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Biggest Unanswered Questions In The Rise Of Skywalker

Until Disney inevitably decides to release another trilogy in the mainline series, Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker is the last chapter in the Skywalker Saga, the blockbuster bow wrapping up loose ends in a franchise that has spanned 42 years. And it does resolve a lot of longstanding questions. But it also raises just as many questions as it answers.

Rise of Skywalker is an eventful movie, stuffed with action and plot, all steamrolling toward an explosive climax. That inevitably means that some things kind of just fly by without much time or breathing room to explain why or how they're taking place. At least one major explanation gets purposely cut off in mid-sentence and is never revisited. It's almost as if the movie is telling the audience, "Don't worry about it, just stick with us." But it's our job to worry about it, so here are some of the biggest unanswered questions in the for-now ultimate entry in the Skywalker Saga. And, of course, spoilers are ahead.

How did Palpatine survive?

One question the movie answers within its opening minutes is that Emperor Palpatine is indeed alive. He's not a Force ghost and not identified as a clone (though he seems to have cloning abilities, given his tube full of Snoke bodies). He's the full-on flesh-and-blood Sheev Palpatine, being kept alive by a very tall, mechanical life support system. And he has sent a recording to the galaxy.

But none of his communications with Kylo Ren, Rey or General Pryde include a quick word about how he survived being thrown down a giant pit at the end of Return of the Jedi. Nobody bothers to ask him, either. Everybody who now knows the Emperor is back — including Luke Skywalker's Force ghost, who you'd think would really be curious to learn what happened — just kind of rolls with it. Even the Resistance spends only a few minutes being incredulous before just accepting Palpatine is alive and kicking. Not to bring up Lost or anything when talking about a J.J. Abrams movie, but a complete lack of curiosity about plot points on the part of some of these characters sure feels like Lost.

When and with whom did Palpatine have a son?

Rise of Skywalker's biggest revelation, and the answer to the biggest question in the current trilogy of films, is the truth of Rey's parentage. After meeting Palpatine on the Sith planet Exegol, Kylo Ren learns that what he knew about Rey's parents was only partially true: Yes, they sold her. Yes, they were basically nobodies. But it was all intentional. They anonymized themselves and sent Rey away because her father was Emperor Palpatine's son, making Rey the emperor's granddaughter.

It's a dramatic reveal, and a subjugation of fan expectations that Rey would be a Skywalker by blood. But one detail definitely sticks out: Emperor Palpatine had a son? When did that happen? Let's try to work it out: Rey is probably in her early 20s by the time of Rise of Skywalker, which would mean her father would have been born 40 to 50 years earlier. That means Palpatine Jr. would have probably been born sometime between the prequel trilogy and the original trilogy. So where was he during the original trilogy? Who was his mother? We've never heard an iota about a wife or any romantic entanglement for Emperor Palpatine previously. Was the younger Palpatine a clone, like the Emperor's illegitimate son in the old Extended Universe? We know basically nothing about him at all. Guess he really was a nobody.

Why did Palpatine wait so long?

"Long have I waited." That ominous statement from Emperor Palpatine is familiar to anyone who's seen the trailers, and we learn as the movie approaches its climax that it's essentially his greeting to his granddaughter, Rey. But why spend decades just sitting around on Exegol? Presumably he was waiting for his fleet of planet-exploding Star Destroyers to be finished, but we're also told he tried to have Rey brought to him when she was just a child.

So what really was his plan? Why did he need to create Snoke to be his puppet? Could he not have shown back up and started the First Order himself? Perhaps he was too physically weak, but he was still hearty enough to create all those Snokes. Why did he have to use Kylo Ren as his intermediary rather than going directly after Rey? She may have been pretty well-hidden for a while, but eventually she made herself very well known. It just seems like he did one of those villain things where his plan was a lot more complicated than it needed to be, because there needed to be three movies.

How did C-3PO know the Sith language?

One major plot complication arises when Rey and the gang find a dagger on Ochi's ship, which has the directions to one of the Sith wayfinders written on it in the ancient Sith language. C-3PO is able to read it, but can't relay a translation because his programming forbids it. When he starts to explain that there are some legalities behind that prohibition involving the Galactic Senate, Poe cuts him off before he can get into the details.

Our heroes get around the complication of C-3PO's programming by having droidsmith Babu Frik do a potentially dangerous and definitely unethical procedure to extract the information. But here's a question: How does C-3PO know Sith? By the time Anakin Skywalker built him from spare parts, Sith would seemingly have only been a language used by the highly secretive Sith Order, which had been in hiding for hundreds of years. Maybe C-3PO's parts were really old, and from a time when Sith was a lot more common? Or maybe his language software is just really, really good.

What was Ochi's mission?

Ochi is a name that gets mentioned a lot in The Rise of Skywalker. For someone who only appears in a quick flashback and then as bones — and bones sure can't be good — Ochi of Bestoon plays a pivotal role in the plot. It kind of all hinges on him. We know he had the dagger that led to the Sith wayfinder in the wreckage of the second Death Star, and it's noted that he was likely on some kind of mission or errand to deliver Rey to Palpatine. He just got hung up in an underground beast's lair, and things went bad.

But if Ochi was in Palpatine's direct employ, why would he need the wayfinder to get back to Exegol, and why would he need the dagger to get to the wayfinder? Was Palpatine indirectly bringing Ochi to him, like he did with Rey? Was Ochi working as a mercenary, thinking maybe bringing the emperor's granddaughter to him would earn him a nice payday? If so, how did he know about any of this? Was Ochi super-connected, or did he just stumble into all this?

Who are those people in Palpatine's chamber?

Say what you will about Sheev Palpatine, but know this, without question: The man knows how to play to a crowd. He drew thunderous applause while liberty died in the Galactic Senate, and he similarly gets his audience of black-robed figures white hot with excitement as he dares Rey to strike him down on Exegol. He has them eating right out of his horribly disfigured hands. These fans are hungry to see the death match of a lifetime.

Just one question, though: Who are the people in the stands? They're almost assuredly Sith of one type or another, since Exegol is the secret Sith homeworld, but are they living creatures? Are they more beings he created, like he did Snoke? Are they the spirits of all the Sith who lived in the past? Palpatine says he contains all of the Sith within him. Is this crowd of beings them? Did they build his fleet of planet-exploding Star Destroyers? They appear and disappear with no clue as to who they actually are.

Isn't Rey technically the Empress now?

Okay, follow us here. Yes, Rey claims the name Skywalker at the end of the movie, making her one of the Skywalkers who rise. (Ben is too, even though his last name is Solo.) Yes, she uses the combined force energy of every Jedi who ever put on a robe to defeat her grandfather, deflecting his own Force lightning back at him. And yes, she helps redeem Ben Solo.

But Emperor Palpatine makes the deal very clear: If she kills him, Rey becomes the empress. So even though she doesn't absorb his life force like he planned, isn't she... the Empress? Like, by birthright? By the order of succession? There's no Republic anymore. They got wiped out. Sure, Rey may just end up dissolving everything, but there's a slew of First Order and Final Order loyalists out there in the galaxy, desperate for a leader to tell them what to do, and it may be Rey's responsibility to, if nothing else, say "Hit the bricks." Heavy hangs the head that wears the crown, right? Or maybe the hood.