January catch-up!

Hey everybody,
It’s been a while since my last blog post on here – in fact, I hadn’t realised just how long ago it was! Time to catch up, methinks!

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Should see me through the festive season! #nowReading

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First of all, I read the very wonderful Grey Knights, the first novel in the Grey Knights omnibus, shortly before Christmas. It follows Justicar Alaric as he works alongside Inquisitor Briseis Ligeia to prevent the rogue Inquisitor Valinov from bringing the daemon Ghargatuloth into the universe. There is so much to enjoy in this novel, even though I found it difficult at times to get the time to actually read it! Having recently made a commitment to getting back into my Grey Knights project, I think this made me enjoy it even more, seeing the way the Grey Knights do battle. We get some really great descriptions of the Fortress-Monastery on Titan, and there is the real sense that Space Marines are, at their heart, warrior monks.

I very rarely read an omnibus as a single book, but rather treat it as the collected individual titles, and come back to it each time I want to read a particular book collected within. However, this is probably the first time I’ve wanted to carry on with the books, and I’m definitely planning to read the second book very soon.

Sadly, painting has not been something that I’ve been enjoying of late. I think I’ve been really out of practice since not having the time after the firstborn came along. Painting is, of course, something that improves over time and, after having a significant break, I’ve found that my brush control has really fallen by the wayside, and as a result I’ve become really frustrated with myself for not producing the sort of miniatures that I want.

I’d been wanting to paint up the House Orlock gangers that I’d started to paint almost two years ago, but a combination of the loss of confidence with a brush, as well as the fact the primer on some of these is a little thick in parts (it’s a grey primer, too, and I hate painting over grey!) has made me give up and strip them.

I’ve been watching Duncan’s video on painting the Sump Dogs, though, and as always, he has inspired me to give them a proper go. I mean, none of the lazy “just give it a drybrush and call it quits!” – I’m going to (try!) and follow this guide to the letter. We shall see how I get on!

Incidentally! How sad is the painting world now that Duncan has left GW?! I was gutted when the news was leaked shortly before Christmas – Duncan’s videos were basically how I learnt to paint!

This classic was, probably, the first miniatures-painting video I ever watched, and the massive collection of videos have been some of my favourites over the years – always come back to them, and I always look for a Duncan video when I’m going to paint something to see what he has to say about it. Hopefully they’re going to keep the archive up there, at any rate!


Model of the Year was announced the other week, and it was none other than the new Abaddon the Despoiler! I’m not sure if that was a shoe-in, though, as my personal choice was the new Keeper of Secrets, which is just such a phenomenal creation, it’s almost unlike anything else they have!

In a year when we had all of the Genestealer Cults stuff, the new Chaos Marines, new Drazhar, Ossiarch Bonereapers, new Slaves to Darkness, new Sisters of Battle – and all of that incredible Warcry stuff!

There were so many amazing new models in 2019, it was definitely a hard call. 2020 is already shaping up to be wonderful, now that we’ve had some of the new Sisters released – that Triumph of St Katherine centrepiece model is just astounding – so I can’t wait to see what else is in store!

Hopefully by then, I’ll be more confident with painting once again, and can actually knock out some of these new models!


So yeah, I think I need to get cracking with regaining my confidence when it comes to painting. There are so many miniatures that I have on the back burner of course, so I really need to crack on! I think a lot of this will be helped by going back to basics, to some extent, and trying to re-learn a lot of stuff. It’s definitely going to be worth spending the time to do this, though, as I so many models that could be outright ruined by sloppy (or worse) painting!

I mean, I’m going to be picking up the Triumph of St Katherine, for goodness’ sake! I definitely need to up my game for something so fancy!

Hobby Resolutions 2020

Happy New Year, everybody!
I’m sure there will be a plethora of posts on their way, not just from me, where people expound upon their hopes and plans for the new year. Well, for now, I thought I’d come here to start looking at those hobby goals that I’d like to set. After my little retrospective from 2019, I was surprised at how little I managed to do there. So I’m going to set myself fewer goals – in the hope that I can achieve them, but also because I know that my priorities change, and I’d like to be able to have some flexibility to think, I’d like to get x done in the next three months.

So, without further ado, let’s get to it!

  1. Paint up those Grey Knights!
    This is continuing the point from last year’s efforts. Now that I’m settled on keeping them as an army, I would like to get that army finished off, both built and painted. I only have a couple more units to build before I’m at the 1500 point mark, which I think is a decent point to aim for in this first iteration of the list. I’ve talked to some degree about this army already, but in the coming weeks and months I’ll be back with my full list ideas, so stay tuned for that!
  2. Finish off the odd Drukhari stuff that I have hanging about
    This is something that I think needs doing, and is likely to be a fairly quick win, because I do have a lot of models that are kind-of done. Reavers, Clawed Fiends, Grotesques, more Warriors… the list goes on to something like 2000 points (in the current climate) of random stuff. I’d like to get this finished, so that I can then use it within the wider army.On a related note, I’d also like to give some focus to the Wych Cult models that I have hanging around, as I would like to try and dabble some more there. It’s an area that I have very rarely used, so I think it would be useful to have the models there and ready.
  3. Necromunda, generally!
    So, I failed to do anything with this last year, but I am so in love with this game that I really feel that the time has come to actually play the bloody thing! I will still collect everything that comes out, for sure, but my current plan is to get the Dark Uprising box done, somehow. Again, there will be another blog coming soon that focuses on this, but I think, of all of these goals, I am most excited for this!
  4. Blackstone Fortress – play a full campaign!
    Similar to the Necromunda goal, really – I want to play more of this game, as it has such a fascinating look at the 41st millennium. I’ve only played it once, so that definitely needs to change! I’d like to get the models painted, as well, but I think I want to get the game played, first and foremost.
  5. Try to thin out the unpainted / unwanted models
    This definitely needs to be a thing. I have so many Deathwatch models, so many AdMech – even so many Drukhari models – that I could definitely do with thinning out the chaff!
  6. Finally – try to work on what I have had lying around for ages!
    The Tempestus Scions, the Chaos Space Marines… there is a lot of stuff that I have that has been built for years, but just not painted or played with. This needs to change, as well! My plan for this is to try and focus on a single unit every month or two. Again, there will be a blog where I probably ramble about these plans coming out in the next few weeks, so stay tuned for that!

So that’s pretty much it, really!

Hobby Resolutions check-in!

Hey everybody!
It’s New Year’s Eve, and so definitely time to check in for some progress against those Hobby Resolutions that I made twelve months ago! Spoiler alert: I don’t think I’ve done very well, all told…

So how did I do?

Build and Paint a third Ravager
Nope! But I have very recently returned to the Drukhari, and I do have two Ravager kits waiting in the wings, so this may not be so far off, after all.

Build and Paint an Imperium tank of some sort
Nope! When I originally wrote this, I was thinking of a Predator, but I have made no effort to do anything with this one. Well, I suppose I have that Baal Predator for the Blood Angels army that I haven’t really started work on yet…

Buy, Build and Paint Inquisitor Karamazov
I did buy him when I went to Warhammer World earlier this month, but I have neither built not painted him yet. Inquisitor Karamazov is one of those models that I want to have, just to have, and I don’t really have any ideas for him in an army yet. I suppose then, the fact that I’ve been focusing on getting armies built, at the very least, has meant this one has fallen by the wayside…

Continue to build up and paint the 1500pt Grey Knights list
For the longest time in 2019, I did actually consider selling off my Grey Knights, as they had barely been started as an army, and I thought I might just get rid of them before I went in too deep. But in the last couple of months, I’ve kicked this project back into gear, and have actually played one game with them. So progress has definitely been made – though the 1500 point list has definitely changed shape since I wrote this!

Finish off painting the Deathwatch models I have
Nope. Deathwatch were, for a time, a significant project for me once more, and I was trying to get a few models done. I think the most I have done, though, is some base coats on Watch Captain Artemis… I have a lot of Deathwatch models, though, so they will be looked at in the coming weeks, in an attempt to thin out the backlog. I don’t want to outright get rid of any, but I do want to try and clear some space, mentally, in my hobby.

Work out what I want to do with those Tyranids, if anything
I have indeed done this – I sold off a few models, I added a couple more, and I’ve not only started painting them, I’ve even had a couple of games with them! Definitely ticking this one off, then!

Work out what I want to do with the Tau army, if anything
I have indeed done this, as well – I sold off the whole lot, earlier in the year.

Paint 10 more Neophyte Hybrids, and paint 5 Hybrid Metamorphs
I haven’t done this, unfortunately. I think I’ve barely touched Genestealer Cults all year, despite their new releases coming out!

Paint 10 Skitarii, the Tech Priest Dominus, and the Dunecrawler
Well I’ve done the Skitarii, and I’ve done the Tech Priest – I just haven’t quite made it round to the Dunecrawler, sadly! I definitely need to take a long, hard look at the AdMech that I have, though, and thin those ranks out.

Paint some Ravenwing Black Knights, and the Darkshroud
I haven’t done anything with this, beyond undercoating them. Does that count? Probably not…

Paint at least one proper terrain piece (not just an ammo crate)
I have tried to do this one, what feels like all year – I just haven’t quite gotten there. The closest that I have come is getting quite a few basecoats and some shade on the Alchomite Stack, which is quite possibly one of my favourite of all the terrain kits GW produce as a result!

Paint some Nighthaunt and see what AoS is all about
I’ve certainly painted some Nighthaunt, and I’ve had three games with AoS, so I think this can be chalked up to a success! Though I would, of course, have preferred to have played more!

Paint the Doomsday Ark
I started… but I have definitely not finished…

Try out ShadeVault and Necromunda
Total failure on both counts!

Play more games, dammit!
Well, I played three games of AoS, as mentioned, as well as four games of Kill Team and thirteen games of 40k! If we’re counting other games, I also played the Dunwich Legacy campaign, as well as a couple of games with the new Hellboy boardgame. So it’s hardly been a prolific year for gaming, but it has still been really quite good, and I’ve met some really nice new folks to play against, which has been great! Moving house and having a baby has limited my time to some extent, for sure, but I’m hopeful that, now we’re in more of a routine, things can perhaps get back on track.

I’ll be writing more about my Hobby Resolutions for 2020 in another blog, but I think some of these will definitely be making a return – that terrain isn’t going to paint itself, after all!!

Psychic Awakening: Phoenix Rising

Hey everybody,
It’s been out for a while now, but I’ve been wanting to talk about the new Psychic Awakening series of books for Warhammer 40k since the event kicked off a couple of weeks ago, so what better time to start than now?! The series is meant to have massive ramifications for the 40k universe as a whole, and back when it was initially announced, we were promised something new for every faction. I’m sure we’ve had such promises before, but so far, we’re three books in at the time I’m writing this, with a fourth on the way, and it looks like they are actually looking to deliver on this!

Psychic Awakening Phoenix Rising

Book One, Phoenix Rising, deals with all things Aeldari, and the book is actually really quite interesting to delve into. The first thing that you notice about it is that it isn’t anywhere near as weighty a tome as the Vigilus campaign books from last Christmas. That is probably because the book functions more like a mini Codex, than a true campaign book, and there is correspondingly less in the way of lore.

It’s still there, for sure – I read somewhere that this series is meant to bring the Imperium as a whole up to the same point in time as the Vigilus stuff, which sort of functions as the “current” timeframe. That would seem to be correct, as the fluff here goes right back to the Gathering Storm in places, chronicling the rise of the Ynnari and putting that into the wider context of the Aeldari races as a whole. That does sort of make sense, as that earlier series was a 7th edition thing, so it’s good for new fans to have the same sort of context as the rest of us.

The fluff is followed then by a series of narrative missions to play, three Echoes of War missions that recreate some of the storyline in the fluff section, such as the Drukhari attack on the Ynnari, using manipulated forces of the Astra Militarum. Each of these missions has its own suite of stratagems that can be used, and there are also a couple of additional rules for Theatres of War, giving ongoing effects for the whole battle. Theatres of War is something that I don’t see used a great deal, but could be fun to play with if you wanted a really intense game of 40k!

This first book in the series was released alongside a box set, Blood of the Phoenix, which repacked several Craftworld and Dark Eldar kits, as well as providing plastic miniatures for Jain Zar, Howling Banshees, Drazhar and the Incubi. I’m not a Craftworld expert, but the Drazhar model went all the way back to 1992, I believe, and so was really quite desperately in need of an update. I’d been hoping for plastic Incubi for almost as long as I’ve been a Dark Eldar player, so this box was highly anticipated! I mean, look at a comparison with their older models:

Jain Zar and Drazhar old models

Unfortunately, the box set was really quite overpriced – I think it was something like £150 retail, which is fine when you think the characters will probably be £25 each when released separately, and the new units will be around £30 or maybe £35, if the Chaos Marines release is anything to go by; it means you’re getting a whole bunch of the older stuff for about £30, which is a big saving. A lot of people weren’t too impressed, though, as the older stuff it was packed alongside has been out for years now, and people tend not to want that stuff. It was the sort of box that might be great for new folks getting into the hobby or wanting to start these armies, but for those of us who have been waiting for these plastics, it was a hard pass. As it stands, I picked up Drazhar on a bits site, and would be fine to wait for the plastic Incubi kit to hit retail, having already bought and painted up the finecast models if I wanted to use them in a battle before then.

New Drazhar is an incredible model though, I really liked him a lot!

Anyway, following the missions, the book sort of splits into three, as we get the new rules sections. First up are the Craftworld lot, which have the rules for Jain Zar and the Howling Banshees, as well as three pages of additional rules for other aspect warriors such as Dire Avengers and Striking Scorpions. It’s really quite an interesting little rules update in this respect, although I’m no Craftworld expert to know whether they’d be of any use!

The Drukhari section is a little smaller, having new rules just for Drazhar and the Incubi – I say new rules, they’re more like tweaks, really. Drazhar gets a bit beefier and now has the Lethal Precision rule the Incubi had, and the Klaivex can take demi klaives like Drazhar.

Both flavours of Eldar get new ways to create their own brand of chapter tactics with new Obsessions and Attributes. From a list of different abilities and effects, you get to choose two (unless otherwise stated) which give you your own custom rules for your chosen army type. I suppose it compensates for not having your own Stratagems and Warlord Traits by getting to pick two. There are four pages of Craftworld Attributes, while the Drukhari get a page of Obsessions for each of Kabal, Cult and Coven. Some of them are quite decent, as it happens, and I’ll talk about them a bit more shortly.

Finally, the book closes out with a reprinting of the Ynnari “Codex” that was featured back in a White Dwarf earlier this year. There is all of the lore, the rules, stratagems, psychic powers and warlord traits, so it’s nice to have that reproduced again here for convenience, and to ensure that Ynnari players can have those rules without resorting to trying to find the White Dwarf on ebay, or something.

All in all, it’s a pretty nice book, with a lot of different parts that you can pick and choose from. Obviously, Eldar players are the demographic for this, as Space Marines players will find nothing of interest here. But I do like these sort of books, which have a bit of story/background to them, some new rules, and then some missions and stuff to choose from, as well.


Yesterday, I played my final game of 40k for the year, a three-player game against Chaos and Necrons, for which I brought my own Drukhari – the first time they have had an outing since about May, I think!

It was a pretty casual game, with armies floating around the 1000 points mark. My buddy JP had had the Start Collecting Chaos Marines for Christmas, as well as more Havocs, so was keen to get those out. Matt was playing Necrons, in what was I think his second game of 40k (certainly his second game of 8th edition). We were using the multiplayer rules from the core rule book, so nothing too fancy, but I think it definitely helped that we were all very much into it not being a case of ganging-up on one player, but we were all trying to achieve our own objectives while attacking everybody else.

It was also really nice to finally get all of my terrain out and on the table!

I’ve been thinking a lot about doing away with Obsessions entirely, and playing lists more like I used to in the Index days, but instead decided to try out the new build-your-own with a Raiding Party force. Pretty much everything about the Drukhari army caused raised eyebrows from my opponents, and with good reason – they’re the sort of army where so many things just shouldn’t be the case, and yet they are. I’m particularly fond of the Hexrifle on my Wracks here, because nobody expects a fairly-dedicated close combat unit to include a sniper rifle, after all!

Wracks were possibly the star players here, taking out the Daemon Prince warlord for 1VP, followed closely by the Ravager which, over the course of my turn, finished off the Havocs unit before it could do anything.

However, I was very often forgetting a lot of rules – standard operating procedure, for sure, but I think the sheer number of moving parts to this army when you have all three subfactions present is just bonkers.

So for my Kabal, I took Disdain for Lesser Beings, which allows me to only ever lose one model to Morale (forgot about that, and lost two of my Warriors this way), and Toxin Crafters, which adds one to the damage characteristic of a poisoned weapon on a natural 6 to wound. I don’t honestly know if this would have made a difference (I forgot about the open topped rule for my Raiders for at least one turn), but there you have it. I normally use Kabal of the Obsidian Rose, giving me +6 to the maximum range of weapons, and I think I would usually prefer this to anything else, as I want to keep my Kabal gunline as far away from anybody as possible.

The Kabal rules in Phoenix Rising aren’t particularly game-changing, they are just some interesting alternatives if you don’t want to use those from the Codex.

Wych Cults are still a subfaction that I don’t know enough about, having only used them once previously. I mean, I use Reavers a lot, but the rest of them… I’d gone with Precise Killers, which improves the AP of a weapon on a natural 6 to wound, as well as Slashing Impact, which allows me to inflict 1 mortal wound on a 5+ when I finish a charge move. These are nice bonuses, and there are some interesting things in the book that I think could do with further investigation. I probably need to play more Wych Cults to get the gist of things, though.

I will say, as well, that I had an incredibly lucky roll on my Hekatrix’s blast pistol, and one-shot killed the Master of Executions! Given that the last time JP and I played, his Master of Executions took out my entire Grey Knights Purifier Squad in a single swing, I feel that has given me justice!

Combat Drugs are still a mystery to me, however…

Finally, for my Haemonculus Coven, I went with Experimental Creations, which increases the Strength of everyone in the unit, as well as giving a +1 to wound rolls when attacking units with lower toughness. That didn’t really come into it as much as I thought, but the +1 Strength was very handy! With Wracks being S3 but T4, you want them in combat, but their effective power is quite limited with just basic weapons. Anyway! My second Obsession for them was Masters of Mutagens, which means a natural 6 to hit against anything other than vehicles or titanic units is an auto-wound. That did come up quite a bit, which helped me to get rid of the Chaos Sorcerer, at which point there were no more Psychic shenanigans to endure.

It was a good game, and didn’t feel too much like a 1v1 with a bystander, though the Necrons just kept reanimating while Chaos and Dark Eldar were dying all around, meaning the final round was a bit one-sided. But we got to 5 rounds, so all was well!


I feel like Phoenix Rising is definitely going to be worth getting for Craftworlds players, and Ynnari too, but if you’re a Dark Eldar player looking for new ways to play the army, I think there is limited good stuff here. Possibly not worth it to the more competitive players, as nothing in there seems particularly game-destroying – and I’m guessing the more competitive dark kin won’t want to give up Agents of Vect so easily, anyway!

The Mandalorian (round-up)

Hey everybody!
So we’re now at the point where the final episode of The Mandalorian has aired, and we’re left with thoughts, hopes and dreams for season two, which was recently announced by series creator Jon Favreau. I thought I’d come along here and catch up with the series, after the first two installments of my look at season one, here and here.

Major spoilers to follow, guys!

Chapter 6 is a prison heist episode, as Mando attempts to earn some credits without returning to the Bounty Hunters Guild, who are mostly after his hide following the breakout from Nevarro. Taking a job from his old friend Ran, he teams up with a rag-tag group in an effort to break out the Twi’lek Qin from a New Republic prison ship. Qin’s sister Xi’an is part of the team, who all proceed to double-cross the Mandalorian and leave him on the ship, the pilot having activated a distress beacon. Mando isolates and defeats each member of his erstwhile team, then delivers Qin to Ran and leaves. Ran, attempting to launch a fighter to pursue Mando, has his space station blown up by New Republic fighters, who have followed the beacon Mando placed onto Qin.

It’s something of a throwaway episode, much like the previous two, but the series has been really good at taking this sort of extended look into the underworld, and continuing to give us decent action, even if the individual episodes are, well, episodic in nature. It harkens back to older-style TV series, which used a similar method of storytelling, much in the way the original movies harkened back to the adventure serials.

However, chapters 7 and 8 form essentially a two-part season finale, and the last episode is the longest yet at close to an hour. To begin, Greef Karga sends Mando a message explaining that the Client has overrun Nevarro, and proposes that the bounty hunter return, using the Asset as bait in order to draw out the Client, kill him, and free the planet. In return, Karga will call off the bounty on Mando and allow the hunter to operate in relative peace. Sensing a trap, Mando recruits Cara Dune and the Ugnaught Kuill to assist him. In addition, Kuill had salvaged IG-11 and reprogrammed him.

Along the way, Baby Yoda heals Karga following an attack by mynocks, and he reveals that his original plan had been to kill Mando and take the Asset to the Client for his own purposes. The plan changes, and Karga pretends to have captured Mando in order to get close to the Client, while Kuill takes the Asset back to the ship. However, the Client is contacted by Moff Gideon, who arrives in force with stormtroopers and deathtroopers, and shoots up the cantina where the meeting was taking place, killing the Client in the process. Scout troopers have been dispatched to recover the Asset, who kill Kuill in the process.

Chapter 8 picks up almost immediately, and we see that IG-11 manages to recover Baby Yoda, thwarting Gideon’s plans. In turn, the Imperials attempt to destroy the cantina, threatening the group with an E-web repeating blaster, and then incinerator troopers.

The group manages to flee into the sewers, where they discover the Mandalorian enclave has been all but decimated following Mando’s departure from the world. The Armourer remains, and informs them that some did flee off-world, and provides them with some assistance for their escape. She also tells them that the Asset appears to be a Jedi, the ancient enemies of the Mandalorians, and charges Mando to return it to its people. Following a lava river, the group manages to escape the Empire thanks to IG-11 triggering his self-destruct, but just then Moff Gideon pursues them in his custom TIE fighter. The Mandalorian uses his new jetpack to fly up to the TIE and plant some detonators on it, causing Gideon to crash.

In the wrap-up, Cara Dune agrees to stay on as Karga’s enforcer, while Mando must pursue his new mission, reuniting Baby Yoda with his people. Finally, we learn that Moff Gideon has survived the crash, cutting himself out of the wreckage with nothing less than the Darksaber!

Looking back, this series has been just incredible!

I was really gushing about how much I have been enjoying the small-scale adventure stuff in my previous blog, but that still holds true, even when we have the might of the Imperial Remnant under Moff Gideon. We have a fairly pitched battle, with massed stormtroopers as well as the more esoteric varieties that call on the expanded universe of yore, which continues to provide that element of fan service without seeming to browbeat us with it.

While Baby Yoda has clearly been the breakout character here, I think there is still a great story being told, and it doesn’t rely on this cuteness or anything to make it work. Chapter 8 brought us a lot of answers, seeing the extended flashback of Mando and getting, basically, his origin story. We also finally see him without the helmet, which was interesting as it did serve the story and wasn’t simply checking off a list.

I think that’s been the great success with the series as a whole, though, as we’ve seen some really great storytelling without resorting to an over-reliance on snazzy effects or something. It’s character-driven stuff, really reverting back to the type of the original trilogy. It really succeeds with the small-scale adventure, such as Chapter 4’s assault on the AT-ST, and through having some really great moments to build on the core characters, chapter 7 felt really good to see them now united in their cause.

Season 2 is expected next Autumn, and while we can assume we’ll be seeing Mando and Baby Yoda road trips while they attempt to find either (a) more Yodas, or (b) surviving Jedi, it has been suggested that we might also be seeing the formation of the First Order. Personally, I hope we don’t get that – The Mandalorian has been at its most successful, to my mind, when it avoided all of that galactic-scale stuff, and instead told its story of outlaws on the galactic fringe. If we start scaling things up, then I think we’ll risk losing the charm of what has made this season so successful.

Hopefully, Jon Favreau and co will stick to the formula, and have an overarching storyline that also takes the time for those episodic parts, where we can just continue to build on the characters. Speaking of which, while I think we can be fairly sure we’ll see Cara Dune, Karga and Gideon again in some capacity, I hope we get to find out what happened with Fennec Shand, as I’m pretty sure she survived at the end of chapter 5…

It’s been really great, and I’m really looking forward to seeing more live-action Star Wars on the small screen in the future!

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas everybody! Hope you’ve all been having a great festive season, no matter what you’ve been getting up to!

For me, the hobby haul has been limited to this beauty, which will no doubt keep me going for a while!! Gonna try to get this, plus two gangs, painted up in time for some games in a few weeks (or maybe months!)

The Rise of Skywalker (spoilers within!)

The Rise of Skywalker

So folks, I went to see the latest Star Wars movie, The Rise of Skywalker, last night. The finale to the nine-movie saga of the Skywalker series, there was a lot of hype for this film in the run up, and I was getting a bit concerned that it might not live up to that, when it came down to it.

The story of the film picks up around a year following the last movie. There have been reports of the return of Emperor Palpatine, and Kylo Ren has obtained a Sith wayfinder device that he uses to travel to the planet Exegol, and finds the weirdly reanimated Sith Lord, who reveals that the whole First Order has been part of his plan, and that he created Snoke as a puppet to lure Ren to the dark side. Palpatine has an entire Sith fleet in orbit around the planet, and he promises to turn over the whole of his Final Order to Ren in exchange for the death of Rey.

Poe, Finn and Chewie gain intel from a spy in the First Order that confirms Palpatine has returned, and return to the Resistance with the news. Rey has read of a device within the Jedi texts she had from Luke, which can lead to the lost Sith world of Exegol. Luke had traced such a device to Pasaana with the help of a mysterious contact, and so Rey, Finn, Poe and Chewie travel there to pick up the trail. There, they meet Lando Calrissian, who helps them escape a First Order patrol, but through their Force bond, Kylo Ren discovers Rey’s location and travels there to confront her. Poe and Finn discover a Sith dagger on the that C-3PO translates, although he is forbidden from speaking the words due to his programming. However, the First Order captures the Falcon, and Chewie with the dagger – while attempting to bring the prison transport back to the surface, Rey accidentally destroys the ship with Force lightning. The Resistance heroes escape on the ship left behind by Luke’s contact.

Poe suggests they travel to Kijimi, where they can get the text out of Threepio’s memory. Unfortunately, this will come at the cost of wiping his memory completely. They go through with it, and while there Rey senses Chewie is alive on the First Order ship in orbit, which arrived following the Knights of Ren having tracked them. While Kylo Ren travels to the surface to find Rey, the Resistance fighters travel to the ship with the help of an old contact of Poe’s, Zorii Bliss. While Finn and Poe rescue Chewie, Rey recovers the Sith dagger and receives a vision of Luke’s contact killing her parents with it. The First Order discovers Finn, Poe and Chewie, but they are aided by General Hux, who reveals himself as the spy. Kylo Ren reveals to Rey that she is the granddaughter of Palpatine, who had ordered her killed as a child as he feared her power. He asks her to join him, and together they can defeat Palpatine, but she escapes with Finn, Poe and Chewie. Hux is executed by Allegiant General Pryde, who speaks to his former master, the Emperor, and orders the destruction of Kijimi.

Threepio’s memory banks have given the location of the Sith wayfinder device as Kef Bir, a moon in the Endor system. There, Rey uses the dagger to discover the location of the device in the remains of the second Death Star, but upon finding it, she is confronted by Kylo Ren once more. The two duel, and at a critical moment Kylo feels Leia calling to him through the Force as she dies. Rey impales him on his own lightsaber, but then manages to heal him through the Force before fleeing the planet in his ship. She returns to Ahch-To, and attempts to exile herself, but the Force ghost of Luke encourages her to face Palpatine and her destiny, and she leaves in his old X-Wing and with Leia’s lightsaber, using the wayfinder from Kylo’s ship to travel to Exegol. Kylo Ren realizes the errors of his ways, and after a hallucination of his father Han Solo, he throws away his lightsaber. The Resistance tracks her through the call sign on Luke’s X-Wing and follows her there, to be confronted with the massed Sith fleet headed up by General Pryde.

Rey confronts Palpatine on the surface, and the Emperor demands that she kill him, to allow him to transfer his consciousness into her and live anew. While the Resistance fleet attempts to battle the full might of the Sith, aiming to knock out a navigation tower to prevent the fleet from leaving orbit, Ben arrives to aid her and is confronted by the Knights of Ren. Through their Force bond, Rey manages to give Ben her lightsaber and he defeats them all. He joins Rey to confront Palpatine, but he manages to drain their essence to empower himself back to full health. While he Force-pushes Ben away, Rey is galvanised by the combined strength of previous Jedi (including Yoda, Mace Windu and Obi-Wan) and, using both Leia’s and Luke’s lightsabers, deflects Palpatine’s Force lightning back at him, and defeats him.

The effort of doing so is too much and she seemingly dies, but Ben returns and manages to heal her through the Force. The two kiss, and Ben becomes one with the Force. As he does so, Leia’s body follows. When all seems lost, Lando arrives in-system with a massive, rag-tag fleet of reinforcements and they manage to destroy the Sith armada, finally eliminating the threat of the First Order. While the galaxy celebrates freedom once more, Rey travels to the Lars homestead on Tatooine, and buries both Luke’s and Leia’s lightsabers in the sand, having now built her own. A passing local asks who she is, and she reveals her name as “Rey Skywalker”.

As I said at the start, I was prepared to feel let down by this film, after the sheer amount of hype that it had received. On my way out of the movie theatre, I wasn’t entirely sure how I felt about it, but we had a 2 hour car ride home after meeting up with some friends, and talking it through really helped me to think about that. After sleeping on it, I’m pretty much convinced that it is a satisfying conclusion, but only to the sequel trilogy.

Let me explain.

I grew up with the original trilogy, but was in high school when the prequels started coming out. So I hadn’t quite formed that sort of opinion about things, but rather I was just enjoying the fact that there were more Star Wars movies being made, and I was around this time to see them. I think the fact that their numerical order helped: having always had IV, V and VI, it felt right that we were finally getting I, II and III. When the sequel trilogy was announced, I think it just felt like, “Oh, Disney has just spent a lot of money acquiring this IP, and they want to start playing in that sandbox”. I have never felt like the sequel trilogy needed to be made, in the same way that making the prequel trilogy made some amount of sense.

These films were originally about Luke Skywalker – he is the hero whose journey we are on. Vader is the villain who, in one of the most shocking plot twists in movie history, turns out to be Luke’s father and is eventually redeemed, but I don’t think anybody thought that the movies were about Vader until George Lucas started to make the prequels, and told us that, actually, these movies are about Anakin Skywalker, his fall and eventual redemption by his son. It was an interesting way of looking at things, and I guess I was suckered into that because, since the early 2000s, it’s been really nice to have that six-part film series that tells the whole story of Anakin Skywalker.

Now, we have the sequel trilogy, and the main protagonist is the granddaughter of the Emperor, but we’re being told that these films continue the saga of the Skywalker family. I’ve got to say – no, they don’t. If Rey had turned out to be the hidden twin of Ben Solo, then maybe. But she’s not, so the only way that these films can logically be said to continue the Skywalker saga is insofar as they kill off the Big Three from the original trilogy, providing that sense of closure while passing the torch to the next generation. Suddenly, the nine-part film series is mostly about Anakin, but is more about… what? There is now a lack of focus if we’re to look at these as one long saga. There is no central protagonist, because Anakin/Vader only lives through two-thirds of the movies, just like Luke is only present for two-thirds of the movies.

To my mind, the sequel trilogy did not need to be made, as it blurs those boundaries of a family soap opera that Lucas had intended all along. In his own ideas for the sequel trilogy – a pretty fascinating topic that I want to save for another blog – we’d get the grandchildren of Anakin Skywalker, making each trilogy about him, his children, and then his grandchildren. As it stands, while Ben/Kylo Ren is certainly a grandchild of Anakin, he is most certainly put into the antagonist camp, and I don’t think anybody could really say the trilogy has been about him, in the way that it has quite blatantly focused instead on Rey.

However.

When viewed as a film that wraps up the most recent trilogy, this works really nicely. There is so much that can be said about The Last Jedi having ruined Star Wars – again, I think I want to talk about this more in another blog – but seeing The Rise of Skywalker now, and thinking about how it fits into the third act of the trilogy, it seems pretty clear that JJ Abrams should have been in the director’s chair for all three. Things that we had seen in The Force Awakens should have continued into The Last Jedi, meaning that The Rise of Skywalker could then have maybe paused a little to actually explore some of these things in greater depth. As it is, there is a lot of story crammed into that 142 minutes. A lot. The first half of the film deals with some pretty frenetic searches for maguffins, and I think some of that could perhaps have been dealt with better if it had been set up in The Last Jedi, rather than JJ having to set things up and then resolve them in the same movie.

I suppose that is nowhere more apparent than with the reveal of who Rey really is. This, I feel, should have been explored further in The Last Jedi – a lot of the first part of the film should, I think, have been in that movie, especially her use of Force lightning on Pasaana, before we finally learn of her heritage here. I think more explanation of how, in fact, she is related to Palpatine is needed, as well – I’m no prude, but I don’t think the Sith Lord is the sort to go sleeping around, and while Darth Plagueis does paint him as something of a dapper senator, we’re still at the theory stage right now. For my own theory, I think it will either be a case of Palpatine having used the Force to create life again, or else some form of cloning experiment. I just hope that we’ll get to see something of that explored further soon, because it’s one of those niggling plot points for a huge nerd like myself, who will obsess over it until the shaaks come home…

Something else that I’d like to mention is how impressed I was with Leia’s inclusion. Considering the pledge was made to use nothing but deleted scenes, she actually has a much more substantial role in the film than I’d been expecting. Just when I thought we might have seen the last of her, she turns up again for more! Sure, some clever use of stand-ins has been made, but it was really nicely done, and I think it forms a fitting end for her character, as she passes the baton to the last generation.

It’s a busy movie, but it does have the time for some really nice sequences. JJ’s love of practical effects and real sets comes through once more, and I absolutely love it for that. Much like what we’re seeing with The Mandalorian right now, it’s stuff like this that helps give the show or the film that veracity that allows you to immerse yourself in the universe.

There are some incredibly wonderful little details that we see throughout the movie, I felt myself again getting sucked into the world, and wanting to know more about, for example, the Emperor’s creepy robed minions, or the denizens of Kijimi, or the “Sith assassin” contact Luke had been working with, etc etc etc. It’s such a real, lived-in universe feel, which is exactly the same feeling that we get when we watch the cantina scene of A New Hope, or the Jabba’s Palace scenes of Return of the Jedi.

It was a pretty good ending to the sequel trilogy, and I don’t think it’s going to come under anywhere near as much fire as The Last Jedi has. I don’t think of it as being a conclusion to the entire Star Wars saga, though, but it functions perfectly well as the capstone to the new sequel trilogy.

And I just can’t wait to see where we go in the Star Wars universe next!