If I Were Making The Sequel Trilogy (Part Three: The Rise Of Skywalker)

Welcome to Part Three of CHUCK WENDIG CONTINUES TO RUIN STAR WARS! It’s the last part, unless I decide to do the prequels some day in order to procrastinate against whatever thing I should be writing at the time!

Anyway.

This one’s gonna be a tough one.

It’s gonna be tough because — and this is obviously very arguable and quite subjective — but The Rise of Skywalker feels the least “put-together” of the sequel trilogy (ST). I don’t mean that it’s bad. I don’t mean that it’s the “worst.” I like it a lot. I’m looking forward to seeing it again.

It’s just — well, for my mileage, The Force Awakens is this pure beam of light. It’s clean. And then The Last Jedi is a vein of complicated darkness — messier, but in a purposeful way, like someone who musses their hair artfully rather than just walking out into the world with bedhead galore. But TROS is all bedhead. It’s scruffy and sloppy in ways that are sometimes endearing, sometimes just a hot-ass mess. (Or even a hot ass-mess.) The parts don’t all line up. It’s like a poorly-tiled floor — you can see the cut lines, the bad grout, the clumsy patch jobs. And it instantly starts to fall apart under even the tiniest scrutiny, starting with, “Hey, where did Rey get that lightsaber? Didn’t that… didn’t it get torn in half? Are we gonna talk about it? We’re just gonna move past it? No? Okay.”

This is complicated even further by the fact Trevorrow’s ideas for the film have leaked (theoretically, who knows if they’re real). You can read about that at AV Club, but it would’ve been a pretty different film — in some ways, cooler, in some ways, ennnh maybe not so much. (I mean, there’s no Babu Frik, which is fucking disqualifying. If I don’t see a Baby Yoda / Babu Frik Disney-Plus series like, yesterday, I will shit kyber crystals. I will pooplightsaber beam.)

What’s difficult is that what I’m doing here is trying to keep these three movies somewhat aligned, to ratchet the bolts tighter on connecting the whole ST, but this third film has so many loose bolts it’s hard to know what to change and what to keep without just scrapping it all and starting over.

So, the plan is to still keep relatively the same movie, but ooooh that’s gonna be tricksy. Note that going forward here this will be the one movie of the three I’d change the most. Again, that is not a knock against you liking it as-is! To reiterate, I too like this movie. But if it were the movie I’d make, it’d be different, as is the way with storytellers.

(Real quick: Part One, and Part Two, here.)

Broad Strokes

Instead of talking up individual pieces I’d excise or transform, we need to look at this thing from outer space. Big view, broad strokes.

This trilogy seems very much to be about people who do not know their place in a changing galaxy. That is a timely concern and a human one, and when Star Wars cleaves to these emotional journeys, it is operating at its best. Because small stories matter. Because these small stories matter more than big stories. The story of Luke Skywalker isn’t awesome because it’s about him fighting the Empire or learning Cool Jedi Shit, it’s about a boy trapped in a backward sandy-butt nowheresburg who wants to see the world (read: galaxy) and not fall into the role that has been set before him by his Aunt and Uncle — and once he does escape, he finds a bigger galaxy that ultimately is trying to get him to do the same thing, to fall into a role set before him by Vader, or Obi-Wan, or Yoda, and he has to find his own way through that. It’s a smaller, more human concern: destiny not in the grand and cosmic sense, but destiny as in the life others have planned for you. (And his journey is only made more human in TLJ: a journey of a man near the end of his life looking back and having to overcome his mistakes and failures, who has the opposite of a destiny to fulfill — now, he has to answer his own legacy.)

So, these are characters who are trying to figure out who they are and where they belong.

Poe: Hotshot hero of the Resistance. Smoldering. So sure of himself until he’s unsure of himself. TLJ had him reeling, questioning his judgment and his place in the Resistance, and by its end, Leia gives a de facto nod that he’s a leader now — responsible not just for himself, but for the lives around him. Part of the problem with TROS as I see it now is that it wants to re-litigate that same character arc for him, with the added bonus of “oh he was a criminal, did none of the background material mention that?” But my feeling is, TROS has to have him with that burden of leadership already on his shoulders, it has to continue from where TLJ left off with his arc. And to be honest, the way you achieve that is… by having Leia already be gone. It’s sad, I know. But you begin that film with her funeral, and you end that funeral with Poe realizing that he’s the real deal, now. A General in the Resistance. And it’s a lot of pressure, and he’s feeling it. His journey in this film should be him grappling with that burden, and learning how to carry it.

Finn: Has a feeling, a conscience. Escapes the First Order, finds a friend (and maybe more) in Poe, a purpose (and maybe more) in the Scavenger Girl, and by the end of TLJ, a home and cause in the Resistance. “Rebel scum,” certified. TROS wastes him, mostly. I mean, he does stuff, by which I mean, “Performs actions vital to the mechanisms of the plot,” but he’s mostly at home chasing Rey, yelling after her, and vaguely suggesting he’s Force sensitive. TROS should have a bigger place for him. TROS as written has him realizing that he’s Force sensitive, which is good! But it does literally nothing with it, which is less good. It’s a huge revelation, and it mostly treats it like a character trait, as if he’s tidy, or collects Pogs. So, in my version, Finn realizes he’s in service to something larger than the Resistance — not just Rey, not just the Resistance, but THE FORCE. Which has a nice echo back to his bullshitting about The Force in TFA — he was actually onto something.

Rose: Poor Rose. Rose, who gave voice to part of the point of TLJ — save what we love, don’t fight what we hate, a point that arguably carries on to the Rey and Kylo relationship at the end of TROS! — is scuttled like an old tugboat. She has probably as much screentime as the little training ball Rey is sabering at the fore. Sorry, but we need Rose. Unlike a lot of the others, I don’t know that she’s questioning her place in the galaxy. I do think she’s trying to do right by it, and make her sister’s sacrifice worth something. In my TROS, I think I’d have her be the Bondian Q to the Resistance — she’s the one inventing new gadgets, modding starfighters, and even being the one who (gasp) repairs the Skywalker saber for Rey. AND HER ASSISTANT IS BABU FRIK WHO IS IN EVERY FRAME OF THE MOVIE, YOU COWARDS, ahem, sorry, sorry, a little carried away there. Rose can also serve as the one who gives moral clarity to characters who need it. Who cuts through the bullshit with that kind of scrunched up “you’re great even though you don’t get it, ding-dong” look on her face (same face when she tells Finn, uhh, I saved you, dumbass).

Kylo Ben: I give real credit to these films that they have crafted what I consider to be a fairly elegant character: a character who is both somehow a heartstruck sadlad and a possible Nazi fanboy school-shooter type. It’s astonishing to see that balance crafted — to be clear, since I’m sure someone will get salty, I’m not suggesting he’s literally a Nazi fanboy, or that he literally kills children (no, ha ha, that’s Anakin Skywalker you’re thinking of). But he has the whiff of an angry white teenager, while also being somehow sad and precious and emo in equal measure. And I don’t think the films are confused about this or send a confused message — I think they walk that line, and do it well. TROS actually does it pretty well, but my version I think has to scrap that. We need to see that rift in him ripped wide — made all the worse because, as noted, his mother is now dead. And he wasn’t there for her. I don’t mean to suggest this has healed his heart. He’s not a “good guy.” But it’s time to see the Dark Side in a different way — the anger he feels, what if it’s turned on his own people? It’s still not healthy. It’s still horrible. And it’s grown. His anger is a beacon of awfulness, and he uses it against any who come at him. Until Rey shows him the light.

Rey: Last but not least! Rey, the Scavenger girl. Rey, the Last Jedi. Rey with drunken nobody parents, Rey from Nowhere, Rey who is the light who rises to meet the darkness. Rey, like Poe, is dealing with a considerable burden — as the Last Jedi, it’s her job to start it all anew, to lead, to be a warrior, to be a mentor, to do it all. And she can’t. It’s too much pressure. Everyone wants her to be this or that, to lead new younglings, to fight the First Order, to be Luke Skywalker, and she’s just not ready. So she trains. And trains. And studies. And pushes herself harder and harder. And in a way: hides. TROS as written gets her right, for the most part, but still focuses so much on her “identity” — and it’s something of a curse left by the end of Empire Strikes Back, this idea that your parent is a vital plot twist, not just one and done, but a rhyme and reiteration. But I think there’s so much more to her than that, too — about who she is, what she’s afraid of, and so forth. The end of TLJ leaves her feeling both lost and found, right? Her parents were Jakku drunks, but she is in fact the Last Jedi — she helps her friends escape the cave on Crait, but then discovers Luke Skywalker is gone. Not just gone — gone-gone, done-zo fun-zo. And yet! Luke leaves with peace and purpose, too. In my TROS, Leia is gone, now, too — and once again that leaves Rey feeling lost. Reeling. Unable to do it, whatever “it” is. Unsure of herself and her place in… all of this. Is she just a Resistance member? Is she a Jedi, and does that even matter? What is her relation to Kylo, with whom she shares an unshakeable cosmic bond, a literal bond? What is her relation to Finn, with whom she also shares a bond — though one more of choice and determination, of friendship (or more?).

In a way, this is about characters coming to adulthood.

Going from young and naive to learning to who others want you to be, to realizing who you really are, and who you need to be for yourself and in relation to your found family — the family you choose, the family you make. In a strange way, you have to respect Kylo’s idea (though not his cruel implementation of it) of letting the old ways die. Luke’s desire, too — to kill it, to start over. Because sometimes things get in locked into a pattern — too many rhymes, too many reiterations.

Then the question becomes, and I apologize if I’m rambling a bit, is that what Star Wars is, or has become? Too many rhymes, too many reiterations? Locked into a pattern? Can it break it?

Should it break it?

Maybe we’ll answer that, maybe we won’t.

In the meantime, onward we go.

Option One: The Quick Fix

So, if you really wanted to quick fix the movie —

Leia is gone. Open on her funeral. It’s sad. But it’s a moment of respect in and out of the galaxy. She leaves behind a huge legacy, and it’s a call to action to someone like Lando — who shows up, and who accepts Poe’s mission to try to restore hope and faith in the Resistance.

Cut out Pasaana — I mean, do we really need another desert planet in these movies? Every fucking time we see a trailer it’s like, “They’re on Tatooine!” Because basically, they’re all Tatooine.

Remove the ticking clock thing.

Introduce the Sith fleet early — a gift, perhaps, from Uncle Palpatine. And the trick to the fleet isn’t that they’re Out There Somewhere, in some weird holding pattern, but rather, now they’re taking over the galaxy. (Because in TROS, what are they waiting for?) It’s a true Final Order, because it’s the last thing the First Order needs to complete authoritarian control of the galaxy. And clarify too that the New Republic will fall because of this new fleet and these new troopers. Part of the TROS problem for me is that it begins with no meaningful update to the galaxy. The Resistance seems fine. The First Order exists as-is. Clarify the worldbuilding shift that has happened — dominoes are falling and the First Order’s control will soon be complete.

Since JJA loves his fucking maps, keep the Sith Wayfinder, except now it’s a Holocron, because why the shit wasn’t it a Holocron to begin with? That’s a thing in Star Wars, so maybe use it?

In skipping Pasaana, we go right to Kijimi. Listen, the plot to find Exegol is weirdly convoluted, and the moment you start to ask questions about it, it all kinda falls apart — Ochi and a dagger that seems ancient but somehow mysteriously matches the profile of a Death Star that fell only 30 years ago, Rey’s parents and a ship they steal that’s actually Ochi’s ship so why do they have it at all, mysteries answered by pure happenstance and not by character wherewithal, Palpatine wants Rey but wants her dead but what the fuck, and on and on. It feels like a book report by someone who didn’t read the book and so they just keep making up new shit in the hopes you fade out and let it go. Sometimes stories, genre tales in particular, have a problem I like to think of as “false complexity.” It adds bends to the maze for the sake of adding bends to the maze — in lieu of doing good character work, or making a plot be born from characters, the storyteller just keeps layering on external plot moves, adding in what amount to “recipe steps” that fail to add depth or complexity to the narrative dish.

The simpler cut is:

The mole tells them Palpatine is back. Something-something Exegol. Found Sith script in Kylo Ren’s weirdly white museum chamber (same place you find the Vader mask) — same script Ren obviously used to find the wayfinder. Only person who can translate that script is Threepio, but his brain somehow won’t let him, so they have to unlock his brain, and thus, Babu Frik is where they gotta go.

Only problem is, Kijimi is under First Order occupation because, that’s the state of the galaxy now. You play that out longer, making it roughly a third of the movie — sure, at first they wanna just get to Baby Babu and go, but they get embroiled in gunfights and they do what the Resistance does best, which is somewhat accidentally lead a Resistance, and they have to get to Babu and then escape amid the chaos they essentially caused. And we see more of Poe’s leadership skills as a result.

But here you might say, “But what about Rey’s parents and Ochi and [insert plot litany]?” You don’t need any of that. When Rey goes to the Death Star, and she enters the chamber to find the HolocroaaahImeanWayfinderugh, my disappointment is that the chamber is super fucking boring. Palpatine has a secret room. Repeat: PALPATINE HAS A SECRET ROOM. That shit should be FASCINATING. It looks like a walk-in closet, but it should be Creepy Sith Shit wall to fucking wall. Masks and humming cubes and some dead body in a tank and tapestries that hiss at you and oh yeah the secret annals of Palpatine, and the reason the room opens for her in the first place is because she’s a Palpatine. Maybe there’s a creepy Sith Droid there who recognizes her, welcoming “Empress Palpatine” into her chamber. This grants us Rey answers without Kylo having to be like, “hey P.S., the Emperor fucks now, and yo, you’re his evil seed.” If the room welcomes her as a Palpatine, and gives her a vision of her parents stealing her, ditching her, and then dying without giving up her location — boom, wow, we just cut out a bunch of needless complexity and made the discovery entirely organic to her journey. And did not require an, “As you know, Rey,” moment, and further, doesn’t require a male character to know the truth and mansplain it to the young woman. Let her have access to her own truth and find it on her own — and let her be a step ahead of Kylo, not a step behind.

Then from there, things proceed mostly as desired with some key changes:

– Kylo’s redemption does not come from Han, but from Luke’s ghost (“See ya around, kid.”) I like the scene as it is in TROS, it’s beautiful, honestly — but it’s also easy to misread as Kylo effectively accepting his own redemption, absolving himself. It’s clear he seeks forgiveness from Luke, and vice versa, and giving them that moment would be powerful — all the more so because Luke is real, a sentient spirit capable of that absolution and also able to clarify what must yet be done.

– Finn tells Rey he’s Force sensitive, probably somewhere at the midpoint of the film.

– More romantic tension between characters and a romantic conclusion — a Finn / Poe kiss, a polycule hand-holding cuddle-party, some of it, all of it, whatever.

– Jannah isn’t just an ex-stormtrooper, but one whose platoon took inspiration from Finn when it came time to liberate themselves from the First Order.

– Nobody knew Rey was a Palpatine before Rey. (Except Palps, I guess.)

– Rose has to have a bigger part. She has to be a part of the gang, has to be their tech person, has to be the one who knows Babu Frik. And Poe doesn’t want to go to Kijimi not because he used to run drugs for those pirates — but because he’s fought those pirates before, and also had a tempestuous affair with one of them. (Making Poe a drug runner is both potentially racist and also something of a retcon, if you care much about canon. Which you don’t have to, because canon is half bullshit anyway.)

– If you’re gonna crack open Threepio’s head, first, the loss of his identity has to either be obviously permanent or not a problem — you can’t half-ass that. “Oh no, my memory. Just taking one last look at my DROID SNIF friends.” “Hey, Threepio, doesn’t Artoo have backups?” “I mean, yes, but it’s been a couple months.” “Oh.” Also, second, you might as well have him drop the nugget that Darth Vader made him as a toddler. Just get weird with it. I’d love the moment where they’re all standing around Babu Frik’s workshop like, “Did… did Threepio just say that Darth Vader made him when he was like, a little kid? WTF. WTF, man. Jesus. Is that — how the — whew, fuck.”

The third act / final battle then is less about “oh we need to stop the Sith Fleet in this weird Nowhere Space,” which didn’t really make much sense to me — they essentially seem to need an antenna to know how to fly out of this chaos space? But nobody else needs that. And the wayfinder should chart the path? Having a super-mega-death-fleet be linked by a single control module is an epic technological step backward — far more glaring than having to shoot a proton torpedo up the Death Star’s exposed butthole.

And in this redo, the Sith fleet is already out there, doing damage. So our end battle becomes about either fighting the fleet, or clearing a path for Rey to reach Exegol. And then the “on your left” moment where Lando shows up with every spaceship you’ve ever seen in Star Wars doesn’t happen lickety-split with no effort or time passing — it’s something Poe asks Lando to do at the start of the film, and we know Lando has been calling in favors left and right, cashing in Space Chits or whatever, and so when he fails to show up right away, you think he spaced, or he failed. But then it’s all YAHOO MOTHERFUCKERS, UNCLE LANDO IS HERE, and yay.

Finally, I’d keep Kylo alive to face his redemption and the work that must be done.

And I’d end with a whole bevy of Force Ghosts on Tatooine watching Rey begin to train her first pupil: BABU FRIK. … *checks notes* wait no, I mean Finn. Finn!

Option Two: A More Radical Rewrite

Or, we can do it bigger.

A much more dramatic re-do of the film.

(A note: a lot of this is super spitball-y. Be advised.)

I’m not gonna write a whole new opening crawl, but here is the state of the galaxy as MY NEW EMPIRE I mean MY NEW RUINOUS VERSION OF TROS begins —

The First Order is ascendant. They have claimed the galaxy. They went from being the fringe militia to being a dominant force — the New Republic is left to the Core Worlds, and those Core Worlds are under siege. They are holding up against the siege — but for how long?

Kylo Ren is imprisoned by the First Order. He and Rey killed Snoke — it is known. And (in my TLJ) he abandoned the fight only to show up too late, losing to the fucking phantom of Luke Skywalker and letting the last of the Resistance escape. He has failed them. Ren sits, awaiting a tribunal and likely execution. As if that’s not bad enough, he shares his cell with one person: SPACE GHOST COAST TO wait I mean, the Force Ghost of Luke Skywalker himself. (“See ya around, kid.”)

Armitage Hux is Supreme Leader of the First Order. A venomous, power-hungry man. He is a fascist, committed to reaping the galaxy’s resources for his own pleasure. He wants payback for all who have ever tormented him or dismissed him. Starting with Kylo Ren.

The Resistance, with Black Squadron in tow, is reduced to a bare-bones A-Team of members hiding out on a rainforesty jungle planet called AKIVA YEAH THAT’S RIGHT I’M INCLUDING A PLANET I MADE UP FOR AFTERMATH YOU SHUT UP. Ahem. (Less Oregon Endor and more Amazon rainforest, if you care.) They don’t know what to do. They’re left reeling. In the time after the Last Jedi, their diminished numbers allowed the infection of the First Order to grow — and with it, cruelty and cowardice have spread across the galaxy. A malevolent spiritual disease with no known immune response. Do they need a new weapon? A superweapon to compete with the First Order’s numbers? Horrible that any would even consider it. But that leads us to…

Poe Dameron is the leader of this rag-tag militia, and has no answers. The First Order has subjugated or allied with worlds beyond the core. Can the galaxy be turned around? Poe thought by now he might have a new group of Jedi to help — or at least Rey herself to carry the beacon lit by the spark of Luke Skywalker, but…

Rey is training. Training, training. She’s not good enough, she fears. And she fears losing herself to this fight. She fears not earning the saber — the one that Rose re-built for her. She fears not living up to Luke and Leia’s legacy. She hasn’t returned to her link with Kylo, nor he with her. Poe is frustrated with her. Finn seems distant…

Meanwhile, Finn and Rose are doing what they started to do in (my version of) TLJ — rescuing children from the clutches of the First Order. Children who will not grow up to be stormtroopers but who will grow up free. And some of which… might be Force sensitive. They’ve seen that these children may be targeted — and maybe we catch a glimpse now of a strange symbol, a sigil of the Sith Empire. Why do they want these Force-sensitive children? Finn feels their struggle, their pain — he, too, is Force sensitive. Rose has seen it, too. How could she not have? He and her are on-again and off-again romantically — just as he and Poe are, too.

And now —

A Moment On Dramatic Tension

The Rise of Skywalker as it exists now really wants you to believe there’s some kind of tension between the characters, but it does little to give it any bones — it’s there for the hollow drama, less for the “making of emotional sense.”

So, we give it reason. We give it teeth.

First, again, is the tension born of the struggle between their roles. Everyone is under a lot of pressure, and each one would really like it if everybody else would share that burden. Poe needs leaders. Finn needs a mentor. Rey needs confidence. They all need hope. The stress is plain to see.

But, there’s also romantic tension. You start from a place of broken relationships — Poe and Finn had been together, but the stress of Poe’s job and Finn’s attachment to Rose and Rey were too much, and Poe’s too damn spicy to be so easily contained. So now Poe’s in with one relationship after the next. Finn is with Rose, but Rose worries she’s not the one he really wants to be with. Finn is connected to Rey, but is that based on anything other than him being Force sensitive? Does he even understand that relationship? And Rey has never really explained to him why she was pulling Kylo from the wreckage of Snoke’s ship… because Rey doesn’t really understand her relationship to Kylo Ben.

So, I like the tension.

I also like reasons behind it.

And honestly, LOVE RHOMBUS 4 EVA.

Back to the Radical Rewrite…

First half of the film is pretty different than TROS, right?

Poe decides, we need an edge. Why do the bad guys always have a superweapon? So he decided to go to find the wreckage of the old Death Star to see if they can reconstitute its laser — if they can start blasting First Order Star Destroyers out of the sky, that’s not nothing. They can steal an old Imperial Star Destroyer, strap that shit onto it, and maybe lead the charge. And maybe if they lead that charge, the rest of the galaxy will follow suit. But he can’t do that alone — and he needs Rose to go with him, because she knows tech.

Which means Finn goes, too. (OoooOOOooh, more romantic tension.)

Bonus: you get a twist on the SW trope of the superweapon. Hey, now the good guys are building one! That’s fine, right? Probably? Fellas? Fellas? Hello?

Kylo is sentenced to death by Tribunal. As he awaits on Space Death Row, Luke Skywalker taunts him — he sounds like the Luke of Achthchhthch-To (gesundheit), the one who wanted the Jedi to die, who had seen balance, a darker Luke. The one who himself wanted to die. He helps Kylo unlock his anger, his rage. The cell is guarded against Force manipulation, but Kylo’s fury cannot be contained — he overwhelms his prison, and like Thor, summons his fucking lightsaber through half the ship, until it is has torn through most of the craft and is now his hand.

He begins to fight his way free —

But there he encounters a new fighting force — elite stormtroopers, all in red, who have the ability to lightly wield the Force themselves. Sith Troopers. With the symbol of the Sith and everything. Maybe he sabers one of their masks off and they’re young men, but with the Dark Side-striated faces of Vader — pale, veined with sinister magical infection. Each battalion of them is lead by a Knight of Ren, now also wearing some of the Sith raiment and symbol. Kylo is no chump, though.

And then, cut to Rey. As she’s training again and again, mercilessly upon herself, Chewie watching over her, she’s able to summon someone’s Force Ghost. I’m privy to Anakin’s — because maybe he senses his saber, and also maybe because honestly I’d like to see Hayden again in the role, given something more to do than be pouty and horrible. But maybe it’s Qui-Gon, I don’t know. It’s then that they hint that she has all the Jedi within her if she wants — but then suddenly —

Her connection to Kylo snaps to it, and for a moment, she sees him — someone she barely recognizes. Consumed with fury and vengeance, an unholy angel of the Dark Side — he sees her, and for a moment, calm overtakes him — a blaster shot cuts through him, and he’s badly injured. He brings the floor down on the troopers and manages just barely to escape the ship by stealing a shuttle. But he’s bleeding. He’s dying.

Meanwhile, on the Ocean Moon of Endor (I’m not calling it Kef Bir, it sounds like a product you drink to help with your intestinal flora), Poe is working on extracting the BIG WEAPON SHOOTY PARTS of the Death Star, but only after they’re threatened by a group of inhabitants led by Jannah — and here we do a course correct where Jannah isn’t simply a stormtrooper who fled the First Order, but one who took inspiration from Finn. (I’ve seen this idea elsewhere, said by folks wiser than I, I can’t take credit for it. It’s really good, tho.) She’s an enemy turned to a wary ally.

They hit a snag with the Death Star laser — they need kyber crystals. And they don’t know where to get them. Thing is, Finn knows. He just knows. He knows where they are — there’s a stash of them right there, on another part of the collapsed Death Star, and he thinks he can get them. Already there’s trepidation, right? Rose and Finn know they’re doing something anathema — using a superweapon is a BAD GUY thing, but, is it really that different from picking up a blaster? And they trust Poe with it. So onward they go.

That’s when Finn discovers the Emperor’s throne room —

And it lets him in, because he has the Force.

And what’s in there is more than the barebones nothing we saw in TROS — it’s a shrine, a museum, a monument to both the Emperor and the Sith. And yes, it’s also where the kyber crystals are stored. But it’s also where Palpatine’s plans are stored, in a holocron. He opens it and sees the scope of what’s happening, eyes wide, mouth in a scream —

They need Rey. He needs her to know. To see.

Meanwhile, it’s not just Sith Troopers. It’s Sith Destroyers — the First Order rebrands as the Final Order, begins rolling out ships. Not with planet destroying capabilities, necessarily, though I guess that’s fine — it’s more that they’re high-test, high-power, destroyers. I’d rather see ships that almost manifest the Dark Side — Force lightning lancing out from them. They’re leverage. Siege weapons. With these ships, the Core Worlds will crack, and they will fall, and the Final Order will be complete. The galaxy will have truly fallen. This time to something worse than the Empire. Something whose very soul is rot, and decay — a true Sith Empire.

Rey goes to Kylo. He’s dying. They talk. He’s still angry, maybe they even fight — like he can’t control it. But she stops him. Heals him. (And here I’d argue we’d need an earlier scene of her healing something, as TROS gives us now. A creature on Akiva? A creature that intercepts her training, but she saves its life instead of killing it? Perhaps instead of dropping a tree on BB-8, she drops it on a local beast, and must rescue it and heal it.) This ends up like the moment from the film, but at a different point, with different stakes. There’s no fetch quest. It’s just her and him. She could kill him, or let him die, but she heals him instead. (Bonus if we learn at this point what we learn in Trevorrow’s script — the reason Ren knows about her parents is that he killed them. He tells her, and she still heals him? Whoa, mind blown. But that may be a bridge too far.)

And then she receives the communique by Finn —

She has to go.

And here I’m torn — I think it’d be great if Kylo pulled a Zuko and went with her. I mean, haha, it won’t go well. They’ll show up on the Ocean Moon of Endor and nobody’s happy to see Kylo Fucking Ren, but what emotional pyrotechnics! Imagine that Kylo shows up, and Finn sees him, and summons Rey’s saber to his own hand and fights Ren before Rey can step in and put a stop to it. And then its also like, “Hey, hi, Finn, do you… have the Force?” “Been meaning to talk to you about that but you seemed busy.” Yadda yadda. Fun scene.

Then they enter Palpatine’s Creepy Sith Museum and it’s there they see exposed some of Palpatine’s post-death plans — the rise of a Sith Empire in the wake of the Fallen Galactic Empire, grown in the Unknown Regions, a rotten and ruinous seed planted in the deep dark of space. Unleashing the Dark Side from a distant world called Exegol — a world serving like an antennae, creating servitors and summoning powers and granting them to those who serve. And here, lo and behold, is the map.

(JJA loves him some fuckin’ maps, after all.)

It seems convenient, but it’s their only path. And maybe it’s Force Ghost Luke who helps Kylo find, or translate, that map — which is a hint of something bad, isn’t it?

Poe feels all the more impetus to get the weapon up and running — but they all know what that takes. It takes ruining the kyber crystals. Breaking them, poisoning them. Using them for darkness, not light. And they have to decide, who are they all, really? What is the Resistance? Are they a military force? A force for destruction? They have to be something bigger than that, don’t they? Better? Save what you love, not fight what you hate. Finn receives a vision. Sees in a Force prophecy what would be to come — a glimpse of Poe, mad with power, perhaps. Or just ruined ships and worlds. But it’s he who comes out and convinces Poe — Finn doesn’t serve just the Resistance, or some government. He serves it all. The balance. The Force. Insert Han Solo voice: “All of it.”

Poe sees the light. He can’t just rely on tricks and weapons. Leaders lead, and that’s what he hasn’t been doing. If he’s going to summon the galaxy in a grand uprising, then that’s on him. He can do it. So he sets up with a broadcast and decides to head out, summon the galaxy’s greatest and best — starting with Lando Calrissian, that charismatic old swindler — to take on the Final Order. They’ll zip around, sending the equivalent to dropped leaflet propaganda, transmitted to the Core Worlds and beyond in the Falcon. They owe it to the galaxy. they owe it to Leia.

Meanwhile, Rey and Kylo go together to Exegol to see what awaits them there — if they can power down this strange Dark Side battery, maybe they can give the Resistance, and the galaxy, an edge in their uprising.

But what waits them there powers the battery —

What waits them there is Palpatine himself.

And here the great twist is, the Force Ghost of Luke that’s been plaguing Kylo was never Luke at all — but really, a trick by JAR-JAR Binnooo okay that’s not right. Nah, it’s Palpatine. Imagine that as the twist — not something given up by the trailer. Or by the opening minutes of the film. But a true third act WHOA DAMN moment. Palpatine is back! Whoa! Palpatine’s wretched body is hooked up to Exegol — not shooting lightning out of his fingertips but literally a sort of undead, unliving battery for the Dark Side. All he needs now is a proper body.

If we still want any kind of twist here, it’s at this point we learn that Rey is either his granddaughter, or created by him as he did Anakin. (I know there’s a feeling Palpatine was lying about that, but who said he had to be lying?) She was supposed to be his dark heir but she escaped him, a beacon of the light, but now she has come home. His cruel spirit inhabits her — his young Empress! — and now, she and Kylo fight tooth and nail. Kylo’s rage roars with him and he matches her step for step, Dark Side versus Dark Side, a brutal battle —

That he realizes is, again, not the point.

He doesn’t want to kill her. He can’t kill her.

Save what you love.

Don’t fight what you hate.

He gives up. Throws his saber away — a real Skywalker move, that one.

She moves to kill him, strike him down —

And can’t.

Meanwhile, MASSIVE SPACE BATTLE that is less about “destroy that one space widget!” and more about, the battle itself. It’s got that push and pull, right? The Resistance attacks. Starts to lose. Then Poe shows up with all the reinforcements — the “On Your Left” moment, but this time not conjured straight out of nowhere, but built up. Wedge and Hera and all that. AND BABU FRIK AND BABY YODA RIDING A GIANT SPACE WHALE I dunno shut up, I told you this was spitball-y. It’s also a ground battle — we see scenes on worlds we know, worlds we don’t, of Sith Troopers and those who are uprising against them —

But even still, they’re losing — the Sith Fleet is indomitable. The Troopers wield the Dark Side.

The Resistance is losing.

And we cut back to Exegol, where Rey has paused — she can’t kill Kylo, because she loves Kylo. Through sheer willshe ejects the spirit of Palpatine, and back to his wretched unliving body he goes. So he decides instead (Emperor voice: “So be it”) to simply kill them. Maybe there’s more of that Force Dyad Vampire business. Or maybe he sends all his Sith Cultists after them, and they’re overwhelmed. But together — together! — just as they’re nearly overwhelmed, they summon those Jedi who came before them. Maybe it’s their voices, but maybe also it’s their lightsaber fighting styles. Maybe we see the ghosts themselves. Is this more fan-servicey than what we got? Oh, it totally is. Credit to JJA, the moment in the film is quiet and wonderful, and all those voices like stars in the sky — I’m good with it. But I’m also cool if it goes the other way. Sometimes: go big or go home, y’know?

They destroy the Emperor, and his cultists turn to dust.

Then we cut to the GIANT BATTLE and woo hoo, the Sith troopers no longer wield the Dark Side. They turn to dust inside their suits. The First Order officers and troopers remain, but are not enough to overwhelm — and they lose, badly, to the Resistance. Ships go boom. Goodness prevails.

Is there a noble sacrifice at the end? Does Rey die, and then Kylo to save her?

Nah.

I liked TROS as it played out — but I’m also interested to see when characters have to remain and deal with consequences. Kylo Ren is a war criminal, and what a thing to see him give himself up at the end, while also choosing to be there, in yet another prison, to help Rey when she needs it. And Rey, instead of simply going and burying a couple lightsabers, instead starts with her first pupil — Finn. And all of them, our favorite heroes, come together in the end. They do as they do in TROS — they hold hands, they laugh, they hug, kiss cheeks. We get the sense that their relationships are bigger than what we know, now, that they’re all together in a big ol’ cuddle-puddle. We definitely get a kiss between Poe and Finn because shut up, that’s why. Then they fuck in an X-Wing.

At the end of the day, we reinforce the theme —

Save what you love, don’t fight what you hate.

And we see characters who have found their families and are not bound by the past — they have, in a way, killed the past and found their futures. Together.

The Babu Frik Problem

None of this features Babu Frik, and that’s admittedly bullshit, so that’s how you know this whole thing is wrong and why the TROS you get in theaters is arguably the superior story, if only because of the presence of the president of the galaxy, Babu Gods Damn Frik, okay?

So that’s it. That’s the cut of it.

Is it good? No idea. Is it better? Shrug. Do I like TROS as-is? I do. Is it a mess? It is. Is mine any less messier? I guess? Does any of this matter? It does not. Am I gonna keep asking myself rhetorical questions? Apparently.

Sound off in the comments with what you might’ve done with the sequel trilogy.

Or don’t, I’m not your Space Mom.

p.s. Snap Wexley lives