From Aftermath to The Rise of Skywalker: The Story of Star Wars

The Journey to the sequel trilogy started with the Battle of Endor and ended with the defeat of the First Order and the Rise of Skywalker.

Written by: Eric Onkenhout

The clone of Emperor Palpatine emerged from the shadows. His physical body, once just scarred and deformed, is now supported by a mechanical arm called the Ommin chair. The name Ommin is a reference that dates back 26 years to the comic book miniseries, Star Wars Tales of the Jedi: The Freedon Nadd Uprising. King Ommin was a decrepit old man who dabbled in SIth magic while acting as king of Onderon. King Ommin was so old—his bones so fragile, he required an exoskeleton to stay alive. When his exoskeleton was destroyed in a confrontation with the Jedi Knight Ulic Qel-Droma, Ommin perished in a pile of flesh.

The Ommin Chair

It’s connections like this that make the Star Wars landscape such a rich universe for the fans to play in. But it’s not just the fans that get to enjoy these common threads. Creators like Chris Terrio use these backstories to help enrich new stories. In a scene from the Skywalker Legacy documentary, Terrio is seen with a copy of Chuck Wendig’s first Aftermath novel on his desk as he’s discussing the making of Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker. Rian Johnson is also known for having some input on Claudia Grey’s 2016 novel Star Wars: Bloodline. Let’s explore some of these seeds a little closer.

A Tale as Old as Time

Chris Terrio discussing The Rise of Skywalker

The Aftermath of War

Before each thread is followed through, it’s necessary to gain an idea of where the Star Wars galaxy is at the time of Star Wars Aftermath (2015). The Aftermath trilogy virtually sets the table for the sequel trilogy. It’s one year after the Return of the Jedi, and about four years preceding The Mandalorian. The celebration after the destruction was short-lived. The Imperial remnants believe “the Rebel Alliance have claimed themselves a government of no legitimacy, a government given over to corrosion, chaos, and the corruption born of alien minds and radical terrorists.” The Client in the Mandalorian says as much.

With the death of their Emperor, the Empire was cast into disorder. The only war the galaxy has seen was brought on by the criminal rebellion. Imperial Admiral Rae Sloane adds that the new government will only bring chaos to the galaxy. Fragments of the Empire continued to fight on in his name. Kes Dameron and Shara Bay, parents of future Resistance pilot, Poe Dameron, are forced to put family time aside to squash the fleeting Imperial forces. Months after the Battle of Endor, Mon Mothma is named New Republic Chancellor of the new senate established on her homeworld of Chandrila. After Endor, Mon Mothma demilitarized the New Republic, but her goal was to allow planets to maintain their own militaries that could form a coalition if needed. She wanted to decentralize the military, not remove it.

The AFtermath Trilogy

Driving a Wedge

A year after Endor, Wedge was captured by the Empire, tortured and beaten, and now suffers from a limp. Wedge eventually marries Norra Wexley (who flew a Y-wing in the Death Star II attack) and becomes the stepdad to Temmin Wexley, aka Snap. In Rebecca Roanhorse’s 2019 novel, Resistance Reborn Poe convinces Wedge to come out of retirement to help the Resistance fight the First Order.

Coruscant is abandoned by the Empire then falls into a civil war. The Imperial Security Bureau (ISB) is the only holdout left. The New Republic moved its capital to the agricultural world, Nakadia. The Galactic Civil War officially ends when Mas Amedda, the former Vice-Chair or Senate Speaker during The Clone Wars and Grand Vizier during the reign of the Empire, escapes from prison imposed by Imperial Admiral Gallius Rax and signs the Galactic Concordance.

Han & Chewie

Han confirms saving Chewbacca from slavery (as seen in Solo: A Star Wars Story), and in turn, Chewie keeps Han from going down a dark path. Leia has dreams about Han and Chewie, both of which came true. Leia also has a vision of a lost Luke Skywalker (that comes to fruition in The Last Jedi). And finally, by the end of the Aftermath trilogy, pregnant Leia Organa gives birth to Ben Solo in Star Wars Aftermath: Empire’s End (2017) two years after the Battle of Endor.

In Aftermath: Life Debt, Rax reveals that a sizeable Imperial fleet, consisting of hundreds of Star Destroyers, and thousands of smaller craft has been hiding on the far side of the galaxy, awaiting orders to engage the Rebel fleet at Jakku. This fleet includes the Super Star Destroyer Ravager, which is seen on the desert floor of Jakku being picked clean by scavengers.

The Battle of Jakku

The climax of Empire’s End witnessed the Battle of Jakku, the final large-scale battle between the Empire and the Rebel Alliance. Long before his death, Emperor Palpatine had put in place a contingency plan called Operation Cinder. If he were to die, then so does the Empire. Palpatine likened it to a king dying in a chess match. Once the king is taken, the game is over. He ordered Admiral Gallius Rax to destroy the Imperial fleet at Jakku and take the Rebel Alliance with it. The Battle of Jakku is commanded by Rax from the Jakku Observatory, one of several observatories Palpatine had placed throughout the galaxy. Each one has its own recreation of the Imperialis, the personal yacht of Emperor Palpatine. The Jakku Observatory’s primary use was to chart a safe passage to the unknown regions using the information provided by Grand Admiral Thrawn.

From the Poe Dameron comic series, during the Battle at Jakku, Terex, aka TK-603 and his squadmate Corlac, TK-605, shot their leader who demanded they continue to fight despite the inevitable outcome. They cobbled together a ship and flew off Jakku. Terex wanted to find what was left of the Empire while Corlac went his own way. Terex’s loyalty earned him a high ranking new position 30 years later as a First Order Security Bureau agent (the same position held by Agent Tierny in Star Wars Resistance), working out of Grand Moff Tarkin’s old ship the Carrion Spike.

The Empire’s Youth

There are several references of the Empire needing children to survive, foreshadowing a philosophy adopted by The First Order. It’s Rax who tells Rae Sloane that the Empire must be fertile and young. “Children are crucial to our success. We need that kind of vitality. The Empire needs children.” The loyalty instilled into First Order soldiers by General Hux at birth has only had one defector, FN-2187.

There are hints that Admiral Rax has been pulling strings for a long time. Possibly influencing or manipulating Count Vidian, the businessman and antagonist from John Jackson Miller’s 2014 novel A New Dawn which featured pre-Star Wars Rebels Hera Syndulla and Kanan Jarrus. The Empire formed a Shadow Council to run everything behind the scenes led by Gallius Rax. Rae Sloane, Brendol Hux (the father of General Armitage Hux of the First Order), and other Imperial minds were members. Rae Sloane, a popular character from early canon, isn’t seen much after the Aftermath trilogy despite having killed Rax for his betrayal of the Empire.

The Secrets of the Sith

Emperor Palpatine Reborn

And what of Emperor Palpatine himself? Lord Darth Sidious. Master manipulator. The mastermind behind The Clone Wars, the rise of the Empire, and the return of the Sith. Emperor Palpatine was exploring the dark side’s origin before The Clone Wars began by placing beacons and sensors in the Outer Rim on worlds like Jakku. Vague rumors surrounded Palpatine’s death, claiming that he lived many lives, and Palpatine knew there was a chance he could die at Endor, and so prepared himself for it.

To Acolytes and Beyond

A group of dark side fanatics called the Acolytes of the Beyond, led by former Imperial Advisor Yupe Tashu, stole a red lightsaber thought to belong to Darth Vader from a museum during a riot they initiated. The Acolytes believe that they receive dreams and visions of ancient sith. They would sometimes destroy Sith lightsabers in hopes of returning them to their owners in death. They also launched a coordinated simultaneous attack on multiple planets throughout the galaxy. Ochi of Bestoon, the assassin who was tasked to capture a scavenger girl named Rey, was a member of the Acolytes of the Beyond.

According to Tashu, No sith remain after the deaths of Vader and Palpatine. “And the lone Jedi that exists, the son of Anakin Skywalker, possesses an untouchable soul. At least for now.” With the Empire gone, Tashu insisted the remnants move towards the dark side. “Palpatine felt that the universe beyond the edges of our maps was where his power came from. Over the many years, he, with our aid, sent men and women beyond known space. They built labs and communication stations on distant moons, asteroids, out there in the wilds. We must follow them. Retreat from the galaxy. Go out beyond the veil of stars. We must seek the source of the dark side like a man looking for a wellspring of water.” This wellspring of dark side energy beyond known space is Exegol, and the labs would eventually be used to create Snoke.

Palpatine Cheats Death

Yupe Tashu is the guy who believes everything he’s told as long as it’s what he wants to hear—as long as it suits his vision of the galaxy. He believed the dark side is all, and that Palpatine was not just the Master of the dark side, but Master of everything and everyone. And through this, the Dark Lord will be reborn. “Palpatine lives on. We will find him again out there in the dark. Everything has arranged itself as our Master foretold.” Palpatine’s line in Return of the Jedi, “Everything has transpired has done so according to my design.” takes on a broader perspective.

Leia’s Bloodline

Star Wars Bloodline takes place five years before The Force Awakens. It was Rian Johnson’s suggestions that Bloodline set up the political upheaval making its way through The New Republic, which will lead to the formation of the resistance with Leia leading the way. Meanwhile, Leia’s Force training came to an abrupt end for two different reasons. In Bloodline, it says Luke just left, effectively ending Leia’s training.

However, other material says Leia’s life pulled her in other directions away from her training. In The Rise of Skywalker, Luke explains to Rey, “It was the last night of her training. Leia told me that she had sensed the death of her son at the end of her Jedi path. She surrendered her saber to me and said one day, it would be picked up again by someone who would finish her journey.” Regardless of how far away Luke was, their connection never faltered. Even while pregnant with Ben, Leia could feel Luke’s thoughts—ever-present, forever bound.

A Bit of Truth in Legends

Legends character Ulic Qel-Droma

Moving away from canon novels and back to the Tales of the Jedi (1994) comic books, Ulic Qel-Droma was the Anakin Skywalker of his era. A promising Jedi student, Ulic, and his brother, Cay, and others formed a strong group of Jedi apprentices. During a conflict with sith upstarts, Ulic’s Master, Arca was killed in battle.

Ulic vowed revenge by infiltrating the dark side from within by learning its secrets. His path was doomed from first thought. Ulic fell to the dark side, murdered his own brother, and in a desperate move by his love and Jedi, Nomi Sunrider, Ulic was stripped of his Force sensitivity, which virtually blinded him to the Force. Now seeking redemption, Ulic desired isolation and peace. Much like Luke in The Last Jedi, Ulic didn’t want to burden anyone and felt unworthy. In a last bid for peace, Ulic taught Nomi’s daughter, Vima, the Force, but was killed by a fame-seeking citizen. Ulic became one with the Force.

Even in the Knights of the Old Republic (2006) comic series written by John Jackson Miller, there exists a ragtag group of a former Jedi, a criminal/entrepreneur, an ex-Mandalorian, etc., doing whatever they have to do to survive which is reminiscent of Han, Chewie, Beckett, Qi’ra, L3, and Lando. The former Jedi student, Zayne Carrick, was falsely accused (like Ahsoka Tano) of murdering his fellow padawans by a group of Masters called The Covenant. The Covenant’s purpose was to exterminate any potential dark-siders before they could truly develop. This may sound familiar because Kylo Ren accuses Luke of trying to kill him in fear of his dark side potential.

Conclusion

While some of these connections may be nothing more than coincidence, it makes consuming Star Wars content that much more enjoyable because it’s fun to see links in current material that remind us of things we saw in books or comics decades ago. And that makes us want to revisit those items, and over time, we grow and have new perspectives on what we read when we were young(er). As we grow, so does the story of Star Wars.

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