Merry Christmas! Not. No thanks to the flu I caught after my second viewing of Episode IX at the cinema which led to this post being delayed. Much of the additional info in this post is thanks to Pablo Hidalgo’s Episode IX Visual Dictionary. Anyways, SPOILERS AHEAD if you haven’t watched the film (really now?) as this is a long and rambling blog post.

A long time ago (1979-ish) in a galaxy far far away (TTDI), I read an article in Starlog magazine (if I remember correctly) that George Lucas had in place a 9-parter/3 trilogies for Star Wars. Much to my dismay, Lucas then scrapped the last three when he filmed the prequels. As we all know, the idea of a final trilogy was resurrected as soon as Lucas signed on the dotted line with Mickey, and now I get to see the final episode ever – pretty much the end of an era that lasted 40-odd years.

After what happened in Episode VIII, I actually wondered how Abrams was gonna end this saga nicely, especially when the title has the word Skywalker and that the Emperor is back in some shape or form. Not that the opening crawl said much, other than announcing that “He’s back!”. As opposed to an opening sequence that one has been used to in the other eight films, we were treated to a montage (of sorts). I wouldn’t have known that opening battle scene between Kylo Ren’s forces with Sith cult colonists was in Mustafar as I wasn’t expecting trees on that planet, despite its red tinge. After locating a pyramidal Sith artefact called a wayfinder, Kylo arrived at Exegol where Palpatine is holed up, connected to machines keeping him alive, and planning to take over the galaxy once again in the form of the Final Order. I thought this was gonna be Moraband/Korriban but it seems Exegol has been a deep Sith secret up to now.

As the story is set a few years after Episode VIII, the Resistance began to show a recuperation of its numbers, obviously more than what the Millennium Falcon could carry as seen at the end of TLJ. Currently based on the planet Ajan Kloss[1], Rey is picking up on her training by her new master. Who else but the twin sister of Luke Skywalker.

Meanwhile, Poe, Finn, Chewie and a small crew (one of which is my fav alien – Klaud the Trodatome!) went to the Sinta Glacier colony where they managed to get back news from an unknown spy in the First Order that the Emperor is now back, arriving back to base in a messed up Falcon thanks to Poe’s crazy hyperspace skipping method[2] to escape from the clutches of the First Order TIE fighters. What I would like to know are the locations of the jumps – one of them looked Cloud City-ish even, but thanks to the visual dictionary, they are the Crystal Chaos of Cardovyte, the Mirror Spires of Ivexia and the Megafauna Chasm of the Typhonic Nebula.

Thanks to the Jedi books/notes that Rey took from Ahch-To, the gang now will need to find Exegol using clues Luke had found on Pasaana, another desert planet[3]. They had a little First Order trouble on arrival at the Festival of the Ancestors, and luckily, were aided by a bowcaster-wielding hermit who happened to be… Lando Calrissian!

Lando revealed to the gang that the clue to finding one of the two remaining wayfinders to Exegol was with a Bestoonian Sith relic hunter named Ochi. On finding Ochi’s ship and a Sith artefact in the form of a dagger in an underground vexis lair (Rey healing the wounded vexis with the Force after watching Episode 7 of The Mandalorian two days before opening night – how cool is that easter egg), after being chased by stormtroopers[4] on treadspeeders through Lurch Canyon, Rey then realised something familiar with the ship. Oh, one of my fav scenes in the story is here in the vexis lair – when Rey uses her lightsaber to illuminate the darkened lair, making Poe feeling rather inadequate with his regular torch.

While investigating the Bestoonian Legacy (the name of Ochi’s ship), Chewie got caught by the First Order, no thanks to the Knights of Ren who was furtively tailing the gang. At the same time, Rey was busy facing off with Kylo in his speeding TIE whisper, following which she discovered an ability she never knew she had when trying to wrest the First Order transport ship purportedly carrying Chewie – force lightning.

The lightning destroyed the transport ship and Rey with the remaining gang then had to reluctantly leave Pasaana on the Legacy. While hiding in an asteroid field, Rey conveyed to Finn the dark visions that she had been seeing – of Kylo and her sat on the throne of the Sith. After reassuring Rey that everyone will be with her till the end, BB-8 made a discovery in the form of a new friend – a little squeaky droid named D-O. Unbeknownst to the gang, the Knights of Ren had been stealthily tailed them on the Night Buzzard[5]. Thus far, including their brief appearance on Episode VII, I don’t even know why they bothered with the KoR – they don’t speak and don’t really do much. Wait til you read Marvel’s Kylo Ren back story, they don’t do much in that comic book either.

The dagger had a Sith ur-Kittât runic inscription which Threepio could translate but not convey its meaning due to his programming of not interpreting forbidden language. The gang then made their way to Kijimi where Poe tried to seek help from his old spice smuggling crew to help bypass Threepio’s programming, following which the encountered Zorii Bliss, one of the crew who initially was very reluctant in providing any assistance. Oh, blink and you’ll miss a John Williams cameo as Oma Tres (an anagram of the obvious word maestro), as the gang made their way into the spice runner’s den. After getting Threepio’s circuits hotwired by the diminutive droidsmith Babu Frik, they now know that the wayfinder is in a particular location on a moon on the Endor system. However, the arrival of Kylo’s star destroyer, the Incinerator (don’t laugh), in Kijimi’s orbit meant Rey and her friends have to make a sharp exit, during which time Rey felt Chewie’s presence on said destroyer. Wa-heyy!

Using a stolen First Order captain’s medallion given to Poe by Zorii, who seems to also be an old flame from his smuggling days, they boarded the star destroyer to find Chewie. Loved this bit of the film as it reminded me of the Leia rescue on the Death Star in Episode IV at times. Rey battled Kylo via the Force connection, whilst Poe and Finn barely escaped with their lives on freeing Chewie. During the sabre battle, Kylo revealed to Rey that after she was sold to Unkar Plutt on Jakku, her parents were murdered by Ochi on orders from Palpatine. Realising that Kylo now knows that she is on board the Incinerator, Rey made a run for it.

Just as she got the droids to go look for the rest, Kylo’s TIE whisper arrived at the hangar after which he revealed to Rey that she is the grand daughter of Palpatine. I was wow-ed at this point – although it is known that some fans had indeed joked about this since TFA. Kylo also revealed that he and Rey form a dyad in the Force – powerful enough to defeat Palpatine who is unaware of this fact. After receiving unexpected assistance from Hux[6], the rest of the gang managed to get the Falcon back (conveniently confiscated from Pasaana by the First Order), rescue Rey from Kylo and his stormtroopers, just in time and head to Kef Bir, the ocean moon[7] of Endor. Richard E. Grant is superb as Allegiant General Pryde – “Get me the Supreme Leader – tell him we found our spy”, after he nonchalantly shoots Hux dead.

Reaching the coordinates on Kef Bir annotated on the artefact, the gang stood at the coastline of a raging sea in which a large fragment of the destroyed second Death Star is at. The artefact also had a hidden apparatus which allowed Rey to know the exact location of the hidden vault – the tower that housed the Emperor’s throne room! Ignoring warnings from Jannah, one of the Orbak riders who are apparently ex-stormtroopers who revolted against the First Order[8], Rey boarded a sea skiff (see Star Wars issue #12 -Ed.) and got onto the derelict Death Star ruin to find the vault at the side of the Emperor’s throne room. It was in this room that Rey encountered a vision of her dark self, complete with teeth!

However, Kylo was present in the throne room on Rey’s exit. What followed was a spectacular sabre battle triggered by Kylo destroying the wayfinder. During the battle, Leia distracted Kylo by calling out to him using the Force projection method, during which time Rey picked up Kylo’s sabre to fatally stab him. As Leia used her entire strength to distract Kylo (just like Luke did at the end of Episode VIII), she dies. Rey felt this too and in a moment of regret, heals Kylo’s mortal wound and escapes to Ahch-To on Kylo’s TIE whisper.

The bit that came next was pretty emo for me – Han Solo appearing before Ben, an uncredited Harrison Ford. Yes, Ben Solo – you can already tell that he has changed. And when he utters the same words he said on that bridge to his father, as well as trying to say that he loves his dad, Han gave his usual and usual “I know” response. After throwing his sabre into the raging sea, Han is no longer there. It is uncertain if this was a part of Ben’s memory of his father’s death, or is part of the Force projection that Leia used to connect to her son for the last time – from the dialogue, I think it’s more likely the former.

Poe and the rest returns to Ajan Kloss on the repaired Falcon only to be greeted with the bad news of Leia’s death. Chewie took it the hardest and I have to say that onion ninjas defo paid me a visit in this bit. I’ll say it again – so emo one lah!

Meanwhile, sensing that Kylo had betrayed him, Palpatine commands Pryde to commence an attack on a planet using one of the Final Order’s star destroyers. Kijimi was totally obliterated as a result, and the news of the planet’s total destruction reaching the Resistance initially brought a feeling of despair to the newly appointed General Poe Dameron. After a quick pep talk by Lando, Poe requested Finn to share the command of the Resistance, making Finn a general as well. Just like handing out candy, eh. But these are troubled ti… never mind.

On arrival at Ahch-To, Rey destroys the TIE in a fit of rage and just when she flings her lightsaber into the fire, Luke’s Force ghost catches it. After reassuring Rey that it doesn’t really matter if she was a Palpatine, as alluded by Leia’s willingness to continue training her. Luke hands her Leia’s saber and also recounted Leia’s future vision of her son’s death at the end of her Jedi training, and said her lightsaber will be used to complete her unfinished journey. This was one cool flashback scene – seeing “the other” Skywalker in action brandishing a lightsaber in full fight mode.

Luke tells Rey to bring both lightsabers to Exegol, and then (successfully, lol) lifts his X-wing using the Force from the depths of the coastal waters, complete with Yoda’s theme. Talk about coming full circle. Using the wayfinder (the one Kylo found on Mustafar) that is still intact in the burnt down TIE, Rey leaves for Exegol to face her destiny.

Back on Ajan Kloss, the Resistance force begins discussing plans on how to attack the fleet of star destroyers on Exegol after Artoo receives a signal from Luke’s X-wing, mapping a path for them to follow. Lando and Chewie will go to the Core systems seeking aid, and Poe gave a pep talk along the lines of “the First Order wins by making us think we’re alone” that Zorii said back on Kijimi. As compared with the 1977 Episode IV pre-battle briefing on Yavin comprising pretty much all (white as well) men, the Resistance is indeed a right motley crew – more women and other human races, and lots of (some Build-a-Bear cuddly) aliens to boot. With all hands on deck, the Resistance fighter ships make their way to Exegol. Backed by Williams’ superb March of the Resistance score.

Rey approaches Exegol and whizzes through the new Sith star destroyer fleet, landing by the large Sith citadel and finally facing the jagged stony edifice of the Sith throne surrounded by thousands Sith devotees. Palpatine still connected to machinery goads Rey to kill him, as the sacrifice would allow his spirit to enter Rey making her the new Sith empress. As Rey feigned surrender, Ben arrived on Exegol only to be stopped by his old allies, the KoR.

Rey sensed Ben’s presence and using Force connection, transfers her lightsaber to Ben, allowing him to finish off the knights. Ben enters the throne room and both of them faced off with Palpatine. But, this allowed Palpatine to realise the healing dyad both Rey and Ben have – and began to suck in both their life forces, regenerating himself as he now doesn’t need to go through the sacrifice pathway and be the one true Sith emperor himself.

Meanwhile the attacking Resistance fleet on arrival noted that the Final Order realised that their primary target was the com-scan navigation tower on the ground used to guide the Sith star destroyer fleet into orbit. One of the Y-wing pilots in the fleet is Aftab Ackbar, son of the late Admiral Gial “It’s a trap!” Ackbar. Using the Incinerator as the new navigation guide, Finn and his ground forces had to land on the Incinerator itself – not using speeders but on Orbaks. Never seen a ground attack in the sky before.

The attack was in full force but despite destroying the new com-scan nav guide, Finn noticed that the Incinerator began rebooting their systems to get the nav guide back online. Which mean he needs now to actual destroy the Incinerator itself. Just when the Resistance fighters began to give up, Lando and the cavalry arrives. And this is one massive cavalry. Mustering all their fire power, the Resistance and the cavalry began destroying the planet killing cannons on this new Sith fleet. And Wedge Antilles is back – manning one of the Falcon’s guns! W00t!

After regenerating himself using Rey and Ben’s life force, Palpatine uses Force lightning to attack the Resistance ships, just after tossing Ben into a chasm as payback for what his uncle did at the end of Episode VI. Talk about being petty. Rey began calling out to the Force and voices of past fallen Jedi began whispering to her that she now has all of the Jedi in her. I could tell who some of these voices were, but not too sure why they needed the voice of both young and old Kenobi. Oh well. Using what ever energy she had left, Rey began her move against Palpatine who now uses the lightning on her this time.

Deflecting the lightning using both lightsabers, Palpatine is then killed and the after effect included the cataclysmic obliteration of the surrounding citadel, including the thousands of Sith devotees. Thousands of voices cried out in terror, and then sile… geddit? But this final advance on Palpatine has taken a toll on Rey as she collapses to the ground.

And dies.

Only to be revived by Ben! Yay! They shared a kiss, Ben smiles.

And then, Ben dies. AISEY!!!

Rey joins the Falcon and the rest of the surviving fighter ships on Red 5 flying victoriously back to base. The film then cuts to Bespin, the Forest Moon of Endor (with a grown up Wicket and his son – played by Warwick Davis and his son Harrison) and Jakku showing the First Order ships plummeting down as a result of resistance by the general galactic populace.

Returning to Ajan Kloss, everybody was in a celebratory mood (even robots were boogieing), but the reunion of our three friends – Rey, Finn and Poe was pretty emotional.

Loved the bit when Poe was giving Zorii a sideway glance indicating if she’d like to (I guess) get back together, only to be rejected by a shaking helmeted head going no. Another cameo to spot – Lin-Manuel Miranda was on set visiting Abrams and got pulled in to appear in the scene

One point to note here is the possible relationship between Jannah and Lando, and this was alluded to by fans as early as SW Celebration Chicago where people asked if she was his daughter. As Jannah confessed to Lando that she had no family, I was so hoping that the scene holds a clue that they are related when Lando replies “Let’s find out”, as Lando had a sad back story too, one regarding his infant daughter being taken by the First Order some time after Episode VI. Jannah, ex-stormtrooper – potential side story to be told?

The finale was pretty unexpected for me. Rey flew to Tatooine (utini!) on the Falcon landing by the now derelict Lars homestead where Luke grew up. Seeing Rey looking forlornly at the now empty dining room was quite melancholic. Rey then went out of the homestead and buries both Luke and Leia’s lightsabers deep in the sand, and revealed her own lightsaber which looks like she fabricated using material of her staff – glowing with a gold light[9]. When asked by a passing traveler who her name was, Rey turned to see the smiling faces of the Force ghosts of the Skywalker twins, answering “Rey Skywalker” and proceeds to pose together with BB-8, looking to the twin suns[10] on the horizon, almost anime style.

I only saw this twice in the cinema, thanks to the aforementioned flu I had. In that time, I have to admit I liked the film but there were just a few bits here and there that could have been better. I will concede that answering all the unanswered questions from episodes VII and VIII in this film is impossible – and even if Abrams and Terrio can tie in every single answer with the story’s plot, this film will be too contrived and probably be ten hours long. Although I had hoped Abrams would do a Hobbit for this one – stretching Episode IX to at least a two parter. Writing, or rambling on this post, made me see the film on repeat, fast forwarding and rewinding the tape (as it were) a few times – a process which made me like the film so much more. This is Star Wars – the first story to introduce the characters, the second to show the characters with more depth and detail, and capping off the arc with a third story showing how it ends[11].

Anyone wants questions answering? Buy the book.

[1]One thing this film does is annoyingly not letting me know locations of things. Thanks for helping clear this up with your book, Pablo!
[2]I actually wondered if the hyperspace tracking abilities are still there as the TIEs seem to keep up. Interesting fact: this mod on the Falcon was done by Rose Tico!
[3]Tatooine, Jedha and Jakku. Now we’ve got another one!
[4]The “They fly now?!” bit from the trailer.
[5]Legacy. Buzzard. They just don’t tell you.
[6]It was he who leaked the info about the Emperor to the Resistance. Just because he hates Kylo’s guts.
[7]Ewoks are on the Forest moon.
[8]Just like Finn.
[9]Is Rey identifying herself as a Jedi sentinel? Not that I know much about this game-related lore but check this out. However, the expanded novelisation describes the colour as gold.
[10]The twin suns are called G1 and G2 in the Star Wars Storybook my late mom bought for me when I was 8.
[11]First sad, second and third happy. Trilogy endings, I mean.