The Rise of Skywalker has been out for just about a month now, and while a vocal group of Star Wars fans are saltier than Crait about how the Skywalker saga played out, others are just looking to make the best of the hand J.J. Abrams dealt them. Even amid the abundance of recent evidence to suggest the story of Episode IX came together on the fly, online theorists are still looking for clues of an overarching plan.
One particularly persuasive argument making the rounds on the Star Wars speculation subreddit claims that one of the “new” Force abilities introduced in Rise of Skywalker and The Mandalorian is actually something we’ve seen before, in both the original trilogy and the prequels.
When Episode IX begins, it’s clear that Rey has grown significantly more powerful since the end of The Last Jedi. Through her training with Leia, she’s tapped into the ability to use the Force to heal wounds. She does this in the sequence with the gigantic worm in the caverns beneath Pasaana, and later during the Death Star duel with Kylo Ren after stabbing him in the torso with her lightsaber. This would presumably be a fatal wound without Rey’s intervention, and you can tell that she immediately regrets letting her rage get the better of her.
At the climax of the movie, the newly redeemed Ben Solo uses the same ability to revive an unconscious Rey, but the expenditure of power costs him his life. (According to the Rise of Skywalker Visual Dictionary, Rey also uses it to fix the Skywalker lightsaber, but you’d be forgiven for not knowing that since the movie literally never mentions it.)
While some fans have complained that this formidable ability comes seemingly out of nowhere in the final installment of the Skywalker saga, redditor u/4FR0_M4N suggests we’ve seen this ability used to bring someone back from the brink of death before: after Obi-Wan and Anakin’s duel in Revenge of the Sith. Essentially, the theory claims that when Palpatine kneels beside his wounded apprentice, he’s keeping the young man alive until he can get medical attention.
Elsewhere in the thread, u/Lordkeravrium points out that — from a certain point of view — Obi-Wan was actually the first to use this skill way back in A New Hope. Remember when Luke snaps back to consciousness after “Old Ben” shoos away those pesky Jawas? He kneels down and touches Luke on the temples, almost meditatively. It’s a moment we’ve all seen many times by now, but it certainly seems like there could be some Force-y stuff going on here.
At present, the official Star Wars lore is somewhat fuzzy on the topic of Force healing. According to Wookiepedia, in the previous Extended Universe (or Legends) canon, this was an ability of both Light and Dark side users of the Force, including Obi-Wan and even Vader.
Post-Rise of Skywalker, the canon explanation hews a bit closer to Newtonian physics — namely, that every reaction has an equal and opposite reaction. This means that Force healing exerts a physical toll upon the user. That doesn’t seem to be a factor when it’s used at earlier points in the Star Wars saga.
Perhaps The Mandalorian Season 2 will offer up a fuller explanation of this ability, who can wield it, and how it impacts the user. Until then, this new theory offers a pretty convincing and satisfying way to reconcile these latest wrinkles in Star Wars lore.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is in theaters now.