star wars the rise of skywalker rey reveal

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: let’s explore what the arcs of Kylo Ren, Finn and Rey actually mean.)

With over four decades of history, Star Wars has explored many themes. Overarching motifs include questioning the past, fighting for those you love, overcoming fear, and examining how extreme beliefs stifle growth and flexibility. The original trilogy also focused on overcoming adversity, no matter the odds. The prequel trilogy narrowed in on hubris, complacency, and the slippery slope of the ends justifying the means. As for the sequel trilogy? It highlighted in neon lights the need to look beyond bloodlines when determining a person’s inherent morality. It just didn’t do it by making Rey a “nobody.”

This article contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

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Watching The Last Jedi After The Rise of Skywalker

When it comes to beloved genre film franchises, Star Wars stands alone. I’m not talking about in terms of box office numbers or household name recognition, but in the DNA of how the brand came to exist. Unlike The Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter, a galaxy far, far away doesn’t have the underlying structure of novels to hang its themes and narrative on. While the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the DC Extended Universe have decades of source material to mine, Star Wars does not have that luxury. Unless you count Legends lore, which is a gnarled tangle from which a handful of useful pieces have been salvaged. 

My point being that Star Wars is a multi-billion dollar machine that operates like a pantser instead of a planner. In fiction writing, there are two major schools of thought: planners are pretty self-explanatory. They like to have an outline, to know where the story is going and have a detailed plan for how to get there. On the downside, planners can get bogged down in the details, refusing to set pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) until every single bit of minutia is locked down. Then there are the pantsers. These are the writers who have a vague idea of where their story is going and just fly by the seat of their pants, throwing themselves into the narrative and trusting the characters will lead the narrative where it needs to go. The downside to this can be that without an outline, stories can meander and peter out or hit a wall after the author writes themselves into a metaphorical corner. 

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star wars the rise of skywalker rey final shot

This post contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

Probably the most consistent thing about Star Wars is how the narrative is held together with spit and bubblegum. Like a precarious yet beloved Jenga tower, Star Wars is constantly pulling out pieces and adding in others, with wildly varying results. And what can look like a questionable move at the time can eventually become an accepted piece of the galactic tapestry. For example, after The Return of the Jedi, fans were just as upset about the casual reveal that Leia Organa was secretly Leia Skywalker as they were about Rey’s parentage in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. The death of Darth Vader in 1983 infuriated people as much as Kylo Ren’s demise in 2019. Time is a flat circle, etc. etc.

But part of the fun of Star Wars — at least for me — is looking sideways at the dangling pieces of plot and trying to deduce where Lucasfilm might take them in the future. One of the biggest threads left hanging by the end of The Rise of Skywalker was the story of Rey’s origin. Oh yes, we know she is the granddaughter of Sheev Palpatine, better known as The Emperor. We know her father was the son of said Emperor. We know her parents died…probably. We know Rey was left on Jakku and never retrieved. We know a Sith loyalist assassin named Ochi of Bestoon was involved somehow. But there’s a lot of space in between those plot points, just waiting to be filled in.

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Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Babu Frik Photo

With each new major entry in Star Wars lore, companion materials are released which delve even deeper into a galaxy far, far away. They can contain an intimidating amount of information, which is why you need someone to guide you through it. Someone who loves lore, and who loves putting together puzzle pieces left behind by the Lucasfilm Story Group. Someone like me.

Now that Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is in theaters, it’s time to take a look under the hood of the film’s visual dictionary. There’s so much to go over, and I attempted to just hit the highlights. But when everything is a highlight, it can be hard to rein me in. (I’m not sorry.) Read on to learn about the origins of Starkiller Base, Unkar Plutt’s motivations, the cultists of Mustafar, finally get the answer to to a long-held question about the naming conventions of the Endor System, and more.

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The Rise of Skywalker Lore

It has been three days since I have seen Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. I’ve also struggled to put my thoughts down, as my colleagues’ critical consensus is as far from my own experience with Episode IX as diametrically possible. In short, I loved every weird, twisty, lore-heavy second of Lucasfilm’s final installment in the Skywalker Saga. It was everything I wanted, including a few things I hadn’t even dared to hope to see. So how did I end up here, while so many other pop culture critics ended up on the other side of the fandom chasm? 

I don’t know. And frankly, that’s okay. Instead, I’m going to dive into why Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker worked so well for me and many other fans who have long been invested in the conclusion of the Skywalker legacy.

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Star Wars Architects

(Welcome to A Different Point of View, a column where we explore the supporting characters, planets and objects of the Star Wars universe and discuss why they deserve more time in the spotlight.)

Last week’s column dived deep into the mysterious moon of Jedha and all the secrets it could be hiding. But there was also a quick aside about “all-knowing ancient aliens” just begging for their own moment in the twin suns. And since I have precisely no-chill when it comes to the most ancient xenoarchaeology and mythological aspects of the Star Wars lore, that moment is now. It’s time for Lucasfilm to really commit to bringing back The Architects.  

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Star Wars Jedha

(Welcome to A Different Point of View, a column where we explore the supporting characters, planets and objects of the Star Wars universe and discuss why they deserve more time in the spotlight.)

Despite a stubborn fascination with the Skywalker legacy, Star Wars is a smorgasbord of narrative hooks just waiting for their moment in the twin suns. Every new entry into the lore — be it film, show, book, or comic — adds to the diversity and complexity of a galaxy far, far away. Up until now in this series, I’ve focused on minor characters who could carry their own stories. But Star Wars is more than just the people inhabiting it. It’s a living, breathing universe full of nooks and crannies to explore. That includes places and objects. 

Which brings us to Jedha, a dusty moon with quite a few parallels to Earth’s Israel. Even with only a quick smattering of lore, Lucasfilm has hinted there are secrets hidden beneath its dunes. I say it’s time to crack open those mysteries.

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The Last Duel True Story

It has been a turbulent few years in Hollywood. The industry has been forced to deal with latent racism with the #OscarsSoWhite movement as well as the festering, dangerous misogyny brought to light by the #MeToo revolution. Conversations about the lack of diversity and inclusion both in front of the camera and behind it have spurred action. An industry like Hollywood takes time to move towards a more equal playing field. But the increase in diverse storytellers and actors announced for upcoming film and television projects shows promise.

Which is how it comes as a shock that Matt Damon and Ben Affleck would team up for the first time since Good Will Hunting to tell the story of two men fighting to the death over the alleged rape of a woman. What’s even more of a shock is that the actors, along with director Ridley Scott, were taken aback by the immediate backlash.

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The Case For Sansa Stark

(Welcome to Debate of Thrones, where a panel of Citadel-trained experts explain why someone deserves, or doesn’t deserve, to sit on the Iron Throne. In this edition: no one in the Seven Kingdoms is as mentally equipped to lead the nation as Sansa Stark.)

When the people of the Seven Kingdoms think of a perfect monarch, what traits do we look for? Nobility. Dignity. Justice. Mercy. Grace. Strength. Loyalty. Kindness. How often do the gods grant us that boon? Perhaps once in every several centuries. The last few years have seen Westernos ripped apart by lesser kings and queens. Greedy and wrathful and mad, the Targaryen royals and Baratheons that followed them sowed war and death from Dorne to The Wall. And now the choice appears to be between a despotic Targaryen queen raised in foreign lands or an alleged Targaryen king who grew up the bastard son of Lord Eddard Stark. But what if there was another choice? A better choice for the realm? Lady Sansa Stark of Winterfell.

Over the course of the last seven years — since before the opening salvos of the War of the Five Kings — Sansa has been at the center of every major event. From a terrified child to the steadfast Lady of Winterfell, Sansa Stark has proven time and again that she has the mettle and the temperament to take, and hold, the Iron Throne.

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Is Arya Stark Azor Ahai

This article contains major spoilers for Game of Thrones season 8.

For eight seasons, Game of Thrones built up the confrontation between the Night King and the champions of the living. Since the pilot episode, the undead have been a slow burn threat creeping closer to take out those who cannot put aside their petty differences and ally themselves against the Night King’s existential threat. Now, that threat is done thanks to Arya Stark.

Trained under a succession of the most deadly assassins in the world, the choice by showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss to have Arya strike the killing blow makes sense. She trained with the Faceless Men, assassins renown throughout the world for their discretion as well as never failing to get the job done. The group is rumored to even be responsible for the destruction of Old Valyria, as their organization began as a slave uprising against their dragonlord masters. Eight years of learning the art of becoming silent death paid off when Arya Stark slid that Valyrian steel knife into the Night King’s chest.

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