At long last, my predictions and analysis for the plot of The Rise of Skywalker.
Note: I’ve followed the leaks for The Rise of Skywalker’s entire production and have come to strongly suspect the production has been managing them from the beginning. While there are likely to be some legitimate leaks or details that will show up in marketing to ‘legitimize’ the plot ‘leaks’, it’s impossible to distinguish them from the rest. Therefore, I will not be using them from here on out.
The Three Act Structure
The standard for screenplays in the film industry is the three act structure (in fact, it’s a rare film that doesn’t use it). Each act is a stage in the resolution of the main plot of the film and generally contain defined events. A screenplay is further subdivided into six stages, two per act. Marking the transitions between each stage are ‘turning points’. It’s important to remember the names are abstract descriptions of what happens in each stage and aren’t literal. The three act structure is generally defined as follows:
- First Act (Setup): This act sets the stage. It introduces the characters (or reintroduces them) and the setting in the first stage (setup). The first act also introduces the main conflict or challenge of the film, which is known as the ‘inciting incident’ or ‘opportunity’ which marks the start of the second stage (new situation).
- Plot Point 1 (Change of plans): This plot point redefines the main challenge.
- Second Act (Confrontation): The second act involves the hero trying to resolve the steadily worsening conflict. The hero lacks the tools, knowledge or skills necessary to successfully resolve the conflict, which often leads to their attempts worsening it. The first part (stage 3 overall) of the second act is the ‘progress’ stage, where the hero overcomes the early obstacles and appears to be getting close to their goal. The midpoint of the film and act marks the point where the challenges for the hero become much greater and where they must fully commit to their goal (point of no return). The second stage (stage 4 overall) of the second act is the ‘complications and higher stakes’ stage.
- Plot Point 2 (Major Setback): This is an event in which the hero fails and they’re the furthest from completing their goal.
- Third Act (Resolution): The last act and where the hero achieves their goal. This act starts out with the hero in a rapidly worsening situation that the hero must put all of their effort towards overcoming in a stage known as the ‘final push’. At the climax, the situation for the hero is at its most desperate. However, it’s at this point the hero finds the means to resolve the problem. The obstacles are rapidly overcome and the hero finally achieves their goal moving into the ‘Aftermath’ stage.
Note: Plot events I’m reasonably confident in are in bold. Analysis is in regular text.
Stage 1: Setup
The movie opens with Pryde arriving to meet with Kylo Ren and Hux to discuss the recently recovered super-laser equipped Star Destroyer and the prospect of there being more of them. Kylo meets with several Knights of Ren and states that they need Rey.
In the Journey to The Rise of Skywalker material, Kylo is pretty intent on completely eradicating the Resistance, including Rey. Something seems to change this by TROS, at least with respect to Rey.
It’s entirely possible the movie opens with the Resistance, although pacing suggests a dark side opening to me.
The Resistance opening is on the jungle world of Ajan Kloss. It will likely show the Resistance receiving some information from Wedge Antilles about an upcoming First Order operation which Finn and Poe hear about. We’ll then be reintroduced to Rey who’s in the jungle by herself training. She performs well, but slips up when practicing against remotes and throws her saber in frustration. Once Finn and Poe locate Rey, they, Chewie,Threepio and BB-8 all pile onto the Falcon and head out.
The Knights of Ren accompany Kylo Ren as he gets his helmet repaired.
I apologize for the ambiguity here. How Kylo’s helmet fits into the movie is one of the most puzzling questions right now, starting with why he decides to repair it a year after breaking it.
The heroes arrive on Pasaana and are surprised to find they’ve landed in the middle of a local celebration. After braving the festivities, they locate Wedge who tells them a bit more of what the First Order is doing on Pasaana. The heroes locate the First Order with the mysterious item they were after and ambush them. After nabbing the object, the six steal two nearby skiffs and are chased by the First Order bikes and rocket troops.
Wedge meeting the heroes here is based on the picture of an X-Wing from an airline safety video of all places. It would also bring back an idea from TFA where it was Wedge and not Lor San Tekka meeting Poe on Jakku.
Stage 2: New Situation
The chase becomes far more dangerous when the Knights of Ren join. Rey gets off her skiff when Kylo Ren arrives in his fighter in order to distract him. Kylo orders the KoR to leave Rey to him and they continue chasing the others. Chewie splits off from the others to draw off the Knights of Ren, but is captured while BB-8 escapes. Poe, Finn and the droids are unable to reach the Falcon and instead make their way to another ship. Rey does her jump from the teaser and damages Kylo’s fighter, forcing him to land. Before they can engage, Poe and Finn arrive and pick up Rey, leaving Pasaana behind. Rey is shocked to realize she recognizes the ship as the one from her Force vision.
One issue with this is the heroes going straight to Kijimi despite knowing Chewie had been captured via BB-8. However, Anthony Daniels’ autobiography reveals the Knights of Ren chase the heroes on Kijimi. It’s possible Chewie gets separated from the heroes and is then captured without them realizing it on that world.
My theory here is, in the greatest of ironies, Kylo realizes the only way he can get Rey to do what he needs is for her to realize who she is (explained later), but also can’t tell her directly. He has the Knights of Ren dig up and bring Rey’s family ship in the hopes she remembers it (the Knights of Ren being the ones who kidnapped her in the first place). Conveniently, it also allows them to track the group’s movements.
Artoo is not with the group when they travel to Pasaana, but does appear with them in the droid workshop. Him being the astromech in the above picture explains how he joined the group. The problem is that would leave Wedge without an astromech. That and Wedge’s apparent lack of presence later in the movie has me fearing the worst for him.
Update: Z of the Star Wars Reference Discord has pointed out to me that you can see Resistance uniforms in the background of the shot with Artoo. So Artoo does not in fact join the heroes. This doesn’t affect the rest of the article.
They escape, open the package and find the object Kylo was trying to recover was Anakin’s podracing helmet which triggers a remnant of a wiped memory in Threepio. Realizing Threepio once knew Anakin, the group discusses restoring Threepio’s memory. Poe suggests a master droid-smith he knows of who lives on Kijimi. He does not know where he is, however, but does know someone who would.
Force Collector is a tie-in about a Force sensitive teen who has psychometry. The plot of the book involves him traveling around the galaxy collecting items present in important events that he uses to learn about history, both of the Jedi and his own family’s. I believe the book is actually setup for Rey’s journey of discovery which involves encountering several artifacts that were important to Anakin/Vader. Ironically, the helmet doesn’t trigger her memory, but Threepio’s. Further, Kylo is looking for items that used to belong to his grandfather in order to learn more about his history.
On Kijimi, Poe directs them to a woman named Zorii, a spice hunter who has a history with Poe. There, the group requests Zorii’s help in locating the droid-smith. After roughing up Poe a bit, Zorii tells them she’ll help if they perform a service for her first. After completing the service, she gives Poe the device they need to interface with Threepio’s computer and takes them to Babu Frik.
It seems unlikely Zorii would simply give them what they need without something in return. What that is, I have no idea.
The team is surprised to find Babu Frik is a tiny monkey-like alien. He agrees to help, but warns attempting to restore a droid’s memory carries the risk of wiping their current memories. Threepio bravely agrees to the risk.
The tiny droid-smith restores Threepio’s memory and they realize he was actually built by Anakin. (He also panics briefly when he sees the Clone Wars era battle droids.) In reviewing his memories, Rey is shaken when she recognizes the graves where Anakin buries his mother. However, before she can investigate further, the First Order arrives and the heroes are forced to leave while evading snowtroopers.
This is another part I’m unsure of what happens. Zorii is with them in the shop, but not later which means she leaves the group. It seems unlikely they travel back to the town, but that means they need to find another way off Kijimi. It’s possible the First Order captures them and brings them to Kylo’s star destroyer. Alternatively, perhaps this is where Lando is introduced. Regardless, they get off and somehow make their way onto Kylo’s destroyer.
Plot Point 1: Change of Plans
As the heroes escape, the First Order fires the Star Destroyer’s superlaser on Frik’s workshop, destroying a vast area. The team is horrified to learn the First Order has a powerful new weapon. They are further shocked to learn Kylo holds Chewie (and the Falcon?) on the Finalizer. Resolving to rescue him, the team infiltrates the star destroyer.
Kylo’s whole goal to this point has been to lure Rey to Vader’s helmet in the hopes she’d experience what he had from it. He needs her to learn who she is, but needs her to do so on his terms.
Kylo, knowing Rey would sense it, uses Vader’s helmet to lure her to his quarters while Poe and Finn break Chewie out of the brig. Rey feels the helmet calling to her and finds something about it oddly familiar. Kylo enters his room and tells Rey he does not want to fight. Instead, he wants her help and reveals the Emperor has been planning to return and needs her help stopping him. In order to stop him, they need to recover something from his throne room on the wreckage of the second Death Star. She refuses to help Kylo and instead destroys Vader’s helmet, and runs. Kylo pursues, but she reaches the hanger where everyone escapes on the Falcon. Kylo orders his troops to let them go.
Of all the trailer and teaser footage, I’m the most suspicious of the segment of Rey destroying Vader’s helmet. To me, the destruction of the Vader helmet is not something you would just casually put in the trailer. There are other oddities regarding the segment. The shot is wide-angle and slowly zooming in. Further, when you first see the scene, it’s clearly intended that we think Rey and Kylo are destroying the mask together. However, Kylo doesn’t strike the mask at all. In fact, his movements in the scene are very strange. It looks like he flinches and raises his saber, but then relaxes his body and you can see his left arm moving like he’s going to take the mask off. My guess is this is either specifically shot for the trailer or a botched take.
Act II: Confrontation
Stage 3: Progress
The team arrives on Kef Bir and find a large remnant of the Death Star partially submerged. Rey feels something in the debris calling to her. Before they can work out a way to get to the wreckage, they’re suddenly surrounded by several people on Orbaks. The tribe’s leader, a woman named Jannah, tells them they’re trespassing and has them taken to the tribe’s camp where they’re placed placed under guard. Finn feels a strange connection to Jannah and pleads their case. Jannah talks about how her tribe is made up of people who were kidnapped as children to be stormtroopers. They managed to escape and they were drawn to this place. She also recalls having a brother who was also kidnapped. Jannah strongly feels that person to be Finn.
I apologize for the lack of Finn content up to this point. He’s likely tied with Kylo as the second most important character in this story. However, his actions in this film, especially his interactions with Rey, are locked down pretty tightly. As laid out in my part of the trailer analysis, Finn likely represents Rey’s pull to the light while Kylo is the pull to the dark. Although, he’s closer than anyone to her, Rey will still start the film largely closed off to Finn. While Resistance Reborn hints at a somewhat close relationship, I suspect Rey will come to distance herself emotionally from even Finn as everyone’s expectations to be their savior weigh on her.
The tribe releases the heroes and they have a brief celebration and agree to help. Rey, however, feels the pull from the debris and grows impatient, finally sneaking away and taking one of the tribe’s watercraft to the wreckage. There, she puts her scavenging skills to good use climbing through the Death Star remains.
In the meantime, the First Order has arrived and is attacking the remaining heroes and the tribe. Finn gets on one of the Orbaks and joins the fight alongside his long lost sister.
Midpoint: Turning Point
Rey explores the wreckage and finds what has been calling to her as she reaches the throne room – a cylindrical object half buried in debris. Curious, Rey reaches out to grab it. The moment she touches it, she’s drawn into a vision like the one she experienced when she touched the Skywalker lightsaber. Through it, she sees many things, but the most important is of Luke speaking of his fears of what his daughter could become. The vision ends with Luke in a cave and a dark figure approaching him. Rey is shocked to see it’s her with a red light-staff.
If this is correct, then the midpoints of the three films form a nice bit of poetry:
- TFA: Skywalker lightsaber – the Skywalker potential and call to heroism.
- TLJ: The mirror – The choice between the light and the dark.
- TROS: Vader’s lightsaber: The Skywalker potential for the dark side.
Just as her vision ends, Kylo comes into the throne room. Rey emotionally questions Kylo about what he had told her. Kylo claims he was trying to protect her from the truth and Luke intentionally abandoned his own daughter because he came to fear her. Their parents were too weak to understand the Skywalker destiny lay with the dark side and feared their children could do what they could not.
Unable to deal with what she saw or what he’s telling her, Rey attacks him. The two duel out of the throne room and across the wreckage as Kylo tells her they can prevent Palpatine’s and finally be free to fulfill their destinies. During this, Finn and Jannah make their way to the wreckage and Finn calls for Rey, but she’s unable to hear him. Kylo defeats her, but spares her. He tells her she’ll understand the truth soon enough and to join him on Jakku. Kylo leaves, taking the First Order forces with him.
The core story of the Sequel Trilogy is the Skywalker family trying to grapple with the legacy of Vader and what that means for their place in the galaxy. Are they instruments of the dark – monsters – as Kylo believes? Or can they choose something different?
Stage 4: Complications and Higher Stakes
This is the point where information becomes a lot more scarce and I’m going to rely more on conjecture.
The heroes return to Ajan Kloss and Rey tells them about Jakku. She tells them she must go alone despite Finn and Poe’s protests. Rey seeks out Leia and they have an emotional reunion. Rey says she has to go to Jakku alone and face Kylo, but Leia insists on going with. Rey tries to argue, but Leia tells her she’s been running from it for too long. The two leave alone, shocking Finn and Poe.
Per Force Collector, it’s likely Maz comes in before this point and gives Leia the medal we saw in the teaser. How this precisely plays out I’m unsure of. It’s possible Leia actually leaves on her own after Rey.
We’ve discussed the possibility of Rey returning to Ahch-To and talking to Luke extensively on our Discord and if Rey was to do so, this seems like the only time she could plausibly do it. However, there are multiple issues with it happening here. First, it removes Rey from all of the ongoing plotlines just as everything is ramping up. Second, Luke is the one person who knows enough to be able to resolve everything for Rey and us. As this is the point in the film where the characters are starting to face their biggest challenges, that’s the exact opposite of what the story needs.
I suspect Leia has known who Rey was since The Force Awakens, but decided not to tell her after it was clear Luke did not, instead trusting in the Force.
Finn and Poe rally the Resistance to help Rey and Leia.
Plot Point 2: Major Setback
Rey and Leia find Kylo on Jakku. Leia finally confronts her son.
There’s unused footage from TFA where Han and Leia discuss Rey described in the leaked call sheet. From the call-sheet description, it sounds like it may be tense. We also know there’s footage of Leia holding the Skywalker saber. It’s possible this may be used.
It’s revealed there is an extremely strong dark side nexus on Jakku and Palpatine intends to use it to return and reconquer the galaxy before pursuing the original goal of the Sith fleet – conquering the rest of the universe.
As setup in Aftermath: Empire’s End, there’s a large concentration of dark side energy on Jakku. It’s highly probable Palpatine planned/orchestrated Rey’s abduction in an attempt to return fifteen years prior. However, the attempt failed and left Rey traumatized and stranded on Jakku. Everyone likely thought she was dead.
Throughout the movie, Kylo and the Emperor are likely to attempt to convince Rey the Skywalkers have always been creatures of the dark side (recall Han’s line that there was too much Vader in Ben from TFA). In fact, the Emperor’s much earlier attempt with Rey likely failed precisely because her (and the Skywalkers) nature isn’t fundamentally dark. Instead, the Emperor realized a Skywalker would need to choose the dark side for his plan to work.
I’ve long speculated what kept the spark of light alive in Vader was actually the existence of Luke and Leia. So long as they lived, their latent connection to their father kept the spark of light alive. Furthering that, Palpatine may actually be talking to Rey and Leia with the line “You’re coming together will be your undoing”. By killing two of the three surviving Skywalkers, the spark of light within Kylo would be extinguished forever. Though, once Leia is gone, he’d probably enjoy pitting the two cousins against each other leaving him the survivor.
Unfortunately Leia likely dies at this point in the movie, although it’s unlikely Kylo kills her. It is possible Leia actually wields the Skywalker lightsaber here, as there’s footage from TFA of her holding it. Leia taking up the lightsaber would parallel Luke in TLJ and Rey in TFA and symbolize her accepting the Skywalker heritage she’s rejected for so long.
Just as the Resistance attacks the lone Star Destroyer, a storm begins and the rest of the fleet emerges from the sands of Jakku. The blockade runner Finn, Jannah and much of the rest of the Resistance is on is hit and crash lands on one of the destroyers. The destroyers are uncrewed, but the First Order immediately begins landing crews to take control of the vessels. With the transports the only way off, Finn, Jannah and her tribe lead a charge to capture one. While they successfully seize one of the transports, Finn either runs into trouble or intentionally leaves on his own to find Rey.
Rey faces her own own inner darkness in the form of her dark doppelganger we glimpsed earlier.
It’s possible Kylo will face a light side version of himself similar to what Rey faces.
Act 3: Resolution
Stage 5: Final Push
Poe, Lando and Chewie carry the message of what is happening on Jakku throughout the galaxy. Inspired, people crewing ships of every type answer Poe’s call and set out.
In an earlier post I suggested Finn might be responsible for inspiring the galaxy. However, I think his arc is destined to end alongside Rey and Kylo’s. Poe inspiring the galaxy also works better with his line about being the spark to light the fire that burns the First Order down.
Rey is on the verge of giving into Palpatine and Kylo’s goading her to give into the dark side, as she was always meant to do when Finn arrives. Finn manages to remind Rey of who she is and possibly forms a connection with her.
One thing I’m sure of is Finn will be involved in the final confrontation and will likely come to Rey’s aid at a crucial moment. There are some hints towards Finn being Force sensitive and forming a connection to balance out Kylo’s pull to the dark side (something Leia perhaps did before her death) seems like a logical story direction.
Kylo uses Rey and Finn’s distraction and destroys Palpatine. However, Kylo reveals he wanted to destroy Palpatine so he could be the sole master of the dark side and the Sith fleet.
The fandom has put out libraries worth of text on whether Kylo will or should be redeemed. At this juncture, most are convinced he will be and there are indeed good arguments to be made in favor of redemption being the plan. However, I think they will ultimately leave him choosing the dark to contrast with Rey’s choice of the light. The Skywalkers are not fundamentally dark, but neither are they fundamentally light. What’s important is they can choose either one. In this case, the movie will end with the Skywalkers ‘rising’ above the past. Rey will have transcended the mistakes of the Jedi and her father, while Kylo will secede Palpatine and the Sith as the champion of the dark side.
Kylo taunts Rey and lets it slip he was directly responsible for her abandonment. This revelation pushes Rey over the edge and she viciously assaults Kylo.
As discussed here.
Rey and Kylo fight as the dark side nexus grows in strength. Finn manages to get Rey to shift her attention towards the nexus and disengage from Kylo. Rey releases her fear and anger which allows Luke and Anakin to finally appear. With their help, Rey manages to reverse the nexus and cleanse it.
How’s that for an out there prediction? One of the unused ideas from Return of the Jedi’s first draft had Yoda telling Luke his anger was preventing Obi-Wan from manifesting and he’d slip into the afterlife. It’s not unlikely the idea will be brought back to explain why Luke has not appeared to Rey before now.
Stage 6: Aftermath
Defeated, Kylo Ren slips away.
Most readers will find this part understandably controversial and I’ve had many a heated discussion with others on the Shadow Council. It may well be they decide to go for another conclusive ending like that of Return of the Jedi. Perhaps it will end with Kylo Ren either dead or returned to the light and committed to atoning for the rest of his life. Yet I can think of no better way to end it based on the story they’ve told and the themes invoked than Rey the leader of the light and Kylo the leader of the dark side.
A key point of the Sequel Trilogy is evil isn’t something that can be defeated for all time. Evil comes from ourselves and to take away our capacity for evil is to abrogate free will itself. Thus, the fight against our own selfishness is an eternal struggle and it is only when good people do nothing that evil can win. So too in Star Wars, the Sith are but one manifestation of the dark side and it will always return in another guise.
Rey has a reunion with Luke and finally admits her feelings for Finn.
Perhaps the most fitting place to end the film would be at the Lars’ homestead on Tatooine. It’s possible JJ will show all of the Skywalker ghosts together, although this doesn’t really sound mind blowing in the way the ending has been described. All of the Force ghosts together would just be a slightly more crowded Return of the Jedi ending. Personally, this would actually be a bit depressing as, aside from Qui Gon, the new ghosts would just be Luke and, maybe, Leia.
To be honest, I’m not sure I want to even try to predict the ending. Just make it fantastic JJ!