The Skywalker being referred to in the title is "rising" rather than "returning", which suggests the growth of something new rather than the return of something old, fitting with The Last Jedi and its theme of learning from previous mistakes. The former Jedi Order may have ended, but the Skywalker legacy stands to grow in a positive way.
It's fitting that the Skywalker family legacy continues even after the death of the last Skywalker bloodline descendant. The point is that bloodline doesn't matter after all. Ben Solo/Kylo Ren lived a life of failure, despite having positive role models in his family—plus the cautionary example of his grandfather. Ben repeated Anakin Skywalker's mistakes instead of learning from them. Rey—a Palpatine—never even thought of following in her grandfather's footsteps and completely rejected the dark side of the Force. It's fitting that she call herself Rey Skywalker. Rey, not Ben, is the real heir to the Skywalker name and legacy, despite being descended from the family's greatest enemy.
The poster has a light blue Color Motif for its text, as opposed to the very prominent red featured in The Last Jedi and the classic yellow featured in The Force Awakens. Blue is a color that is associated with Jedi via their blue lightsabers, such as Obi-Wan's and Anakin's lightsabers. The blue is the color of the sky, a pun on the Skywalker name. The poster is a visual indication that things are going to bounce upwards after The Last Jedi brought our heroes down to their lowest point.
While it's hard to see Palpatine being a father, let alone a grandfather, it wouldn't be hard to say he got the idea from Darth Vader. The whole reason Anakin turned in Revenge of the Sith was to save his pregnant wife Padme and their child (it wasn't until Return of the Jedi that he knew had twins). That said child never appeared in the OT suggests they didn't inherit Palpatine's powers, which is why they hid Rey and ended up killed.
On that subject, it seemed to be a swerve and a letdown that Rey's parents, after a movie and a half of buildup, were no one special. And they weren't. But no one said anything about her grandparents...
Having Palpatine as a parent would be bad enough for one's mental health to drive most people into being a drunken, burned-out delinquent of the sort Kylo described in the previous film.
If they were Force-sensitive, they would have had to have cut themselves off from the Force, the way Luke did, in order to avoid the Emperor sensing them and finding them through it. They would then be just as ordinary as if they had never had access to the Force at all.
In the prequel trilogy, it's explained that the Jedi Order destroyed the Sith Order, however the Jedi didn't hunt down and destroy the Sith remnants, resulting in Palpatine overthrowing the Jedi Order, leading to the Galactic Empire. Following the original trilogy, the heroes didn't hunt down and destroy the Imperial remnants, leading to the First Order. But this time, all these remnants were finally destroyed - the battle is truly won now.
With prior films people have complained about Rey being far too powerful for 'just a nobody'. Then it turns out she's the granddaughter of Magic Space Hitler who is acknowledged as probably one of the most powerful Sith in a thousand years. Suddenly her powers and anger issues make a lot of sense.
It's not clear exactly where the First Order got the manpower for the huge fleet of Final Order Star Destroyers. There are a few possibilities, of varying degrees of your choice of Fridge Brilliance or Fridge Horror:
The First Order simply had that much manpower even after the loss of Starkiller Base, Supremacy, and her accompanying fleet. They were possibly recruiting from other Imperial Remnant factions and sympathizers to build their numbers as they went as well. Such sympathizers might have actually rallied around those losses, similar to how the Rebellion rallied around the loss of Alderaan.
Mass conscription from the former New Republic worlds that fell to the First Order.
The Cult of Palpatine (he had thousands of followers in his "Senate Chamber" alone, and who knows how many he had recruited before he convinced Kylo Ren to join him?)
Star Destroyers simply don't require very large crews, or at least this version of them don't. This one actually makes a certain degree of sense if you assume the flagship should have been able to muster a larger defense against Finn's deserter boarding party.
Ties to the reason why the First Order forces outside Exegol are implied to have fallen so easily... the First Order simply left all their ships with skeleton crews and transferred the bulk of their personnel to crew the Sith Fleet.
We've never seen a T-65 X-Wing fly without an astromech droid, and Luke certainly didn't have an extra one hanging out on Ahch-to. So either they're not actually required, the Sith Pathfinder served the same navigational function, or Rey just used the Force to help her fill both roles on the crew.
Navicomputers on fighters can hold a few hyperspace routes. Astromechs are used for in flight repairs and for calculating any jumps not preprogrammed. Luke could have put in the route to Ahch-To before he left.
When Rey explores Palpatine's throne room on the destroyed Death Star, we hear the Imperial March play. Except that this isn't Palpatine's leitmotif (his is, appropriately enough, "The Emperor's Theme"), this is Darth Vader's leitmotif. The room was the location where Anakin Skywalker redeemed himself by sacrificing himself for a loved one and foiling Palpatine's plans, much as both Rey and Ben would do at the climax of this film.
We see Rey, and later Ben, using the Force to heal others. Palpatine can do the same trick, except he doesn't give of his life force, he takes it from others to sustain himself, not unlike one fan theory as to how Darth Vader ended up surviving his injuries while Padme "lost the will to live."
Hux's reason for betraying the First Order by relaying intel to the Resistance is as petty as it comes: He just hates Kylo Ren that much and wants nothing more than to see him fail. In other words, he gave in to the Dark Side and acted purely out of fear, anger, and hate, which led ultimately to the betrayal of his (admittedly evil) ideals and self-destruction, ironically by directly aiding the forces of the Light Side. He was so far gone to it that he didn't even care if it brought him more power, as indeed his reduced stature in the organization implies that he has no hope for that anyways.
Considering that Hux got openly and publicly humiliated, first by Snoke, then casually manhandled by Kylo Ren, all the while constantly ignored by both of them even when he was right, it's easy to see Hux's love for the First Order having eroded since then.
Kylo Ren went out of his way to degrade Hux at every opportunity, even before Snoke was killed, and afterward he pretty much did it on a whim, even when all Hux was doing was trying to talk a bit of sense into him. It's rather understandable that Hux could snap after that and develop a grudge against Kylo Ren that could eclipse all other considerations, especially if the treatment continued after the events of The Last Jedi or even got worse.
The fact that Palpatine had access to a fleet of warships that all had planet-destroying lasers isn't terribly far-fetched when one considers how technology typically advances even in the real world: existing technologies typically go two routes, typically either gaining capability or shrinking in size. The first supercomputers could hold a few megabytes of data but were the size of an entire room. Now there are small memory cards out there that hold several thousand times that much data that can be balanced on the tip of a finger. The First Order was the remnants of the Galactic Empire, not the Sith itself, so presumably Starkiller Base was based on what they knew of the Death Star tech, while Palpatine and the Sith continued developing the weapon during their time underground over the 30+ years that had passed in between the two trilogies.
The Xyston Star Destroyer's laser was more visually similar to Starkiller Base's than the Death Stars. Wookieepedia said they both use phantom energy. A sun has a lifetime energy output of 1.2*10^44 j. Starkiller, which uses an entire star to power each shot, has a diameter of 660 km, so a volume of 1.51*10^8 km^3. The 1.6 km Imperial Star Destroyer has a volume of 0.0528 km^3. Plugging in the Xyston's 2.406 km gives 0.18 km^3. Assuming the same power per size (Xyston's uses a solar ionization reactor, which sounds like Starkiller using stars), a Xyston's energy is 1.43*10^35 j. The Death Star's energy was estimated as 3*10^36 j. This makes the near Death Star levels of power in something so small mathematically feasible, and consistent with the less violent planetary destruction observed. And the existence of such more feasible, given the developments that were going on at the time.
Kylo Ren is (near) fatally stabbed through the chest by someone he loves while they flirt with the dark side. Like father, like son?
History repeats at the Death Star II location, where a dark side Force user (Darth Vader/Kylo Ren) is redeemed and brought back to the light with the help of another (Luke/Rey).
'Luke' comes from 'Lucius', meaning 'bright one,' and 'Rey' is an alternate spelling of 'ray', as in 'ray of light', continuing the MeaningfulNamesStar Wars characters are sometimes given.
Similarly, for much of the film (and series), Ben Solo is an identity that Kylo Ren has abandoned as part of his past - he has "been Solo."
The planets we see the defeated Final Order Star Destroyers defeated on (Bespin, Endor, and Jakku) are planets Palpatine intentionally wanted them to raze to demoralize the Resistance. Almost as if Palpatine wanted to enact Operation: Cinder 2.0.
Leia's death is the culmination of a rather dark example of Third Time's the Charm in regards to the death of a major Original trilogy hero. The first is Chewbacca being blown up in the transport tug of war, and the second is C-3P0's memory wipe - while he physically survived the wipe, the implication was that the C-3P0 we know and love was gone - only for both instances to prove fake, with Chewie being on a different transport and R2's backup being far more reliable than C-3P0 implied, while Leia's death was the 3rd death of an OT hero and the only one to stick.
In all of the fights between Rey and Kylo Ren, Rey is always the first to activate her lightsaber, showing her growing aggressiveness and flirting with the Dark Side. Even better that in their final fight, Kylo spends a good portion of the fight with nothing but dodging her attacks and when he finally did activate his lightsaber, he doesn't immediately attack and instead draws their fight to the outside.
In their final fight, Rey starts unknowingly shifting into the Dark Side by fighting in blind rage, while Ben starts unknowingly shifting into the Light Side by fighting composedly and calmly and not out of rage for the first time in the series. It takes Rey stabbing Ben to realize she's falling to the Dark Side, and it takes Ben getting stabbed to realize he can return to the Light Side.
For that matter, their final battle in this film is reminiscent in tone to Anakin Skywalker versus Obi-Wan Kenobi in Revenge of the Sith. Anakin went all-out on Obi-Wan, demonstrating improved skill and a deeper connection to the Force (the Dark Side) than ever before, and Obi-Wan continuously fell back before him... not because he was outmatched, but because he was more in tune with the Force and letting it decide when, where, and how it would all end. Now, Rey is going all-out, demonstrating vastly improved skill and a deeper connection to the Force than ever before, and Kylo Ren is letting the battle flow towards its ultimate conclusion. The symbols are the same, the meanings reversed, as happens all the time in Star Wars. (Meaning it's likely no conicidence the Mustafar duel is surrounded by fire, while the Kef Bir duel is surrounded by water.)
Ben runs into Palpatine's lair with a blaster instead of a lightsaber, just like his father.
And both Ben and Rey end up wielding their respective late masters' weapons: Ben wields Luke's lightsaber, and Rey wields Leia's.
Technically, Ben is wielding Anakin's lightsaber. At last he finally gets what he always wanted: following his grandfather's footsteps, but here it is Anakin Skywalker's footsteps, not Darth Vader's.
Pryde is able to figure out that Hux is the mole, not only because of Hux's flimsy excuse, but also because of where Finn shot him. Hux specifically requested Finn shoot him in the arm. If Hux was holding a blaster, of course Finn would have disarmed him by shooting him in the arm, not in his leg.
The death of General Hux is constantly criticized as one of the most silly and corniest from the saga and a disservice for who could have been a great villain in the sequel trilogy, first appearing in The Force Awakens as a serious bad guy and then reduced to a comic relief Butt-Monkey in The Last Jedi. However, this was a fitting and well-deserved way to finish Hux's story arc from a certain point of view: for someone who had high ambitions for powers and believing himself to be destined to greatness, no matter how many should have to die to achieve his goals, Hux ended up suffering an indignant and ridiculous death.
Palpatine charges Kylo with doing what his grandpa couldn't. He means turning the last Jedi, but Vader also failed at killing Palpatine for good. Kylo doesn't either, but he helps.
Palpatine's return gets only a Hand Wave explanation in the film but makes sense: Force users can retain individual consciousness within the Force, and even manifest as Force Ghosts. Only Jedi have been seen to do so, perhaps because an existence of enlightenment and wisdom within the Force is one only a Jedi would want. If a Sith achieved that power, motivated by hate and anger and ambition, would his Force Ghost content itself with acting as a mentor to others? No, the first thing a Sith Ghost would do is go to its followers and tell them to start cloning a replacement body immediately. Palpatine always seemed a level above the few other Sith seen in the films, willing to study both sides of the Force, it's in character that he would be prepared to ensure his immortality in that way, and then following up with the Grand Theft Me he intends for Rey.
The updated Star Destroyers with their planet-killer lasers are pretty typical for one of Palpatine's pet projects: Immensely dangerous, and with crippling weaknesses that make them easy for small plucky forces to destroy. Their main saving grace was that they would be far less vulnerable if allowed to raise their shields (which they couldn't do in Exegol's atmosphere). The first one we see destroyed was shot down by a nameless Redshirt in a Y-Wing, without even resorting to the Ion Torpedoes used in Rogue One.
Basing them off of the older Imperial-II Star Destroyers from the Galactic Civil War era instead of newer designs like the Resurgent-class Star Destroyers used by the First Order also makes sense. Palpatine's followers have likely been working on this project for many years, and designed it around the older warships with accommodations for the miniaturized Death Star lasers. Economy of scale favored them plugging away with the older (still formidable) Star Destroyers rather than trying to start over when a newer ship design came along.
Incidentally, those miniaturized superweapons were foreshadowed in The Last Jedi with the siege gun used on Crait.
The Star Destroyers with planet destroying lasers finally get rid of most of the Impractical of the Awesome, but Impractical of the Death Stars and Starkiller Base. By miniaturizing to such an extent the weapon is far more mobile than the old Death Stars while Starkiller Base can't move at all. The superweapon reaches the point where they can be mass produced and thus are plentiful. The weapon also is a planet destroyer, but only is powerful enough to destroy the crust of the target planet. This is far more than enough to kill any life on it, but unlike it's predecessors which obliterates planets completely it leaves the planet itself intact and thus still able to be strip mined for resources. Since they're mounted on Star Destroyers they also possess the ability for more surgical strikes if need be. Wherever it goes from here on out, the future of the Star Wars galaxy better hope nobody with the means ever locates the designs for these weapons and they are never recreated, because that means any power mad lunatic with the bank can blow up planets now.
In the trilogy, Rey's staff represents her unwillingness to let go of the past, to the point that she defaults to using it when she has better weapons around such as her lightsaber or her blaster. It's only fitting that by the end, she remade it into a lightsaber, because instead of letting the past die or letting it define her, she has chosen to remodel it into something better. It also makes sense, because her staff was her main tool while waiting for her parents to return. She remodels it into something better and something can use in the future instead of ditching it and abandoning her roots, now knowing her parents were not awful people.
C-3PO being unable to speak translations of the ancient Sith language (a restriction presumably all translator/protocol droids are built with) makes a lot of sense when you consider how many times random Force-Users likely fell to the Dark Side after searching for ancient Sith knowledge and artifacts. It's a lot harder for anyone in general to be exposed to those things if you regulate the language required to find and/or understand them into being deader than dead.
Rey was the real Chosen One. Qui-Gon Jinn merely jumped to the conclusion Anakin was on an impulse: Anakin had the highest midi-chlorian count, even as a child, and was believed to be actually conceived by the midi-chlorians themselves. However, the prophecy of the Chosen One (destroy the Sith and bring balance to the Force) was ultimately fulfilled not by Anakin, but by Rey. Plus, Rey was the granddaughter of Palpatine, the strongest Sith of his time.
Anakin could still be the Chosen One for four reasons:
The natural state of the Sith is the Rule of Two: a master and an apprentice - the master embodied the power, the apprentice craved it. In The Rise of Skywalker, Palpatine didn't have an apprentice in sight - Snoke wasn't a Sith, Kylo Ren was never meant to be a permanent fixture in Palpatine's new Empire, and Rey was meant to be Palpatine's host rather than apprentice. When Anakin killed Palpatine over Endor, he broke the chain of Master and Apprentice, since he renounced his position as the Apprentice, and Palpatine never re-established his position as a Master to anyone - effectively making him only a Sith-in-name, a Dark Sider who claimed to be a Sith. Anakin destroyed the Sith when he destroyed the chain.
During the final battle, Anakin was giving power to Rey alongside all the others. As the Force-Ghost with the highest amount of midi-chlorians, Anakin would have the most Force Power to give to Rey, therefore he would be the person most responsible for Palpatine's defeat by giving Rey the final power boost she needed. Palpatine had just been given a huge power boost thanks to draining Rey and Ben Solo. It's more than likely that Anakin - due to his afore-mentioned huge midi-chlorian count - was the one who gave Rey the edge over Palpatine. Anakin destroyed the Sith by giving Rey his power, making him the Chosen One (more indirectly than other examples but still an arguable case).
The visual dictionary for the Last Jedi states that the Sith ended above Endor when Anakin turned back to the Light Side and killed Sidious, making Anakin the Chosen One because he destroyed the Sith, even if he didn't destroy the Dark Side.
Even Anakin himself admitted as much as he passed the mantle on to Rey ("Bring balance to the Force, as I did.").
Palpatine is considered one of the greatest chessmasters in the Star Wars, having been able to destroy the Republic, the Jedi Order and any potential initial opposition to his rule all in one fell swoop and maintain his Empire for twenty-three years while fighting off treachery, rebellion and temptation to luxury. So the question is... WHY WOULD HE TELL REY HIS ENTIRE PLAN!? It's because Rey's family - his granddaughter. The last time Palpatine saw the idea of family cause a dramatic shift in the Galaxy, it was when Darth Vader turned back to the Light and killed him to save Luke - his son. Prior to this, Vader had been Palpatine's loyal servant... well, as loyal as a servant could be when both the servant and master were Sith Lords. Regardless, Vader turned on Palpatine to save his family. Vader remembered what love felt like and realised he still felt that for his son, leading to him turning back to the Light. Palpatine being Palpatine, he missed this fact and just assumed that Vader, who had never saved anyone in the twenty-three years he had served as Palpatine's apprentice for any reason other than self-interest, did it just because Luke was family. Flash-forward to The Rise of Skywalker, and Palpatine comes face to face with his granddaughter - his family. Combined with the probable pain he was in - resulting in a mental state that can't exactly be described as healthy - and Palpatine probably thought that a family bond was all that was needed to bring someone over to your side. But since Rey didn't feel any kind of love for him whatsoever, it didn't work out quite like Palpatine planned.
Note that Palpatine did the same thing in ROTJ: he kept telling Luke that giving into hate and trying to kill him (or later killing Vader) would cause him to fall to the Dark Side, which kept reminding Luke to reject that path whereas if he'd just kept his mouth shut, the odds of Luke taking that step would have been far higher. In other words, when he has his primary opponent face to face and he's on the verge of total victory, Palpatine can't help gloating. And he doesn't learn from the first time that didn't work out for him.
Building on that point, it's been noted that it was rather stupid of him to announce his return to the entire galaxy, when he could have easily won the entire saga just by keeping quiet and launching his attack, thus catching everyone off guard. But as Luke had said in Return of the Jedi, "Your overconfidence is your weakness." Given he's proven himself to be a skilled manipulator and strategist who successfully played the entire galaxy for chumps multiple times, he thinks he's already won no matter the outcome. After all, "Everything that has transpired has gone according to MY design." As far as he's concerned, the odds are in his favor and no one can stand to them. Too bad he didn't learn that lesson the first time around...
Rey's outfit is the opposite of the situation with Luke's outfit in Return of the Jedi. In Return of The Jedi, Luke's outfit is black, giving the idea that he will be tempted to turn to the Dark Side, but when his outfit is slashed, it's white underneath, revealing that that was never the case. In this movie, Rey's outfit is completely white, giving the idea that she is closer to the Light Side than ever, but in this movie, she is closer to the Dark Side than ever. Although her outfit has no hints of black, her hood is big and looks somewhat like a Sith's when worn. It could also be an allusion to how black and white are opposite sides of the coin and how leaning to one side can make you sway to the other side. This is also reflected in Ben's journey throughout the movie; by staying on the Dark Side, he unknowingly sways to the Light Side. This is also supported by how Rey's Sith vision self is wearing all black, showing the Rey's are two sides of the same coin.
With Palpatine claiming to be "every voice" inside Ben's head, Ben somehow not realizing or acknowledging that Anakin returned to the light despite Luke's testimony suddenly makes a lot more sense. Palpatine could easily have appeared to Ben as a Vader masquerade claiming that returning to the light was an error or outright lie on Luke's part, and entreating his grandson not to make the same "mistake." Also, since Kylo believed Luke was going to murder him, he would have no reason to trust anything he said.
The existence of Jannah and her team help answer the question of whether it is right for our heroes to have killed countless Imperials who were only doing their jobs. Like Poe, Jannah defected, showing that other Imperials had the same choice. (This is a gross simplification but at least it advances the discussion.)
Poe's dismissal of the suggestion of using the "Holdo Manuever" to get the upper hand against the Final Order as being a "one in a million chance" does make sense the more one thinks about it. Holdo's hyperspace-ramming of the Supremacy was a last-ditch effort to buy time for the Resistance, and while it did inflict heavy damage against the flagship and took a few Star Destroyers with it, the Supremacy actually survived the attack (per word of supplemental material). Not to mention Holdo was very lucky that she even had time to pull it off at all, since her move put the Raddus right in firing range of the rival fleet's firepower and the ship would have been decimated in seconds if she hadn't launched just in time. Bringing even a ship like that alone with a few snub fighters to the Final Order's fleet of hundreds of Star Destroyers would be tantamount to painting a giant bullseye right on its bridge. Not to mention the Resistance is still very strapped for resources by the time of the Battle of Exegol; the biggest ship they have on hand is the modestly-sized Tantive IV (which in all likelihood wouldn't cause anywhere near the scale the damage of the Raddus hyperspace jump) and it's not like they have the time or means to secure another ship the size of the Raddus, much less sacrifice such a valuable resource on a maneuver that has no guarantee of success. And even if the maneuver did work, it would only put a small dent in the Final Order's vast army at best.
The way Palpatine dies to his own force lightning when Rey deflects it back via lightsabers might appear foolish for such a cunning emperor, but remember how Luke Skywalker told him "Your overconfidence is your weakness."
This may also be a Call-Back to Revenge of the Sith when Mace Windu reflected Palpatine's Force lightning and disfigured the Sith Lord and severely weakening him. This was the first real moment where Palpatine was truly at someone else's mercy and would have died by Windu's blade had Anakin not intervened. Rey makes sure with her time it sticks.
With the saga's conclusion, every known member of the Skywalker bloodline has died either in a Heroic Sacrifice, in the arms of the person they loved most, or both. Luke and Leia expire from knowingly stretching their Force-powers to fatal limits, thus saving the people they care about across vast distances. Ben dies in Rey's arms, having forfeited his own remaining life energies to revive her. Anakin is mortally injured and his life-support systems ruined, in defending Luke from the Emperor; he dies of his wounds in his son's arms, just as his mother Shmi died in his, a generation earlier.
They've also all had Redemption Equals Death. Luke's failure causing Ben's fall and inaction while the First Order rose, his sacrifice save those who'd set it right. Leia, who blamed her sending Ben away for contributing to his fall, gave her live to reach him back.
Palpatine did with Ben what he could never do with Anakin: He corrupted Ben unseen while Ben was still a child and largely unprotected, while Anakin was always being watched over and protected by the Jedi.
While Rey being a Palpatine might be a shocker, keep in mind that her life story is still part of Skywalker Saga. So, imagine if her being a nobody remains unchanged, imagine that you watch Skywalker Saga chronologically from Anakin's childhood, Palpatine's manipulation of him, Anakin being redeemed by his son and died, his son and daughter got old and died, and then their family saga is finished by some random girl whose only connection to the Skywalkers is being Luke and Leia's apprentice. That could be somewhat of a letdown, from a certain point of view. On the other hand, making Rey a Palpatine got the saga to end in the most unexpected way because... who would've thought that the Skywalker Saga would be finished by a grandchild of the Big Bad?
The original trilogy trio all die in the reverse of the order they were introduced.
Much was made in the fandom about Rey "copying" Force abilities used on her by Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens. He tries to Mind Probe her, she learns the Jedi Mind Trick; he tries to pull Anakin's lightsaber to his hand, she pulls it to hers; he channels the Force to drive her back with his lightsaber, she channels the Force to drive him back with her lightsaber. Now, come this film, Rey uses the Force to heal and revive Kylo Ren... then Ben Solo later uses the Force to revive and heal Rey. Kylo Ren inadvertently taught Rey her first Force tricks, she inadvertently teaches Ben Solo his last.
C-3PO says the Aki-Aki Festival happens once every 42 years. 42 years to this film's release was when the original "Star Wars" came out!
Rey calling herself "Rey Skywalker" at the end of the film is not about rejecting her Palpatine lineage (as she does see her parents in a positive light during the climax) in favor of her surrogate family but to save the legacy of the Skywalkers that Sidious worked so hard to destroy since corrupting Anakin Skywalker. With all the Skywalkers dead and unable to make up for their family sins despite being a family of heroes, Rey taking up their name will ensure that the Skywalkers will still live on in spirit, even if the physical blood is gone. And in time, like with all myths and legends, the actual details will fade away and future generations will remember Rey as a true Skywalker daughter rather than the biological granddaughter of the most evil man in the galaxy.
Rey died a Palpatine but is reborn as a Skywalker.
Palpatine's Plan: It seems odd that Palpatine "created" Snoke when some of Snoke's actions in the previous films seem counter to Palpatine's goals in this film. But Palpatine was a master at four things: long-term planning, farseeing, Batman Gambit and Xanatos Speed Chess. Snoke's insistence that Ren kill Rey in the The Last Jedi. Snoke had been pressing Ren's buttons all movie, but in Palpatine's endgame this wasn't to secure his loyalty, it was to encourage his betrayal. By constantly belittling Ren as basically "a Darth Vader wannabe fanboy," Snoke actually pushes Ren into thinking that maybe just being the next Darth Vader is aiming too low, so Ren does what Vader never did: kill his master and take power for himself. Driving Ren deeper into the Dark Side and setting him up as a more powerful and capable Dragon when Palpatine chooses to reveal himself. Setting up the connection between Ren and Rey (assuming Snoke/Palpatine wasn't lying about that and Palpatine was surprised by the strength of their bond, not its existence) forged an attachment between Ren and Rey that meant Rey was never really in danger of being killed by him (learned that one from Anakin Skywalker, he did). And the possible outcomes of The Last Jedi's Throne Room Scene: Best Case Scenario (for Palpatine) is that Ren turns Rey to the Dark Side, making her someone who wouldn't hesitate to kill Palpatine for the promise of unlimited power (thus letting Palpatine possess her as was his plan all along). Worst case, Rey leaves an emotionally-compromised, powerful young Force-sensitive with limited options for training and discipline, leaving her vulnerable to the seduction of the Dark Side. . . basically exactly where she is when we meet her in Rise. Someone who wouldn't hesistate to strike down Palpatine in righteous anger — but still anger, letting Palpatine possess her, again exactly as he planned all along. Really, things only go off the rails for Palpatine's plan because of the unexpected double-team of Leia and Rey redeeming Ben Solo. . . and Palpatine explaining his plan to Rey, where if he'd kept his mouth shut she would have killed him.
Leia realising Rey's lineage but keeping it a secret makes perfect sense: she knows exactly what it would do to Rey if the truth were discovered, but it's exactly what happened to her. Star Wars: Bloodline, a prequel novel to the Sequel Trilogy, shows that when Leia's relation to Darth Vader became public knowledge, it not only ruined her life, but her family's lives as well. As far as Leia knew, Palpatine was dead and staying that way, so what point would there be in forcing that Awful Truth upon the girl?
One of the main reasons why Anakin joined the dark side is to prevent people from dying. Ben Solo's last act was to revive Rey, so it could be said that he finished what Darth Vader started.
Kylo has his mask repaired — but it's still noticeably fractured. Kinda like how Kylo himself is fracturing.
R2 just so happening to have a perfect copy of C-3P0's memory seems like a bit of an Ass Pull until you remember poor R2 already lost his best friend once before. While it was Played for Laughs at the end of Revenge of the Sith, C-3P0 having his entire memory wiped means the person who R2 had been closest with for several years was effectively dead. While it's clear they were eventually able to reforge a bond, he was likely horrified at the thought that his best friend could be taken away at anytime just by the whim of someone ordering his memory wiped clean yet again. He probably records a copy of C-3P0's memory any moment they have some downtime to be prepared for just such a situation as what happens in the movie.
Ben Solo has been hearing voices his whole adult life pushing him to be evil, hurt the people he cares about, and follow in the footsteps of his grandfather before his redemption. Imagine how truly screwed up his psychology must have been until the realization that it was Palpatine trying to corrupt him not just some inherent evil inside of his mind. Especially since Palpatine has been impersonating multiple people inside of Ben to manipulate his emotions. It's like deliberately inducing one of the more violent forms of schizophrenia on someone.
Palpatine as a parent:
Rey is Palpatine's granddaughter. Unless he used the Force, as he hinted about Darth Plagueis in Episode 3, this means he must have had sex. Having fun with that mental image?
Then there's the fact that Palpatine was someone's father. Imagine what their life must've been like, since they were clearly the Un-person in the original movies.
As with his return ("I've been dead before...") Palpatine never really explains how he had this other offspring. Considering that Rey is only two generations down from him while Ben is three generations down (making Ben Solo Rey's second cousin once removed) and yet he's a bit older than she is, it's likely Palpatine had this other child after he produced Anakin Skywalker with the Force, and that this was likely sometime after he was horribly deformed. Maybe he used the Force the same as he did to make Anakin, but with more disappointing results this time; or maybe he contributed to a sperm bank or used some medical technology to pass on his genes; or maybe he used the Force to "influence" some random floozy into doing the deed with him. None of these possibilities, of course, are very pleasant to contemplate.
According to the author of the comic which supposedly implies Sidious created Anakin, this was not the intended implication they were going for in that comic, only that Anakin/Vader came to believe Sidious created him. This suggests that Sidious DID NOT manipulate the midichlorians to cause Anakin's conception.
Considering what an utterly horrid and sadistic person Palpatine is, who will stop at nothing to get what he wants, the idea that he forced or coerced a woman into bearing his child doesn't seem too out of the question.
Even assuming he didn't use his authority or power to coerce a woman into a relationship, Senator Palpatine and Chancellor Palpatine seemed like a perfectly charming, soft-spoken man who rose to prominence when his homeworld of Naboo was under siege. It's entirely possible that a woman got together with him, whether briefly or long-term, because she thought he was exactly as good a man as he made everyone else think he was.
Somewhat more prosaically, he could have just kept a Paid Harem. Or taken advantage of the women in his cult, as is tradition.
Let's assume that nothing untoward like all that went on, and Palpatine didn't use a sperm donor. But if it was between Episodes 3 and 4 somehow, what sort of woman looks at Emperor Palpatine and thinks "yeah, I gotta get down on that?" Or what if some lady wanted to be Palpatine's babymama so she could live in luxury, and then discovered, far too late, that it wasn't going to be that easy, and Palpatine had been manipulating her the whole time?
Reys Father could be an unaltered clone of Palpatine. We know Palpatine had Dooku visit Kamino. Who's say as Chancellor, he paid for an unaltered clone of himself.
Druish princesses are often attracted to money and power. Yes, being First Lady of The First Galactic Empire would be a powerful aphrodisiac for many women. Palpatine could readily have attracted a mate through no untoward means... but given who he is, it's all but certain that whatever relationship there was, was extremely unhealthy.
If not for the fact that Ben died (albeit in a very tragic way), the whole idea of Reylo being canon and surviving, especially when they kissed each other on the lips, would have led to an awkward case of accidental incest if the Emperor was involved in Anakin's conception. Yeuch - that's one potential downside of Rey being descended from the Emperor himself, as opposed to her parents being literal nobodies. But hey, accidental incest runs in the family.
The horror here depends on how gross you consider second cousins once removed (Rey may be the granddaughter of Ben's sort-of great-grandfather) relationships to be, assuming that Palpatine was involved, metaphysically or genetically, in Anakin's conception.
And then ther's the other side of the Skywalker family: Padme. Both she and Palpatine are from Naboo. Who's to say that the Palpatine and Amidala families aren't related in some way back home?
Rey will probably have to hide the fact she's Palpatine's granddaughter for the rest of her life, as many people may react poorly to this; despite everything Leia did to fight the Empire and restore democracy, she became a pariah the moment it was revealed she was Darth Vader's daughter, so one can only imagine how Rey would be treated if people found out she was Emperor Palpatine's grandchild. Rey might even end up with the opposite problem if her identity became public knowledge, such as Imperial fanatics and Dark Side worshipers trying to manipulate her, rallying around her, committing atrocities in her name and so forth due to regarding her as the heir to the Empire and Sith. Rey will have to live with the pressures of her lineage being potentially revealed and it could end up destroying her life as it did with the Skywalker/Solo family. Though, crossing back into Fridge Brilliance, maybe that's part of why she took the Skywalker name.
Wedge Antilles is among The Cavalry forces at the Battle of Exegol. Unfortunately, he made it to Exegol just after Temmin "Snap" Wexley — who became Wedge's stepson in the Expanded Universe — was killed. Wedge may have survived the battle like he usually does, but it's likely a very bittersweet victory for him since he realized he was a minute too late to save his stepson.
Ahsoka is among the Jedi spirits encouraging Rey and lending her strength to face Palpatine, which means that she must have died/been killed at some point before the battle. And since we don't hear Ezra's voice among the Jedi spirits, we don't know if he ever got to see her again before her death. On the other hand, if his voice wasn't amongst the dead Jedi, there's a chance he's still alive. It's also possible that Ahsoka was simply nearby amongst the thousands of ships fighting the Sith Fleet, felt what was going on and reached out to Rey.
The Ghost was one of the ships at the front of Lando's fleet.
Or "All the Jedi" was literal and every one that existed came to support Rey with their power, whether they were dead or not.
According to the Visual Dictionary, Palpatine's resources in Exegol are fueled by his cultists from all over the galaxy who control several institutions, political parties, corporations, criminals, etc. and provide him with technology, ships and manpower to be at his disposal. Even though he was defeated at the end, his followers are still out there which projects an even grimmer note for the future than the Original Trilogy. While the Empire wasn't brought down with Palpatine's first death, at least they were still visible and eventually were reorganized into the First Order. Now, we have countless of his cultists hidden in the shadows with an even more fragile Republic than before incapable of hunting them down.
The First Order kidnaps the children of Kijimii to crew their ships. The same ones being shown going down in flames in the ending. Not such a triumphant ending now, is it?
Kijimii itself was taken down by one of them. So the survivors will have no home to go to, possibly fueling their anger and conviction.
What happened to the porgs aboard the Millennium Falcon? There were several of them on the ship at the end of The Last Jedi, but they're nowhere to be seen a year later. Considering that the few dozen Resistance survivors were low on supplies and on the run for some time until they established a new base...yeah, maybe those porgs started to look quite tasty...
By the time Ben makes it to Palpatine's throne room, he's already pretty badly injured—the crash-landing into the pit alone would have been enough to kill an ordinary human, and he takes a good beating from the Knights of Ren before Rey gets him a lightsaber. Then Palpatine literally tosses him away, and we see him brutally slam into the edge of the cliff before falling down a ravine. He would have horrific internal injuries at minimum by the time he was climbing out of the ravine—which, from the looks of it, he did with a broken leg on top of everything else. By the time he made it to Rey, most likely the Force was the only thing holding him together. It's a wonder he survived as long as he did.
If Palpatine had succeeded in stealing Rey's body, then he would have ended up with a womb. And if he had a womb, that means that he now has the ability to impregnate himself every time he is close to death and just transfer his mind to his newborn child. And if this is true then logically, if he just used genetic engineering to ensure that the child was female, then he would effectively have immortality as he could just repeat the trick ad-infinitum.
The existence of the Xyston-Class means that weapons capable of making an Earth-Shattering Kaboom are no longer giant space stations and star-sucking planet-structures. It is entirely possible to make a massive fleet of ships capable of killing planets. Knowledge that such a thing is possible will spread, and Xyston-Class equivalent ships will be sought by any warlike power with resources to spare. And nobody seems willing or able to try and stop or at least regulate the oncoming proliferation. The nature of warfare in the Galaxy is irrevocably changed, more terrible than ever before.