So here's a list of what I wanted that I got:
- Adventures for Rey, Finn, and Poe. Way back in 2016, I wrote that I wanted to see these characters go on adventures together-- but that due to the way The Force Awakens ended, that was impossible in the short term. "Not until Episode VIII," I said. Little did I know that Episode VIII wouldn't give me that either! The first half of Rise of Skywalker seemed to be working to remedy that mistake, to finally give us Rey, Finn, and Poe (plus Chewie, C-3PO, and BB-8) on a madcap Star Wars adventure together. Longtime readers of this blog know my favorite genre of screen sci-fi is "disparate group of people bond on a quest," so of course I ate it up! Hopefully we can finally get lots of Rey/Finn/Poe tie-ins now, either wedged in between Episodes VIII and IX, or in sequels to the sequels. (Though, c'mon, enough with the queerbaiting.)
- Lando Calrissian. Lando is probably my favorite sort-of main character from the original trilogy. That they brought him back honestly seems arbitrary and fanwanky, but hey, I'm cool with it. The main thing is that I would have preferred more "suave Lando" moments; there was really just the one, where he told Rey to give his love to Leia. (Did he just live in the desert on Pasaana for thirty years, though? That doesn't seem very Lando.)
- Wedge Antilles. If you're a fan of a certain age, you grew up reading the X-Wing novels, and if you grew up reading the X-Wing novels, you know that Wedge Antilles is the real hero of Star Wars. He's the only guy to turn up to both Death Star battles... and he doesn't even have Force powers! So I was delighted to see him here, even if it was for just ten seconds. I don't think I would have recognized him, though, except that I know what old Denis Lawson looks like from watching Bleak House.
- The Emperor. Actually, I didn't particularly want the Emperor back, even though he's one of my favorite film villains, and Ian McDiarmid is perfect in the role (except in Revenge of the Sith, the worst Star Wars movie). And it's like, the plan that the Emperor supposedly had going on is so needlessly convoluted as to beggar belief... but if there's one villain who I'd believe would have a needlessly-convoluted belief-beggaring plan to do... um, something, the Emperor is it. So cackle away, Ian McDiarmid, I've missed you. (I do like that the movie barely even explains how he's still alive; it's just like, "oh you know, clones or some shit," and then moves on.)
- The Way the Rey/Kylo Scenes Were Shot. One of my favorite things about The Last Jedi was the way those back-and-forth cross-galaxy Force communication scenes between Rey and Kylo were shot. No fancy effects, just cutting back and forth between two different locations in such a way that it seemed like the two were looking at each other. But with J. J. Abrams liberally discarding much of what Last Jedi did, I wouldn't have expected this directorial flourish to survive... but not only did it survive, but Abrams built on it in what I found to be some clever ways.
- General Hux. Someday I should post my General Hux fanfic to this blog, but suffice it to say, I think he's great. This is a guy who earnestly believes in the First Order... and thus spends all his time fretting over how Kylo Ren is screwing it up. He's the one who wants to prosecute a galactic war, but Kylo keeps going off half-cocked and ranting about the Dark Side and his dad. But, poor guy, not even Snoke values his efforts. I was delighted with the use Rise of Skywalker came up for him, and delighted with his scene with Finn, and his final scene. (Why did General Richard E. Grant seem to outrank him, though?)
- A Good Final Space Battle. Hot take time: there hasn't been a good Star Wars space battle since Return of the Jedi. The battles in the prequels lacked tension due to George Lucas's inability to direct; the battle in Force Awakens didn't really involve Our Heroes; I don't think there was one in Last Jedi? But this one had a clear objective, a couple good twists, and I thought, a really great moment for Finn, where he comes up with a new plan on the fly when the Final Order changes theirs.
- All the Feels. I think the sequence that runs from OKAY SPOILERS Rey stabbing Kylo to Leia dying to Rey healing Kylo to Chewie mourning to Han appearing is the biggest emotional gamut I have ever experienced in a Star Wars film.
- An Ewok. Yub nub!