Who are Rey's parents? What happens to Princess Leia? Will there be a sequel? All your 'Rise of Skywalker' burning questions answered (spoilers)

Ethan Alter and Marcus Errico
Daisy Ridley as Rey in 'The Rise of Skywalker' (Photo: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / © Lucasfilm / courtesy Everett Collection)
Daisy Ridley as Rey in The Rise of Skywalker. (Photo: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / © Lucasfilm / courtesy Everett Collection)

Warning: This post spoils the heck out of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

The Skywalker Saga officially ends with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, but expect conversations about the final installment to continue for decades to come. Written and directed by J.J. Abrams, the ninth episode in the series that George Lucas began in 1977 tries to write an ending that ties the three sets of trilogies together. Even as Abrams wraps up a number of lingering questions, it’s likely that audiences will have many more. Yahoo Entertainment puts its Holocron-deciphering abilities to work, answering some of the queries you might have coming out of The Rise of Skywalker.

So who are Rey’s parents anyway?

Well, for starters, they’re not “no one.” Turns out that Kylo pulled a Ben Kenobi and fibbed a little when he told Rey they were nondescript junk traders in The Last Jedi. Maybe that’s who they were pretending to be, but in actual fact, Rey’s dad was none other than Palpatine’s son (played by Billy Howle), whose conception, adolescence and adulthood remain a mystery... for now. (Although those with an in-depth knowledge of the since-discontinued Expanded Universe will remember that the 1992 novel The Glove of Darth Vader introduced a character claiming to be Palpatine’s offspring.)

Ian McDiarmid as Emperor Palpatine (credit: 20th Century Fox)
Ian McDiarmid as Emperor Palpatine in Return of the Jedi. (Photo: Lucasfilm)

Even less is known about his poor wife (Killing Eve star Jodie Comer, in one of the film’s many cameos), who dies alongside him after they successfully stash Palpatine’s granddaughter, Rey, on Jakku, far away from her grandfather’s undead eyes. The implications of this reveal are as confounding as they are disturbing. Who gave birth to Palpatine’s kid? What was his childhood like? Assuming he was born before Return of the Jedi, how old does this make Rey, anyhow? Way to exchange your mystery box for a can of worms, J.J.

Is Snoke also a secret Palptaine love child?

Nope, the ex-Supremer Leader is just your garden variety grown-in-a-vat clone. Palpatine only put him on the throne in the first place in order to continue messing with Ben Solo’s head, tempting him ever further towards his Kylo Ren identity. When Kylo first visits Palpatine’s lair, he passes by a container filled with the carcasses of Snoke’s “brothers.”

'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker' finally gives us an explanation for Snoke and it's a big letdown
Supreme Leader Snoke as he appears in The Last Jedi. (Photo: Lucasfilm)

What’s with the Sith homeworld and, more importantly, how do you spell it?

Since his fall at the end of Return of the Jedi, Palpatine has been hiding out on Exegol. Follow the bouncing ball: “E-X-E-G-O-L.” This shadowy planet is the home base for the Sith, replacing their ancient world Moraband, or Korriban as it was known in the long-lost legends. It’s here that he’s been biding his time, planning for the exact moment when he can transform the First Order into the Final Order, unleashing a fleet of planet-destroying starships on the unsuspecting galaxy. It’s also the place where he expects to die and be reborn, after a fashion, when his granddaughter strikes him down and his spirit inhabits her body as Rey takes her place on the throne.

Palpatine's empty throne is briefly glimpsed in the final 'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker' trailer. (Photo: Lucasfilm)
Palpatine's empty throne in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. (Photo: Lucasfilm)

Does Princess Leia play a major role given Carrie Fisher’s death?

As we’ve reported, Abrams crafted Fisher’s role from unused footage from The Force Awakens and reverse-engineered the story to include a surprisingly substantial role for Leia (albeit different from the one initially envisioned when the new trilogy began). Although it is a bit jarring to see Fisher onscreen knowing that she died in 2016, Leia’s presence looms large over the early portion of the film as she rallies the surviving Resistance fighters to thwart Palpatine’s plan of a Sith resurgence. She is seamlessly integrated into these scenes. Later, Leia uses her Force powers to reach out to her son, Ben/Kylo Ren, using her last bit of strength to convince him to come back from the Dark Side before she passes. We get two other glimpses of Leia in the film: a de-aged version of Leia training to be a Jedi with a young Luke in what appears to be the forest moon of Endor after the events of Return of the Jedi; her lightsaber is gifted to Rey by Maz Kanata. And then at the end, she and Luke appear to Rey as Force ghosts.

Watch J.J. Abrams talk about crafting Carrie Fisher’s final turn as Princess Leia:

Who gets the last “I have a bad feeling about this”?

That honor goes to the cape-wearing Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams), making his grand return to the Skywalker Saga for the first time since 1983’s Return of the Jedi. While on the desert world of Pasaana seeking intel on the directions to Exegol, Rey, Finn and Poe cross paths with Han’s longtime frenemy, who utters those seven words when First Order stormtroopers arrive planetside. Lando doesn’t continue with the trio on their journey, but he makes sure to arrive at the Resistance basecamp in time to see Leia give up the ghost. And just as in Jedi, he’s piloting the Falcon during the final dogfight. Nice to see that we grow older, but the smooth-talking, high-flying Lando always stays the same.

Billy Dee Williams puts the cape on for a final time as Lando Calrissian. (Photo: Lucasfilm)
Billy Dee Williams puts the cape on for a final time as Lando Calrissian. (Photo: Lucasfilm)

Who was that semi-masked man? And what other celebrities made cameos?

While a handful of famous folks cameo in Rise of Skywalker, Abrams’s greatest coup can be spotted early in the film, as Rey, Finn and Poe explore the planet Kijimi. As they enter a cantina, the camera lingers on the barkeep — an older gentleman with a covering over the left side of his head. You might not recognize his face, but you’ve surely heard his music. That fellow, listed in the credits as Oma Tres, is played by the peerless John Williams, the composer responsible for all the theme music in the Skywalker Saga, whose 51 Oscar nominations (he’s won five times, including for the original Star Wars: A New Hope score) rank second all time behind Walt Disney and whose Rise of Skywalker score was just shortlisted for this year’s Academy Awards.

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 16: Composer John Williams speaks onstage during the World Premiere of "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker", the highly anticipated conclusion of the Skywalker saga on December 16, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney)
John Williams onstage at the world premiere of The Rise of Skywalker. (Photo: Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney)

Other celebrities who appear in the background include Lin-Manuel Miranda (who contributed two songs to The Force Awakens) among the riders on Endor accompanying Jannah and Ed Sheeran, who is hidden in Stormtrooper armor. Both of their cameos were tipped in the behind-the-scenes video released earlier this year (they can be seen around the 55-second mark below).

Among the other celebrity Stormtroopers: Radiohead’s Nigel Godrich, Dhani Harrison (the musician son of George), and Sleight director J.D. Dillard. Meanwhile, as noted above, Killing Eve assassin Comer plays Rey’s mom and Chris Terrio, who co-wrote the screenplay with Abrams, voices Colonel Aftab Ackbar, the son of the fish-eyed Mon Calamari hero Admiral Ackbar, who perished in The Last Jedi. Finally, Abrams himself is credited as the voice of the film’s cute new droid, D-O.

They got Harrison Ford to come back again?

Just when you thought he was out, they pull him back in! Once upon a time, Ford was a bit of a curmudgeon about his Star Wars alter ego, but that tune changed after The Force Awakens, when he found himself “delighted” to be back in the fold. So delighted that he even mourned Han Solo after his son killed him at the end of that movie. Considering that, it only makes sense that he agreed to come back for a victory lap, appearing as a vision after Kylo Ren is mortally wounded by Rey, and rises again as Ben Solo. “Come home,” he tells his tormented offspring, who proceeds to throw away Kylo’s signature crossguard lightsaber and embrace his Skywalker lineage.

Why did everyone applaud that older gentleman during that final space battle?

They were cheering the return of one of Star Wars’s greatest heroes and fan favorites, Wedge Antilles. Fans of the original trilogy will recall that Wedge (Denis Lawson) was Luke’s wingman during the destruction of the first Death Star in A New Hope and served in Luke’s Rogue Squadron during the Battle of Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back and the attack on the second Death Star in Return of the Jedi.

Denis Lawson as Wedge Antilles in 1977's 'A New Hope.' (Photo: Lucasfilm)
Denis Lawson as Wedge Antilles in 1977's A New Hope. (Photo: Lucasfilm)

Lawson, who also happens to be the uncle of fellow Star Wars star Ewan McGregor, reportedly declined an offer to appear in The Force Awakens but agreed to return for a cameo in the climactic battle in Rise of Skywalker. He’s the distinguished grey-haired pilot (he’s not wearing his usual Rebel helmet) who gets a close-up when Lando arrives with the reinforcements.

Younger fans, meanwhile, might have been cheering at the sight of The Ghost, the ship that plays a major role in the animated series Star Wars Rebels, which appears in a couple of shots in the final confrontation.

The Ghost backs up the Millennium Falcon in the climactic space battle in 'The Rise of Skywalker. (Photo: Lucasfilm)
The Ghost backs up the Millennium Falcon in the climactic space battle in The Rise of Skywalker. (Photo: Lucasfilm)

Does #Reylo happen?

Star Wars shippers, rejoice! While Finn and Poe were never meant to be, Abrams does deliver on the much-hinted budding romance between frenemies Rey and Kylo Ren. The two share several smoldering moments, including an impassioned kiss at the film’s climax, as he uses his life force to save her.

Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Adam Driver (Kylo Ren) face off in 'The Rise of Skywalker.' (Photo: Lucasfilm)
Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Adam Driver (Kylo Ren) face off in The Rise of Skywalker. (Photo: Lucasfilm)

Where have we heard those voices that speak to Rey?

Just when you think that Rey is down for the count after Palpatine saps her and Ben’s dyad life force to restore his own power, the young Padawan receives some words of encouragement from some long-gone Jedi Masters. Flat on her back and gazing up into the void of space, Rey hears a medley of familiar voices telling her to rise up... voices that include none other than Anakin Skywalker himself, Hayden Christensen. Also part of that vocal mix are McGregor’s Obi-Wan Kenobi (soon to be seen again in a planned Disney+ series), Frank Oz’s Yoda, Samuel L. Jackson’s Mace Windu and, of course, Mark Hamill’s Luke and Fisher’s Leia. But there are also some voices you won’t remember from the movies: Ashley Eckstein, Olivia d’Abo, Jennifer Hale and Freddy Prinze Jr. reprise their roles as animated Jedi Masters Ahsoka Tano, Luminara Unduli, Aayla Secura and Kanan Jarrus, respectively. Along with Darth Maul’s surprise return in last year’s Solo: A Star Wars Story, Disney is making a concentrated effort to bring animated and live-action canon together.

Which Ewok is that anyway?

Star Wars is officially a family affair in Warwick Davis’s household. The British actor famously made his feature film debut at the young age of 11 in Return of the Jedi, playing cuddly forest critter, Wicket W. Warrick. While soundly disliked by critics, audiences mostly loved the Ewoks, and Wicket in particular. Davis reprised the role in two made-for-TV movies, and appears in the coda for The Rise of Skywalker, watching the Final Order ships plunge out of the skies above the forest moon of Endor. Standing next to Wicket is the now-grown Ewok’s son, Pommet Warrick, played by Davis’s own child, Harrison Davis.

Wicket the Ewok (Warwick Davis) meets cute with Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) in 'Return of the Jedi.' (Photo: Lucasfilm)
Wicket the Ewok (Warwick Davis) meets cute with Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) in Return of the Jedi. (Photo: Lucasfilm)

What’s the final body count?

For a movie that teased a lot of tragic farewells — remember how everyone freaked out at the thought of losing C-3PO? — the death toll isn’t as high as it might have been, at least among the main characters. 3PO survives, as does Chewbacca, despite Rey’s best efforts to (accidentally) kill him in the first act. Lando, Finn and Poe all come through the final battle intact, and good ol’ Nien Nunb thankfully doesn’t go the way of Admiral Ackbar. Ultimately, it’s the Skywalker clan that suffers the heaviest losses, with Leia and Ben both passing on, though one of them gets to come back as a Force Ghost at least.

What did Maz Kanata give Chewbacca?

Abrams recently told Yahoo Entertainment that his biggest regret making The Force Awakens was not giving Leia and Chewbacca a moment to grieve together at the end of the film, following the death of Han Solo, her estranged husband and the Wookiee’s BFF. The filmmaker makes amends in The Rise of Skywalker, showing Chewie mourning the death of Leia and then having Maz Kanata present him something bequeathed by the late princess: the medal that he never received following the Battle of Yavin in A New Hope. The moment closes the loop on one of the biggest oversights in Star Wars history and the subject of much debate (and retconning) in the years since.

What does the ending mean?

After defeating Palpatine’s Final Order and Sith fanatics, Rey returns to Tatooine, the planet where Luke was raised, to make a pilgrimage to the moisture farm of Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru Lars, bringing the saga full circle from A New Hope. She buries the twin lightsabers of the twin Skywalker Jedis, Luke and Leia, in the sand, as the twin suns of Tatooine loom in the background. The Force ghosts of Luke and Leia, reunited in the afterlife, look on approvingly as a desert nomad calls out to Rey and asks her name. For the the first time since we’ve met her, she offers a surname. “I’m Rey... Rey Skywalker.” And with that declaration — that she is the spiritual descendant of the Skywalker family as opposed to her biological family, the Palpatines — Rey literally buries the past, ending the Skywalker Saga and the Jedi-Sith paradigm, and facing her own future as the Chosen One who brings balance to the Force. Cue the Williams’s theme.

Luke Skywalker observing the twin sunset from his family farm on Tatooine in 'A New Hope.' (Photo: Lucasfilm)
Luke Skywalker observes the twin sunset from his family farm on Tatooine in A New Hope. (Photo: Lucasfilm)

Why isn’t Ben a Force Ghost at the end?

While the Skywalker siblings look on approvingly in ghostly form at the end, but what about Ben? Some have speculated that he’s not there because that’s not the final resting place for his lightsaber, while others suggest that he hasn’t mastered the art of going ghostly yet. Our own theory is that — unlike the other Skywalkers — Ben never attained rank of Jedi Master, abandoning his training to head to the Dark Side and Snoke. As a result, that particular side benefit of mastering the Force is closed to him. If he can’t be with his mom (yet), here’s hoping he’s on a vision quest with his old man.

Is there a post-credits scene?

When the credits roll, the bathroom, you may visit.

Will there be a sequel?

You can rest assured that there will be more Star Wars: In fact, the saga of Baby Yoda is playing out right now on Disney+! But the franchise’s next big-screen incarnation, which Disney CEO Bob Iger says is at least three years off, is going to be an entirely new vision... though whose vision it is remains up in the air. Originally, Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss were going to launch the next Star Wars trilogy in 2022, but the duo parted ways with Lucafilm and Disney earlier this year. The Last Jedi writer-director Rian Johnson is also in ongoing talks with Lucasfilm about crafting a separate trilogy, while Marvel boss Kevin Feige has a separate Star Wars feature film project in development — but no production start date has been set for any of those. One way or another, Star Wars will rise again, whether a Skywalker is involved or not.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is playing in theaters now. Tickets are on sale via Fandango.

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