All year long we’ve been going back and re-examining The Last Jedi, easily the most controversial and divisive movie in the franchise thus far. Past articles can be found here, which break down the movie’s four-act structure and its theme of “failure,” what the movie teaches about “Force training,” how it was the perfect follow-up to JJ Abrams’ “mystery box” story, and how it offered a poetic end to one of fantasy’s greatest characters.
Midway through The Last Jedi, Rey enters a cave that we’re told is strong with the darkside of the Force. It’s a similar moment to what Luke encountered in The Empire Strikes Back, only on that occasion we were given no explanation as to its origin or purpose. Here, Luke uses it to point out that, where there is an abundance of the light-side of the Force, the darkside will likewise blossom as a counter balance (“powerful light, powerful darkness” Luke simply says). Rey is tempted by it and, frustrated with Luke’s “lessons,” decides to venture there herself.
It’s implied that the cave and the darkside within were tempting her with answers about her origins. Who Rey is, and who her parents are or were is one of this trilogy’s biggest mysteries, if not the biggest. Luke is surprised, if not scared, to see that Rey had no qualm about dwelling on the answers that may be contained in the cave, despite how evil it seems to be.
The scene that follows is one of the most mysterious in the film, if not the sequel trilogy thus far: Rey and Kylo—who, to this point have shared some sort of connection via the Force—talk about what she discovered in the cave (nothing but an endless row of mirror-images of herself) and clearly bond over their talk. She later leaves Luke to go to Kylo/Ben, convinced she can get through to him.
What happens next is one of the most surprising scenes in the film, if not the sequel trilogy thus far: Kylo kills Snoke, giving us what at first seems like the climax of Return of the Jedi all over again…one movie early. Instead, he sticks out his hand and asks her to join him. We thought we were getting ROTJ but instead, Rian Johnson took an alternate road to the climax of The Empire Strikes Back; Kylo’s invitation is a mirror image of Vader’s to Luke on Cloud City, only on that occasion Vader teases the possibility of destroying the Emperor. In this one, Kylo actually does it and then offers the invite. That’s an effective way to play with our expectations, surprise the audience, and “rhyme” to a prior Star Wars moment. Well done.
We’re left to wonder if Kylo sincerely cares about Rey or if he’s just manipulating her. The most important moment in the scene is when they discuss her parentage. Kylo forces Rey to admit that she knows what the cave was telling her, admit that she knows the truth about her parents and that she’s always known and just denied it: That she’s nothing, that her parents are nobody and that they sold her to a junkyard dealer for drinking money and probably ended up buried “in a pauper’s grave.”
Of all the things you could reveal about Rey’s origin, that’s the worst of them all…And that’s why it’s a great storytelling moment.
Making her Rey Kenobi or Luke’s daughter or Han’s daughter or Jyn Erso’s (grand?)daughter would be fanservice. Sure you could make it work, you could work backward from that fanservicey idea and make something out of it, but to make her the child of no one is the only thing that would totally shatter her. And it’s more important to use your story to manipulate the characters than the audience. Rey needed to hear bad news; this is the middle act of the trilogy after all (the heroes have to hit rock bottom in movie two). This is the worst news she could hear.
That being said…I wonder if there might not be more to her than that.
I’ll just say, if there is nothing more to her origins that what we’re told in TLJ then I’m 100% okay with it. Rey being a nobody who becomes a somebody is a great story and is even illustrated in the final scene of the movie, when a nobody kid looks up at the stars and dreams of fighting evil. Rey is the poster child for nobodies who become somebodies, even moreso than Luke, who just thought he was a nobody before realizing he was the son of the most important somebody ever.
But again, that being said…I wonder if there might not be more to her than that.
What if Rey was a creation of the Force just like Anakin was?
If you need a refresher: Anakin was created by the Force in response to the stirring of Palpatine/the Sith after a millennia in hiding. The Force is all about balance, and as darkness rose, the Force created light in the form of Anakin. That’s the prophecy of balance that Mace Windu spoke of in Episode I. Anakin was it, but fell because blah blah blah Lucas is a terrible writer you know how he fell. In the end, he was redeemed and did defeat Palpatine which is why the Force created him in the first place.
So what if Rey…is that all over again?
What if she was created by the Force in response to the rise of evil found in Snoke/Ben? What if it’s revealed in the next movie that her mother, who carried her just as Shmi carried Anakin, was forced to give this unexpected child up because she was a poor nobody living on Jakku and wouldn’t have been able to take care of her?
The timeline would be something like this: After Vader and Palpatine died, Luke was the last Jedi and he spent a decade or so hopping star systems, finding Jedi temples and just doing Jedi stuff. When Ben was born Luke sensed great Force power in him and trained him, as well as others he discovered over the years. Then Snoke stirred, planning to seize power. As he did, the Force (which has always had a non-temporal nature to it) moved to create a balance to counter the rise of darkness, and made Rey. Snoke seduced Ben to the darkside, Luke overreacted and lost him, then went into seclusion and the galaxy fell into darkness just like it did during the Dark Times. Finally, the Force awoke in Rey and put her on the path to defeat the darkside, just as it happened when the Force made Anakin.
If that’s Rey’s true origin story then it’s consistent with what Kylo said about her (albeit it’s not as harsh), and it keeps her a “nobody” on a technical level. It doesn’t make her the second-cousin, thrice-removed of Palpatine or Salacious Crumb’s nephew’s sister-in-law or something, but it does make her something akin to that, without the baggage that comes with a family tree.
And what if the way she defeats the darkside (which is embodied by Kylo, not Snoke because, as TLJ made clear, Kylo is the big bad of this trilogy, not Snoke) is not to kill Kylo, as Vader (the first chosen one) killed the Emperor, but instead is to turn him back to the light? What if Rey (the second chosen one) redeems Ben Solo instead of kills him? That “rhymes” with what happened in the Original Trilogy but also mixes up the players and the roles enough to keep it fresh: Rey is Vader, not Kylo, the chosen one to stop the darkside. But Rey is also Luke, the hero who redeems the villain. Kylo is the Emperor, not Vader, the big bad needing to be stopped. But Kylo is also Vader, the bad guy who turns good in the end (probably dying to save Rey, but not before impregnating her!).
That’s my theory and if I’m right you heard it here first, a year before it happened.