Star Wars canon hasn't told many stories beyond the events of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, but with a bit of a time gap before Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker there's still a lot of story to account for. Star Wars 9 will pick things up one year after Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and while the Resistance found renewed hope at the end of Rian Johnson's film, that hasn't fully spread across the galaxy.
With the opening of Star Wars Galaxy's Edge, a publishing program of various tie-in novels and comic books has been released, just as Disney did for Star Wars: The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi (and will do for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker). This means that fleshing out the backstory of Galaxy’s Edge, seeing how the Resistance attempts to take up refuge in the distant planet of Batuu, is also developing the backstory of Star Wars 9, prepping audiences for the First Order’s final, climactic push for galactic dominance.
Star Wars 9 will end the Skywalker Saga and bring the conflict between the Resistance and the First Order to a close, and we have a good picture of what General Leia Organa, Supreme Leader Kylo Ren, the two respective organizations they head, and the Star Wars galaxy as a whole have been up to between Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
The First Order Is Ascendant
The Hosnian Cataclysm, when Starkiller Base obliterated the five planets of the Hosnian star system in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, has left the New Republic without its capital, its Senate, and the vast majority of its already-small fleet. Even worse, although the Resistance enacted a counterstrike that, in turn, destroyed Starkiller, no one in the galaxy seems to be aware of this fact – the First Order has a vested propaganda interest in covering that fact up, and the Resistance is too scattered to wage a PR campaign of its own. This means that the general populace of the Star Wars galaxy lives in perpetual fear of another system-wide murder, which they think could land at any location and at any time should they speak up against the neo-Imperial regime. (Making matters even worse is that, on some backwater planets like Batuu, they don’t even think the First Order really exists, as inexplicable as that may be.)
This has allowed Kylo Ren the luxury of not only moving into entire swaths of the galaxy en masse (though we have yet to see this militaristic push directly in canon), but also of mercilessly hunting the Resistance as it attempts to set up new headquarters in another hidden part of interstellar space. Think of this, then, as the exact same set-up we saw exiting Star Wars: A New Hope and entering The Empire Strikes Back: the good guys are too busy scrambling for their very lives to think about the next major military initiative, perpetually just one step away from utter and total defeat.
The Resistance Is Still Decimated
Even before the Hosnian Cataclysm, Leia Organa knew that the First Order had something major planned (thanks to the events of Star Wars: Resistance) and devised a new strategy of her own. She dispatched a handful of operatives to seek out new planets (inhabited, with an active port that the Resistance can piggyback off of, but nothing too major or obvious) that new back-up bases can be established on – the two biggest assets the general foresees needing are allies and places to hide should her years-long cold war with the First Order suddenly become hot.
In the aftermath of Star Wars: The Last Jedi’s disastrous Battle of Crait, after which only small handfuls of Resistance members were left alive, that directive takes on a whole new urgency, going from back-up plan to dire necessity. The Resistance’s top spy, Vi Moradi (a books-only character who now is meetable-and-greetable in Galaxy’s Edge), suggests Batuu, which has become a safe haven for smugglers and other never-do-wells in the millennia since faster-than-light travel rendered it from economic hotspot to forgotten has-been. Audiences only get to see Vi’s mission on the world’s capital, Black Spire Outpost, but they’re emblematic of all the other efforts in all the other neglected corners of space – and, even more, the agent’s occasional communiques with Leia paint a picture that is still dreary and bleak for their freedom movement, with base-building and recruit-gathering only going slowly and painfully, and with not enough resources around to spread from one site to the other.
That the First Order is mercilessly hunting them, of course, only makes the effort harder. The would-be Empire has hired the renowned mercenary Bazine Netal (a character originally introduced as a background player in Star Wars: The Force Awakens but who has since made several appears in the novels, comics, and short stories) to track the Millennium Falcon down, which she successfully does to Batuu; Hondo Ohnaka, that infamous space pirate from the Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels television series, has taken temporary custody of the legendary vessel, and he splits his time with it running mercy missions for the Resistance and running smuggling operations for his own pocket (this is the backstory for one of Galaxy’s Edge’s two rides, Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run).
Though Hondo is cleverly able to throw Bazine off of his tail, that doesn’t leave her employer undeterred. Once word reaches them that Vi Moradi has also been spotted in Black Spire, the First Order arrives in successive waves of force, culminating in the Supreme Leader himself arriving to personally supervise the operation.
Kylo Ren Is Hunting For Jedi And Sith Artifacts
Kylo Ren isn’t only on Batuu to enforce the planet’s newfound occupation ahead of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – he may also just be there on a more personal mission. Although only fleetingly mentioned in Star Wars canon thus far, it is clearly established that the still-new Supreme Leader is actively searching for any artifact having to do with the Force, whether Jedi or Sith in nature. The reasons for this type of crusade could be legion: the progeny of Anakin Skywalker could be eager to finish his Force education now that his former master, Snoke, is dead, or he could have stumbled upon Emperor Palpatine’s huge collection (which we now know, thanks to the Aftermath trilogy of novels, he had hidden among dozens of different worlds) and wishes to finish it, or his idolization of his grandfather’s Darth Vader helmet has become more of an obsession over the past five months. There’s also the fact that Luke Skywalker spent a few decades attempting to gather his own library of Force-related lore and items before setting out to rebuild the Jedi Order from scratch – yet another rhyming device in a franchise that is already packed with them.
Batuu is potentially filled with such relics – possibly much more so than the average planet in the galaxy. Dok-Ondar, the infamous black-market dealer, is the proprietor of Dok-Ondar’s Den of Antiquities (one of the gift shops guests can visit in Galaxy’s Edge), a store that is filled with such treasures as an archaic Jedi statue carved with a lightsaber out of a large kyber crystal that was taken directly from the Guardians of the Whills and, even more ominously, the legendary Sword of Khashyun, which was fashioned by a sect of ancient Dowutin Sith warriors who deemed that normal lightsabers were for the weak (this old-fashioned blade is still so powerful and dangerous, Dok-Ondar patently refuses to allow it to fall into Kylo’s hands).
And then there is Savi, a junker who partially runs his salvaging company as a front to screen all of the galaxy’s trash for any hidden or otherwise overlooked Jedi accoutrement – particularly lightsaber components, which he gladly helps those touched by the Force build in secret for the day that the Jedi may be rekindled (Savi’s Workshop – Handbuilt Lightsabers being another of the attractions that costumers can partake in at the Star Wars-themed land). Savi’s backstory and guiding principles are particularly noteworthy, as he was a lifelong friend of Lor San Tekka and a fellow member of the Church of the Force. As he himself puts it to one of his so-called gatherers:
"We are gatherers, not Jedi. The flock, not the shepherds. We have no powers, no edict. We can only wait and watch and listen, not guide. We hold a candle but will not light any fuse. We do protect the balance [of the Force], but not always by shifting the scales. This conflict [between the Resistance and the First Order] is far from over. I’m certain we will play our part one day – but not today."
All of which is to say that Kylo Ren may have bitten off more than he can chew in the final months before the end of the Skywalker Saga. With the First Order retaining control, the Resistance weakened but still fighting, and the shadow of Palpatine ready to emerge, the Star Wars galaxy is in a fascinating position after The Last Jedi and heading into The Rise of Skywalker.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019