Twenty-three long, speculation-fueled months ago, in the immediate aftermath of The Force Awakens, I asked the staff for their best early guesses and hopes as to the origin of Rey. Jay Shah was Team Solo, mostly out of affection for the legacy of the Expanded Universe’s Jaina Solo and a desire to see Rey channel that role in the new canon. David Schwarz was Team, ah, Durron—his point being that Rey should be the child of new characters, preferably a promising student or students from Luke’s first crop of trainees. Rocky Blonshine was Team Skywalker for all the familiar evidentiary and legacy reasons, and Ben Wahrman, while preferring “that she not be related to anyone”, chose Team Kenobi as a poetic way of splitting the difference between a protagonist coming out of nowhere and one forced to deal with all the story baggage of the Skywalker/Solo family.
I myself was Team Snoke. I go into detail in the original piece but my basic idea was that Snoke was once similar to Aftermath‘s Yupe Tashu—an adviser to Palpatine who gained access to a mysterious source of dark side power and ultimately intended his powerful child to lead the First Order on his behalf, only to have Luke Skywalker steal her away and hide her. TFA, therefore, was not about Snoke looking for Luke as much as Snoke looking for Rey, who he assumes is with Luke. As an aside I mentioned the possibility that she wasn’t his biological daughter, but rather a second attempt at the same experiment that created Anakin Skywalker; thus Snoke would be her figurative father and her actual lineage would be the Force itself—what better birthright with which to claim the mantle of Supreme Leader?
Fast forward a couple years, and that aside is looking much more likely. At nine feet tall, Snoke is pretty definitely an alien, and Rey is pretty definitely a human, meaning a biological relationship seems pretty implausible. I stand by the rest of the theory though—if we meet Rey’s biological parents at all, they could even be First Order loyalists who volunteered for Snoke’s experiments rather than having a baby just pop up randomly in the galaxy. Thematically, what appealed to me about it was the question “what would Luke have done if his father has been Palpatine rather than Vader?” If Rey owes her existence not to some conflicted underling but to the devil himself, what would that mean for her destiny, her “place in all this”? I’m still hoping to find out.
But that’s me; how have the rest of you evolved over the last two years? Have your theories or preferences changed at all, and if so, what changed them? I pose the same question to our newer staff as well—how has your own thinking on Rey’s origin changed since TFA first came out?
Mark: I’ve been convinced since TFA that she’s not related to the Skywalkers. What I’ve been looking for is something that would be quick to explain in a movie, would impact Rey’s choices about her place in the world, and wouldn’t tie her in with a legacy character for the sake of it. After the trailer, I do think Snoke is the answer, but in a slightly different way.
I speculate that Snoke’s trailer lines, including “when I found you” and “fulfill your destiny,” are spoken to Rey. She was born in early First Order space in the Unknown Regions, and Snoke identified her raw power and wanted her as an apprentice – someone he could sculpt from a young age as the perfect dark side weapon. Maybe he even started training her. But her parents, who loved her more than they loved the First Order, stole her away and hid her on Jakku, then died when their ship was shot down while leading the First Order away from Rey’s hiding place. Jakku, as it happens, has been established as the “jumping off” point to reach that part of the Unknown Regions, so logically it’s also the first place you’d arrive after leaving.
So, Rey was destined to be the villain, while Ben should have been the hero – but the loss of Rey forced Snoke to focus on turning him, instead. An act of parental sacrifice changed everything. Rey’s realization will be that her confused past and “destiny” don’t matter – all that matters is who she chooses to be now. If you want a name – someone we know was part of the early First Order – how about the awful Nash Windrider from Lost Stars? Rey Windrider sounds like the name of a Star Wars hero, and once Rian Johnson decided her parents should be First Order officers, the story group could have stepped in and said “how about this guy?”, as happened with Saw Gerrera. Perhaps her parents even named her after their hero, Grand Admiral Rae Sloane, and Rey just forgot how her name is supposed to be spelled.
Got to admit, though … in recent weeks, Rey Skywalker has been calling to me, for the first time in two years. The idea still generally works if Luke’s (unknown to him) pregnant partner was taken by Snoke, who wanted a young Skywalker apprentice, but later broke free of her brainwashing and sacrificed herself to hide Rey from him. Luke and Rey’s apparently rocky relationship could be a dramatic way to build to this kind of revelation, simultaneously helping Rey understand her role in this family drama and giving Luke new hope…
No, I’m going with the First Order thing.
David: I’m still firmly Team Durron. Well, Team Random, as you are calling it nowadays, and I no longer think it’s necessary that her parents are powerful Force-users we hadn’t met before. I want her to be what she was in TFA: a nobody with immense talent. I want her to be exactly what Coop described above: a baby just popping up randomly in the galaxy.
From the trailers I think that it’s very possible that she’s been on Snoke’s targets for a long time. Maybe her parents left her on Jakku to make sure Snoke would never find her, and the Supreme Leader had to go with Leia’s son for whatever his dark plans are (I also think it’s likely that Snoke is not looking for an apprentice, but something darker, but I don’t dare speculate about what that could be).
I think it’s tremendously important for Rey to not have inherited her talent from anyone. Just as Star Wars has moved on with the times and portrayed themes of racism, sexism and homophobia, it’s also important that they eschew obsolete, medieval ideas of bloodlines. Even though the children of gifted parents have more chance of being gifted themselves, many gifted children come from poor, humble backgrounds. Sure, Beethoven and Strauss were all part of long lines of composers, but that was because their talents could be discovered early and they could be trained accordingly and allowed to flourish and give their gifts to humanity. We will never know how many talents that would have changed the world have died in the poorest corners of the globe.
Ben Solo is presented as the rich kid who can’t understand that a nobody can be as talented and gifted as he, part of the galactic royalty, is. A scavenger! A simple scavenger besting the grandson of Darth Vader! He feels entitled to a power that he’s never really earned, unlike the poor scavenger who’s had to fight for survival every day of her life.
Having Rey be the secret daughter of one of the mains would completely ruin this theme, and what a loss it would be.
Ben: While I don’t believe that my previous position of Rey being a Kenobi descendant is a realistic possibility anymore, I stand by the thematic poetry of it as a concept. The rhyme of the student (Luke) both literally and figuratively passing the torch to the descendant of his own teacher (Rey) is too strong of a thematic bent for me to just abandon it. Why I don’t think it will happen is that, for as important as he was to the prequels and that era of Star Wars media, Obi-Wan Kenobi has been all but forgotten by the supplementary material that’s come out since then.
We can speculate all we want about the likelihood or prospect of an Obi-Wan solo film at some point, but the few appearances he’s had in the Disney era have been short and sweet for the most part, such as his cameo in Star Wars Rebels. But all of the necessary setup for a reveal like Rey Kenobi is missing. Even from an out-of-universe perspective, Obi-Wan just doesn’t have the exposure for a reveal like that to seem like any more than a twist for the sake of twisting.
I still think that Rey could be linked into the larger galaxy by way of bloodline, but more than anything I feel like it would create the story illusion that the most important events of the galaxy only happen to a few specific families or groups. That’s the pit that the EU fell into, and there has to be a strong thematic bent to something like that in order to justify it. While I like the potential of the Kenobi connection because it could be more than a name-drop, it occupies a very narrow space in that way.
If Rey is a Skywalker, then it furthers the story that only Skywalkers have the ability to save the galaxy. If Rey is someone else, the progeny of any of the other named characters in the saga, then she’s just name-dropped in an effort to make everything in the universe seem connected. Her being a Kenobi strikes the perfect note between the overwhelming forces of destiny and the contrived connections of lazy screenwriters. But since there’s been nothing to set it up, going that direction is probably not in the cards.
Nick: I was torn before The Force Awakens came out. I probably thought she was more than likely Luke’s daughter, though I wondered if she was Han and Leia’s as well. Neither outcome was particularly unpopular (especially pre-release), but I’ll admit that her being a child of Han and Leia makes zero sense now. While I can see and understand the desire of many for her not to be Skywalker, I am still convinced that it is the only outcome. This saga is the story of the descendants of Anakin Skywalker. It makes sense thematically to have two heirs to the lineage, one light and one dark. One thing the new canon has shown in abundance is that Luke was basically AWOL throughout a large chunk of the Endor-through-TFA years. Could he have fathered a child during his travels? Fallen in love during one of his explorations of the Force? The timeline of when Luke was not around, when Ben Solo started training, and when his first new order was established is appropriately murky.
At the end of the day, I think that we all are assuming it has to be some huge mystery…but what if the answer was always right there? Rey isn’t some random Force sensitive. Her connection with the Skywalker saber, the Force drawing her to Luke, and the amazing abilities she has all point to her being descended from the most powerful Jedi in the galaxy. One way or another, I suspect we’ll all find out in less than two weeks.
Jay: I’m fairly certain at this point that I’m not getting the Rey-as-Leia-and-Han’s-kid thing I was hoping for. It just seems to be cutting against the trend of what’s going on with the saga, and the idea of moving away from the idea of dynastic inheritance. If anything, that sort of entitlement is what seems to characterize Kylo’s motivations. It’s unfortunate but I can’t be too disappointed — I never saw it as being too likely, even though there is still a way to cludge it very inelegantly with the events of TFA.
My larger point that Rey was falling into the role that Jaina Solo had in Legends — the “Sword of the Jedi” type character who was also a skilled pilot and mechanic? That I think I will get, to some degree or another (depending on what the film does with the Jedi and whatnot). That was probably the larger, more important part of my “Rey Solo” theory: as much as the dynastic stuff matters to me, the role of the character in the saga and the fandom is more important. In the Legends universe, we never got to see Jaina Solo’s generation get a torch passed to them — the Big Three ended up always taking over the stories well into a period when they should’ve been long retired. That’s no longer in the cards with the sequels, and even before Carrie Fisher passed away, I don’t think there was any intention but to have the sequels be a passing-of-the-torch kind of story…but for reals this time.
So to the extent that Rey represents the new generation, the successor to Luke and Leia and all of that, I think my “Rey Solo” theory may still come to pass in terms of story roles if not literal identities. We don’t have Jaina, Jacen, and Anakin — but we have Rey, Finn, and Poe…. and I guess Kylo too, ugh. They’re the new generation. Good enough.