The refusal to confirm Rey’s parentage in Star Wars: The Force Awakens has everyone buzzing, and the theories out there run the gamut. But the most popular by far is simple and well-known to fans of the series—that she’s a Skywalker. Whether she’s Han and Leia’s secret kid, or Luke’s, the going wisdom seems to be that we’ll get one of those “I am your father/mother” reveals before long.
But I’m really holding out hope for a different answer.
Spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens below.
I’ll start off by kiboshing the first theory—she’s not Han and Leia’s daughter. The reason why I’m citing this as fact is because both Rey and Finn were colorblind cast (a point that J.J. Abrams made in interviews and at Comic-Con when discussing their selection), meaning that they could have picked an actor of any race to play Rey. So even though she looks as though she could be their daughter, it’s pretty darned likely that she’s not unless they lied about colorblind casting her, which would be a horrible thing to do for the sake of keeping the mystery alive. I doubt the bad PR would be worth it once that came clear.
That leaves Luke as a possible daddy, right? Sheesh, I hope not. I really hope not. Really, no.
There are two main reasons why I’d prefer that Rey wasn’t at all related to the Skywalker family, and the first is straightforward—it’s boring. We’ve already got Kylo in the ring, and his journey is plenty important. Making the third trilogy yet another tale where two members of the Skywalker family have to battle it out and work on redemption just isn’t interesting. While Episode VII did an excellent job of calling back to the previous trilogy, the next two films should cover new ground and do something different with this universe.
The other reason is connected to the first. If Rey is Luke’s daughter then all this new trilogy is setting out to prove is that the Force is basically safeguarded by their family, and that they’re the only ones who can fix it… or conversely, screw it up. Instead of the previous trilogies being a fascinating blip in their galaxy’s history, the Force becomes all about “The Divine Right of Skywalkers.” Their morality drives the universe, and their philosophy becomes paramount. We’ve already had two solid generations of this, and it was very interesting… now let it be over. Don’t let one family have the biggest say in how Good and Evil function in this sandbox.
See, here’s the real issue; in order for this new arc to be a worthy step forward for the Star Wars universe, it needs to say different things about the Force than the first six films did. (While it’s not essential that Star Wars films center on the Force, it’s clear that these core trilogies are going to do so, which is why I’m belaboring the point.) We’re already off to a good start with Kylo Ren, who is markedly not a Sith Lord—the Knights of Ren are their own group with their own agenda. In order for this to continue, it would be excellent if the new light side users weren’t Jedi, or were at least a different sort of Jedi. If the rhetoric surrounding the Force was allowed to develop and the idea of “balance” was considered from different angles, we would have a new stage in the Star Wars mythos.
Luke is the perfect teacher for Rey in this sense, because he’s in the ideal position to appreciate how the old systems have failed them. Having taught and lost a fresh crop of students at the hands of his nephew, it’s fair to assume that Luke will be open to new methods of teaching, new modes of philosophy, anything to prevent this constant embittered back-and-forth that only ever leads to destruction. He will likely learn from Rey as much as she learns from him, and with time, he could prepare her to foster this new age. It would be a fitting legacy for Luke Skywalker—he and Leia have worked hard and selflessly all their lives, and they deserve some kind of happy ending.
If it’s unavoidable, there’s really only one way that I’m cool with Rey being a member of the Skywalker line; if her rise is meant to mark out a place where the Skywalker family’s practical ownership over the Force comes to an end. If this story is about Rey recognizing that her family is stuck in a cyclical relationship with the galaxy, and that it’s her job to break that cycle, then I could see a situation where her being Luke’s daughter was worthwhile. But if these films aren’t intending to go down that road, they need to avoid the lineage ploy.
But the lightsaber came to her! That means she’s definitely a Skywalker! Does it, though? I agree, that lightsaber is important, as is Rey’s ability to call it to her when Ren could not. But I think the alignment of the lightsaber is key here, much more than the bloodline of the person who built it. That lightsaber was used by Anakin when he was a Jedi, when he was called the Chosen One. (He used it to slaughter a bunch of Jedi, sure, but it’s not like Palpatine had a nice red blade waiting for him once he was christened Vader. Which actually would have been a good idea….) Then it fell to Luke when he took up that mantle from his father. It comes to Rey because—like all good sentient objects in film—it wants to belong to the person who will use it for the right reasons. So… not Kylo.
What are our options here, then? There’s a popular theory that she could be the granddaughter of Obi-Wan Kenobi, which is cute for more than one reason; she’s got the accent to back her up, and Obi-Wan having an accidental kid out there is a thought that I love very much. (Have you seen him in the Clone Wars cartoon? He flirts with EVERYTHING.) In addition, there’s a poetry to it that plays with the prequel trilogy—if Rey is destined to defeat or redeem Kylo Ren, then she succeeds where her grandfather failed. It’s a cool idea, even if it is a bit too tidy for my tastes.
But I’m not sure that Rey’s parentage needs to be important. The movie certainly seems to indicate that her family is relevant, but what if this is a matter of smart misdirection? It makes sense that we’re all obsessing over the topic, mostly due to Rey’s inability to remember her life before Jakku, and her obsession with their return. But there’s every chance that this “family” she is so concerned over is a fiction, or at least irrelevant to her arc; she pointedly never gives any indication that she recalls specific people in her family, never mentions that she’s looking forward to reuniting with her mother or her uncle or siblings. She gets dropped off by someone in her series of flashbacks after touching Anakin’s lightsaber, but all we’re shown is a retreating ship, making it possible—in fact, I’d go so far as to say likely—that the person who left Rey on Jakku was not her family at all.
Instead, it’s possible that the person who left her there was the one who fitted her with this hopeful fiction: “Your family is coming back for you. Don’t leave, or you might never find them again.” It’s the perfect ploy to keep her grounded on that planet. Because that’s really the focus of Rey’s story in The Force Awakens, her unwillingness to leave Jakku out of fear that she will never see her family if she does. It’s the thing she has to let go of for her journey to continue, the reason why Maz Kanata pointedly tells her that whoever she’s waiting for is never coming back. Rey’s power is what makes her dangerous to the opposition, which makes it likely that whoever told her to wait on that desert world was doing so either to keep her out of the way for good, or to protect her from harm.
Rey’s vision of Kylo Ren standing around the bodies of Luke’s students could mean more than one thing, after all—it could mean that she’s gaining that impression by picking up a lightsaber that Ren formerly had in his possession, or it could mean that she was there. If she was, either Kylo himself or Luke—or anyone connected to the two of them—could have dropped her off on Jakku for safe keeping. Ren seems to know who Rey is, as evidenced by his immediate interest when she’s mentioned in BB-8’s escape from the desert world; “What girl?” he says, abandoning his destructive fit to give the officer his full attention. (In fact, the novelization does suggest that Kylo recognizes Rey within the dialogue, though novelizations are known to get jossed.) But knowing her doesn’t make her family by default. It makes her a known figure of interest, and her considerable strength in the Force is reason enough for that.
The theories are endless here, but the point I’m trying to make is that Rey could be literally anyone. While it’s likely that her heritage will come into play, wouldn’t it be fascinating if her history with the Skywalker family came down to something other than blood? If she was a part of their past some other way?
That’s what I’m keeping my fingers crossed for. I don’t need Star Wars to be full of unexpected twists and turns, but taking at least a partial step back from the family drama (Ben not withstanding) would be an excellent way to move forward from here.