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What does “The Rise of Skywalker” mean?

Is it about Kylo Ren? About Rey and the Rebellion? Or is it just more misdirection from J.J. Abrams?
The Rise of Skywalker

I’m sure that by now, you’ve already watched the new Star Wars trailer at least several times. But just in case you haven’t, here you go. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

There’s plenty to talk about in the trailer, from Rey’s bad-ass flip over the TIE fighter in the opening minute to the laugh that echoes in its final moments, and then there’s the film’s subtitle: The Rise of Skywalker. What does that mean?

I’ll admit that when I first saw it, I was a bit worried. Lucasfilm had previously confirmed that Episode IX would bring to a close the Skywalker Saga, thus freeing future Star Wars films — and of course there will be more Star Wars films — from being limited to Skywalker-centric storylines. As such, The Rise of Skywalker seems to go against that. But after some discussion with fellow nerds, and keeping in mind writer/director J.J. Abrams’ (sometimes misguided) penchant for misdirection, I’ve begun considering some alternate theories.

Perhaps The Rise of Skywalker refers to a literal rise of a Skywalker. Which, given the events of The Last Jedi and the death of Carrie Fisher, means that technically speaking, Kylo Ren is the last Skywalker. (Unless Abrams decides to retcon The Last Jedi concerning, say, Rey’s parentage.) In that scenario, The Rise of Skywalker is actually a bad thing, especially if Kylo Ren uses the “Skywalker” name to help bolster his rise to galactic power after wanting to reject the First Order altogether.

I like this idea for two reasons. First, it would be in keeping with Ren’s character at the end of The Last Jedi, where he seems to fully go over to the dark side. Second, it could be a nice continuation of the (healthy) deconstruction of Star Wars that Rian Johnson began with The Last Jedi.

On the other hand, perhaps it picks up on the end of The Last Jedi, specifically the scene with the young kids hearing about Luke’s final showdown with Ren, in which “Skywalker” becomes something bigger than just a name or a single person. It becomes a true symbol of hope for the downtrodden and persecuted throughout the galaxy.

In this scenario, The Rise of Skywalker becomes about Rey and Co. taking that symbol and lifting it up as an ideal that’s bigger than the Rebellion or even the Jedi could’ve ever been. Hopefully, that doesn’t translate into a scene where Rey, Finn, Poe, et al. literally say “I am a Skywalker” à la Spartacus when staring down Kylo Ren, but rather, just adhere to the spirit of that.

In any case, fans will no doubt continue to theorize right up until the movie arrives in theaters on December 20. In the meantime, I’m just going to watch that trailer a few more times.

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