‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’: What the Movie’s Ending Really Means

The ending is always the most important part of any story. No matter how compelling the tale has been up to that point, a bad ending could taint everything that has come before. So we don’t envy what director J.J. Abrams had to face on Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

Sure, Abrams had kickstarted the sequel trilogy with 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens. But after Colin Trevorrow (Jurassic World) left the third film, Lucasfilm recruited Abrams to end what he began. But does The Rise of Skywalker deliver an ending befitting the saga’s history?

[Spoiler alert: This article contains MAJOR spoilers for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Read at your own risk.]

Fans at the 'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker' European premiere
Fans at the ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ European premiere | Keith Mayhew / Echoes Wire / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

What ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ needed to do

Fans knew even before the film’s release Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker wouldn’t answer every single question they had. After all, Disney and Lucasfilm are naturally going to continue the saga in other media. Yet, the film still had more masters to serve than a Jedi padawan.

Over the course of the sequel trilogy, audiences have fallen in love with characters like Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), and Poe (Oscar Isaac). The Rise of Skywalker needed to provide a sense of closure for this new trio, who is unlikely to reappear anytime soon.

Likewise, Abrams’ film needed to unite all three Star Wars trilogies, bringing the ongoing family drama of the Skywalkers to a close. That means audiences would see the last of the late Carrie Fisher’s Leia Organa and Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren.

Abrams and co-writer Chris Terrio’s solution largely rested on the cloaked shoulders of Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid). But to bid a final farewell to the Skywalkers, the pair had something more intimate in mind.

Where Rey and Kylo Ren end up

The big climax of The Rise of Skywalker hinges on a final showdown between Rey and Palpatine, who we learn is her grandfather. With the strength of the Jedi behind her, she sacrifices herself to vanquish the Sith Lord once and for all. The redeemed Kylo Ren aka Ben Solo then emerges, trading his life for Rey’s. As he becomes one with the Force, Leia finally does as well.

After Rey reunites with her friends to celebrate their victory, however, she makes a trip to Tatooine, former home of both Anakin and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). At the Lars homestead, Rey buries Luke and Leia’s lightsabers, a symbolic action likely meant to set the past aside.

Igniting her new yellow-hued lightsaber, Rey meets an old woman surprised to see someone at the long-deserted residence. The woman asks Rey her name. At first, Rey — hesitant to embrace her Palpatine family — only offers her first name.

But a vision of Luke and Leia — both of whom trained her in the Force — smiles at Rey encouragingly. She introduces herself as Rey Skywalker and takes in one of Tatooine’s signature binary sunsets. BB-8 at her side, Rey turns to face the sight and whatever lay ahead. The music swells and credits begin to roll.

The film’s co-writer shares what the ending means

Some audiences are still unsure what to take away from The Rise of Skywalker‘s ending. Why does Rey take on the Skywalker family name? And doesn’t this action seemingly undermine the film’s status as the final entry in the Skywalker saga?

Terrio recently chatted with Awards Daily about why The Rise of Skywalker concludes this way. Here’s what he had to say about how Rey’s — excuse us, Rey Skywalker‘s — story plays out.

For us, the resonance of the name Skywalker was just purely a thematic one. It wasn’t an attempt to brand something in the universe. J.J. and I had a post-it that read, “You don’t discover who you are. You create it.” So much of this film is about discovery and creating who you are through that discovery. It’s purely for thematic reasons that we included who is a Skywalker at the end of the film.

Some fans have argued Rey’s story would have been more powerful if her parents really were unconnected from the rest of the saga. Still, her decision to reject the Palpatine legacy and choose to become a Skywalker speaks to the character’s strength. It’s just a shame she didn’t instead opt to forge her own identity independent of any galactic lineage.