There are a lot of questions coming out of Star Wars: The Last Jedi—like, a lot of them—but one of the biggest stems from a discovery about Rey’s mysterious past. Was it genuine, or a devious con to get Rey to turn to the Dark Side? Technically, it was real... but it could become fake later.
The Last Jedi answered one of the biggest mysteries to come out of Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Who are Rey’s parents? Theories included her being the secret daughter of Obi-Wan Kenobi, or possibly Luke’s child that he cruelly abandoned and then, I don’t know, forgot about, I guess. There was even the belief that she could be Kylo Ren’s twin, and that Han and Leia were pretending they didn’t recognize her to protect her from... things. Evil space things.
After Rey’s foray into Dark Side Vision Land turned up diddly squat, Kylo Ren told her the truth as a way to try and convince her to team up with him as co-Supreme Leader. Turns out, Rey isn’t part of some secret Jedi lineage that dates back to the origins of Star Wars. She’s nobody. Her parents were nobodies. They sold her off.
“They were filthy junk traders,” Kylo Ren told her. “Sold you off for drinking money. They’re dead in a pauper’s grave in the Jakku desert. You come from nothing. You’re nothing, but not to me.”
This revelation sent some Star Wars fans reeling (though I personally loved it), and others insist it’s not actually true, that Kylo Ren was tricking her in order to secure her support. Surely, there’s something else he knows, right, something he’s keeping hidden from her so she doesn’t learn the truth about who she really is? According to The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson, nope.
“For me, in that moment, Kylo believes it’s the truth,” Johnson told Entertainment Weekly. “I don’t think he’s purely playing chess. I think that’s what he saw when they touched fingers and that’s what he believes. And when he tells her that in that moment, she believes it.”
There are a lot of reasons why, at least for me, having Rey’s parents not matter works better than if she had been part of some iconic Star Wars lineage. Mainly, it works with The Last Jedi’s theme of greatness coming from anywhere—for example, the little boy from Canto Bight, Force-grabbing his broom in the final shot. The main franchise has depended so much on the Skywalker legacy that little wiggle room has been made for the future of the series, at least before now. For Johnson, specifically, he wanted the reveal both to reflect and subvert Luke and Vader’s in The Empire Strikes Back, calling back to how much it devastated Luke while also not giving Rey an automatic place in the Star Wars universe based on hereditary. She’s earned it on her own.
“The easiest thing for Rey and the audience to hear is, ‘Oh yeah, you’re so-and-so’s daughter.’ That would be wish fulfillment and instantly hand her a place in this story on a silver platter,” Johnson said. “The hardest thing for her is to hear she’s not going to get that easy answer.”
That said, when Johnson was asked whether Rey’s parentage could be changed in the future, he said it’s not up to him anymore. Surprisingly, Rey’s parental reveal wasn’t pre-determined by Disney executives before handing the series to Johnson, at least according to the director. He was given creative freedom to do what he wished with the reveal first teased in The Force Awakens. In the same vein, J.J. Abrams and Chris Terrio, who are taking over Episode IX, also have the freedom to retcon Rey’s parents if they want to—though I hope they don’t.
“I can’t speak to what they’re going to do. And there’s always, in these movies, a question of ‘a certain point of view,’” Johnson said.