How Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker addresses Rey's parentage
As soon as Daisy Ridley’s Rey was introduced in Star Wars: The Force Awakens four years ago, rumors started swirling about who this orphaned scavenger with no last name really was. Was she a Skywalker? A lost Solo? A descendent of Obi-Wan Kenobi? Rey herself didn’t seem to know, staying in the Outer Rim wastes of Jakku in the hopes that one day her family would return to collect her.
The 2017 sequel The Last Jedi seemed to answer the question of Rey’s lineage, but now The Rise of Skywalker — which concludes the nine-film Skywalker Saga — has the last word. Read on for the definitive account of where Rey comes from.
In The Force Awakens, when Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber calls to Rey in the basement of Maz Kanata’s castle on Takodana, she sees a flash of herself as a child screaming for her parents as they fly away on a distinctive ship after abandoning her to the harsh whims of Unkar Platt. Though Maz (Lupita Nyong’o) tells her that the belonging she seeks is in front of her and not in her past, Rey can’t help but ache for her family, and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) sees the same thing when he Force-reads her mind. In a movie that’s obsessed by what the Skywalker bloodline means for Kylo Ren, once Rey’s great Force powers are revealed, the mystery of her origin intensifies, and fans spent the next two years conjuring one theory after another.
Whatever J.J. Abrams originally intended for Rey’s backstory in Episode VII, Rian Johnson seemed to have a completely different idea once he started making The Last Jedi. Rey goes to find Luke (Mark Hamill) in hopes of learning just who she is and why she has this great power. Luke doesn’t provide her with any answers, and Kylo keeps picking at her abandonment like a scab during their Force Skype sessions. When she seeks answers in the Mirror Cave beneath Ahch-To, asking with quiet desperation for it to reveal her parents, all it shows is her image reflecting back at her, suggesting that Maz was probably right after all.
But the greatest confirmation of Rey’s supposed parentage comes from her interactions with Kylo. After they touch hands across the galaxy and Rey flees Ahch-To in hopes of turning Kylo back to the light, Kylo admits that while Rey saw a vision of his future, he saw her past and knows who her parents were. After the brouhaha in the throne room, Kylo, in a bid to get Rey to rule alongside him, forces her to admit that her parents were nobodies, just a pair of filthy drunk traders who sold her out for drinking money. Since Kylo had a part in the revelation, some fans believed it was a trick and ignored the fact that Rey herself admits her parents were no one special. But other fans thought tossing aside the idea that great bloodlines mattered in the making of a Jedi was a refreshing change of pace for a franchise that could get a little too obsessed by who passed down their midi-chlorian count to the next generation.
Now, if you were a fan of the idea that Rey’s parents were nobodies and were hoping she could finally move on to a new plotline after two movies, I have some bad news for you. Because while Abrams and co-writer Chris Terrio follow the letter of the law of The Last Jedi in The Rise of Skywalker, they don’t really adhere to its spirit. Once Kylo Ren tracks Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) down on Exegol, Palpatine reveals that there is more to Rey’s heritage than anyone has known (sigh). He tells Kylo of Rey’s true origin, and Kylo in turn reveals it to Rey when she comes to retrieve the mysterious Sith dagger that’s been giving her childhood flashbacks. While engaged in a Force-connected fight, he confirms that while her parents were nobodies, it’s only because they chose to be. Because Kylo ain’t the only one with a famous Sith granddaddy. That’s right, Palpatine is Rey’s grandfather!
Rise of Skywalker never answers just who Mrs. Palpatine was, or how Rey’s dad came to be or fell out with his very powerful father, but perhaps the residents of Naboo have been sitting on some good Palpatine family gossip for decades. While Rey was abandoned to a harsh life on Jakku, Kylo explains that her father (played by Dunkirk actor Billy Howle) and mother (Killing Eve star Jodie Comer, of all people — bet you didn’t have that in your “Who’s Rey’s mom?” betting pool) did it to protect her from her murderous grandfather. Since Rey’s power was a threat to his own, he wanted her dead, and her parents felt the only way to keep her safe was to hide her on that desolate planet. Demonstrating why Palpatine would never win a Grandfather of the Galaxy award, he had Rey’s parents killed with the very dagger she found in her search for the Sith wayfinder, preventing them from ever coming back for their child, whom they actually loved.
Kylo believes that since he and Rey are the grandson and granddaughter of the two most powerful Sith lords who ever lived, that their unique Force dyad means they can defeat Palpatine together and then rule in his place. Rey initially thinks he’s lying and is horrified by the idea that she is the Emperor’s heir, but having accidentally brought down a ship with Force lightning and had a vision of herself ruling from his throne, she is frightened of what her heritage truly means for the galaxy. She vows to kill her grandfather but winds up back on Ahch-To, frightened after almost murdering Kylo in a rage.
When Luke’s Force ghost comes to counsel her, he claims in another retcon that both he and Leia (Carrie Fisher) knew she was Palpatine’s granddaughter, but being the children of Darth Vader, they understood that it wasn’t a bloodline that determines the quality of a person, just the person themself. The Skywalker twins knew that Rey was a true Jedi and that confronting Palpatine once and for all was her destiny, no matter what her bloodline said.
Rey faces that destiny bravely, eventually destroying her grandfather with the help of the newly returned Ben Solo and a Force power boost from some very familiar Jedi ghosts. After Ben saves her life by sacrificing his own and the war ends, Rey returns to the Lars family homestead on Tatooine, where Luke was raised by his Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru. As an older woman passing by inquires after her last name, Rey pauses for a moment before answering. Seeing the ghosts of Luke and Leia smiling at her, Rey decides that while her bloodline might make her a Palpatine, in the end it’s the Skywalkers who will live on in her name. So after a million theories and endless discussion, we finally know where Rey comes from — but where she goes next is entirely up to her.