Rey is not who you think she is
Obviously this post contains spoilers for The Force Awakens. Do people really need to be warned anymore?
One of the biggest gifts that J.J. Abrams has given the Star Wars community is the chance to wonder again. In between the original trilogy and the prequels, fans were left with so many unanswered questions, which for all of their real-world mundanity, I spent a great deal of time pondering with fellow fans and friends. Even as I write this my wife asks, “how much time can you spend thinking about Star Wars?” A lot, I tell you. A lot.
In fact, one throw away line in A New Hope caused a generation to wonder endlessly about The Clone Wars. What were they? Who and what were cloned? How did Vader come to be during them? We were a generation obsessed.
And then the prequels came out, and George Lucas began to dismantle the mysteries of the Star Wars universe. And his greatest sin in the process? He didn’t replace them with new mysteries to fuel our imaginations. The only thing Star Wars fans were left to talk about were how much they hated the prequels. It got to a point where if someone brought up the subject of Star Wars, all I could say in a very resigned sort of way was, “don’t get me started.”
Then The Force Awakens happened. And it awakened within me that same child who endlessly pondered the Star Wars Universe, who wanted to learn more, experience more, and dream more. The Force Awakens gave us the greatest gift of all: new mysteries to explore and worlds to discover.
The Burning Question: Who is Rey?
At the top of the list of mysteries to solve is the obvious question about Rey: who is she? Where did she come from? And most importantly, who are her parents?
Many theories have been offered, the most popular and obvious among them being that Rey is either the daughter of Luke Skywalker, Han and Leia, or Ben Kenobi. I am not convinced by any of these theories however, despite all of them having some merit, and all of them being great fun to read and consider.
Is Rey a Skywalker?
This to me is the most obvious and arguably the most obvious answer, but that is precisely why I don’t think it is true, and why it is the perfect red herring for fans.
One major strike against this theory is the Jedi Code, which specifically prohibits Jedi from forming attachments, such as marriage, not to mention having children. And if you believe Luke to be a character who would want to learn from his father’s mistakes, then my money is on him maintaining his celibacy.
Is Rey an Organa/Solo?
The next logical parent is Leia because she too is a Skywalker. This would also make her Kylo Ren’s sister, which has a very nice symmetry to it, and makes sense because we know that twins are more likely to beget twins themselves. It also keeps the saga’s emphasis on the Skywalker lineage which ties all the movies together. What is completely unbelievable to me is the idea that Han and Leia would somehow forget that they had a daughter, or fail to recognize her, or for Leia to fail to sense her. Their bond as mother and child would simply be too great.
Is Rey a Kenobi?
One theory that has gotten a significant amount of pick-up on the interwebs is that Rey is the grand-daughter of Obi-Wan Kenobi. It is a theory I love especially because of its narrative implications.
How satisfying would that be to learn that the nine episode arc is really, underneath it all, about the Kenobi family and not the Skywalkers?
However, all the concrete evidence offered is weak. A similarity between costumes, the presence of Obi-Wan’s voice in her flashback, or the fact that Rey is lonely and/or spent time in solitude on a desert planet — well, it’s all circumstantial at best.
Without nitpicking, what I keep coming back to is this: if Obi-Wan is so “incorruptible” then why would he have produced offspring as the Jedi Code forbids? He wouldn’t. In fact, when would he even have had the opportunity to father a child? I just don’t see this theory panning out.
That being said, of all the theories I have come across, this one is the most fun to consider because of its focus on story and character. If it were true, it would force everyone to view the entire saga in a whole new light. It would change everything without changing anything really.
All of these theories however create closure by tying things off. I want a theory that expands the Star Wars universe, that creates potential for new story lines to develop, and that ultimately creates more mystery to fuel the wonder of generations of fans to come.
Rey is a descendant of the first Jedi
One fact that is often put forth in support of Rey being a Skywalker is her visions of “islands” extracted from her mind by Kylo Ren — presumably the same islands where she ultimately discovers Luke Skywalker. In hindsight, it would be easy to conclude that these visions are of her future: where she will one day find Luke.
Let’s remember why Luke is on those islands in the first place. He was in search of the first Jedi Temple. Perhaps Rey’s visions of these islands, and Luke being on those islands was mere coincidence. Perhaps Rey is having visions of her ancestral home. After all, through the Force, many things you will see, the future, the past, old friends long gone…
A look of recognition
Next, people often speak of the look on Luke’s face when he sees Rey for the first time. It is a look of recognition. Of course the assumption is that his look of recognition is literal, that Luke is recognizing his daughter. Perhaps though Luke is recognizing not Rey the person, or even the lightsaber she holds, but her arrival as a moment in time signaling a turning point, the arrival of a destiny foretold by the Force.
And a turning point we are at. The New Republic has been destroyed, along with its fleet of capital ships, and much of the Resistance is in tatters after having barely survived its assault on Starkiller Base. Things are not looking good, and things are likely to get a lot worse before they get any better. That is why Luke looks weighed upon by her arrival, rather than relieved or even, dare I say, happy to see… his daughter? No. Rey is not his daughter. She is a harbinger of things to come.
A great deal of significance is being placed on Anakin/Luke’s lightsaber. There is something almost too perfect about the idea that she is drawn to the lightsaber because it was her father’s and her grandfather’s before that. That it is her destiny to find it because of a family bond to the lightsaber.
I think she is drawn to it for a simpler reason: the Force is heavily imprinted upon it. For the same reason that Luke was drawn to the cave on Dagobah, so too was Rey drawn to the lightsaber. Remember too, it was not Luke or Anakin’s voice that she heard calling her to the lightsaber, it was her own crying voice as a child.
When she first touches the lightsaber the first thing we see and hear are a sequence of images, sounds and memories imprinted upon it by the Jedi who wielded it previously: the corridors on Cloud City, the snap-hiss of Vader’s lightsaber, and the voices of Yoda and Obi-Wan (young and old). What she sees next is that which she brought with her: images from her past, and her future.
All this leads me to believe that the lightsaber being Luke’s was just a coincidence. Its significance lies not in whose it was, but in the fact that it served to propel her towards her destiny by catalyzing the awakening within her.
Snoke: an ancient evil
Another, albeit speculative, idea in support of Rey being descendant of the first Jedi is in who her ultimate enemy is: Snoke.
We know little about Snoke, but some theorize that he is Darth Plagueis (“play-GEE-us”). Darth Plagueis is first mentioned by Palpatine in Episode III:
“Darth Plagueis was a dark lord of the Sith, so powerful and so wise. He could influence the midichlorians to create life. He had such a knowledge of the Dark Side, he could even keep the ones he cared about from dying.”
It is later revealed through novels (which, granted, are no longer considered canon) that Darth Plagueis orchestrated Anakin’s birth (which explains Shmi’s virgin birth) and just about every other important event in the series. He was supposedly killed by his apprentice — who is never mentioned by name but is presumably Palpatine himself. If however he truly did master life and death, then it stands to reason that he survived. Maybe through the use of a horcrux or two?
Sorry, I couldn’t resist.
Of course, there are those who believe otherwise, that Snoke is not Darth Plagueis, that he is Darth Bane, or if you believe the Star Wars cast member playing the role of Snoke, that Snoke is a new character all together. Regardless, where people seem to agree is that Snoke is old. Old enough to pre-date the prequels. And who best to defeat an ancient foe, then someone who comes from an equally old and powerful bloodline. Someone who possesses a latent and extremely powerful Force-sense, a power that has lain dormant in a bloodline for generations until it was needed again, until it was awoken.
The Return of Wonder
Regardless of what theory, if any, end up being true, what is ultimately more important for the story and franchise is not who are Rey’s parents, but the fact that we are all asking ourselves that question. What excites me most is that Star Wars is in the hands of a storyteller who understands not only how to make a great movie, but also how best to expand the Star Wars universe in the process. J.J. Abrams intuitively understands what Lucas either forgot, or even possibly never understood in the first place, no matter what Joseph Campbell might say: that “mystery is more important than knowledge.”
We have at least a year and a half before we might get the answer we are looking for, and in that time I suspect that my wife will still be asking me how much time I can possibly spend wondering about this movie. A lot, I tell you.