“Let the past die, kill it if you have to.” That was the takeaway from The Last Jedi, and a message that was largely lost in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which felt preoccupied with its own legacy. This was perhaps most notable in the reveal about Rey, one that seemed to conflict with director Rian Johnson’s vision of Star Wars. But The Rise of Skywalker co-writer Chris Terrio believes Rey’s new past doesn’t change Star Wars’ future.
In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Terrio went into detail about the reveal in The Rise of Skywalker that Rey was actually the granddaughter of Emperor Palpatine, making her the descendant of the most powerful Sith Lord in the galaxy. Terrio told the Hollywood Reporter that making Rey a Palpatine didn’t take away from the message of The Last Jedi, because others in the movie show signs of the Force. But for the final film in the Skywalker Saga, the creators wanted to focus their movie on the “fairy tale” that was Rey’s story.
And yes, he even called her a princess—but at least it’s not as bad as his explanation for why Kelly Marie Tran wasn’t in this film:
Rey descending from a Palpatine doesn’t negate the idea that kids with brooms, Finn and any other number of people in the galaxy can be strong with the Force. It just so happens that this young girl that we found in Episode VII, which really has the structure of a fairytale, is royalty of the Dark Side. What we discover in this movie, and hopefully in retrospect, is that she’s essentially a princess who’s being raised as an orphan.
We couldn’t agree more with the debate about the democratization of the Force, but for purposes of this story, we thought that it was a more interesting and mythic answer if it turned out that Rey descended from one of the families that has been at the center of this whole saga the entire time. In the end, the film asserts that there are things stronger than blood because she chooses a different family for herself.
Rey’s reveal came after Kylo Ren had crushed her spirits in The Last Jedi with the news that her parents were nobodies, junk traders who had abandoned her on Jakku. It was a devastating blow, but one that fit with Johnson’s overall ethos for Star Wars: It doesn’t matter where you’re from because greatness can come from anywhere.
Director J.J. Abrams and Terrio took Johnson’s ending and refitted it into something that better suited their story’s interests. Ending The Last Jedi on Broom Boy made the story about greatness coming from anywhere. But Abrams, choosing instead to focus on Palpatine and Rey’s lineage, turned it into greatness overcoming anything—in this case, the greatest evil. It brought us to the same conclusion, technically, only with more of the same Star Wars notion that “everyone has to be someone.” This includes Finn, who is implied to be Force sensitive in the final film.
In any case, she’s a Skywalker now, so it indeed doesn’t matter where she came from. All that matters is the future...whatever form that may take. The Rise of Skywalker is currently playing in theaters.
For more, make sure you’re following us on our Instagram @io9dotcom.