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Rey looking at Death Star in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Last Friday, the first trailer for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker dropped at Star Wars Celebration, and while hearing Emperor Palpatine’s laugh at the end was arguably the preview’s biggest surprise, there were plenty of other cool and intriguing moments to absorb. This included the scene right before the Palpatine tease, where Rey, Finn, Poe Dameron, Chewbacca, C-3PO, BB-8 and D-O are on a strange planet where wreckage of a Death Star can be seen in the distance.

Wait, hold up, weren’t we done with this monstrosity? Evidently not. While the Star Wars sequel trilogy featured its own planet-destroying weapon in The Force Awakens, Starkiller Base, we’ve now learned that one of the Death Stars from the Original Trilogy will somehow factor into The Rise of Skywalker’s story. The question is which one.

Let’s backtrack and briefly go over the history of the two Death Stars. Within the Star Wars universe timeline (as opposed to the order in which the movies were released), the first Death Star was teased via schematics Count Dooku was given by Poggle the Lesser on Geonosis at the outbreak of the Clone Wars. Three years later, following the end of that conflict and the Empire’s rise to power, Emperor Palptaine ordered the space station start being constructed.

First Death Star

Nearly two decades later, the Death Star was finally operational, with its kyber crystals-powered superlaser first being unleashed on the surfaces of Jedha and Scarif. However, its full power would be demonstrated when Grand Moff Tarkin ordered Princess Leia Organa’s homeworld, Alderaan, be completely destroyed. The Death Star also nearly destroyed Yavin IV, the location of the main Rebel base at the time, but Luke Skywalker successfully used his Force-guided instincts to launch a coupe torpedoes into a conveniently-located exhaust vent (thank you for that weakness, Galen Erso) at the last minute, and the space station was destroyed.

The Empire began constructing the second Death Star soon after that, and only three years later, much of it was already complete. Not only was it even bigger than its predecessor, but it also removed the flaws that led to the first Death Star’s demise and was able to fire its superlaser every few minutes, rather than needing a whole day to recharge. Palatine let slip that the location of the unfinished Death Star to draw the Rebels into a trap, but thankfully, they still managed to destroy this monstrosity, which wouldn’t have been possible had it been completed.

Which brings us back to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which takes place a little over three decades after the Battle of Endor. While I can’t say with 100% certainty yet, I suspect that those are remnants of the second Death Star that the protagonists are visiting. Although the first Death Star was closing in on Yavin IV when it was destroyed, there was still a lot of distance between it and the planet, so wreckage of that size probably wouldn’t have made it to the surface.

Second Death Star

The second Death Star, on the other hand, was right above Endor when it was destroyed, so it’s likely that parts of it managed to land on that world. And just to be clear, I’m speaking Endor the forest moon that we visited in Return of the Jedi, not the actual planet since it’s a gas giant. That said, the environment Rey and the others are on is much different from the one the Ewoks live in.

So for the sake of argument, let’s assume this is indeed the second Death Star the Rise of Skywalker characters are visiting. What does that mean? In typical Disney and Lucasfilm fashion, they’re keeping specific plot details for the upcoming Star Wars movie close to the chest, so who knows if we’ll get any hints in marketing and advertising about how the Death Star wreckage fits into the story. That being said, it’s a good bet that it’s somehow tied to Palpatine, who Ian McDiarmid is confirmed to be reprising in The Rise of Skywalker.

Remember, the second Death Star was also where Emperor Palpatine met his demise, as Darth Vader chose to save his son and toss his master into the space station’s reactor as Force lightning was still blasting from his fingertips. Since the Death Star was destroyed soon after, you’d think that was enough to ensure that the Sith puppet master was gone for good, and Ian McDiarmid has said that pre-The Rise of Skywalker, Palpatine is definitely dead.

Emperor Palpatine in Return of the Jedi

But the Star Wars universe is a strange place, and there’s already been plenty of speculation that The Rise of Skywalker will see Palpatine either resurrected or interacting with the land of the living as a Force ghost, though we shouldn’t discount that Palpatine will remain dead and appear though flashbacks or holocrons. Either way, it’s difficult to believe that the Death Star wreckage doesn’t tie into Palpatine’s role in this story. After all, he was the mastermind behind both of these terrifying weapons.

If Palpatine is resurrected in The Rise of Skywalker, perhaps the Death Star wreckage is where it will take place, and the heroes, having gotten wind of Darth Sidious’ return, head there for the movie’s climactic confrontation. It’d be so fitting if the Skywalker Saga ended with the Sith Lord finally being defeated for good at the same place he’d died decades earlier… except, you know, on a planet rather than out in space.

However, until otherwise persuaded, I’m more of the opinion that Palpatine is staying dead in The Rise of Skywalker; his involvement will only be through recordings/looks back at when he was still alive, and the final conflict in the movie will still revolve around overthrowing Kylo Ren and/or The First Order. To that end, maybe the Death Star site is the location of an object or key piece of information that managed to survive being blown up, and that’s why Rey and the others are going there. Retrieving whatever this thing is could finally turn the tide of the war in The Resistance’s favor.

If this ends up being the case, then it’s also reasonable to assume that Kylo Ren would have the same objective, meaning the Death Star could still be the site of a huge battle. In any case, given that the new main Star Wars installments have avoided revisiting classic locations, it’s intriguing that we’re heading back to the remnants of a machine that caused so much destruction at the end of the Original Trilogy. On the other hand, since this will be the final chapter of the Skywalker Saga, it’s also rather appropriate.

We’ll find out what the deal is with the Death Star and so much more when Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is released on December 20. For everything else coming to theaters later this year, look through our 2019 release schedule.

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