What does it mean, why are they there, and how could it be significant to the plot of The Rise of Skywalker? We have a few ideas that tie the Death Star’s appearance into the main plot of the film and the possible redemption of Kylo Ren.
The trio could be looking for proof that Vader turned good.
We know very little about Episode IX, but at the film’s panel at Star Wars Celebration last Friday, director J.J. Abrams revealed that a significant amount of time has passed since the events of The Last Jedi. We also learned that the film opens on the forest planet seen in the first official still. Abrams said the young cast will go on an adventure together. The ruins of the Death Star are clearly part of that adventure, but we don’t know why or what the purpose is just yet.
It’s hard to tell if the planet seen in that first still is a new location or one we’ve seen before. It could possibly be the forest moon of Endor, which was also lushly green. If that’s the case, perhaps the crew will go back to the moon specifically to find the ruins of the second Death Star. The image of them standing before the Death Star’s dish, which is submerged in water, could easily be on the same Ewok-dwelling moon we see in Return of the Jedi, because an aerial view shows that it contains both forests and oceans. It’s also possible they’re on one of Endor’s other nine moons (the planet itself is a gas planet, so they’re probably not there), which would also have been in the warpath of the ruined Death Star’s shards.
But again, why do they need the Death Star? If this is indeed the second version of the dome weapon, it is also where Darth Vader defeated the evil Emperor Palpatine and turned to the Light Side in his dying moments. The only person there to see it was Luke, and he’s a ghost now. But it was a vital moment, one the galaxy – outside of Leia and the Resistance – aren’t aware of. What if the team is trying to infiltrate the Death Star’s ruins so they can obtain some sort of proof that Vader veered away from the Dark Side and became Anakin again? This could be auditory or visual proof that they could air on the HoloNet, a hyperspace transmission broadcast throughout the galaxy.
Proof of Vader’s turn could lead to Kylo’s fall.
If it’s been years since the events of The Last Jedi, we can assume that Kylo is now well established as the Supreme Leader of the First Order. In canon, the galaxy still sees Vader as an evil man, and it’s likely Kylo has established his reputation as the grandson of said villain. Legacies are important to Supreme Leaders, and we already know that Kylo has a fixation with his grandfather.
But if Rey and the Resistance can somehow obtain proof that Vader turned, it could undo all of Kylo’s political propaganda. How could First Order supporters trust their fearsome leader when they know he’s the direct descendant of the man responsible for killing the Emperor? This could set the stage for an epic chase through the galaxy; Rey and friends looking for a way to broadcast vital information to the universe, and Kylo hot on their trail, desperate to maintain his image.
That proof could also lead to Kylo’s redemption and the rise of the Skywalker name.
Visual proof that Vader turned would not only reflect poorly on Kylo, but it could also serve as a tool to restore positivity to the Skywalker name. In the canon books, a controversy erupts when people find out that Leia is Darth Vader’s daughter. But what if she was able to reveal that Vader as in fact Anakin Skywalker, and that despite his fall, he ultimately chose good and sacrifice? If Kylo also makes some sort of noble sacrifice in IX, something that helped destroy the First Order and save the Resistance, it could restore faith in the Skywalker lineage.
That, alongside Luke’s heroics in The Last Jedi, could both signify the rise of esteem for the Skywalker name, and the faith of the Force along with it. Most people in the galaxy considered Luke and the Force a myth, but perhaps all of these coalescing deeds could change that attitude.
There’s more to the story than just this, of course. Palpatine has to figure into The Rise of Skywalker somehow, and there are many side adventures to be had. But it could be one part of the massive puzzle that is the Skywalker saga, which will wrap up either way on December 20, 2019.
Images: Disney, Lucasfilm