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Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker trailer breakdown: 14 things you might have missed

The final trailer for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker has emerged – and there’s lots to unpack. From C-3PO’s possible farewell, to clues hidden in the background, and even a glimpse of the Sith Lord himself, Palpatine, the last stop before December’s big release is crammed with blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moments that could confirm some of your biggest theories.

But, as the Episode 9 trailer premiered overnight during Monday Night Football in the States, it’s entirely possible that many of you chose to forgo several hours of sportsball or only caught a bleary-eyed glimpse of Rey, Finn, and Kylo Ren (among others). So, let’s comb through the major moments in chronological order and break down everything in the new Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker trailer.

A mysterious helmet

Star Wars Rise of Skywalker trailer

(Image credit: Lucasfilm)

The trailer opens with Rey running through an as-yet-unknown forest planet, with her lightsaber drawn. She appears to drop something, though, that could hint at her whereabouts.

The helmet that falls to the ground looks eerily similar to those used by rebel pilots in the original trilogy. Could we be seeing the ruins of the Battle of Yavin? And why would Rey be there, of all places? Some fans have suggested this may also be Endor, the forest planet we first (and last) saw in Return of the Jedi. Ewoks incoming?

A quick transition - or something more?

Star Wars Rise of Skywalker trailer

(Image credit: Lucasfilm)

Rey’s leap of faith on the forest planet seamlessly moves into the bluish-grey hue of the skeleton of a fallen, extremely large Empire-looking construct. The Death Star (well, one of them at least), may very well be the sight for Rey’s own personal parkour session – or it may be something less dramatic: a large Star Destroyer or other ship.

Lando is giving a speech to the Resistance

Star Wars Rise of Skywalker trailer

(Image credit: Lucasfilm)

There’s an extremely brief shot of a group of Resistance fighters huddled around. At the centre of it all is a returning Lando Calrissian. We even get a snippet of his speech: “We are not alone. Good people will fight if we lead them.”

The first shot of Dominic Monaghan's character

Star Wars Rise of Skywalker trailer

(Image credit: Lucasfilm)

There he is – right behind a returning Rose Tico. No character name yet, though he looks to be firmly part of the Resistance. Rose, meanwhile, looks to have become a fully-fledged Resistance leader. From fan-girl to fighter!

The sunken Star Destroyer?

Star Wars Rise of Skywalker trailer

(Image credit: Lucasfilm)

Rey and Kylo seemingly meet on the wreckage of either a Star Destroyer or the Death Star, with waves lapping all around them. Later, we see a Star Destroyer rising up from the sea. Could they be dueling on that?

A new planet - and a war approaches

Star Wars Rise of Skywalker trailer

(Image credit: Lucasfilm)

The icy-cloud planet in the distance halfway through the trailer could be that of Kijimi, where Zorii Bliss (Keri Russell) was born, and where new character Baba Frik plies his trade. There’s also an armada of ships heading in that direction. Talk about a frosty reception.

The throne room

Star Wars

(Image credit: Lucasfilm)

A Return of the Jedi-style throne room is also present in the Rise of Skywalker trailer. Given Palpatine’s presence throughout, it could be reserved for him – or for someone he’s willing to corrupt. There are also some major last-season Game of Thrones vibes coming through.

Not the droid you're looking for

Star Wars

(Image credit: Lucasfilm)

No, that’s not a mini droideka next to BB-8, but merely a D-O, Babu Frik’s helper droid made out of spare parts.

C3-PO's goodbye

Star Wars

(Image credit: Lucasfilm)

The trailer takes a melancholy turn as the quirky gold droid “takes one last look at his friends.” The wires hanging out of his head – something Babu Frik was working on earlier in the trailer – could indicate he’s accessing memories or having them wiped. Uh-oh. Seeing as this scene feels like a farewell, chances are this is our heroes looking into C3-PO's mind (lest we forget, he has appeared in every movie and could hold some key information) leading to his memories being wiped clean.

The Throne room

(Image credit: Disney/Lucasfilm)

Rey takes on Kylo Ren in the remnants of the Death Star's throne room. There's Palpatine's demolished chair at the back. Could this all end where the original trilogy concluded?

RIP Darth Vader's broken helmet

Star Wars

(Image credit: Lucasfilm)

Rey and Kylo destroy someone wearing Vader's helmet in a quick shot – and Kylo’s helmet appears to be fixed. Could this be a Force dream of them coming together to end Darth Vader's grip over Ben solo? During the D23 Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker trailer, we also saw Rey with a red lightsabre, heavily implying we'll have multiple visions in The Rise of Skywalker. 

The biggest battle in Star Wars history

Star Wars

(Image credit: Lucasfilm)

The dozens of Star Destroyers in the sky were briefly shown during the Rise of Skywalker D23 footage. Here, we get a better look at the fearsome fleet. It could be the largest battle the galaxy has ever seen – by some distance.

A Palpatine sighting

Star Wars

(Image credit: Lucasfilm)

Emperor Palpatine (being propped up by a device that’s probably keeping him alive judging by him peering down at Rey) is in one of the final scenes of the trailer. Goosebumps. There are, however, multiple theories that this may not actually be Palpatine (who was last seen falling into the arc reactor of the second Death Star). Could his spirit have passed into a clone of his body (this, of course, wouldn't be the first time cloning technology has been used in the Star Wars universe). 

If Palps is using cloning technology again, that would also explain how the Dark Lord has amassed such a huge army to command those Destroyers. Whatever the case, we're probably not ready for what's to come.

Rey sees a ghost?

(Image credit: Disney/Lucasfilm)

The final shot of the trailer sees Rey looking out at something as Luke can be heard saying "the Force will be with you" and Leia adds: "Always." Could Rey be looking at the council of Jedi, with Obi-Wan, Anakin, Luke, and the rest all looking over her? What a way to bring the saga to an end that would be! But let's not get too carried away: this could easily just be Rey going into a vision of some sort.

Whatever the case, we'll know all come December 19 in the UK, and December 20 in the US, when Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker reaches cinemas. 

GamesRadar+'s Entertainment Writer. Lover of all things Nintendo, in a tortured love/hate relationship with Crystal Palace, and also possesses an unhealthy knowledge of The Simpsons (which is of no use at parties).