The Rise of Skywalker is upon us. In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past five years, we’re only days away from the release of the ninth Star Wars “saga” film, the final in the so-called “sequel trilogy” and the supposed-finale to the trilogy of trilogies that comprise the “Skywalker Saga.”

Surely you’re not one of those people who plans to see the movie without at least seeing the two episodes preceding it. Ideally, you’d re-watch The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi before heading to the theaters, but just in case you’ve run out of time and need a quick refresher, here’s a breakdown of the trio of trios who are set to leave their mark on the film, and what to expect of them based on what’s happened already.

< Part one

THE CLASSIC THREE

Han

Will we see Han Solo again? Yes, I know he’s dead, and I know that Harrison Ford is satisfied with the end to his character after forty years. That being said, if JJ wrote a super-secret cameo, I have no doubt Disney would sign the check needed to bring him in for it. The fact that Leia’s part in the story will be limited to whatever unused footage JJ Abrams was able to make serviceable, it might be a necessity if the goal for the trilogy is to redeem Kylo Ren. That’s a big assumption but…well, there is is.

Either way, even if Han doesn’t make a reappearance, his presence still hangs like a cloud over the trilogy. Far from plunging him deeper into the dark side, as he hoped, Kylo’s murder of Han only roused more conflict within him. There’s too much good in the former Ben Solo that he keeps trying to deny and killing his father only reminds him of that.

On the other hand, if Han does make a secret cameo, the question then becomes: “How do they work that into the story?” He’s not a Jedi so being a ghost should be out…right? I suppose anything’s possible but I wouldn’t put my chips down on that happening. Instead, what about a flashback? Hollywood loves using that newfangled de-aging tech and there’s plenty of source material from Harrison Ford in the 90s to use to recreate a middle-aged Han spending a moment with his son, Ben. Tie that flashback in with a Leia scene and boom, you’ve got yourself a Kylo-redemption stew going.

Then again, he might just stay dead and remain a haunting memory. We’ll find out soon.

Leia

The loss of Carrie Fisher was devastating, not only to the production of the movie, but to her scores of fans, her friends, and her family. Everyone who knew her loved her infectious joy, her sharp wit, and her devil-may-care personality. By the time we lost her, Rian Johnson had already filmed and edited The Last Jedi. There was no way to give her a death scene in the movie. Thus, we’re left with a situation where a critical character in the movie is alive and well, while the actress who played her has now died, and that actress is so singular to the role and so legendary in her own right that recasting her is simply out of the question.

Fortunately, JJ Abrams examined the unused footage from his The Force Awakens shoot and discovered more than enough material that could be recompiled and repurposed to give Leia “a fitting arc and send off” in The Rise of Skywalker. What does that mean? What kind of send-off will Leia get from footage that was shot at a time when her character was nowhere near getting a send-off? I don’t know. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t curious to see how they make it work, though I’m confident I’ll be so in the zone once the fanfare plays and the crawl hits the screen that I won’t even think about the nature of the footage as I’m watching it.

If I had to make a bold prediction, however, I’ll say that Leia ends the movie very much alive. I think that’s reasonable to assume based on the fact that (A) there’s not going to be any CGI-recreating of Carrie Fisher, and (B) there’s no unused The Force Awakens footage of Leia dying. So unless they’re going to do something out of Ed Wood’s playbook and kill off a body double, I think Leia—the only one of the classic trio of heroes whose actor has died—will end the trilogy as the only one of those heroes still alive.

That’s so morbidly ironic I think Carrie would have loved it.

Her character in The Force Awakens had a lot on her plate. On the one hand, she had drama with Han, on the other, she had sadness for Kylo, there was also longing for Luke, and on top of all that, the politics of the Resistance and New Republic. Her character was much more focused in The Last Jedi, being concerned with keeping the remnants of the Resistance alive in the wake of the First Order’s destruction of the New Republic’s government.  Where will she go next? Based on the fact that much of the material cut from The Force Awakens concerned the politics of the Resistance/New Republic, it’s a good bet her role in The Rise of Skywalker will focus mostly on that side of her character.

That being said, movies are made on location but they are “found” in the editing. A good editor can work magic with film. Don’t be surprised if JJ (and editor Maryann Brandon) rises to the challenge and gives our beloved Carrie (and Leia) a sendoff befitting one of the greatest princesses in fantasy.

Luke

Luke’s part to play in this sequel trilogy has been the most controversial, without question. He was absent for the entirety of The Force Awakens, up until the final ten seconds of the film. Then, when finally given a co-starring role in The Last Jedi, his character was far from the Jedi Master he was portrayed as in the expanded universe of books. This Luke was a bitter, broken, failure of a teacher. Some fans were frustrated by this, as they had hoped to see Luke play the part of an adventuring hero. Instead, he was given a role with depth and a backstory that forced his character to grow (once again, The Last Jedi has more character arcs and character development than any previous Star Wars movie by a mile).

He ended The Last Jedi by projecting himself, through the force, across the galaxy as a diversion to hold off Kylo Ren and the First Order, giving Rey, Leia, and the Resistance time to escape. Say what you want about Luke’s character in the film, that moment when the camera cut from his younger, projected self to his older, meditating self, caused a roar of applause the likes of which I’ve not heard in a theater ever before (it was rivaled only by Cap snatching Mjolnir out of the air in Endgame earlier this year). Luke earned that moment and though his character died, as he said moments before, “no one’s ever really gone.”

While some have speculated that Luke might be resurrected, this is nothing more than wish-casting by those frustrated with the story-choices made in TLJ. Luke will be back, of that there can be no doubt, but he will be back the way Obi-Wan came back; he will be a guiding spirit, helping Rey on her journey. This isn’t Luke’s trilogy; he’s had his story. This is Rey’s story; Luke is there to facilitate it. What exactly he’ll do and whether or not he’ll be more active than Obi-Wan was in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, we’ll find out soon.

This was part two of three articles that set the stage for The Rise of Skywalker. Look for part three shortly; it will cover the EVIL THREE who have been working to undermine the trilogy’s heroes, not only in obvious ways but, in the case of one villain, apparently from the shadows all along…

> Part three

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