There were a lot of surprises packed into Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which ended the long-running saga of films after nine main entries throughout the last four decades. Because of its place in the canon and legacy of Star Wars, there were a lot of questions about how Lucasfilm and filmmaker J.J. Abrams would wrap up the narrative and how much of the sequel trilogy would dwell on the past. It turns out that there was quite a bit beholden to the history of the Star Wars saga, as a major character made a shocking return at a very pivotal moment in the movie.
Warning: Spoilers for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker below.
In the movie, as Kylo Ren experiences doubts in the Dark Side after Rey spares his life in their final duel, he sees a vision of his father Han Solo that helps sway him back to the Light. The cameo by Harrison Ford was pivotal to the film's narrative, but Abrams explained that it took some work to get the actor to return.
Ford has famously been selective about his roles, especially Han Solo. He once campaigned to have the character killed off in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, and finally had his wish granted in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
“We had a meeting and talked about what it would be,” Abrams explained to Vanity Fair. “Harrison, who is one of the great people ever, and incredibly thoughtful about everything that he does, all he ever wants is to understand the utility of the character. 'What is my role?' It was about sitting with him and explaining what our intention was. We talked about it for quite a while, I sent him the pages. He got it, and of course, as you can see, he was wonderful.”
While many fans might assume that Han Solo is a Force ghost, writer Chris Terrio made it clear that the character is merely a figment of Kylo Ren's imagination as he is still haunted by the fact that he killed his own father.
“At least for J.J. and I, we thought that this finally was Ren, after the death of his mother, being able to really ask for forgiveness, to ask his father for forgiveness, and make some kind of peace,” Terrio said. “He cannot go back and take back what he has done to his father, but as Han says, ‘Your mother's gone but what she stood for and what she fought for, that's not gone," so he still can make amends in the future.”
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is now playing in theaters.