“Long have I waited,” Emperor Palpatine eerily intones in the final trailer for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and while Palpy’s probably referring to waiting for either Rey or Kylo Ren, he might as well be speaking for all of us. The Skywalker saga—beginning with A New Hope—has been in progress for more than 40 years, and after a couple of overwrought midi-chlorian speedbumps here and there, will finally come to an end this Christmas. (Though if you think Disney is gonna slow down its output of Star Wars content after this, I’ve got a bag of magic space beans to sell you.) Presale tickets are selling out faster than those for Avengers: Endgame, which happens to be the highest-grossing movie of all time.
Shockingly, it turns out The Rise of Skywalker is gonna be a big deal. But at the same time, it’s important you don’t read too much into Monday night’s trailer. To paraphrase our Emperor Daddy: Don’t fret over the details, just let the nostalgia flow through you.
Borrowing a cue from Marvel, Star Wars trailers can be purposefully misleading. Internet sleuths are so good at unpacking every frame for context clues, it’s easier to throw fans off the scent with deceptive narrative threads and imagery. Take the Rise of Skywalker trailer from Disney’s D23 Expo in August, which showed Rey in a black hoodie wielding a red, double-bladed lightsaber—looking a lot more like a Darth Maul protégé than the galaxy’s savior. It’s a provocative image, but it’s probably something Rey experiences in a vision—if Darth Rey actually appears in Rise of Skywalker at all. (Lots of trailer footage from Solo: A Star Wars Story didn’t make the final cut, but that’s likely because that production was a shitshow.)
But not all clues are misleading. Even though we all saw Darth Vader toss Palpatine into a reactor like expired leftovers in Return of the Jedi, he’s definitely coming back in Rise of Skywalker—whether Palpy somehow survived his ordeal or is a malicious, Force ghost–like presence remains to be seen. But in the latest Rise of Skywalker trailer, it’s clear the Emperor still has an important part to play in this saga, perhaps serving as a final test of Rey’s faith before she can carry on the Skywalker legacy.
My best guess—but please don’t hold me to this—is that the Emperor’s malevolent spirit has somehow attached itself to the wreckage of the second Death Star, a locale that looks pretty important to the Rise of Skywalker, since Rey and Kylo appear to have another lightsaber duel on its premises. Palpy, meanwhile, certainly looks threatening—in an Evil Tupac Hologram sort of way.
There’s also C-3PO, our golden good boy robot who delivers the most heart-wrenching moment of the trailer by saying he’s, “Taking one last look, sir. At my friends,” implying some kind of sacrifice. Were Threepio to perish in Rise of Skywalker, it would be unlike Disney to give away such a big moment in a trailer; he’s an important glue guy, the Andre Igoudala of Tatooine—this is a character who’s been with us from the very beginning, as integral to Star Wars nostalgia as lightsabers, the Force, and kissing your sister. I refuse to believe the studio is just giving his sacrifice away in the trailer when the emotional payoff would’ve been so damn effective for the first time during the film.
But perhaps that’s signaling a larger point. Disney is going to keep making Star Wars movies and television series until the ocean swallows us all, but The Rise of Skywalker earnestly feels like the end of an era. A last look at Threepio, R2, Chewie, the late Carrie Fisher’s Leia Organa, and the rest of the characters we’ve watched and adored for decades. Part of the new trailer’s tagline—“The saga will end. The story lives forever”—speaks to the finality of it all. Long have we waited, but we won’t have to wait much longer. Get the tissues ready this Christmas—and if you’re headed to a 4DX screening, maybe bring a towel.