Are you banking on Star Wars: The Last Jedi revealing that one of Rey’s parents is a named character from a previous Star Wars film? Well, stop.
[A note on spoilers: This post was written before seeing The Last Jedi, and contains conjecture — but not spoilers.]
That’s a set of sentences I’ve been waiting to say for two years. Rey is not the child or grandchild of Obi-Wan, Luke or Leia — because that would be about the most boring plot twist in the history of the franchise. I don’t want to hear about your theory on Rey’s parents being people we’ve seen before, and I definitely don’t want to hear about her being related to Kylo Ren.
Rey’s parents are clearly secret for a reason
But I’ll give you this: If the identity of Rey’s family was not significant to her character arc in some way, we would know who they are by now. I have no doubt that, when revealed, it will be A Thing.
There are plenty of simpler and more thematically resonant explanations — ones that require less tortured character justification — than making her directly related to a named character from the previous trilogy.
The matter of Jakku
Any way you slice the problem of Rey having named parents, you’ll run into the same hurdle: the idea that one or more of the heroes of the original Star Wars trilogy abandoned their toddler to indentured servitude on a lawless desert planet.
“Rey is a Skywalker or Kenobi” theories generally state that she was left on Jakku in order to protect her from the threat of the dark side of the Force — from Snoke or the Knights of Ren. But that does nothing to explain why that parent didn’t hide with her.
The first line of The Force Awakens’ opening crawl is about how Luke Skywalker is the best at hiding; there’s no reason he wouldn’t have taken his child with him to Ahch-To. And there is simply nothing you could say that would convince me that Leia “I Temporarily Left My Career and the Rebellion to Mount an Extremely Dangerous Rescue Mission For My Criminal Boyfriend” Organa would think abandoning her daughter to slavery was an option.
Getting around these implications requires the invention of whole swathes of wild suppositions, like Obi-Wan having a secret family (the very behavior that lead Anakin to become so alienated from the Jedi), or Kylo Ren having his childhood memories of his sister/cousin removed by, I guess, some heretofore un-revealed, memory-altering Star Wars magic.
Occam’s Razor comes into play. Star Wars, not withstanding the mostly defunct expanded universe, has built its triumphs on simple, direct themes.
“But what about the Skywalker legacy?”
It is true. Star Wars is about the Skywalkers and their outside effect on the galaxy’s history. But we don’t need to make Rey into a Skywalker in order to bring that theme to this trilogy.
We already have a new Skywalker generation in the Force Awakens trilogy. (We’ve even already had an “I am your father” scene.) Our new Skywalker is Kylo Ren.
Kylo can tell us something about where Rey’s character is going — the villain’s arc and the protagonist’s usually inform each other — but it’s not a hard indication that the two are related. Really, the fact that the entirety of his villain hook was laid out in the first of three films should be your biggest signpost that Rey isn’t related to a named character. We’ve already done that reveal. Hers will be different.
Rey’s story, as a powerful but untested Force user searching for a mentor, is the same as those of Anakin and Luke. It’s about figuring out where she fits into the story of Star Wars, where she fits among the rebels and the Empire, among the light and the dark. The reveal of her parentage will, by narrative necessity, be one that informs that.
Perhaps she’s the secret child of survivors from Luke’s school. Maybe she’s a prospective student Ren never actually met whose parents panicked. The galaxy is our oyster; we don’t have to stick with the handful of known characters who’ve been instrumental to the plot so far.
But we can make some educated conjecture.
My Rey theory isn’t bullshit
What do we get from the reveal that Rey’s parents fought for the side of the rebellion? Not much. She’s already allied with the Resistance and predisposed against Kylo Ren. It’s a reveal that doesn’t inject any conflict. The same is true if her family were utter noncombatants in the struggle between the dark and light sides of the Force.
This leaves us with one option: Her parents have history with the dark side of the Force, or the “secular” organizations involved with it.
With this theory, why Rey’s family abandoned her on Jakku is still an open question, but with plenty of possible answers. And most importantly, it doesn’t require us to explain how one of our heroes could have abandoned their child.
Perhaps her parents discovered she was powerfully Force-sensitive and chose to hide her from Snoke. Maybe they left her alone there because their disappearance would raise questions. Maybe they just wanted to ditch her (they are, after all, the bad guys). In any case, this reveal gives Rey an instant symmetry with Kylo Ren, and it’s much more meaningful than simply showing up on his family tree.
He’s the powerful scion of a dynasty that was supposed to save the light side of the Force, turned to the dark for no reason other than personal weakness. He’s unable to extricate himself from his history, and doesn’t want to.
She’s the powerful scion of unremarkable supporters of the dark side, turned to the light despite a life of extreme hardship. Rey is an outsider to Star Wars’ story so far, one who stands a chance of putting a lid on a 40-year cycle of conflict that began with Anakin Skywalker and the elitism and isolation of the Jedi order.
If Force Awakens was about anything, it was about showing us that nothing stopped when the Emperor died — and barely anything got fixed. Our heroes completed the routine, but didn’t stick the landing. It’s up to a new generation of heroes to try and finish what they started.
And given Kylo Ren’s history with Luke Skywalker, we’ve been given another big signpost: Skywalkers can’t stop the cycle that Skywalkers began. It’s going to take someone outside their sphere to bring lasting peace to the galaxy.