Rey’s Real Identity Reveals What’s Wrong With ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’
“Who is Rey?” That question has been hovering over the Star Wars sequel trilogy since J.J. Abrams brought his mystery box over to the franchise with The Force Awakens. Although The Last Jedi purports to answer it, it’s no spoiler to say Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker significantly expands on Rey’s (Daisy Ridley) origin.
In fact, fans of Rian Johnson’s 2017 middle chapter are calling out Abrams’ The Rise of Skywalker for essentially undercutting a lot of its predecessor’s contributions to the saga. No matter what side fans fall on The Last Jedi debate, the way Rey’s identity is treated reveals a fundamental flaw with this new Star Wars trilogy.
[Spoiler alert: This article contains MAJOR spoilers from Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Read at your own risk.]
The struggle over who Rey really is
After The Force Awakens teased Rey’s identity, the task fell to The Last Jedi to address it. Of course, Johnson opted not to connect the character to a long-standing Star Wars family. Instead, he went for the most surprising answer he could: Rey is nobody special.
The writer/director later explained he considered the move the hardest thing Rey could hear at that moment. The same held true for many fans, who rejected Johnson’s revelation. That scene — along with Snoke’s (Andy Serkis) death and Luke’s (Mark Hamill) rejection of his Jedi duties — divided fans in half, much like that fateful lightsaber did Snoke.
So when The Rise of Skywalker‘s release approached, Star Wars fans fell in two distinct camps. Some hoped Abrams would respect Johnson’s narrative choices and build upon them. Meanwhile, others hoped the surprising twists of The Last Jedi would be undone.
‘The Rise of Skywalker’ reveals all
Ultimately, The Rise of Skywalker attempts to split the difference. Rather than being strictly disconnected from the saga’s legacy, Rey winds up being as tied to its history as Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Although her parents were no one special, the film reveals Rey is the granddaughter of Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid).
The entire point of The Last Jedi was to take a step away from the saga’s focus on bloodlines. Anyone — even a slave boy with a broom — could tap into the Force. As the sequel trilogy began, the Force had indeed been awakened and made accessible to all in a way it never had been before.
However, The Rise of Skywalker chooses a different path. Making Rey a descendant of Palpatine explains her inner darkness and creates a neat parallel between her and Kylo Ren. The pair are revealed to be a dyad in the Force, two lives sharing a deep connection. One descended from good and fell into the Dark Side, and the other is a hero who emerged from darkness.
Does ‘Star Wars’ do Rey a disservice?
Where The Rise of Skywalker ultimately lands on Rey wouldn’t be so problematic if it were the conclusion to which the whole trilogy had been building. Instead, the muddled story behind Rey’s identity is the result of a classic Star Wars narrative misstep. What we learned in The Last Jedi was true “from a certain point of view.”
The original trilogy wasn’t planned out either. When George Lucas made A New Hope, Luke and Leia (Carrie Fisher) were not intended to be siblings, hence their infamous kiss in The Empire Strikes Back. No one knew back then what the Star Wars trilogy would become. But the current Lucasfilm guard had no excuse.
When Disney purchased the company in 2012, a new trilogy was always the plan. Yet, rather than developing a master outline, Abrams and company decided to wing it. The result is a disjointed trilogy that winds up becoming more convoluted with each installment.
By the time the credits roll on The Rise of Skywalker, Rey casts aside her Palpatine bloodline to embrace the Skywalker name. In the course of one film, Rey goes from being a nobody to a Palpatine and finally to an adopted Skywalker.
As Luke and Leia look on, The Rise of Skywalker tries to make a statement about choosing whom you become. But all audiences can do is shrug, thankful the sequel trilogy can’t complicate things any further.