Who are Rey’s parents? It’s a question Star Wars fans have been asking themselves for a long, long time.
In 2015 Star Wars movie The Force Awakens the audience is introduced to Rey (Daisy Ridley), a force-sensitive young woman with an unknown past and two mysterious parents whose identity became a topic of fierce discussion online.
However, in 2017 sequel The Last Jedi Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren appeared to quash these fan theories, informing Rey that he’d discovered her parents were “filthy junk traders” who sold Rey off for “drinking money” – rather than some scion of a great Jedi family she was a nobody, her connection to the Force coming by chance.
At least, that’s what we thought: because in new movie The Rise of Skywalker, it’s revealed that there’s a little more to Rey’s origins than we realised, with all sorts of new revelations in JJ Abrams and Chris Terrio’s script about her lineage that definitely bears a bit of dissection.
With that in mind, we’ll be explaining this massive new twist below, but beware – although the film’s been out for a number of days we’ll still warn you to watch out for spoilers, and if you’ve not yet seen the film please look away now.
Some time into the film, in a clash with Driver’s Kylo Ren Rey learns the truth about her background, which ties her closely to Ian McDiarmid’s returning villain Emperor Palpatine.
“Your parents were no-one. They chose to be,” he tells her. “They sold you to protect you. Rey, I know what happened to them.
“It was Palpatine who had your parents taken. But they wouldn’t say where you were. So he gave the order [to have them killed]”
So while Rey’s parents (played by Jodie Comer and Billy Howle in flashback) were junk traders, it was by choice, an attempt to live incognito. In other words, what Kylo told Rey in The Last Jedi was true – from a certain point of view.
And then, Kylo drops the biggest bombshell of all.
“You know why the Emperor’s always wanted you dead? I’ll come and tell you,” Kylo says.
“You don’t just have power – you have his power. You’re his granddaughter. You’re a Palpatine.”
“You’re a Palpatine – Leia knew it too,” Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker (in Force Ghost form) later confirms.
You heard it twice – Rey is a Palpatine. Specifically, Rey’s father is the (apparently unpowered) son of Sheev Palpatine, which raises a few questions. Namely, at what point did Palpatine have a child – presumably while he was already the disfigured Emperor, considering Rey’s age, her father’s in the flashback and the quarter-century reign of the Empire?
Or was procreation one of the last acts of the Empreror in his Chancellor Palpatine persona, making Rey’s father a legitimate scion of a notable politician even before he seized ultimate power (notably, we never learn about Palpatine’s family life in the prequels)?
Was there secretly an Empress this whole time who was Rey’s grandmother, or did Palpatine use the vast science at his disposal to create a test tube baby? Presumably, his son wasn’t Force sensitive or into the whole Dark Side thing – but what was his life like?
How did the Emperor have a son who grew to adulthood without anyone ever finding out, and were there others? And was the Emperor really pursuing Rey’s parents (and subsequently Rey) even after his apparent death in Return of the Jedi? And if so, why did he stop bothering after having them killed?
Sadly, none of these questions are answered in the film, though we do get a sense of Papa Palpatine’s perspective on the whole thing when Rey finally confronts him.
“I never wanted you dead – I wanted you here, Empress Palpatine,” the Emperor says, confirming that he had plans for her to succeed him on the throne thanks to her immense Force abilities.
In the end, things don’t quite go his way – instead of killing him with her lightsaber and absorbing generations of Sith Lords, Rey kills the Emperor with his own Force lightning and definitively turns to the Light Side – and Rey later decides to take a different family name, reflecting Luke’s earlier comments that “some things are stronger than blood.”
“I’m Rey…Rey Skywalker,” she tells a curious Tatooine resident, while the Force Ghosts of Luke and Leia (Carrie Fisher) look on benevolently.
So in the end, the great mystery of Rey’s parents has jumped from her being a mystery, to her being a nobody, to her being the granddaughter of the cackling Emperor from Return of the Jedi and the prequel movies, to her becoming an adopted Skywalker.
Wouldn’t want to be the one compiling her family tree…
Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker is in UK cinemas now