The story of Luke Skywalker – how he struggles with fear and anger; grows up in itself and finally takes over the reins of its own destiny – is well known to Star Wars fans. The hope was that the continuation of the trilogy and the final twists in The Rise of Skywalker this week would give Rey, a character created as a successor both as a Jedi and as a leader of a genre, the same depth. Blockbuster franchise.
Fans focused with laser-like precision on who Rey’s parents are, a focus the answers in The Last Jedi couldn’t do without. Now that The Rise of Skywalker is here, we can finally look at Rey’s journey in its entirety and see how his last episode definitely answers the question Force Awakens suggested: Are Rey’s parents important? And what was Rey’s story about in the end?
The last scene in the film has one answer, the rest of Rise has a completely different one.
[Ed. Note: This piece contains important spoilers for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.]
In the last line of The Rise of Skywalker, Rey codifies her new identity as Luke and Leia’s force spirits – she is Rey Skywalker and her fate is what makes her do it.
What would otherwise not be so confusing if Rise hadn’t revealed much about her lineage: Rey is Emperor Palpatine’s granddaughter and the key to what appears to be a fairly large conspiracy to bring about the Sith’s rule over the galaxy. This tremendous revelation is designed to doubt itself – but Rey’s story has always been about letting go of her past.
Rey, her parents and The Force Awakens’ path
Rey begins the trilogy not only with escaping from the physical prison of her home planet, but also with escaping from a more psychological prison that she created for herself.
Force Awakens tells us that Rey longs to leave Jakku. In one of her early, reserved, and effective scenes, Rey Splitt scrubs the machine parts she has collected to trade for bare food. She looks up from work and sees a crumpled old woman doing the same thing. It is a vision of her own future and the knowledge hits her so much that she pauses and lowers her arms as if she were suddenly tired.
At the same time, we learn that Rey is afraid to leave the planet and clings to her last memory of her parents, who said they would come back for them. Rey begins Force Awakens as the heartbreaking amalgamation of a young hero about to embark on her greatest journey and Fry’s dog.
As the film progresses, it is repeatedly emphasized that Rey cannot fill both archetypes at the same time. No less a mentor figure than Han Solo gets on the news. When Rey says she never thought there could be so much green, the camera stares at him – then he immediately offers her a job. When she confirms her intention to return to Jakku, Han makes a typical Harrison Ford ian peculiarity of the mouth.
“It’s a shame,” he says, “Chewie kind of likes you,” but we all know how good Mr. “I know” is in distracting emotions.
Thanks to Solo: A Star Wars Story, we have a lot more context for Han here. His story was the reversal of Rey’s Force Awakens bow. He spent years returning to Corellia to find a childhood friend, only to find out that she hadn’t been sitting around in amber waiting for him. She did what she had to do to survive and thrive instead of waiting for salvation. In the end, he was the one who held back just by holding on to his past.
But where Han is characteristically vague, Maz Kanata, what The Force Awakens comes closest to a Yoda, is as dull as a stormtrooper’s helmet.
Disney / Lucasfilm
“You already know the truth,” she says to Rey, “whoever you are waiting for Jakku – they will never come back.” Rey’s future lies with Luke Skywalker and training as a Jedi.
Every time The Force Awakens touches Rey’s parents and past, it means that she must stop looking at them as a story with an impending end and start looking at them as a cage that they can escape. Her arc in the film is really complete in two moments: When she realizes that she has found someone who comes back for her – Finn, who bends all resistance against a poorly thought-out and reasonably unnecessary rescue attempt – and when she communicates with the Force in yourself, the strength to resist Kylo Ren.
She lets go of her birth family’s idea and takes on a new identity. What matters is not her parents or the secret of her past, but what she does with her present.
Rey’s parents didn’t define them in The Last Jedi
Rian Johnson’s film, the middle child of the modern Star Wars trilogy, assumes that Rey will have to leave the past a few bars behind when J.J. Abrams left her. First, with the revelation that Luke cannot be the magical solution to the problem of Kylo Ren and the First Order, and Rey insists that he train her in the ways of the Jedi so that she can work in his place. She is not a small player who is looking for the hero: she is the hero.
Rey’s actual character moment, however, lies in the climate scene between her and Kylo Ren. She came to Snoke’s flagship to bring him back to the light side, a mirror of Luke’s appeal to Vader. Unlike his grandfather, Ren rejects them – completely rejects the dichotomy between Jedi and Sith when he hisses: “Let the past die. Kill it if you have to. ”
In order to bring her closer to his way of thinking, he tries to destroy the last traces of her self-image. He brutally tells her that he examined her and that her parents were junk dealers who sold their only child for a bit more money. A hideous act, but one of millions of sad stories in the stubborn underworld of the Star Wars galaxy, where even the Jedi turned a sad but tolerant eye to slavery.
Disney / Lucasfilm
Rey’s triumph comes when she rejects Kylo’s maxim. Her humble origins do not let her tear down the galaxy, nor prevent her from realizing her potential as a Jedi. It doesn’t have to kill the past, it can just let it go.
She found her own way, a topic that Yoda himself underlined when he tricked Luke into believing that he burned the old Jedi texts. “This library contained nothing that the girl Rey didn’t have.” It’s time for something new, says Yoda, and Rey is already able to shape the future of the Jedi.
Skywalker’s rise undermines and completes Rey’s arch
J.J. Abram’s return to continuing the trilogy feels defensive. With Rey, we’re opening the longest and most challenging round of a training course we’ve ever done on a big screen – not just against laser-fired bullets, but with every video essay that insisted she didn’t deserve her talent with a lightsaber, like Luke had. Two minutes of half-hearted blast shield training brings the point home.
Rise never gets on a solid foundation with Rey because he tries in a similar defensive way to solve the problem of “Rey’s parents” in both directions. On the one hand, the film insists that Rey is able to forge her own destiny, on the other hand, it tells a story in which her lineage is the direct focus of the plot.
The film provides The Last Jedi with a comprehensive retcon, confirming that Kylo Ren was wrong and Rey’s parents weren’t just junk dealers, but Emperor Palpatine’s fugitive son and daughter-in-law. Force-shaped Luke tells her that he and Leia knew it all the time when they were training her, but decided not to tell her.
Both The Last Jedi and Abrams’ The Force Awakens tell us a story in which Rey realizes that her lineage is irrelevant to her destiny, which she has to forge. The Rise of Skywalker turns this character development into a red herring, a distraction from the fact that it is closely linked to the greatest driving force and shock in the galaxy.
The film does this with the expectation that we will be concerned that a Sith Lord for a grandfather could cause Rey to take this missing piece of her identity and turn to the Dark Side, although we have spent two films on it Watching her past not define her.
Of course, she doesn’t turn to the dark side, not even a little bit.
Skywalker’s rise tells us that Rey is heir to the Sith legacy and that the late, but not late, emperor has been waiting for her to return to him, knock him down, and everyone’s ship to become Sith for more than 30 years -Master. On the surface, it reflects Luke in Return of the Jedi – but Luke’s parenting only became a problem after Vader revealed the truth to him at the end of The Empire Strikes Back.
When Luke finds out that Vader is his father, he has the emotional key to bring a fallen hero back from the dark side and overthrow a galactic tyrant. When Rey finds out that Palpatine is her grandfather, she has already spent two films rejecting her past. The Rise of Skywalker tries to recover Rey’s character development – even her The Force Awakens character development – to make a dramatic reveal that ultimately has no effect on the story.
The final scene of the film throws all the remaining legs out of the idea that Palpatin’s revelation hit Rey. She travels to Luke’s childhood home on Tatooine – a place she’s never been to – to bury the last remains of the Skywalker family’s past: Luke and Leia’s lightsabers, one of which was owned by Anakins. She is a little happy about the partnership of her origin with Luke and slides down a sand dune on a piece of scrap metal, as she did on Jakku in the past.
An old woman asks her who she is and gives her first name before pausing meaningfully while Luke and Leia’s ghosts appear in the distance. There is no evidence that she thinks of her actual parents, whom she now knows are two completely loving people who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect them.
She gives her last name as “Skywalker”. Their fate and legacy is their own craft.
And we knew that because we watched two films about it.