“Who are Rey’s parents?” That was the driving question following 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens. “Nobody,” was the answer Rian Johnson gave us in The Last Jedi. While some fans embraced that notion, many if not most didn’t believe it. The prevailing theory was that Kylo Ren was simply trying to manipulate Rey into joining him on the Dark Side. As it turns out, Rey is both nobody and somebody…. Yet Star Wars fans are still unsatisfied. Here’s why the Palpatine reveal in The Rise of Skywalker matters.
Despite her character’s arc bearing similarity to Luke Skywalker’s, it is in fact very much different. Luke was born of nobility, the son of a former queen and senator. His father was one of the most important Jedi ever to live. Sure, Anakin became Darth Vader. But he didn’t do so voluntarily. He was manipulated. His story was tragic. Luke came from innate good that had only been twisted by outside, evil forces. Rey’s Palpatine reveal, however, paints a vastly different picture.
Palpatine reveal essential to sequel trilogy
Being the offspring of a failed Palpatine clone brings a whole new dynamic to Rey’s character. It’s one thing to be a nobody and rise yourself up. That trope is played out in cinema time and time again. But to learn you come from a lineage of ultimate, unadulterated evil and still overcome your heritage? That’s something else. Luke’s Vader reveal was devastating… initially. But then it became a journey of redemption. Rey’s Palpatine reveal, on the other hand, meant that Rey had to overcome the ever-present darkness within herself.
J.J. Abrams on Rey’s Palpatine heritage
Director J.J. Abrams discussed this very notion at an Academy screening of The Rise Of Skywalker last week. As Collider notes, Abrams believes rising from nothingness is far easier than rising above one’s true nature:
[T]hough I completely understand ‘you’re nobody’ is a devastating thing, to me the more painful, the more shocking thing was the idea that you’re from the worst possible place. And is that thing that you feel that you know is part of you somehow, that you’re haunted by, is that your destiny?”
There’s also another aspect of the Palpatine reveal that everyone seems to be ignoring. It proves to Kylo Ren that despite his Skywalker bloodline, he is, in fact, the one who was nothing. Ben Solo was little more that a pawn in Palpatine’s game. He had no true power. Rey’s Palpatine reveal tells us that he was simply a means to an end; a vessel to transport Rey to Palpatine all along. And when he delivered Rey to Palpatine, and she became the ruler of the Sith, what further role would, or could, Kylo Ren play?
No, the Palpatine reveal was far more that a retcon of Rian Johnson’s subversion of expectation. It was necessary to bring two, intertwined character arcs together to their joint conclusion.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is available now in digital release and arrives on Blu-ray March 31.