The Rise of Skywalker is finally here, wrapping up not only this trilogy, but a 42 years long saga. While I did find it a step down from both The Last Jedi and The Force Awakens on pure filmmaking level, I also think Return of the Jedi is a step down from the previous two (in my opinion) perfect installments in the original trilogy….and I still love it. Just like ROTJ, Episode IX has a ton of moments and characters that I fell for hard. Here are but twelve of them.
Beware major spoilers for The Rise of Skywalker below.
12. Lightspeed Skipping
It’s only a brief sequence towards the start of the film, but TROS introduces a new concept into the canon: lightspeed skipping. Basically, it’s hopping around the galaxy without direct coordinates. It’s what Han Solo warned Luke never to do in ANH, when he mentions the dangers of hyperspace travel without a predetermined coordinates. When Poe does it with the Millennium Falcon towards the beginning of the film, it creates a cool sequence where it feels like the Falcon is teleporting from planet to planet escaping First Order Star Destroyers. Let’s hope Star Tours at the Disney theme parks introduces lightspeed skipping one day!
11. Rey, Finn and Poe Become a Trio
It’s a pretty big flaw of TFA in my opinion that we never see Rey, Finn, and Poe together on a mission. Well, better late than never. This trilogy’s main trio finally get to go on a adventure together in this movie, and I instantly wanted at least one more film of these three characters together. Because, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac have great chemistry as a thruple (so to speak). When the three of them embrace after the final battle, it really felt like friends who love each other and have been through hell together. The fact that this was the last scene they shot together for the film probably is what made it feel so real, but it also totally worked.
Some people might grumble at the fact that Ian McDiarmid was brought back as Emperor Palpatine, but I for one loved it. The saga began with him, it should end with him. The fact that he was a sort of zombie-fied version of himself, held together with tubes and wires in a visual nod to the works of Alien designer HR Giger, was the icing on the cake for me. And hands down, Emperor Palpatine is maybe the best mustache twirling, pure evil bad guy in film history. And McDiarmid brought it one last time.
9. Zorii Bliss
TROS introduced a few new characters. The coolest by far was Zorii Bliss, played by Keri Russell. A bounty hunter and old flame of Poe’s, like any good badass mercenary in the Star Wars universe, she has a cool helmet that she never takes off. In her brief moments on screen, she becomes more interesting and well rounded than Boba Fett ever was in the original films. Sorry, but it’s true. I liked her so much I hope she gets a Disney+ show. Someone call Keri Russell’s agent please, and make that happen.
8. General Leia’s Final Act
We knew that TROS had one big problem going into production, and that was the death of Carrie Fisher. But through some miracle, all of Fisher’s scenes shot for The Force Awakens seamlessly worked in this movie. And using one of those moments to show us how Leia used Force abilities to project across the cosmos to try to connect to her son one last time, even knowing it would kill her, ended up being the perfect way for the Princess/General to go out. Not shooting a blaster, but by trying to help her son. When Chewie howled in pain at the passing of his dear friend, he was all of us in that moment.
7. Father and Son
It’s only for a brief moment, but the scene where Harrison Ford appears one more time as Han Solo had me holding back all the tears. Han appearing to his son Ben at his moment of choice to leave the Dark Side behind and join the Light is now one of my favorite moments in the saga. Star Wars is always about repetition and rhyming, and the way the dialogue mimics Han’s last words before his death at Kylo’s hands in TFA was perfect for me. Also, I choose to believe that as part of her final act, it was Leia who made that happen, and brought this memory from her son’s mind into reality.
6. Leia the Jedi
Lucasfilm / Dark Horse Comics
It’s a scene that lasts barely a minute, but the moment in which we see Luke train his sister Leia in flashback finally gives us something that fans of our favorite Princess have wanted to see since 1983 – Leia the Jedi. It also explains why General Leia wasn’t a Jedi in TFA. It was by choice, as she actually had completed her training. The fact that Rey got to continue her legacy by using her lightsaber one more time was also poetic and beautiful.
5. Luke Raises the X-Wing
In a movie filled with callbacks to the previous eight chapters, this was another one which brought tears to my eyes. After a defeated Rey retreats to Ach-To to live the hermit life, it is the Force Ghost of Luke who convinces Rey not to repeat his past mistakes. When the now-stranded Rey needs a ride off planet, Luke raises his old X-Wing out of the water. The task that his young self couldn’t do when training with Master Yoda, the now-Master Jedi can do with ease. John Williams using his same piece of music from the scene in ESB just makes it that much more perfect and emotional.
4. The Voices of Jedi Past
It’s one of the key moments in the film, when Rey lies defeated at the hands of Emperor Palpatine. She finally connects with the living Force, and hears the voice of Jedi past. They give her the final push she needs to finish the fight, and represent all the Jedi who came before. In this scene, we hear not only the obvious choices from the films, like Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Yoda, but also Jedi from the animated shows like Clone Wars and Rebels. Which means that yes, Ahsoka and Kanan are finally part of the live-action films. It not only validates the animated content as “official” Star Wars canon, but it shows how every single Jedi that’s come before matters to the saga.
3. Chewie gets a medal. Finally.
It’s been a fan gripe for 42 years. “Why didn’t Chewie get a medal??” This of course referring to his final scene in A New Hope. Well, after so many movies since then and no reward for his many acts of bravery, Chewbacca finally got the medal he deserved. And I’m not gonna lie….I get a little choked up. Finally, they let the Wookie win.
2. The Cavalry Arrives
It’s a Star Wars tradition going back to 1977. When all hope is lost, the cavalry arrives just in the nick of time. Lando arriving on the Millennium Falcon with every friendly ship that’s willing to lend a hand to take down the Final Order is like the end of ANH, but on steroids. The Skywalker saga ending on one big massive battle between the Rebels and the Empire (or whatever you want to call them now) with John Williams’ classic score kicking in gave me all the feels. And the fact that Wedge Antilles showed up for one more battle? Perfection.
1. Rey and Ben
It’s the crux of this entire trilogy – the connection between Rey and Kylo Ren. Every moment between them onscreen was electric, whether they were just force connecting, or kicking each other’s asses with their lightsabers. But it was the way their story concluded that pleased me most. Their final ending might not work for everyone, but I thought TROS handled it beautifully.
Ben Solo is a tragic figure, so his coming to a tragic end was a foregone conclusion. But I love that Rey’s belief in him is what helped push him to the light once again. Like his grandfather, his one last act of goodness can’t quite make up for everything he’s done, but by restoring Rey he has shown that he can be selfless. And in doing so, he gave the galaxy the hero it needs to restore the Jedi. He couldn’t be that hero, but she can.
Featured Image: Lucasfilm