For a certain subset of Star Wars fans, there’s one face in particular that’s been strangely absent from the modern films. While I was more than a touch underwhelmed by the movie that I saw in theaters last night, there was a seconds-long cameo that made me smile.
And no, it wasn’t Dominic Monaghan from Lost.
[Ed. note: What follows contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.]
Fans of the original trilogy will remember Luke Skywalker’s right-hand man, Biggs Darklighter, who was tragically killed in the final attack on the first Death Star in A New Hope. Those same fans will also remember Luke Skywalker’s other right-hand man, Dak Ralter, who was also tragically killed in the final attack on Echo Base in The Empire Strikes Back.
Neither of them were in Rise of Skywalker.
But Wedge Antilles was.
Those same fans will surely remember Wedge as Luke Skywalker’s other, other right-hand man, who somehow managed to survive every major engagement with the Empire unscathed. He may well be the sole surviving member of the Rebellion starfighter pilot corps across all three original films.
How did Wedge get so lucky? No one really knows, but if you stitch together all of his interstitial appearances, the guy actually had a decent little character arc. We first see him shooting the shit with Luke in the ready room on Yavin 4 in A New Hope. In that scene he’s just as whiny as the farm boy from Tatooine. But, by the end of Return of the Jedi, Wedge is a steely-eyed ace who barely flinches at the prospect of rocketing into the superstructure of the second Death Star and ripping some proton torpedoes.
So imagine my delight at seeing actor Denis Lawson don the old orange flight suit for one more battle. He appeared at the climax of Rise of Skywalker, at the controls of the Millennium Falcon’s turret, for the battle with the Final Order fleet over Exegol. He also gets a single line: “Let’s fly, Lando!”
So why did it take so long for a hero of the Rebellion like Wedge to make his way back to silver screen? Turns out he was sidelined when Disney spaced the Expanded Universe. Much of his heroic antics occurred in the dozens of books and comics that were relegated to non-canonical status. But, I can’t say that his reappearance in Rise of Skywalker was unexpected.
After playing a role in Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath trilogy of novels, Wedge skipped the first two modern Star Wars films only to reappear in the canon a few months ago. Wedge featured prominently in Star Wars: Resistance Reborn, a particularly good novel with deep lore hooks to Marvel’s Poe Dameron comics and even Star Wars Battlefront 2. In the new fiction, he’s the stepfather of Temmin “Snap” Wexley (Greg Grunberg), a member of Black Squadron and Poe Dameron’s right-hand man.
Ultimately, the fate of Wedge after Rise of Skywalker is unclear. We saw Snap bite it in the films final moments, and even fan-favorite Nien Numb met a fiery fate at the hands of the Emperor’s forces. Here’s hoping that Wedge made it back home to his farmstead, and his loving wife Nora, on the planet Akiva. He deserves a little peace and quiet after more than 40 years at war among the stars.
Update: A second viewing of the film in theaters — and several emails from some helpful readers — confirms that Wedge Antilles isn’t at the controls of an unknown ship for the battle of Exegol. Instead, he’s manning the guns on the Millennium Falcon. We’ve updated the original story to reflect that. We’ve also added information about Wedge’s role in the Aftermath series of novels by Chuck Wendig.