I really, really love watching The Rise of Skywalker. I know, I know, a lot of people give me the stink eye when I say that, but hear me out.
This morning my daughter and I were watching this, the ninth installment in the Skywalker saga (well, really 8th, but I’m about to fix that), and while explaining the way I see the movie to my daughter it occurred to me that it really would not take very much to fix the entire sequel trilogy. In fact, it could really be done with one minor edit.
When the credits rolled at the end of The Force Awakens, the only thing on most people’s minds was going back out to the ticket counter and grabbing a seat in the next available showing. I saw it 10 times in theaters and have watched it countless times on video. We had a new cast of really likable and relatable characters, and we got to see Harrison Ford doing what he does best. At the end, Luke Skywalker was standing at a gravestone when all of a sudden he is confronted by a young woman inexplicably holding a lightsaber he hadn’t seen since Darth Vader sliced his saber-holding hand off at the end of The Empire Strikes Back.
When I watch the movie, here’s what I see in this scene. Luke is standing at the grave of his wife, Mara Jade, and is shocked to see his daughter, who he thought was safely stashed away in completely anonymous fashion on a desert planet. You know, like he had been. Instead of protecting his daughter from Darth Vader, he was protecting her from Emperor Palpatine. Palpatine had succeeded in converting Luke’s father, but was unable to recruit Luke to take his father’s place. It would be natural to assume, then, that the resurrected Emperor would set his sights on the children of Luke and his sister Leia. He had already gotten to Ben Solo (Kylo Ren) and would have liked nothing better than to collect Rey, as well. Luke figured the best way to protect his daughter was to hide her from anything that could threaten her, including her own identity, but The Force works in mysterious ways.
Even though Disney decided to turn the reins of the Skywalker Sage over to a director who didn’t understand the storyline, Rey’s identity as Luke’s daughter is not lost simply because Luke pretends not to know her or because Ren tells her a lie about her parents, a lie he obviously heard from Palpatine (through Snoke).
Turning now to The Rise of Skywalker, Palpatine initially tells Ren to kill Rey. He obviously doesn’t want to risk Rey doing what her father did, denying him of his prize pupil. When Ren fails to do so and Rey appears in front of Palpatine ready to kill him, the ever-manipulative Palpatine quickly pivots to the lie he’s already told Ren. He didn’t want Rey dead, he wanted her with him so he could convert her to the Dark Side and live on through her. Of course, Rey isn’t having any of that, and channels the Jedi who went before her as she prepares to destroy Palpatine and his minions once and for all.
In the last few seconds before Rey destroys the Emperor, he even turns away from his lie, reverting to calling Rey “scavenger girl” instead of referring to her as his granddaughter. After killed Palpatine, Rey returns to the Laars homestead, buries the Skywalker lightsabers and sees Leia and Luke, her father and aunt, looking on as she tells an old woman her name is Rey Skywalker. Perfect ending!
Only one things needs to be fixed. When Rey returns to Ach-To to do as Luke did, Luke needs one more line. After he tells her he made a mistake, he admits that part of that mistake was hiding her true identity from her. He admits that she is his daughter, and apologizes for failing to let her know for so long. She forgives him, he gives her his prized Red Five, and the rest makes perfect sense.
It all lines up now. Luke’s lightsaber called to Rey and showed her visions of key moments in Luke’s life. Luke’s droid, R2-D2, suddenly woke up when Rey arrived at the Rebel base where he had been dormant since Luke’s departure. All signs point to Rey being Luke’s daughter. One quick 20-second addition to the existing conversation between Luke and Rey and suddenly everything’s fine.
Are there some other nit-picky things that could stand to be fixed? Sure. Maz could tell Chewy “Han would have wanted you to have this” as she hands him the medal at the end of Rise. It’s not clear why Ben Solo died, especially since a Disney+ series featuring the Skywalker cousins would have been bad ass. Having Bill Weasley be the traitor was kind of campy. At the end of the day, however, most of the angst aimed at The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker are 100% about Rey’s parentage.
Fix that, and you fix the sequel trilogy.