One of the things I hate the most about the Star Wars movies is how much stuff takes place between them. Things that never make it to the screen, but are (sometimes) played out in books, TV shows, and video games. If you’re a huge Star Wars nerd like me it means you have a ton of interesting space to explore, but if you’re a regular schmoe who likes Star Wars but only watches the movies you’re left starting each new movie with, “Wait, wtf is going on?”
With the final installment of the 9-part series coming up, I thought I would put something together to help my non-Super Nerd friends hit the ground running once the new movie starts.
**If you are a huge Star Wars nerd, you will see many things that I missed. I’m trying to hit the high points here.**
**THERE ARE MASSIVE SPOILERS IN HERE FOR EVERYTHING SHORT OF RISE OF SKYWALKER. READ AT YOUR OWN PERIL**
Let’s Go Way Back: The Prequels
While the story of Star Wars goes back way further in the timeline, the Skywalker story really starts with the prequels. These are The Phantom Menace (TPM), Attack of the Clones (AoC), and Revenge of the Sith (RoS). You don’t need to know all that many details of the prequels to get Rise of Skywalker. The highlights will do.
- A large chunk of the galaxy is organized into a huge Republic, with each planet having a delegation in the Senate. The Republic has been are A Very Long Time.
- The Senator from Naboo, named Sheev Palpatine, orchestrates a massive civil war in the Republic.
- This is a massive undertaking, going so far as to even create the armies to fight the war since the Republic didn’t even have a standing army at the time.
- By playing lead instigator on both sides, Senator Palpatine is able to use the chaos to legally depose the existing chancellor and have himself voted into the highest seat in the Republic. He moves from Senate figurehead to de facto Emperor over the duration of the war as the Republic invests more and more power in him, supposedly because he needs this power to win the war.
- By the end of the war, the Senate is little more than a show.
- Over the course of the war, we discover that Sheev Palpatine is also a Sith Master named Darth Sidious, the evil counterpart to the good of the Jedi.
- Palpatine’s last act of the war is to issue the command (Order 66) that triggers the soldiers to turn on the Jedi, effectively wiping out the good/religious order/galaxy police/army general faction that is the last check on his power.
- At the beginning of the prequels, some Jedi crash land on Tatooine and find an unusually strong Force User named Anakin Skywalker, currently a slave boy. The Jedi free him and take him back to the Jedi temple to train him as a Jedi.
- After his first master, Qui-Gon Jin, is killed in a lightsaber duel, Anakin becomes an apprentice (Padawan) to Obi-Wan Kenobi.
- Between TPM and AoC Obi and Anakin spend ten years romping around the galaxy playing galaxy police.
- Anakin is slowly corrupted against the methods of the Jedi through close association with Senator Palpatine. Anakin, rightfully, sees the corruption of the Republic and thinks that the answer is for a strong leader to seize power and make people do the right thing.
- Anakin has dreams about his mother being tortured on Tatooine. He goes back to help her and finds out that the dreams were real and he is too late.
- When he has the same dreams about his wife’s (it’s verboten for Jedi to have wives, so this is a secret from the rest of them) death, he goes crazy trying to prevent it.
- Palpatine offers to help him save Padme’s life through the Dark Side of the Force.
- Anakin goes evil and is instrumental in killing many of the Jedi still left on the capital planet.
- In the final scenes, Anakin is confronted and bested by Obi-Wan in a lightsaber duel and then left for dead.
- Palpatine saves Anakin, but it requires some heavy-duty technology like a giant black suit and breathing machine. Darth Vader as we know him is born.
- Ironically, while Padme dies in childbirth as he dreamed, it’s Anakin’s turn to the Dark Side that robs Padme of her will to live. His own mad quest to prevent her death is what killed her.
- Palpatine tells Vader that all his kids died as well as his wife.
**Editorial Note: While the movie portrays this as good versus evil, I personally believe there are no good factions in this story so far. The Republic was horribly corrupt. The Jedi brittle and unbending in their ways. Individual characters aside, no one comes off looking good in the prequels.**
Between the Prequels and the Original Trilogy
Twenty-ish years pass between the prequels and the original trilogy. Not much of importance to the Skywalker story actually happens here. Luke and Leia grow up knowing nothing about each other, Luke on Tatooine with his uncle and Leia on Alderaan with her adoptive parents, the leaders of the planet.
Palpatine and Vader consolidate their hold on the newly name Galactic Empire, crushing dissent and removing anyone who speaks out against the order they represent.
There is originally no unified Rebellion. It’s just a bunch of factions struggling against the government in their own way. These are shown or alluded to in the TV show Rebels as well as the movie Rogue One. It’s the end of Rogue One when all the factions are forced to join forces against the Empire.
The Original Trilogy
- The Empire is in full swing. They’ve built the Death Star, a planet-killing tool to keep the planets in line with what Palpatine wants.
- The Rebels manage to blow up the first Death Star, but are still on the run from the galaxy-spanning Empire.
- They discover there is another Death Star being built, and swoop in to blow it up.
- During the final battle, the Emperor is killed as the second Death Star is blown up, decapitating the government in one stroke. When all the power lies in one person and that person dies, chaos ensues.
- Leia follows her adoptive father into the Rebellion and Luke stumbles into it when she reaches out to Obi-Wan.
- Luke discovers he can use the Force, and Obi-Wan begins to teach him.
- Obi-Wan is killed by Vader on the first Death Star, but that just brings about ghost-Obi.
- Ghost-Obi sends Luke to Yoda for more training.
- Vader discovers that Luke is actually his son, and tries to convert him to the Dark Side to team up to overthrow the Emperor.
- Palpatine tries to convert Luke to the Dark Side as well. He wants Luke to kill Vader and become his new apprentice. Everyone wants Luke on their team.
- Luke believes hard enough that there’s some good in Vader that it works, and Vader murders the Emperor.
- During the process, the Emperor’s Force Lightning breaks Vader’s life support, and he dies.
- Luke, who was told about her by Yoda, tells Leia that they’re siblings.
Between The Original Trilogy and the New Movies
- After the Emperor dies, the decapitated Imperial government tries to stay alive, with the military struggling to maintain its hold.
- The Rebels gain in strength while the Imperials wane. This all culminates in a huge battle in and around the planet of Jakku where the Imperial military loses definitively. The wrecks you see at the beginning of The Force Awakens (TFA) are remnants of this battle.
- The Rebellion forms the New Republic. It’s formed as a democratic Republic, with a lot of OG senators helping shape it. It quickly becomes mired in political backstabbing and ineffectual government. Very similar to the Republic.
- At the same time, a new group called the First Order forms and begins to take power as a rival to the New Republic. Where the First Order and its leader, Snoke, came from are still mysteries that haven’t been explained. The First Order seems to be basically all the grandkids of the Empire trying to make it happen again.
- A few years after the New Republic forms, one of Leia’s political rivals discover that she’s the daughter of Vader, and they use that info to have her #canceled. Her political career over, Leia goes back to what she prefers, fighting on the front lines for justice. Reminiscent of her father, she prefers direct action to do the right thing rather than working through the political machinery. The Resistance is formed.
- Leia and Han get busy and have a kid named Ben.
- Luke’s story isn’t well told, but we do know that he tried to restart the Jedi Order, but it went horribly wrong.
- Ben Solo went to school where Luke could teach him to become a Jedi, but some bad stuff went down between them. Ben murdered most of the school, formed something called the Knights of Ren (still not well explained), took to calling himself Kylo Ren, and joined the First Order. All of this came because of his association with Snoke. We don’t know yet how that went down.
- After the failure of his Jedi school, Luke gets mopey and runs away.
The New Movies (Only the Skywalker Ones)
I’m going to munge everything together here because it’s all pretty intertwined.
The Force Awakens
- Everyone is looking for Luke, and they’re fighting over a map to get to where he went.
- A desert rat chick named Rey and a defector First Order Stormtrooper given the name Finn get caught up in the shenanigans and accidentally steal the Millennium Falcon to get away.
- First Order/Resistance battles happen.
- The map gets away from the First Order, so Snoke agrees with General Hux that they should fire their own Death Star EXTREME. The one they’ve built out of a planet that doesn’t have to move anywhere to blow up planets in other star systems.
- The main planet of the New Republic gets blown up. No more New Republic.
- Rey finds out that she can use the Force.
- It’s not terribly germane to the story, but it seems like Rey’s parentage should matter. We don’t know who her parents are.
- Kylo Ren/Ben Solo murders his own father while standing on an inexplicably narrow bridge with no handrails.
- Rey and Finn fight Kylo Ren with Darth Vader’s OG lightsaber, which they found earlier in the movie.
- All the main characters escape, but the Resistance manages to blow up the Death Star EXTREME! (Starkiller Base)
Between TFA and TLJ
- Despite the destruction of Starkiller Base, the First Order escapes TFA with lots of military firepower.
- In the absence of the New Republic, the First Order steps in to assume control of the galaxy. At the barrel of a gun, they force star system after star system to accede to their rule.
- The Resistance is pushed back into the same role the Rebellion was between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back.
- The Resistance establishes a base on a planet, and the First Order discovers their location. This leads us to…
The Last Jedi
- Exactly the same as Empire, The First Order sends its fleet to wipe out the Resistance base. Just like Empire, the Good Guys can’t compete directly and run for their lives. Except..
- Poe Dameron decides the chance to blow up a Hugemongous Ship is too good and disobeys a direct order from Leia to run. He commits the Resistance attacking fleet to blow up this ship. They succeed, but it’s a pyrrhic victory as they lose nearly all of their ships doing it.
- The rest of the movie is the Resistance on the run from the First Order. It’s one long space chase, with the Resistance finally brought to bay when they have to turn and fight.
- After refusing to come back with Rey to help the Resistance, Luke uses up all of his power to send Space Ghost Luke to confront the First Order and Kylo Ren. Luke dies.
- The Resistance escapes the First Order but is nearly wiped out. There are literally only a handful of people left who escape to try and fight.
Between TLJ and Rise of Skywalker
A book has come out in the last few months chronicling what happens after the end of TLJ
- The remnants of the Resistance regroup on the planet of Ryloth. It’s the home planet of the dancing green chick that Jabba dropped into the rancor pit in Jedi.
- From there, they send out a few of the remaining Resistance members in different directions to try and recruit new members and steal some of their ships back from the scrap heap the First Order sent them to.
- It’s tough because the First Order has been busy imprisoning and murdering dissidents.
- Lots of stuff happens in the book, but, in the end, they’ve freed prisoners and recruited new members. The book ends with the Resistance getting an influx of new members including old members of the Rebellion who retired, the political oppponent-turned-friend who outed Leia as Vader’s daughter, and former Imperials who don’t like where the First Order has gone.
and now the stage is set… hold onto your butts, because this is the end of a 42 year story.