The Case for Rey Skywalker
Author’s Note: The following article contains SPOILERS for the film Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Proceed with caution.
Solo or Skywalker? Skywalker or Solo? Since the reveal of Daisy Ridley and her role in The Force Awakens a debate has raged as to the familial links of Rey. The film, the marketing and the tie-in materials strongly hint that Rey is connected to the Skywalker family in some way. After viewing the film thrice I walked away with the firm conviction that Rey is the daughter of Luke Skywalker and here are the reasons why…
1) The Maker and the Caretaker:
It is common knowledge that George Lucas included in the sale of Lucasfilm to Disney story treatments for a sequel trilogy of Star Wars films. At the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival, Lucas talked about how his plan for the saga followed the father (Anakin), the children (Luke and Leia) and the grandchildren.
Kathleen Kennedy, President of Lucasfilm, longtime collaborator, and handpicked successor of George Lucas also commented on the familial roots of the saga in an interview to Costco Connection magazine: “The Saga films focus on the Skywalker family saga,” she explains. “The stories follow a linear narrative that connects to the previous six films. The Force Awakens follows Return of the Jedi and continues that generational story. The Anthology films offer opportunities to explore fresh characters, new storylines and a variety of genres inside the Star Wars universe.”
Now you could argue that the sequel trilogy could still be a Skywalker family saga if Ben Solo (aka Kylo Ren) was the antagonist throughout the trilogy. But it is hard to see a saga as truly Skywalker-focused without a Skywalker protagonist (and that isn’t going to be old man Luke).
2) Tables and Teasers:
Much was made of the first photo released of the cast at their table read at Pinewood Studios. In the photo Daisy Ridley was sitting between Harrison and Carrie, leading fans to quickly assume she would be playing Han and Leia’s daughter. Now that we have seen the film, it seems like there is very little relationship between where folks were sitting and their relationships in the film, perhaps except John and Oscar sitting next to each other and having so much screen time together.
In the second official teaser for The Force Awakens, the voice over from Mark Hamill says, “The Force is strong in my family. My father has it, I have it, my sister has it, you have that power too.” This is an edited reformulation of Luke’s dialogue to Leia in Return of the Jedi where he says, “You’re wrong, Leia. You have that power too. In time you’ll learn to use it as I have. The Force runs strong in my family. My father has it. I have it. And… my sister has it. Yes. It’s you, Leia.”
Now this line is interesting because we don’t actually hear Luke speak in The Force Awakens, but we do see someone discovering their untapped potential in the Force in the person of Rey.
3) The Novelization
Author Alan Dean Foster returned to the Star Wars franchise to write the official novelization for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which adds some scenes and dialogue that we didn’t see on-screen. Included in this was recognition of Rey being someone Kylo knew in the past. During the climactic fight of the film we get an additional line of dialogue which reads: “‘It is you,’ Ren murmured.”
To someone who has marinated in Star Wars storytelling as long as I have, this reads to me like Ren had a hint of recognition in the Force with Rey but couldn’t place it because the connection between the two of them wasn’t that well-developed. This seems like something that would be more likely between cousins than siblings.
4) Do You Believe In Coincidence?
The film begins with Lor San Tekka (Max von Sydow) and Poe Dameron in a secret meeting together on Jakku. Lor San Tekka is an interesting character who delivers some really densely-packed dialogue in a very short period of time. Things we can gleam from this opening is that he knows Kylo’s true identity, thinks of Leia as royalty, and has some knowledge that is very valuable. We soon learn that this is a map to find Luke. The reference to Leia makes me think Lor San Tekka is an Alderaanian survivor. Thankfully one of the most interesting StarWars.com Databank entries gives us tons of details on this character:
“A legendary traveler and explorer, Lor San Tekka is a longtime ally of the New Republic and the Resistance. After the Battle of Endor, San Tekka helped Luke Skywalker recover secret Jedi lore that the Empire had tried to erase, and Leia Organa hopes the old scout can now help find her brother. Following decades of adventure, San Tekka retired to live simply on Jakku, where he follows the dictates of the once-forbidden Church of the Force. But his retirement is fated to be anything but peaceful.”
So the guy that helped Luke find old Jedi lore and probably the location of the first Jedi Temple (where we see Luke and Rey at the end of the film) just happens to retire on the same planet that Rey is left on? He also is a follower of something called the Church of the Force.
The new book by Pablo Hidalgo, Star Wars: The Force Awakens: The Visual Dictionary, provides some info on the Church, but my takeaway is that if you believed that the Jedi were necessary to bring balance to the Force and that the Order must return into existence, you would greatly value someone like Rey with tremendous Force abilities.
I believe Lor San Tekka retired on Jakku in order to keep a protective eye on Rey. This is directly analogous to Obi-Wan’s retirement/exile on Tatooine to watch over Luke from afar. This could mean that Lor San Tekka was the person who dropped Rey off on Jakku or it could mean that he came along later as a favor to Luke.
If one of your own apprentices turned against you and slaughtered the new Jedi you were training it would make sense for Luke to want to protect his daughter. Hiding her away, asking and old friend to watch out for her, and providing a way for her to find him if (and when) it was the will of the Force makes a ton of sense.
This points back to something important: Luke chose to go into exile but that he also put in place a way to find him. Leaving R2 and a partial map with Leia and the Resistance, while at the same time leaving a key piece to the map with his friend Lor San Tekka seems like a rather prudent plan.
But how could our noble hero Luke Skywalker abandon his daughter? Now, that is the storytelling trick. We just don’t know. What we do know is that none of our big three heroes has a happy ending. Han and Leia’s son falls to the dark side, their relationship breaks down, and Luke teaches a generation of new Jedi who are wiped out.
We know that Luke was searching for the Jedi lore and the first Jedi Temple. Luke was off-world (possibly with Lor San Tekka) when Ben (influenced by Snoke) lowered the school’s defenses, allowed the Knights of Ren in, and began the slaughter. Luke returns to find everyone slaughtered and believes his wife and daughter are dead. Kylo couldn’t bring himself to kill his young cousin, so he kidnaps her and abandons her to Unkar Plutt on Jakku. A variation on this scenario would be that Luke returns too late to save his students but discovers his daughter still alive, so he drops her off on Jakku so she would be relatively safe and out-of-the-way while he sought understanding about why it happened and a means to defeat the dark side.
5) Anakin’s Legacy
There was one big familial revelation in The Force Awakens, but there may be another one coming in Episode VIII or IX. The legacy of Anakin Skywalker dominates the life of Ben Solo, but while pondering the film, it occurs to me that Ben seems to have inherited all of the negative aspects of Anakin’s personality without the positive attributes. Ben is obsessive, he is emotionally unstable; he is reckless, he is arrogant, and he is self-centered. He is also tall, strong, and powerful in the Force. Much like his grandfather, Ben is also plagued by internal conflict, a war between the darker impulses and better angels of his nature. Ben’s choices in The Force Awakens seem to be much more deliberative and less impulsive than Anakin’s in his journey down the dark path. It is interesting to see that while Ben’s choices seem to have more thought put into them than Anakin’s he seems even more impulsive when it comes to his emotional reactions to events.
The opposite is true if you look at Rey. She has many positive qualities that reflect the positive attributes with Anakin Skywalker. She is resilient, brave, kind, quick-witted, and empathetic. She also possesses the athleticism/reflexes, piloting skills, and technological skills displayed by Anakin. Rey reflects Anakin as he was on Tatooine, while he still had some innocence left.
The wrapping style of coverings that both Kylo Ren and Rey have covering their arms differ in color–one dark and one light–but have a certain visual similarity that ties the two character’s costumes together.
Further we see both Kylo and Rey presented with choices in the film–one chooses selfishly and one selflessly. Kylo chooses to make the selfish sacrifice to kill his father to increase his own connection to the dark side and win Snoke’s approval. He takes his father’s life knowing that it will hurt his mother, Chewbacca and others. He thinks selfishly and acts elevating his own interests above any others.
Rey’s choice is selfless. Rey rescues BB-8, recognizing the droid’s rights as an individual. She then takes him in at least temporarily, showing her compassion. Then Unkar Plutt offers her 60 ration portions (an enormous amount) to sell the droid to him. While she is initially tempted, she puts her own self-interest behind preserving BB-8’s freedom and agency. Refusing to sell the droid into slavery is something that feels very much in character of young Anakin in The Phantom Menace.
It seems that Ben grew up in the shadow of his grandfather’s legacy, whereas if Rey is a Skywalker she grew up in the light not obscured by the shadow of that legacy.
6) Han, Leia and Rey
The biggest impediment to Han and Leia being parents to Rey are figuring out the timeline with Ben’s fall, Han splitting and Rey being born. It seems like Rey must have been born before Ben’s slaughter of the Jedi students and Luke’s self-exile. If that is true than it makes it difficult to believe that Ben wouldn’t know he had a sister.
It also seems like the galaxy can’t keep a secret anymore. Folks know who Kylo was, there are spies everywhere, and word travels fast. It is hard to imagine that Kylo doesn’t have the Holonet equivalent of a Google Alert set to any news on his family and would have heard about a sister being born.
There seems to be some connection that Han feels to Rey, most likely an echo of how he felt working with a young Luke in A New Hope. Han’s reaction to Rey’s kidnapping is very telling. If she was his daughter and he knew about it he showed no reaction in that regard and didn’t mention it to either Finn or Leia. His entire and sole focus was seeing his son again.
The only way Rey could be their daughter was if she was conceived just before Han abandoned Leia and she kept the pregnancy, birth, and first handful of years raising her a secret. This seems a bit far-fetched and seems likely that if Leia did have another child, Maz or some other underworld character would have caught word of it and told Han at some point.
The penultimate scene featuring Rey and Leia meeting could be interpreted multiple ways. But given the state of events what reason would Leia have to not tell Rey the truth at that point if she was her mom?
7) The Force is Strong With This One
Until her vision and subsequent interrogation by Kylo Ren, Rey shows no knowledge of the Force. It is unclear if it was touching Anakin’s lightsaber that triggered Rey’s vision, if the physical location of Maz’s basement storage room was similar to the cave on Dagobah, or if it was a combination of both. It is interesting to note that the Databank entry for Maz’s Castle says that the castle may sit on an ancient battleground of Jedi vs. Sith, a battle that would have had to be over 1,000 years old since we know Maz has operated the castle as a bar there for at least that long.
What we do know is that Rey is an extremely powerful, yet raw, Force-user. Her ability to use the Jedi mind trick and telekenisis seemed much more advanced than even Luke’s after limited training. Her power level seems almost on par with Kylo Ren, which would seem to indicate that when fully trained she should be stronger than him. We know that Anakin had an unprecedented midi-cholrian count and strength in the Force. We know that Luke, as Anakin’s son, was also extremely powerful and viewed very desirably by both Obi-Wan/Yoda and Vader/Palpatine as a recruit.
This strength indicates to me that she is from Anakin’s bloodline at the very least and most probably Luke’s daughter since he seems to have a stronger connection to the Force than Leia.
Her power levels and abilities does raise an interesting possibility, as she uses powers that the film doesn’t really explain how she would have learned. One possibility is that when he opened the channel in her mind to try to read it, Kylo also opened up his mind to her. Perhaps she was able to unintentionally pull knowledge of these abilities out of Kylo’s mind along with his fear of not measuring up to Vader. Another possibility is that if she is Luke’s daughter it is possible that she was partially trained, but when he abandoned her Luke used the Force to erect some sort of telepathic walls within Rey’s memory so she wouldn’t remember her true identity or any Jedi training. Under this theory, Kylo’s intrusion into her mind may have broken the flood gates and allowed her to begin having these repressed memories surface.
8) Luke and Rey
The final scene of the movie may lack words but it is full of so much mixed emotions, it seems almost impossible there is no link between Luke and Rey.
This is the biggest cliffhanger we have ever had to end a Star Wars movie and given the fact that both actors returned to early filming for Episode VIII on Skellig Michael makes us assume we will see the continuation of that scene open the next film.
It would be an interesting parallel to see that Rey is the one that could pull Luke back into the galaxy, just as Leia thought Han could pull Kylo back into the light. After all, Rey isn’t just some scavenger…
9) Lightsaber Calling
Probably the strongest bit of evidence we get that Rey could be Luke’s daughter and Anakin’s granddaughter is that the lightsaber called to her at Maz’s. As we saw in The Clone Wars episode, “The Gathering,” lightsaber crystals call to the Jedi and when the Jedi finds one the crytal attuned itself to him or her and changes color. It is certainly possible that the crystal in Anakin’s lightsaber resonated with the Skywalkers. It is possible to even argue that the lightsaber looks more brilliantly colored blue in this film because it has already sensed and begun to attune itself to Rey as soon as she came into contact with her.
10) A Closing Crazy Theory
The final thought I will leave you with is a theory that I have been formulating since my first viewing of the film. This relies heavily on The Clone Wars season three Mortis arc as well as the season six Yoda arc. I believe that all three trilogies are about brining balance to the Force, and that the cycle of war between dark and light and across the galaxy is repeating because neither the Sith nor the Jedi are properly interpreting the will of the Force. Anakin’s selfishness prevented him from brining balance to the Force on Mortis; it further caused him to fail to find balance in the Force within himself.
Luke convinced Anakin to turn back to the light above Endor, killing the Emperor and ending Vader’s life as well. However, this victory (while it eliminated the two most powerful dark side users) again may have gotten the concept of balance wrong.
Balance of the Force doesn’t mean the elimination of either the light or the dark but the acceptance of both with the larger galaxy and within ourselves.
In the final season of The Clone Wars, during his advanced training in the Force, Yoda battled his dark self. In that battle he learned that only by recognizing and accepting the darkness within himself was he able to subsume it and control it.
I believe Rey might present the line of the chosen one with a third chance to bring balance to the Force. Rey could recognize the necessity of the existence of both the dark side and the light and reject the idea of destroying the darkness.
A way this could play out on-screen is for Rey to recognize that Kylo Ren is beyond redemption but that she still needs to work with him to eliminate another even greater threat.
It is notable that Maz talks about the balance of the Force. It is more interesting that Kylo has been trained in both the light and the dark but is trying to destroy the light side within himself in the effort to make himself stronger in the dark side. This absolutism in Kylo drives him to extremism and ultimately the murder of his own father.
Perhaps Anakin was the chosen one and destined to bring balance to the Force, but not during his lifetime, instead through the actions of his grandchildren, one light and one dark.
Well, there you have it folks–I think Rey is the daughter of Luke Skywalker. What do you think?