through his chest. It's then that Force ghost Han Solo appears and coaxes him back to the light.

Do Rise of Skywalker toys confirm some of the leaks?

In September 2019, some brand new Star Wars merch was previewed by The Rise of Skywalker's cast during a special live stream event. The toys revealed some interesting details about the upcoming sequel, seemingly confirming (at least in part) that the mega-leak shared by Redditor JediPaxis is indeed accurate.

Two new characters were revealed: aliens Boolio and Babu Frik. The latter was mentioned in JediPaxis' breakdown of The Rise of Skywalker's second act — he's the alien that hacks C-3PO's programming to unlock the message on the Sith dagger. The fact that he's included as an accessory attached to the Hasbro Black Series C-3PO figure and is referred to as a droid builder seems to confirm that the hack will go down just like the Redditor said it would. Anthony Daniels (C-3PO) remained tight-lipped, but he did call Frik one of his "truly favorite characters out of the whole movie."

There's also a new Kylo Ren figure to look forward to. This will no doubt have kids and collectors alike extremely excited, but it's the description on the packaging that peaked our interest. "As Supreme Leader of the First Order, Kylo Ren wields more power than ever before," it reads (via StarWarsNewsNet). "Nevertheless, Ren continues to search for secrets of the Force from the depths of the dark side." This lines up with JediPaxis' rundown, in which Ren searches for Snoke's power source — which, of course, turns out to be Palpatine.

General Hux: a mole?

The rumor that Domhnall Gleeson's General Hux will be revealed as a mole in The Rise of Skywalker is over a year old now. The fact that it originally came from a source with a mixed track record led a number of outlets to cast doubt on it. The whole Hux-is-a-traitor thing failed to die down, however, and now we have our strongest indication yet that this leak may actually be legit. 

The rivalry between Hux and Kylo Ren has been steadily building over the course of the previous two episodes. Each character saw himself as the natural successor to the late Snoke, and Hux obviously won't be thrilled about the fact that Ren assumed the position of Supreme Leader of the First Order. According to JediPaxis, it's revealed pretty early on in the movie that the Resistance has been dealing with an informant, an alien who has been "acting as a middle man between a First Order mole and our heroes."

Later, Rey and company sneak onto Ren's Star Destroyer to retrieve the Millennium Falcon, and this is reportedly when Hux (desperate to undermine Ren's rule) reveals himself as said mole. "When it appears that all is lost for our heroes that have been captured by the First Order, General Hux arrives and surprisingly not only allows them to escape, but points them in the direction of the Falcon," JediPaxis claims. "After they leave, Kylo kills Hux for treason against the First Order."

Where has Lando Calrissian been all this time?

The news that Billy Dee Williams was reprising his iconic Star Wars role in The Rise of Skywalker was huge for fans of the original trilogy. Since the announcement, people have been theorizing about what Lando Calrissian could have been doing since we last saw him. According to JediPaxis' mammoth leak — which has seemingly been at least partially backed up by the release of several new Star Wars toys — Calrissian has been laying low on Pasaana, the sandy world that's set to feature prominently in the final installment of the Skywalker saga.

It transpires that Calrissian and Luke Skywalker tracked a Sith loyalist (thought to be named Ochie) to the planet. The charming smuggler tells the heroes that he had a young child at home at the time of his and Luke's quest, and that his kid was abducted by the First Order in his absence. "After having failed to protect his child from the First Order, Lando and Luke parted ways and he's stayed on Pasaana ever since," the Redditor writes. "This story strikes a chord with Finn, having been stolen from his own family at an incredibly young age as well."

It's long been theorized that Naomi Ackie's Jannah is the daughter of Lando Calrissian. The new character was revealed at Star Wars Celebration 2019, and fans couldn't help but notice that her blue and yellow costume (complete with a cape) looks an awful lot like Calrissian's get-up from the original trilogy.

Rey is Palpatine's granddaughter?

Speculation surrounding Rey's parents has been rife ever since Kylo Ren told her that they were nothing but "filthy junk traders" in The Last Jedi. Some fans were convinced that the hero of the sequel trilogy had Skywalker blood running through her veins, and when the title of Episode IX was revealed, many believed that J.J. Abrams planned to do some retconning. As we've previously discussed, it's more likely that The Rise of Skywalker refers to a new order of Force users rather than Rey herself, but that doesn't necessarily mean she comes from nothing.

According to JediPaxisThe Rise of Skywalker will reveal that Rey is actually the granddaughter of Emperor Palpatine. It might sound far-fetched, but it would explain why the Force is so strong with her. The Redditor claims that Rey's parents were killed on Jakku because they tried to conceal her from Sith loyalists. "This is what Rey remembers; the ship leaving in the wake of her parents' murder, not her parents abandoning her."

This would mean that Palpatine fathered a child at some stage. Is this possible? Well, George Lucas' abandoned TV show, Star Wars: Underworld, did plan to reveal that Palpatine once had his heart broken by a woman with ties to criminal gangs on Coruscant. "She's this hardcore gangster, and she just totally destroyed him as a person," writer Cory Balrog, who read the script, told VentureBeat. It would be a pretty bold move by Abrams, that's for sure.

Admiral Ackbar's son joins the Resistance

It's no secret that Rian Johnson's The Last Jedi didn't win over the entire Star Wars fanbase. Many saw the whole Canto Bight subplot as a waste of time, and Luke Skywalker's passing was also heavily criticized, though one of the most controversial moments was the underwhelming death of an iconic Resistance fighter. Admiral Gial Ackbar's famous line from 1983's Return of the Jedi (he's the one who yells "It's a trap!" during the Battle of Endor) went down in pop culture history and would later become part of internet culture, too (everyone's seen the Ackbar meme at least once).

Ackbar has always been a fan favorite, and that's precisely why there was such an angry reaction when he was killed by the First Order's fleet — offscreen, no less. "Cast into the blackness of space like the Empire's garbage," one Twitter user said. Last Jedi editor Bob Ducsay later told HuffPost that Ackbar's death was "slightly incidental" and expressed a degree of regret over how it was handled.

Nobody liked seeing Ackbar go out like that, but we can get behind the idea of his son avenging him. Aftab Ackbar was introduced in 2019's Star Wars: Allegiance, a four-part prequel to Episode IXHe's revealed as an associate of the Resistance in the canonical comic, and that's seemingly what he'll be in The Rise of Skywalker — he's standing beside Lando Calrissian at a rebel meeting in the final trailer.

Star Wars Rebels ship Ghost makes another surprise appearance

Just like the teaser trailer, the final trailer for The Rise of Skywalker contained some pretty cool shots of the Millennium Falcon, regularly named the most iconic spaceship in the history of science fiction. It wasn't the Falcon that had people talking when the final trailer dropped, however. Those familiar with animated series Star Wars Rebels no doubt recognized the light freighter positioned just to the port side of the Falcon in that one epic shot of what seems to be the combined Resistance fleet. Captain Hera Syndulla's ship the Ghost has apparently joined the fight against the First Order, and it's not the first time this modified VCX-100 has appeared on the big screen.

Ghost popped up several times in 2016's Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, most notably during the Battle of Scarif. It made sense for the ship to appear in Rogue One, seeing as Rebels is set during the same period in galactic history (between Episode III – Revenge of the Sith and Episode IV – A New Hope), but The Rise of Skywalker takes place much later in the Star Wars timeline. Hera Syndulla was piloting Ghost during Rogue One (her name is called over the loudspeakers on Yavin IV in one of several subtle Star Wars Rebels Easter eggs), but will she still be in the cockpit for The Rise of Skywalker? And if so, will we actually get to meet her this time?

The Emperor's new throne is actually an old throne

A great deal of the Rise of Skywalker chatter has centered around Emperor Palpatine ever since the debut of the teaser trailer. He didn't appear in the teaser, but his infamous evil cackle did, and to make sure there was no misunderstanding about what that meant, actor Ian McDiarmid appeared on stage right after the footage premiered at Star Wars Celebration 2019. We didn't get a full-on shot of Palpatine in the final trailer, either, but the character was a much bigger presence this time around.

The Emperor has a long line of dialogue in the final trailer, and he seems to be talking directly to Rey and Kylo Ren. "Your coming together is your undoing," the Sith Lord says, possibly giving credence to the theory that Kylo Ren will redeem himself and become Ben Solo once more. "Long have I waited," the Emperor can also be heard saying, and at this moment we get a shot of his new throne — only it isn't a new throne at all. 

This imposing, jagged structure was actually inspired by (and when we say inspired by, we mean directly copied from) an old sketch that legendary concept artist Ralph McQuarrie drew when he was working on Return of the Jedi. Lucasfilm's creative art manager Phil Szostak pointed this out on Twitter, using a side-by-side comparison to show how the throne in McQuarrie's sketch and the one in the movie are basically identical.

What do we know about Dominic Monaghan's character?

There's been precious little information about Dominic Monaghan's role in The Rise of Skywalker. The actor didn't give much away when he was interviewed for podcast Distraction Pieces with Scroobius Pip (via Inverse) in September 2018, instead choosing to talk about how he was offered the part (short version: he's good friends with J.J. Abrams) as well as one particularly special moment on set. "[I] had to check my emotions a little because I was at work, but I was able to give Chewbacca a hug," Monaghan said. He did reveal that his screen time was largely restricted to the first act, though there's been rewrites since then so we'll have to wait and see just how involved in the plot he is.

Monaghan (best known for playing hobbit Merry Brandybuck in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and islander Charlie Pace in Lost, co-created by J.J. Abrams) is a genuine Star Wars fan, making his lengthy silence all the more impressive. Over a year passed between his tight-lipped podcast interview and his character's first look reveal, which came via the actor's official Twitter account. The image Monaghan shared made it look as though he's part of the Resistance, and this was seemingly confirmed when the final trailer dropped a few weeks later, giving us our first glimpse of the actor in action. Monaghan's character is shown standing behind Kelly Marie Tran's Rose Tico, and alongside Billie Lourd's Kaydel Ko Connix.