Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Confusing Moments In Rise Of Skywalker Explained

After more than four decades, the Skywalker saga has reached its exciting, surprising, and at times confusing conclusion, bringing to an end the twisting tale of the Skywalker family, their ongoing intergalactic rebellion against fascism, and the competing light and dark sides of the mystical Force. We now know what happens to Luke and Leia, where Snoke came from, who Rey's parents were, and perhaps most importantly, who ultimately prevails in the galaxies-spanning struggle between the First Order and the Resistance. 

While The Rise of Skywalker answered quite a few of the saga's lingering questions, it also presented a few of its own, and we wouldn't be surprised if you came out of the theater a little unsure how it all fits together. Although there are some aspects of Episode IX that are left entirely up to our imaginations, many of the film's more head-scratching moments do have at least an implied in-canon explanation, and we've done our best to detail some of them here. We can't promise you'll understand every part of Rise of Skywalker after delving into our explanations, but we hope we can help you feel at least a little less confused.

How did Palpatine return in The Rise of Skywalker?

The opening crawl of The Rise of Skywalker wastes no time in making us tilt our heads with its first sentence, announcing, "The dead speak!" We soon learn that Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid), the Emperor from the original trilogy that we all presumed was dead after watching Darth Vader toss him down a reactor shaft at the end of Return of the Jedi, is actually alive. In fact, he has been pulling the strings of the First Order this whole time.

While we never get a detailed explanation for Palpatine's survival, we can make a few educated guesses. For starters, we should've known better than to assume a fall would kill a strong Force user like Palpatine; Darth Maul and Luke Skywalker have both survived pretty serious falls in past Star Wars canon, the former after also having been sliced in half. After that, it appears he slunk off to the Sith planet of Exegol, where his life was artificially prolonged through various machines, similar to how Darth Vader was stabilized after his battle with Obi-Wan in Revenge of the Sith. As for how he got from the Death Star to Exegol, it was likely a combination of Force manipulation and aid from Sith loyalists like Ochi, whom he tasked with retrieving young Rey from Jakku. Once on Exegol, Palpatine seems to have bode his time in the shadows, until his fleet was strong enough to reveal itself.

Who was Kylo Ren fighting at the beginning of The Rise of Skywalker?

The opening crawl of Rise of Skywalker mentions that Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), now Supreme Leader of the First Order following his assassination of Snoke in The Last Jedi, is searching for the Emperor, "determined to destroy any threat to his power." The film then immediately reveals Kylo Ren on the surface of a glowing red planet, slaughtering a forest full of faceless opponents before ultimately locating a Sith Wayfinder that once belonged to his grandfather, Darth Vader. That Wayfinder reveals the way to Exegol, where Kylo Ren confronts Palpatine and learns the truth of Rey's parentage.

The battle for the Wayfinder takes place on Mustafar, the volcano planet where Anakin Skywalker dueled his mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and suffered the horrific burns and injuries that necessitated the life-supporting armor and helmet that would come to define Vader. Although the movie doesn't give us any information on who Kylo Ren is fighting there, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker: The Visual Dictionary tells us that his opponents are members of the Alazmec of Winsit, a cult of Vader-worshipers who traveled to Mustafar in the hopes of tapping into the Dark Side powers that Vader channeled through his Sith fortress. The Alazmec colonists were also responsible for the unlikely forest of irontrees where the battle takes place, which they planted in an ill-conceived effort to reinvigorate the land. Unfortunately for the Alazmec, Kylo Ren had no interest in explaining to them why he needed to access the ruins of Fortress Vader, and found it easier to cut a smoldering path through his grandfather's acolytes than to simply ask permission to enter.

Where did Palpatine's fleet come from in The Rise of Skywalker?

To answer the question of how Palpatine was able to assemble his massive Final Order fleet in The Rise of Skywalker requires a healthy amount of educated guesswork, since there isn't a ton of explanation given in the film itself. What we do know is that Palpatine was able to channel the power of all the Sith who had come before him, that he was cloning Snokes who were also all presumably strong in the Dark Side of the Force, and that he had a network of loyalists he was somehow able to tap into throughout the galaxy, even after his death, as evidenced by his orders to Ochi. We also know based on the thousands of shrouded figures in the throne room scene with Rey that either Exegol had a large native population that was loyal to Palpatine, or that he was able to physically manifest the countless former Sith who resided within him.

Either way, it seems as though Palpatine had a large and powerful workforce at his decaying fingertips, and 30 years of secrecy in which to build his army of destroyers. We don't know where he got all the resources to construct the ships, or why they were buried below the surface of Exegol, but since he was pulling the strings of the First Order, it doesn't seem like much of a stretch to assume he was likely siphoning his supplies from them.

How was Leia able to train Rey in The Rise of Skywalker?

Following the death of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) at the end of The Last Jedi, his twin sister Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) took it upon herself to train the Force-sensitive Rey (Daisy Ridley) in the ways of the Jedi, which we see in The Rise of Skywalker. This might come as a bit of a surprise, considering we never saw Leia receive any Jedi training herself. Of course, she displayed some Force sensitivity as far back as the original trilogy, and we've seen her exhibit some impressive powers, most notably in The Last Jedi when she managed to save herself from the vacuum of space. 

In The Rise of Skywalker, it is revealed that when Leia was younger, she actually did train as a Jedi with Luke, and essentially completed her training, even constructing her own lightsaber. However, on the final day of her training, she had a vision that her Jedi path would lead to the death of her son, which caused her to turn away from becoming a Jedi and give her lightsaber to her brother. So while Leia techncially isn't a Jedi herself, she has all the knowledge, training, and capabilities necessary to continue Rey's instruction where her brother had left off. Later, Luke's spirit presents Rey with Leia's lightsaber, which she uses to defeat Palpatine once and for all.

What was the point of the journey to Pasaana in The Rise of Skywalker?

When the Resistance learns that Palpatine is alive thanks to the information acquired from the First Order spy, they worry that they won't be able to stop him — he's on the Sith planet of Exegol, and no one knows how to get there. However, Rey remembers that Luke Skywalker had attempted to find Exegol many years earlier, before exiling himself to Ahch-To, and had recorded his findings in his journals. While Luke hadn't actually found the Sith planet, he had tracked the second Sith Wayfinder (the first being the one Kylo Ren recovered on Mustafar) to a desert planet called Pasaana, where the trail had gone cold.

When Rey follows Luke's writings and leads her team to Pasaana, they believe they're searching for the Wayfinder, but instead they find another clue. It turns out that many years ago, a Sith loyalist named Ochi had been tasked with bringing the young Rey to Palpatine on Exegol, and he carried a dagger inscribed with the coordinates that would lead him to the Wayfinder. Before Ochi could find Rey or recover the Wayfinder, though, he accidentally rode his speeder into the sinking fields of Pasaana, and died buried beneath the planet's surface, along with the Sith dagger.

Why couldn't C-3PO translate the writing on the knife in The Rise of Skywalker?

After finding Ochi's Sith dagger, Rey's team of Resistance fighters momentarily believes that success is in sight, but their hopes are dashed when C-3PO reveals that while he can read the coordinates on the dagger, he is incapable of translating them for the rest of the team. Apparently, his programming forbids him to translate the Sith language under any circumstances. This may seem like a rather arbitrary plot contrivance, but it turns out to make a surprising amount of sense in the greater Star Wars canon.

Right as Threepio is in the midst of explaining why he can't translate Sith, the group is interrupted by a giant sand serpent that distracts them from the dagger. But as everyone is reacting to the serpent, Threepio can clearly be heard telling them that the rule was passed by the Imperial Senate many years before. As we know from the prequels, Palpatine spent years manipulating the Senate from within in order to serve his dark purposes, and eventually dissolved the Senate entirely. Knowing this, it makes sense that Palpatine would've enacted legislation making it impossible for droids to translate Sith. In the early days when he was attempting to quietly consolidate his power, keeping Sith communications secret would've been instrumental in his ability to keep his true identity and master plan hidden from his peers.

How did Chewie survive Rey's explosion in The Rise of Skywalker?

As Rey and her friends prepare to leave the desert planet of Pasaana, Rey senses the presence of Kylo Ren and walks out into the desert to slow him down. Concerned, Chewbacca follows her, but winds up getting captured and loaded onto a transport by First Order troops, while a horrified Finn (John Boyega) looks on. Concerned, Finn runs out to tell Rey, and they both watch as a transport takes flight from behind a large rock formation. Rey tries to use the Force to pull the transport back to the ground, but after meeting opposition from Kylo Ren, she becomes frustrated and lets out a surge of Force energy that causes the transport to explode, which she thinks means that Chewie has died.

Almost immediately, we find out that Chewie is actually still alive, and is being held captive on a First Order ship. General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) mentions that there was actually a second First Order transport on Pasaana, and that was the one Finn saw Chewie being loaded onto. He must not have seen the second one due to the rock formations dotting the landscape, leading him to assume that the one he saw taking off was, in fact, the only one on the planet's surface. Since Rey, Finn, and their companions left immediately after the transport exploded, they missed when the second one containing Chewie took off.

Why was Hux spying for the Resistance in The Rise of Skywalker?

Early on, The Rise of Skywalker sets up the intriguing mystery of a spy within the First Order who is passing crucial bits of information to the Resistance, including the fact that Palpatine is back and plotting a devastating, galaxy-wide attack. This spy is later revealed to be none other than the sniveling General Hux, much to the shock of Finn and Poe, who are (along with the audience) completely blindsided by the First Order officer's turn. After all, Hux spent the entirety of The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi fervently opposing the Resistance and fighting to advance the First Order's conquering agenda.

So what changed? Based on Hux's explanation to Finn, he still isn't actually a friend to the Resistance, and has no investment in their ultimate victory. But as much as he hates the Resistance, he hates Kylo Ren more, and seems to have been pushed to switch sides following Ren's ascension to Supreme Leader at the end of The Last Jedi. While Hux didn't like Snoke's use of the Force, he tolerated it since Snoke allowed him to exercise power above his station. But with Ren taking Snoke's place, Hux was stripped of that power, and found himself taking a backseat in Ren's plans, which relied far too heavily on the mysticism of the Force for Hux's liking. He seemed to hope that by aiding the Resistance, he could topple Kylo Ren and subsequently seize that power for himself.

How did Leia die in The Rise of Skywalker?

In December of 2016 — a year before The Last Jedi hit theaters and long before The Rise of Skywalker started filming — Carrie Fisher, who has played Leia Organa ever since A New Hope in 1977, sadly passed away. However, since Leia was still very much alive in the Star Wars universe, director J.J. Abrams announced that he would be reworking The Rise of Skywalker's storyline to incorporate previously unused footage of Fisher from other Star Wars films in order to finish Leia's journey. This resulted in Leia being present in the first act of Rise of Skywalker as Rey's teacher and the leader of the Resistance. Later on in the film, she dies after reaching out to her son through the Force.

While Leia's ending was likely largely dictated by the available archival footage of Fisher, her death still provided a bittersweet and fitting send-off to her character. And although it appears that Leia only transmits a single word through the Force — "Ben," the name he had rejected when he reinvented himself as Kylo Ren — his reaction makes it appear as though he received more than that. Perhaps it isn't simply a name that Leia Force-projects to him, but her feelings of motherly love and acceptance, letting him know that even after all he's done, she still considers him her son. Leia's last-ditch effort to pull her son back from the Dark Side pays off, but the effort of reaching him one last time after he's closed himself off to her takes every bit of remaining strength she has. She dies, becoming one with the Force — just as her brother did after sending his consciousness to the Battle of Crait in The Last Jedi.

Why did Kylo Ren switch sides so fast in The Rise of Skywalker?

At first glance, it might seem as though Kylo Ren turned back into Ben Solo on a sudden whim after Rey healed him, in an about-face so abrupt it could give you whiplash. But upon closer examination, Ben's decision to abandon his Dark Side persona is something he's been struggling with for a while, since at least The Last Jedi, when both Rey and Snoke sensed the extreme conflict within him, despite his protests that his mind was made up. 

Before his duel with Rey in The Rise of Skywalker, he tells Rey that he can never go back to his mother, indicating that he believes the Dark Side is the only option available to him. But when Leia contacts him during their duel, he realizes the truth — he can go back, and the only one holding him back was himself. Later, he envisions his father, Han Solo (Harrison Ford), who methodically refutes his every argument to stay on his current path. Ben tries to argue that with both his parents gone, he's beyond hope, but his vision of Han reminds him that as long as he's still alive, he can still do the right thing. 

Ben repeats the last thing he said to his father before he killed him, and Han assures him that this time, he has the strength to do what must be done. Finally, when it seems as though Ben wants to apologize, Han replies with his iconic, "I know," communicating his enduring love and forgiveness. Afterward, Ben tosses his Sith lightsaber into the ocean, having finally found the strength to turn back to the Light Side thanks to the combined, loving efforts of his parents.

What was Palpatine's plan in The Rise of Skywalker?

During Palpatine's 30-plus years in hiding on Exegol, he came up with a rather convoluted plan for taking over the galaxy, and we wouldn't blame you if you can't figure out exactly what it is — especially since Palpatine keeps seeming to contradict himself. Long before the beginning of The Force Awakens, Palpatine was responsible for the creation of Snoke (who turned out to be a clone, although of whom, we still don't know), whom he maneuvered into a position of power as Supreme Leader of the First Order. All of Snoke's orders in the first two films actually came from Palpatine, as he attempted to position the First Order to take over the galaxy.

While Palpatine was secretly shaping the First Order, he was also constantly searching for his granddaughter, Rey, whom he considered his heir. He sent out bounty hunters to find her, but their efforts failed. He didn't know where she was until she started her Force training under Luke Skywalker. He then tasked Kylo Ren with finding and killing her, but he never intended for Ren to succeed, hoping that his efforts would instead propel Rey to lean further into the Dark Side of the Force, preparing her to take over for Palpatine as Empress. Once Rey faced him on Exegol, Palpatine tempted her to strike him down and take his place, just as he once taunted Luke Skywalker, saying that killing him would then transfer his spirit to her — along with all the Sith who had come before — and they would all rule over the galaxy as one.

Whose voices did Rey hear at the end of The Rise of Skywalker?

After Palpatine drains Rey and Ben of their combined Force energy and tosses Ben down a chasm, Rey lies on the floor of the chamber watching the battle rage overhead, seeming as though she's lost hope. But then she once again attempts the Force exercise that's been eluding her throughout the whole film, trying to channel the Jedi who have come before her. This time, it works, and Rey is strengthened by a number of Jedi voices speaking her name and feeding her the encouragement that enables her to rise to her feet and face Palpatine again.

If some of those voices seemed familiar, there's a reason for that. The Rise of Skywalker brings back every significant Jedi from past Star Wars movies, including Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker, Ewan McGregor and Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi, Liam Neeson as Qui-Gon Jinn, Frank Oz as Yoda, Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu, and of course, Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker. Additionally, the scene includes voice actors from Star Wars animated series who portrayed now-deceased Jedi — namely Ashley Eckstein as Ahsoka Tano, Freddie Prinze Jr. as Kanan Jarrus, Olivia D'Abo as Luminara Unduli, Jennifer Hale as Aayla Secura, and Angelique Perrin as Adi Gallia. The combined strength of Rey and the spirits of the past Jedi is enough for Rey to reflect Palpatine's Dark energy back on himself, killing him. Since Palpatine technically causes his own death, his spirit doesn't pass to Rey as he'd planned, and the Sith line is ended.

What did it mean that Rey and Ben were a "dyad in the Force" in The Rise of Skywalker?

Several times throughout The Rise of Skywalker, characters mention that Rey and Kylo Ren make up a "dyad in the Force," a new term we've never heard in previous Star Wars films. This is apparently because a dyad is extremely rare and hasn't been seen in generations, but it seems to mean that the two of them together can wield the Force in powerful and previously unseen ways. Ren speculates that their unique nature is due to them being the grandchildren of two of the greatest Force-users in history — Anakin Skywalker and Emperor Palpatine.

When Palpatine realizes that Rey and Ben together are stronger than either of them separately, he heals his decrepit body by draining their combined Force energy, then tries to weaken them by splitting them up, throwing Ben down a chasm. Rey is still able to defeat Palpatine by channeling the strength of past Jedi, but the effort completely drains and kills her. However, once Ben climbs out of the chasm, he is able to revive Rey by transferring all of his energy to her through the Force, which ultimately kills him. He becomes one with the Force, joining his mother. Before he dies, he and Rey are both able to share a few grateful moments of life together, likely made possible by the strength of their shared Force bond.