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Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker ending explained: your biggest questions answered

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker ending explained
(Image credit: LucasFilm)

The Skywalker saga has come to an end. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker marks the final instalment in the trilogy of trilogies, completing a story set in motion over 40 years ago by George Lucas. While there was plenty of resolution, Episode 9 – directed by J.J. Abrams – also left many things open-ended, giving room for much interpretation. Below, the GamesRadar+ team dive into what the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker ending meant, and answer a couple of questions you may still have form the movie. But first...

SPOILER WARNING! Do not read on unless you have seen Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – we are going into major spoiler territory.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker ending explained

(Image credit: Disney)

Still here? Then you have witnessed the end of the Sith, and the rise of a new Skywalker – one who chooses to be a Skywalker. 

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker concludes with Rey – after defeated her grandfather, Emperor Palpatine – heading to Luke Skywalker’s home on Tatooine. There, she takes out two lightsabers belonging to Luke and Leia and places them in the sand. Using the Force, she pushes them down into the ground, acting as an almost spiritual burial for the two Jedi Knights.

Rey then turns on a new lightsaber, one that looks like a mix between her own and Kylo Ren’s, and a yellow beam comes out (more on that later). She then bumps into a lady (no relation to anyone else in the movie) who asks: “What’s your name?” Rey responds, “Rey,” to which the woman asks, in a callback to the same question asked earlier in the movie: “Rey who?” 

Rey then looks to the horizon. There, Luke and Leia stand as Force ghosts. They smile as the two suns set behind them. Rey finally knows the answer: “Skywalker.” This is the family she has chosen, rather than the blood-line she shares. As prophesied, a Skywalker has brought balance to the Force, and all is finally – at least for now – well.

That’s about the gist of the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker ending. However, chances are you’re reading this piece because you still have a heap of questions remaining about Episode 9. Well, we’re here to help. Below, find answers to a bunch of things, including how the Emperor returned, what that yellow lightsaber means, and a whole lot more.

Who were Rey’s parents?

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker ending explained

(Image credit: LucasFilm)

Who are Rey’s parents? Ever since we began the sequel trilogy, with Rey in the dusty dunes of Jakku, the debate around Rey’s parentage has refused to die down. After all, if you’re a Force user in the Star Wars universe, there’s a pretty good chance you’re related to a famous Sith or a Jedi.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi gave us one answer – Rey's parents were “nobody.” Rise of Skywalker peels back the layers further, revealing that they chose to be nobody because Rey’s parents (and Rey) were being hunted down by the Emperor and the First Order – all because of their lineage. 

Palpatine is the father of Rey’s father, making the Emperor her grandfather. The real question is: who did the Emporer have a child with? Rey's grandmother is never revealed. Was she therefore born of the Force through Palpatine? We do not know, but Rey's parents weren't exactly no-one: one was a Palpatine. 

Read more: Why Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker suffers for lingering on who Rey's parents are

Why is Rey a Skywalker?

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker ending explained

(Image credit: Disney/Lucasfilm)

At Luke’s farmstead on Rey tells the woman that she is, “Rey Skywalker.” Yet, we just learned that Rey's actually a Palpatine. 

In terms of ancestry, Rey certainly isn’t a Skywalker. However, by calling herself a Skywalker, she rejects the Palpatine lineage, deciding the Sith essentially dies with the Emperor and his name. It’s also a chance for Rey to build a new Skywalker dynasty on the foundations of Luke’s teachings of hope and patience. 

Earlier in the movie, the Emporer demands Rey strike him down or her "new family" – Finn, Poe, etc – will die. The message is therefore clear: the Skywalker clan are her chosen family and this has been the story of her rise – the rise of Skywalker! Either that or Rey’s fame-hungry and wants free shots for life at the local Cantina.

What does the yellow lightsaber mean?

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker ending explained

(Image credit: disney/LucasFilm)

Rey is seen holding a yellow lightsaber during the final scene. What gives? Well, it finally looks like she’s brought balance to the Force.

There probably weren’t any yellow kyber crystals lying around, which means Rey must have made the lightsaber yellow by other means. The colours green (the Jedi saber) and red (Sith) combine to make yellow (for clarity: not when you mix the colours like paint, but when red and green light combine, it makes yellow). Perfect balance. Perhaps Rey took the green kyber crystal from one of Luke's old saber's and combined it with Kylo Ren's red one? Does that mean she traveled back to Death Star II to retrieve Kylo's saber? Judging by the new handle, that looks to be the case.

How did the Emperor return?

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker ending explained

(Image credit: Lucasfilm)

Palpatine's return is only vaguely alluded to by the Sith Lord – he teases he cheated death without ever going into the specifics – but the film lays out a couple of clues. Firstly, there's the fact the Emperor's frail body is connected to a series of tubes on a machine, which is tended to by followers who cover their faces. Is there a chance someone recovered his body from the Death Star wreckage and hooked him up to it? 

In addition, we see a lot of Force healing in this movie (more on that later) and we already know the Dark Side gives people the power to "cheat death". Does this, plus the fact he manages to regenerate when he drains the life from Rey and Kylo, suggest he was able to return? We reckon it's a mixture of these elements.  

What were Snoke’s origins?

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker ending explained

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This one’s easy. The ex-Supreme Leader’s backstory is explained away very early on in The Rise of Skywalker. The Emperor was pulling the strings the whole time, with his facility on Exegol showing a large vat of Snoke clones. So, ignore any theories about his backstory and home planet – it appears he was a puppet to Palpatine’s grand plans. 

Did ‘Reylo’ become a thing?

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker ending explained

(Image credit: Lucasfilm)

‘Shippers all round the world were waiting with bated breath for Rey and Kylo Ren – commonly dubbed ‘Reylo’ on social media – to become an item. If you count a quick smooch and Kylo Ren immediately dying as a Reylo rubber-stamp then, hey, you’re in luck. But, like most tragic romances, these star-crossed lovers could never be together. RIP Reylo. Or should we call that ReyBen? ReyBe? No... ReyLo's just fine.

Why did Rey killing Palpatine not transfer his soul into her?

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker ending explained

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Palpatine's grand plan is to convince his granddaughter to "strike him down" so that he, along with the other Sith who lived on through him, can control the galaxy through her. After sucking the lifeforce from Rey and Kylo, though, that plan seems to change. Lying on the floor, the voices of a dozen Jedi are heard – including Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon, Mace Windu, Yoda, and Anakin. She then gets up and counters the Emperor's Force lightning with two lightsabers and kills him. Thanks to those Jedi who now live on within Rey, she has the inner strength to not succumb to the Dark Side and let the Sith control her.

Why wasn’t Ben a Force ghost at the end?

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker ending explained

(Image credit: Disney)

On Tatooine, as the two suns set, we see both Luke and Leia standing there as Force ghosts. Yet Kylo – now fully Ben Solo/Skywalker – is nowhere to be seen despite having just dispersed into the Force. Surely he could have been there for the family reunion? 

Well, there are a couple of reasons he perhaps wasn't. First, Rey only buried Luke and Leia's lightsabers, hence why they are watching over their apprentice. Second, the implication is that Luke and Leia are stand-in parents. Should they have had Ben there, would he have been her step-brother? And then would that have been a bit weird, like looking back now on Luke and Leia kissing? Yes. Yes, it would be. 

Read more: Every Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker cameo explained

Whose voices did Rey hear?

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As Rey lies on the floor, having been beaten by the Emperor, she reaches out to the Jedi to be with her. As the camera zooms into space, we hear voices. Here's a list of every Jedi voice we hear, plus what they say.

– Obi-Wan Kenobi (both Ewan McGregor and Alec Guinness): "These are your final steps, Rey. Rise and take them... Rey... Rise."

Anakin Skywalker: "Rey... Bring back the balance, Rey, as I did... The Force surrounds you, Rey... Let it lift you."

Ahsoka Tano, from Clone Wars animated movie and series: "Rey"

Kanan Jarrus, from Rebels TV series: "Rey... In the heart of a Jedi lies their strength."

Luminara Unduli, seen in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, speaking role in Clone Wars TV series: "The light. Find the light, Rey."

Qui-Gon Jinn: "Every Jedi who ever lived, lives in you... We stand behind you, Rey... Rise."

Aayla Secura, seen in Revenge of the Sith, main role in The Clone Wars: "Let it guide you."

Mace Windu: "Feel the Force flowing through you, Rey."

Adi Gallia, seen in Phantom Menace, main role in The Clone Wars: "Rise, Rey."

Yoda: "Rise in the Force, Rey."

Luke Skywalker: "Rey, the Force will be with you. Always."

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker ending explained

(Image credit: Disney/LucasFilm)

During the movie's final celebration, after the victory at Exegol, Jannah goes to Lando. The smuggler and the former Stormtrooper discuss where they are from, to which Jannah says, “I do not know”. Lando replies: “Let’s find out.” 

Now, there were rumours that the pair were related (Jannah perhaps being Lando's daughter), and this could still be the case. The official Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker companion guide confirmed that Lando started a family after Return of the Jedi, and that his daughter was taken by the First Order. It's left ambiguous, but could Jannah be Lando's daughter?

Why did Chewie get a medal?

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker ending explained

(Image credit: LucasFilm)

 

At the end of A New Hope, Chewie is rather famously passed over for a Medal of Bravery. They are instead given to both Han and Luke by Leia on Yavin 4, following Episode VI's climactic battle. This moment rights that wrong, with Chewie finally recognised for his services across many Star Wars movies We're glad to see the Wookie won this one. 

Read more: The best Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Easter eggs and references explained

How did Maz find Luke’s lightsaber?

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker ending explained

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During Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Maz comments, when asked how she retrieved Luke’s blue lightsaber, which was last seen in Empire Strikes Back: "A good question for another day.” The Rise of Skywalker was thought to be that other day, yet there was not a single hint in Episode 9 about where the lightsaber came from. This really may be a question for another day – or another spin-off comic-book. 

What did Finn want to tell Rey?

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker ending explained

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Towards the beginning of the movie, Finn says – just as himself, Poe, Rey, C-3PO, Chewbacca, and BB-8 slowly fall through quicksand-like ground – that he has something he needs to tell Rey before they die. She brings this up after they survive, but Finn decides not to say as Poe is there. Then, when Finn, Poe, and Chewbacca are about to be killed, Poe brings the comment up and asks, “What were you going to tell Rey?” 

Unfortunately, we never find out for sure. Was Finn madly in love with Rey, despite showing interest in both Rose and Jannah? This seems slightly unlikely, despite their obvious chemistry. Instead, we later learn that Finn is Force-sensitive, and can feel when Rey is in danger. Did Finn actually want to reveal that they are connected through the Force? There’s no way of knowing for sure, but the latter seems most likely.

Where have the Final Order gone? 

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker ending explained

(Image credit: Disney)

Palpatine raises the Final Order (AKA the new First Order) ships from the water of Exegol at the very beginning of the film, signifying his power. When the Emperor dies, the ships appear to fall with him. There's little indication given that any First/Final Order ships survived after the showdown between the Resistance and the Final Order, and without any leader – we also see General Pride (Richard E. Grant) getting blown up – it seems safe to say the Final Order died with them. 

However, as we know, just because the Emperor is dead does not mean his followers are gone for good. After all, the Empire lived on as the First Order – and we know there are still First Order soldiers in other regions of the galaxy. Perhaps this time, though, hope will prevail. After all, the Emperor really is dead this time... right?

Who were Palpatine’s followers?

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker ending explained

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Not only has Palpatine amassed an army on Exegol, but the Sith Lord has gathered up a group of followers to watch him being killed by Rey. The question is, who are they? The simplest answer is that they are just followers – officially called Sith Cultists – who have been keeping Palpatine alive all these years. There are a couple of other options – perhaps they’re all Palpatine clones, like how he made numerous Snokes – but the gathering of followers is certainly the simplest.

Can Jedi now use Force heal?

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker ending explained

(Image credit: LucasFilm)

In short, yes! As first demonstrated by Rey on both a serpent and Kylo Ren, the Jedi can now use the Force to heal others, giving some of their life-force away in the process. This is also how the Emperor returns to full strength – by sucking the life-force from both Rey and Kylo. Kylo – or Ben – also uses up the last of his life-force to bring Rey back to life. 

So, why haven’t we seen this before? Well, you could argue that Force healing is a Sith power, as the Emperor once foretold of being able to cheat death using the Dark Side. This also works when you consider how both Kylo and Rey have the Dark Side within them, and that’s why they can use this power. Yet, Force healing certainly seems like a Jedi trick to be used for good. 

Minor The Mandalorian spoiler! Those who have seen the Disney Plus show will also know Baby Yoda uses the Force to heal someone. Who knew The Mandalorian and The Rise of Skywalker would tie in?

Fancy rewatching the Star Wars movies? Here's how to watch the Star Wars movies in order, and here's the Star Wars timeline in chronological order.