There’s still hope for all those Rey parentage theories.
In Star Wars (well, in fandom generally), theories are everything. This is especially true when discussing Rey’s parentage in the sequel trilogy, which has caused some big debates since Lucasfilm’s latest offering, The Last Jedi, seemingly presented an open-and-shut case regarding her parent. But in a recent interview, The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson has instead hinted at something much more open-ended for Rey.
Needless to say, there are spoilers for The Last Jedi ahead!
We first meet Rey, emphatically played by Daisy Ridley, as an abandoned junkyard scavenger on Jakku desperately waiting for her parents to come back for her. Her first meaningful discussion with any other character onscreen references her “classified” upbringing — how about her past is a mystery. And because Star Wars is big on the family drama, there’s an immediate level of intrigue to this lack of information about her.
In the new interview, Johnson opened up about Rey’s struggles to reconcile her hazy past and her very powerful future, opining that keeping up with the parentage debate would “make life hardest on her,” which makes perfect sense. Johnson was determined to play up the parallels between Rey and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who both experience great shame through parental revelations in the second installments of their respective trilogies. While Luke finds out that the greatest villain he is up against is, in fact, his father, Rey gets nothing for her pining. For a character as undefined as she is in terms of history and legacy, this is her worst nightmare. Johnson states:
“The easy thing would be, ‘Yes, your parents are so and so and here’s your place in the world. There you go.’ The hardest thing she could hear would be […] ‘No, you’re not going to get the answer. This is not going to define you. You’re going to have to find your own place in this world.”
This works well and good for the characters within the story itself, but what of the audience members who were equally invested in figuring out who Rey could possibly be related to? There were (and are) many viewers who were hoping for Rey Skywalker or Rey Solo or even Rey Kenobi. It’s perfectly understandable why fans put so much stock in it: the promotional campaigns for The Last Jedi have especially played up Rey’s evolving sense of self, which includes her past. As aforementioned as well, it’s one of the defining features of the sequel trilogy. Hence, people were bound to leave cinemas disappointed regardless. What more to walk away from The Last Jedi with very little returns on your favorite theory?
All Johnson has to say about this is, “Anything’s still open, and I’m not writing the next film. [J.J. Abrams and Chris Terrio] are doing it.”
It’s also worth noting that Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is the one to tell Rey who her parents supposedly are. As many fans are rightfully pointing out, he could very well be lying in order to manipulate her. Johnson told Collider that he believed Kylo to be telling the truth in his reveal, but is wary of being too definitive. “With all of these movies, Obi-Wan’s whole speech about a certain point of view always applies, so I think that you have to always think about the context of how information is given,” Johnson tells the Huffington Post.
Kylo’s actions throughout The Last Jedi could all have potentially conflicting motivations anyway, so what exactly can be trusted? To throw my two cents into the ring, my reaction to The Last Jedi‘s non-answer was rather positive because I love the idea of Rey branching off and being powerful without the shadow of the original trilogy. However, I also went into The Force Awakens thinking one thing about Rey’s parentage and then rewatching the film multiple times and forming different opinions, so I’m open to that happening with The Last Jedi too.
Moreover, there are questions to consider, should it be revealed that Rey is actually related to Star Wars royalty in any way. Without the core three from the original trilogy, just how fulfilling would any of the more popular parentage theories be? (Although the likelihood of a Force ghost Luke scene is pretty high.) While it would help to supposedly explain Rey’s strong connection to the Force, is parentage really all that important to her arc going forward? And if Rey is related to someone important but completely random — someone who hasn’t been addressed two-thirds into a trilogy — would it simply come across as shoehorned in Episode IX?
As a standalone, The Last Jedi deals with the grey areas of each character, and it’s great that it works in a looser fashion in the context of the wider Star Wars universe, despite what the intense haters say. For now, it’s probably wisest to leave everything as open-ended as possible for Episode IX. There are still two years of theorizing and fandom wars to go.