Ending Explained is a recurring series in which we explore the finales, secrets, and themes of interesting movies and shows, both new and old. In this entry, we dive into the ending of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
We end where we began. Almost. Nevermind A New Hope‘s title crawl or the opening Blockade Runner chase. Our interest, and J.J. Abrams‘ interest, forever rests on a particular, inescapable Outer Rim planet.
The final scene of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker sees the scavenger girl from Jakku leave her triumph over the Sith on Exogol, as well as the resulting galactic celebrations, for an abandoned moisture farm on Tatooine. With a pair of twin suns setting behind her, she stares down into the dilapidated homestead. Many years and multiple lifetimes of adventure have passed since the family operated the machinery and scrounged for scraps of survival.
Rey (Daisy Ridley) nabs a sheet of metal, slides down a collapsed dune of sand, and pokes around. She’s soaking up the history. Imagining the films we’ve all seen, tasting the blue milk that will never be poured again. The orphan who fled from this place wanted what she wanted, and got what she got. Excitement, terror, faith, purpose.
Jumping back to the start of Episode IX, when Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) chased his way into the heart of a storm and found puppet master Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) pulling the strings of the First Order from a Toy Story claw (“Oooooooooooooooh!”), we return to the question burning through the heart of the trilogy’s narrative. “Who is she?” cries Ren. The Emperor smiles, and the relish in which he spreads the grin should be warning enough for how wretched the question truly is.
Rian Johnson answered it already in The Last Jedi. He snatched Abrams’ mystery box and shattered it upon the ground. Rey is no one. Rey is everyone. Your parents do not matter. You are the hero of your story. You control your destiny. Forget your history. Live in the present. Be who you are, or strive to be. The now is what matters.
Abrams says “Nah” to that. Like Kylo Ren piecing his precious “fra-gee-lay” helmet back together, the director reassembles his mystery box only so he can open it on his terms. Rey is not the daughter of nobody junkers. She’s a destined creature of Sith royal blood, a grand-daughter of Palpatine, stained with generational sin. She’s risen from shadow and prophecized to reign in shadow.
As Kylo Ren has spent three films struggling with fear and hatred born a familial connection, so too must Rey challenge a family tree watered in blood. “Who is she?” The answer is the same as it was in The Last Jedi. She’s Rey. She’s not Rey Palpatine. She rejects the notion and chooses to fill her being with the light side of the Force.
The Emperor can have an army of hate backing him, and she can have an army of love backing her. Faith vs. Faith. Love wins. His vile is bounced back in his face as it was once before in Revenge of the Sith, but this time his makeover is a full-on Raiders of the Lost Ark face-melting. Papa is spurned by her youthful, bright fire. She decides who and what she stands for. Nature matters not. Star Wars is all nurture, baby. Screw your destiny and your balance to the Force.
Bloodlines, bloodlines, bloodlines. Johnson tried to get us away from them, and Abrams brought us back to them. It’s okay. With Rey’s family tree firmly plotted and navigated, satiating fanboys everywhere, we can finally move away from the Skywalker name. Uh…
Back to that final scene and the damn title of the movie. Rey places the twin lightsabers of Luke and Leia in a brown wrapping and seals them tightly. Using the Force, she pushes them far into the dirt of Tatooine, burying them far away from craven eyes and laying them to rest eternally. The Skywalkers good and buried. We’re done with you.
Rey stands and lifts a familiar hilt into frame. She turns a wheel on her staff with the flick of her thumb, and a beam of yellow ignites skyward. A wandering Tatooine local sees her from some distance. “Who are you?” the woman asks. The Force spirits of Luke and Leia observe in the distance. “Rey Skywalker,” the Jedi answers.
We should all be so bold. As Kylo Ren asked of her in The Last Jedi, Rey has finally killed the past. She liquified his haggard face-off, dammit. Standing in the home of the boy who saught heroism, discovered a similar taint to his blood, and redeemed it as his act of revenge, Rey takes her first steps from a similar journey and into a greater unknown.
Rey will not be told who she is by anyone. She names herself, and she picks the name of a family who suffered greatly but prevailed through their desire to be better than what they were. The Skywalkers failed. Many times. They never surrendered. Rey chooses to follow in their name and in their good faith. Amen.