The Rise of Skywalker may have concluded Disney's Star Wars Sequel Trilogy and the Skywalker Saga, but questions about its characters, story, and what went on behind-the-scenes have remained unanswered.
That is, until now.
When USA Today bestselling author Sariah Wilson sat down with The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson and Rey a.k.a. Daisy Ridley, she asked the questions fans have had all this time about the controversial Sequel Trilogy.
Wilson has already put one lingering debate to rest in sharing Johnson intended for "Reylo" to indeed be a romantic relationship, but that's not all she was able to confirm.
RIAN JOHNSON UNAWARE OF BEN SOLO'S FATE
In a series of tweets, Wilson shared what The Last Jedi director had to say about his knowledge of Ben Solo's death in The Rise of Skywalker.
Me: "Did you know that Ben was going to die when you were making T L J? Did you know that from the beginning?"— Sariah Wilson (@sariahwilson) March 3, 2021
Rian: "No, I did not. No."
Me, irritated because I realize that killing Ben Solo was not always the plan. Rian notices my expression and sigh of disgust
The question that launched a thousand YouTube theory videos and blog posts was that of Rey's parentage. The reveal that she was a Palpatine in J.J. Abrams' Episode 9, as opposed to a nobody in Rian Johnson's Episode 8, left fans confused and suspicious of whether her Dark Side heritage was a last-minute change. In fact, Wilson confirmed Daisy Ridley was told her character was a nobody for the first two films.
The fact Johnson didn't know Ben wouldn't survive the trilogy's final installment is indicative that this plot point was likely another last-minute decision for Episode 9 as well.
But like many of the fans, Wilson was far from satisfied with Ben's decided fate, and when she continued to share her feelings on the matter with Johnson, he confirmed what fans had assumed for years.
And laughingly asked me what that was for. I told him I had a lot of feelings about that ending and then showed him my Ben Solo Deserved Better T-shirt, which made him laugh more.— Sariah Wilson (@sariahwilson) March 3, 2021
He explained that it was very much a full hand-off between 7 and 8, just as it was from 8 to 9
A “full hand-off” between films sounds like the directors didn't work together on the trilogy's overall story, even though much of the story content was up to them.
This point was apparent in Wilson's next tweet where she shared that Johnson was thinking of the next director to take the chair by creating options and possibilities in Episode 8.
Rian did his best to tee up a bunch of things and tried to bring 8 to a point where there were lots of places the story could go. He didn't want to be unfair to the next director and leave a lot of possibilities. He wasn't trying for a specific outcome for the end of the series,— Sariah Wilson (@sariahwilson) March 3, 2021
Saying Johnson "wasn't trying for a specific outcome for the end of the series" not only confirms the lack of the plan, but it also shows that it was up to the Episode 9 director to not only conclude these characters' stories but that of the generational saga.
That's interesting considering Colin Trevorrow, not J.J. Abrams, was originally hired as the director for the trilogy's final film.
Lastly, Wilson quoted Johnson stating that he didn't know how the story would resolve.
"But to have lots of dramatic potential" for 9. He answered my question again by saying he didn't know whether Kylo would live or die, then quickly corrected himself to say he didn't know whether *Ben* would live or die, and how the series would resolve.— Sariah Wilson (@sariahwilson) March 3, 2021
While fans didn't know Rey's parentage, they did know Ben Solo's.
He is a Skywalker, and considering this trilogy was intended to conclude the Skywalker Saga, but Episode 8's director didn't know his fate, is somewhat shocking.
JOHNSON CONFIRMS WHAT FANS ALREADY KNEW
In the months following The Rise of Skywalker's release, members of the cast and those involved with the film shared that changes were frequently made to Episode 9's storytelling. Fans have also learned that Episode 9's original director Colin Trevorrow had a completely different story in mind.
Johnson's answers again confirm this behind-the-scenes chaos and the fact that Disney and Lucasfilm had no plan. Instead, it was left to two different directors to tell a cohesive story.
This decision is surprising considering the success of the MCU and its signature connected storytelling despite having various directors for its impressive library of films.
Audience frustration with The Rise of Skywalker, and the Sequel Trilogy as a whole, coupled with the success of The Mandalorian on Disney+, has seemingly led Lucasfilm to assume the role of the Padawan and learn from the MCU in implementing connected storytelling.
While it's better late than never, the lesson is something both fans and possibly Rian Johnson wishes the studio would've learned a little earlier.