‘Star Wars’: Did Retconning ‘Rey Nobody’ Completely Ruin ‘The Rise of Skywalker’?

The Rise of Skywalker was a controversial Star Wars film with a divided fan reaction. One of the reasons fan reactions were so mixed? The way the story radically altered Rey’s background.

The film seemed to make massive changes to the character’s story that had been revealed in The Last Jedi. Some fans feel as though this hurt the film significantly. Let’s take a closer look at whether retconning “Rey Nobody” completely ruined The Rise of Skywalker

The initial question of Rey’s heritage

Daisy Ridley
Daisy Ridley | Wiktor Szymanowicz/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

In The Force Awakens, Rey was framed as the main character. When asked who she was, her reply was simple: “I’m no one.” There were plenty of small hints and winks to Rey’s heritage throughout the film.

At one point, she acts exactly as Han Solo acts while piloting the Millennium Falcon. The first time she meets Leia, the two share a warm embrace despite never having met. 

The question of who Rey is isn’t answered in this film, but the movie culminates with Rey leaving the Resistance to locate Luke Skywalker. The ending is Rey extending the lightsaber of Anakin Skywalker toward Luke. It set up quite a cliffhanger for the next film, though it still left the question of her heritage unanswered. 

Fans continued to debate who Rey was related to. Was she a Skywalker? A Kenobi? Seeing as how the original film had its protagonist as the surprise son of the villain, they thought a connection somewhere was likely.

How ‘The Last Jedi’ changed the conversation around Rey’s background

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The Force Awakens was directed by JJ Abrams while The Last Jedi had Rian Johnson behind the camera. Johnson decided to take the film in a new direction. He didn’t shy away from the question of Rey’s family, but instead of tying her to an existing character, he essentially turned her into a “nobody.”

Kylo Ren tells Rey her parents were no one of significance, and uses this information to try to make Rey his ally. 

It was a controversial move, but from a storytelling perspective, it was bold and fresh. With so many Star Wars fans assuming Rey was the daughter or granddaughter of a legacy character, it took the story in a new direction.

Of course, the series changed directions yet again when JJ Abrams returned to the director’s chair for The Rise of Skywalker. Rey was made into a descendant of the villainous Emperor Palpatine.

Did retconning ‘Rey Nobody’ ruin the ‘The Rise of Skywalker?’

A Reddit thread discussed whether fans would prefer the sequel trilogy and The Rise of Skywalker if Ben Solo were brought back. The original post talks about several aspects of the film people didn’t like. One of those was the move away from Rey being a “nobody.”

Giving her a more pronounced lineage hurt the film, according to some fans. One fan said: 

“I am pretty confident that if Rey remained a nobody, TROS would be widely celebrated despite everything else. And that’s just sad to me.”

It’s hard to argue with this line of reasoning. At the end of the film, Rey having no real background and then taking on the mantle of Skywalker would have been much more powerful.

As a Palpatine, she’s related to another character seemingly for the sake of continuity. Rey didn’t need to have family already involved in the story. Fans would have preferred to have a character with a clean slate they could then follow and appreciate. 

Making Rey a Palpatine may not have completely ruined The Rise of Skywalker. But the film’s conclusion would have been powerful had the filmmakers made different creative choices.