Star Wars: The Last Jedi left many fans with the answer they’d been hoping for—Rey is not a Skywalker! In fact, Rey’s parentage is of no importance whatsoever. It seemed like we got lucky and the new generation would not be related to this dominant clan of hyper-capable Force-users (with the exception of Kylo Ren). But now Episode IX is sneaking up on us, and according to director and writer J.J. Abrams: “I don’t want to say that what happens in Episode 8 [didn’t happen]. We have honored that. But I will say that there’s more to the story than you’ve seen.”
So… there’s still more to the “Rey’s parents” saga ahead.
Can we still just say no to this?
I’ve gone on about this at length before, but the idea of her being a Skywalker is just so boring and tired. Rey is a fundamentally more interesting character if she’s not a Skywalker. Her stake in this story is more exciting without that heritage hanging around her like a weighted belt. She deserves to be her own person, unique in the pantheon of heroes this series had brought us. More importantly, The Last Jedi spends all of its storytelling cards on the idea that we, culturally, have a terrible problem on how we view heroism, especially as it pertains to legacy. Making Rey a member of the Skywalker family wastes that entire concept. You can’t challenge that notion at the same time that you reinforce it.
We have a few more glimmers of information thanks to the first trailer for Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker. Those glimmers open up several doors in regard to Rey’s history, the title being one of the most interesting. After all, the rising Skywalker could easily be a reference to Rey, or even to Ben Solo. But my personal pick on that front would be that the Skywalker in question is a title, rather than an individual person. Like the Sith and Jedi trilogy closers before it, The Rise of Skywalker could be referring to a new class of Force-user, a new generation that Rey will likely have a hand in training. If that’s the case, and Rey becomes “a skywalker”, the first of her kind, then her inheritance of the mantle is about her actions, not about her bloodline. That’s a fantastic idea, and a great way of using the themes in Last Jedi to create something even more potent.
But if there’s still “more to the story”, as Abrams has indicated, that suggests that while Rey’s parents may not be incredibly important people, there’s still something intriguing about her family or her history that we don’t yet know. And this does jive with the information given to us in The Force Awakens. We still don’t know who left Rey on Jakku and insisted to her that her parents might come back one day. We still don’t know if she remembers anything of her family at all beyond that promise. We still don’t know why Kylo Ren seemed to have an opinion on her arrival—his pronouncement of “What girl?” when he first hears that she’s helping BB-8 has never been explained in a satisfactory manner.
We’ve got a brand new wild card in this story, and that’s the apparent reemergence of Emperor Palpatine. (You hear his distinct laughter in the trailer.) There are a lot of theories going around about his evident survival. He may have been cloned à la the Dark Empire comic from the 90s; his body may have rescued and somehow reanimated; he may using some form of time travel to reassert himself (which was introduced in Star Wars: Rebels); or other endless other possibilities besides. Was Snoke a failed Palpatine clone? An experiment gone wrong? The man responsible for reviving Palpatine’s body? Whatever the case, if the Emperor has been pulling strings for a long time, he may have more to do with Rey’s past than we suspected.
There has been a theory since Episode VII that Rey could be related to Palpatine, or perhaps cloned off of his genetics, but that seems a little too goofy, even for Star Wars. There are other possibilities, though. He may have encountered her after his revival, and noticing how strong her connection to the Force was, dropped her someplace where he could easily keep an eye on her. If that’s the case, the insistence that Rey’s parents are “no one” could be all about Palpatine attempting to strip Rey’s identity from her, the same way that the First Order stormtroopers are treated. Rey’s parents need not be important, but it is relevant if the Emperor deliberately separated her from them and made her believe that no one cared enough to seek her out.
In the prequels it’s implied that Palpatine has ability to “create” life, which he may have used to create Anakin Skywalker—could Rey be another one of those powerful beings, created by his manipulation of the Force? If so, the irony would be supreme if she’s the one to finally vanquish him once and for all. There didn’t seem to be any control over where that life winds up, or one would assume that Palpatine would have planned Anakin’s birth to be right next door on Naboo (assuming it was his handiwork, and not the work of his Sith master, Darth Plagueis… and assuming the birth of Anakin wasn’t simply the “will” of the Force itself). With that in mind, there are different options as to how Kylo Ren might have encountered Rey in the past, or how Luke may have met her as a child before the destruction of his academy and her life on Jakku.
Provided that Rey’s background doesn’t completely erase all the intentions built up in The Last Jedi, there’s no reason why more information on her history couldn’t elevate the story of the final Star Wars “Skywalker Saga” film. It would be great to have some notion of how Rey ended up on a desert planet all alone as a child with no one to look after her, but making her a Skywalker—as in a direct descendant of their lineage—is still the weaker storytelling choice overall.
Originally published in April 2019.