Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is set to release tonight here in the US. The conclusion to the nine film saga has finally arrived, wrapped in bittersweet packaging as we prepare to bid goodbye to this story that has been around before some of us were even born. While you swim in your nostalgia, wondering just how this epic space drama is going to finally end, we figured you might need a brief rundown of where our most recent heroes left off, and how they got there. So, we’ve got you covered.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens takes place 30 years after the events of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. We open to our favorite Resistance pilot, Poe Dameron, and his faithful droid BB8 retrieving what we’ll later learn is the last missing piece to the long and mysterious map to Luke Skywalker. The village on Jakku is quickly overrun by First Order stormtroopers, led by our tumultuous Sith villain Kylo Ren, and it’s here that stormtrooper FN-2187, soon to be dubbed Finn by Poe, begins to discover perhaps he isn’t where he belongs. Poe sends BB8 off into the desert with the map piece as the attack ensues (and before his eventual capture), hoping that it will stay out of the hands of the First Order.
BB8 runs into a young scavenger, our future Jedi hero Rey, while his master is being tortured for information at the hands of Kylo Ren aboard his massive Starkiller Base. FN-2187 fully defects, saves Poe from the hands of the First Order (and gets his new name), and the two steal a TIE fighter to escape, but are quickly shot down back onto the planet Jakku. Poe is nowhere to be found, so Finn heads off searching for any help he can find, which turns out to be Rey, and BB8 (who recognizes Finn’s jacket as Poe’s). Our two new unlikely allies steal a ship, the iconic Millennium Falcon, and escape the planet and the First Order on their tails.
We then reunite with our beloved Chewbacca and Han Solo. They’ve returned to smuggling in the aftermath of losing Han and Leia’s son, Ben aka Kylo Ren, to the hands of the dark side, while Leia found solace in the one thing she does best as well — leading a Resistance. After a hard fought battle with some gangs looking settle a few debts, Han and his newly found crew make their way to Takodana to meet with Maz Kanata, who can help them get the droid and the map back to Leia and the Resistance.
Back aboard the Starkiller Base, Kylo meets with Supreme Leader Snoke, who doubts Kylo’s ability to fight his emotions, and we learn just how deadly this new weapon of the First Order is (it steals suns and blows up planets, in short) and they destroy the New Republic capitol and senate. Back on Takodana, Rey is inexplicably drawn to an underground vault, and led to a box containing the lightsaber of Anakin and Luke Skywalker, before the First Order rains down upon the unsuspecting planet in search of BB8 and his hidden prize.
A shoot out begins, the Resistance arrives, Poe is alive, but Rey is taken by Kylo Ren after he learns she has seen the map, and he is confident in his ability to pull it from her mind. Han and Leia aka General Organa reunite, and the Resistance regroups in preparation to destroy this new super-weapon starship.
Rey is now confirmed as Force sensitive, perhaps even Force powerful, as she fights off Kylo Ren and tricks her way out of her confines in ways we’ve seen used by Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker, and she’s off to try and escape. While she wanders searching for a way off, Finn, Han, and Chewbacca are aboard the Starkiller Base in search of her, and a way to help the Resistance pilots in their quest to destroy the entire base (by setting up explosives).
The fight continues, but no loss is greater than that of Han Solo at the hands of his son, Kylo Ren. A distraught Chewbacca shoots Kylo, and sets the explosives off, giving Poe an opening to take out the base once and for all. As this goes on, Kylo and Rey, with the help of Finn, face off in the woods. She gets a few good hits in before the two are separated, and General Hux of the First Order is instructed by Supreme Leader Snoke to bring Kylo Ren to him to complete his training, while Chewbacca finds Finn and Rey in the woods and returns them to the Resistance base on D-Qar and General Organa.
Once on the base, R2D2 finally awakes, and reveals he has the almost complete map to Luke Skywalker in his database, and BB8 holds the one missing section. Luke is on a remote planet, Ahch-To, and Rey takes the Falcon to him, offering him his lightsaber back after these 30 years of isolation.
In Star Wars: The Last Jedi, we start off by seeing The Resistance, with Poe and Leia, being followed by the First Order. Poe is in an X-Wing, flanked by bombers as they set off to destroy the First Order’s ships, to which one lone bomber succeeds in getting the bombs deployed to defeat a Dreadnought. The Resistance continues to battle, and Finn finally wakes up. When they jump to hyperspace, the Resistance doesn’t realize that the First Order can track them.
On Ahch-To, Rey has the daunting task of trying to converse with Luke, who refuses to help in any way. Even after seeing Chewbacca and R2-D2, Luke evades Rey, who is as stubborn as ever, and goes about his daily tasks while trying to ignore her.
Back with the Resistance, Kylo Ren takes his ship out after Snoke calls him “a child in a mask,” and Kylo Ren destroys his helmet. We see the conflict in Kylo, however, when he has a clear shot from the bridge of the ship and refuses to do it, knowing Leia is there. However, Stormtroopers do take the shot, and Leia gets blasted into outer space, where, she uses the Force to make her way back to the ship, unconscious. With Leia unable to lead the Resistance, Vice Admiral Hodo takes over command.
While Finn goes to try to escape The Resistance ship, he runs into Rose, who is guarding the escape pods. Rose realizes what Finn is about to do, and stuns him. Later, Poe, Finn and Rose devise a plan to sneak onto Snoke’s Destroyer to disable the tracker. Maz tells them about a master codebreaker on Canto Bight, who can help disable the tracker.
Back on Ahch-To, Rey and Kylo Ren connect via Force-bond. As soon as they connect for the first time, Rey tries to shoot him. They connect a second time where they’re able to talk, before Rey is distracted and the connection is broken. After Luke starts to train Rey, the Force connects Rey and Kylo again once she’s back outside the Falcon, and their bond is growing stronger. Luke tells a story about Ben (Kylo Ren) and how he took Ben and a dozen other students and created a training temple. Luke states that he went to confront Ben about his darkness, turning on him. Ben then vanished with a handful of students and killed the rest. The Force connects Kylo and Rey once again, with Kylo telling another version of events; he woke up to Luke standing over him with his lightsaber, ready to attack him. The force connects the two again later, where they touch hands before being discovered by Luke, who orders Rey to leave. Rey leaves to save Ben, while Luke goes to burn down the Jedi texts and runs into an old friend, Yoda.
Finn and Rose go to Canto Bight and locate the codebreaker, but are on the run from the cops. They narrowly escape, and make their way to Snoke’s Destroyer at the same time that Rey is on her way there to talk to Kylo Ren. Rey arrives to find Kylo Ren awaiting her, where he takes her to see Snoke. After Snoke tortures Rey and tells Kylo to kill her, Kylo uses The Force to move a lightsaber to strike straight through Snoke, killing him. Rey and Kylo team up together to then defeat the guards, before Kylo asks Rey to join them to rule together. Rey denies Kylo, and the two battle, before they’re knocked out.
Back with the Resistance, Poe and a few others removed Hodo to try and help buy Rose and Finn time, however, but the duo gets caught by the First Order. Leia wakes up and makes it to the bridge, stunning Poe and putting the rest of the Resistance on escape pods, while Hodo stays back on the ship to distract the First Order. The codebreaker turns on Finn and Rose and gives up the plan to the First Order, who is starting to destroy the escape pods one by one. A battle ensues, but Finn and Rose escape, with Finn killing Captain Phasma.
What is left of The Resistance arrive on the base from the escape pods, but the First Order knows where they are and orders all of their ships down there. The First Order brings a cannon, which can completely destroy where the rest of The Resistance lies. In an effort to destroy the cannon, Finn, Rose, Poe and a few other fighters head out to stop the cannon. When it becomes too strong, everyone pulls back except for Finn, who is ready to sacrifice his life. However, Rose has different plans when she runs into him, knocking both of them out of the way, saving Finn’s life. Luke arrives at the base, where he goes out to face Kylo Ren. Kylo orders everyone to shoot Luke, who comes out unharmed. After Kylo goes down to Luke and tries to battle, Kylo realizes Luke isn’t actually there and the Resistance is escaping after Rey finds them.
Leia and Rey both feel in the Force that Luke used all of his energy to appear and Luke dies, disappearing.
That brings us to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, out today for advanced screenings! Stay tuned for our review of the film.