Watch "Dark Rey" in 'Rise of Skywalker' Trailer: 6 Theories, Ranked

We've got new footage of Rey wielding a double-bladed red lightsaber and dressed like a Sith. But will the Skywalker saga really end with its greatest hero turning to the Dark side?

Will the greatest hero of the final Star Wars trilogy really break bad? In new footage for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the heroic Rey rocks a black cloak and busts out a double-bladed red lightsaber. Obviously, this arresting image means something, but is it just as simple as Rey becoming a Sith? Over the weekend, at Disney’s D23 convention, a new trailer for The Rise of Skywalker caused a Death Star-sized uproar among hardcore fans and casual Star Wars people alike. Even if you haven’t seen the footage yet, you’ve probably heard that Rey looks pretty freaking evil in it. After all, Darth Maul used a double-bladed red lightsaber, and he was a murderer, right?

Well, this is Star Wars. Since The Empire Strikes Back, the venerable fantasy franchise has perfected the art of shocking twists. And with J.J. Abrams at the helm of the final installment of the Skywalker saga, a twist about Rey seems imminent.

Dark Side Rey.
Dark Side Rey

But what will that twist actually be? And does the image of Rey holding a red lightsaber and wearing all black really mean she’s evil?

Here are six theories of what Dark Side Rey might really mean. Pure speculation ahead, but if any of these theories turn out to be true, there could be prescient spoilers below. You’ve been warned!

star wars rise of skywalker spoilers theories rumors palpatine snoke
Palpatine

6. She’s Possessed by Palpatine’s Spirit

How Emperor Palpatine returns after seemingly dying in Return of the Jedi is one of the biggest mysteries of The Rise of Skywalker. And, one easy and ready-made theory suggests that his spirit is possessing all sorts of people, from Matt Smith to Kylo Ren, and yes, perhaps even Rey. If Palpatine’s Dark Side spirit has taken control of Rey’s body, even briefly, then Rey holding a double-bladed lightsaber and acting like a Sith makes complete sense. In the trailer, right before we see Rey bust-out the double-red saber, a voiceover from Palpatine says “Your journey…nears its end.” This could imply Palpatine has been manipulating Rey and Kylo for a long time.

On top of that, if Palpatine’s spirit has the ability to possess people, all sorts of lingering questions about Snoke could swiftly be answered. If Palpatine’s spirit has been lurking around, jumping into bodies since Return of the Jedi, then maybe Snoke was just a puppet for Palpatine all along.

Kylo Ren in an early 'The Force Awakens' trailer. This exact shot was not in the final film.
Kylo Ren in an early 'The Force Awakens' trailer. This exact shot was not in the final film. 

5. This Scene Is Not Even in the Movie

I know, I know. This feels like a cop-out here, but what if this exact shot of Goth Rey isn’t even in the final cut of The Rise of Skywalker? In the past several years, studios like Marvel and Lucasfilm have been using shots specifically created for trailers that are never in the actual movie. The most famous example of this is that shot of the Avengers running at the camera in the trailers for Infinity War, but relative to Star Wars, this phenomenon was hugely prevalent during the lead-up to The Force Awakens. Back then, the scene where Kylo Ren ignites his lightsaber in the snow on Starkiller Base differs from the final film. In another deleted scene which cropped-up in trailers, Maz Kanata famously handed Leia the Skywalker lightsaber. And several voiceovers from Force Awakens trailers (nearly all of them?) are not spoken in the movie at all. Perhaps most famously, there’s a monologue from Luke Skywalker in which he told someone “you have that power, too,” to say nothing of an early Rey trailer-only voiceover in which she says, “I’m no one.”

Sure, all of this sounds like small potatoes next to Dark Rey in Rise of Skywalker, but when you consider we’re dealing with J.J. Abrams here, it’s possible we’re seeing a gussied-up scene of Rey in the trailer that exists in a totally different context in the movie. On a smaller scale, this kind of trailer manipulation happened during The Last Jedi, when we were all totally faked out about Rey joining Kylo Ren. In fact, weeks before the release of The Last Jedi, we saw Rey wielding a red lightsaber in that movie, too. This scene happened in the film, of course. But it was also for about two seconds and hardly mattered.

Yoda faces a dark version of his inner self in 'The Clone Wars'.
Yoda faces a dark version of his inner self in 'The Clone Wars'.

4. It’s a Force Vision or Dream Sequence

Because Emperor Palpatine is back for The Rise of Skywalker, it stands to reason that all kind of slippery Sith schemes will go down in this movie. We know what Jedi mind tricks look like, but what about Sith mind tricks? The Rey we see in this trailer might not be a real person at all, but instead, a kind of idealized evil version of her created by Palpatine to freak out the good guys.

The other way to think about this is a kind of dream sequence similar to what Luke faced in the cave on Dagobah in The Empire Strikes Back. This evil Rey could be a vision that Rey is seeing of herself, a kind of evil half that she has to defeat in a metaphysical sense. Believe it or not, fighting your dark, spiritual doppelganger has a precedent in Star Wars canon. In “Destiny,” a season 6 episode of The Clone Wars, Yoda fights an evil version of himself in a kind of metaphysical plane. Dark Yoda teases regular Yoda and claims to live inside the heroic Jedi master’s soul, growing stronger all the time. Notably, this same story arc on The Clone Wars also found Yoda facing the spirit of Darth Bane, an ancient Sith Lord who established the “rule of two” that kept the Sith secretly alive for thousands of years. In the episode “Sacrifice,” the voice of Darth Bane was played by none other than Mark Hamill.

Rey's vision in 'The Last Jedi'. Is she a clone?
Rey's vision in 'The Last Jedi'. Is she a clone?

3. It’s a Clone (“Reey”?)

In the Timothy Zahn-penned Star Wars novel, The Last Command, Luke Skywalker was cloned by the bad guys, resulting in a crazy version of our favorite Tatooine farm boy called Luuke Skywalker. Yep, in old Legends Star Wars canon, an extra vowel in your name meant you were a clone, so, are we looking at Reey here and not Rey? This may sound insane, but when you consider that the resurrection of the Emperor post-Return of the Jedi also comes from Legends canon (specifically Dark Empire), the idea that clones could play a big role in Rise of Skywalker isn’t nuts. Back in The Force Awakens, Kylo Ren even mentions the idea of bringing back a “clone army,” and clones were instrumental to Palpatine’s initial evil plans back in a movie called Attack of the Clones.

If it is a clone of Rey, how did the bad guys get a sample of her DNA? Well, that’s easy. Remember when those red Praetorian Guards fought Rey in The Last Jedi? Yep. One of them got some blood, so it’s possible that one pinprick alone was enough to create a clone Reey. And, if we want to get really rowdy, The Last Jedi could have teased at the idea that there are already multiple Reys during the dream sequence in which she sees many, many versions of herself all lined up. I’m not sure I want to think about how midichlorians work with clones, but if Rey (or the hypothetical “Reey”) is one of many clones, the notion of who her parents are, or are not, could be made a lot simpler.

Leia in the vacuum of space in 'The Last Jedi'.
Leia in the vacuum of space in 'The Last Jedi'.

2. Rey Has Turned to the Dark Side, Leaving Leia to Save Us All

Speaking to IGN after the footage screened at D23, Kelly Marie Tran said that the Dark Rey footage means the “ending of this film will be groundbreaking in a good way.” In a sense, one could take that to mean that Kelly Marie Tran just confirmed outright that the movie will end with Rey having gone evil, and that specific twist will be groundbreaking. Though it doesn’t feel like the most likely possibility, Rey turning to the Dark Side at the end of the film could be the ultimate fake-out because it could indicate that Episode IX is not actually the end. Though Lucasfilm is touting The Rise of Skywalker as the end of the saga, the ultimate deflection would be that there is going to be an Episode X — and Dark Rey is the cliffhanger that gets us there.

Plus, the idea of turning heroic characters to the Dark Side permanently is something George Lucas toyed with for Luke in early story meetings for Return of the Jedi. According to Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays, Lucas even considered having Luke destroy the Rebel Fleet, leaving Leia left to save the good guys. Interestingly enough, after D23 J.J. Abrams has said that Leia “is the heart of the movie,” which could mean that if Rey does go to the Dark Side, the Skywalker who will rise — and save the galaxy — could be Leia Organa Skywalker.

Rey's double-bladed red lightsaber
It's either a double-bladed lightsaber or a saber staff, depending on how you look at it.

1. Rey Has Brought Balance to the Force

If The Rise of Skywalker truly ends the episodic Star Wars saga, then the notion of bringing “balance” to the Force feels urgent. Back when it was just Episodes I-VI, it seemed like Anakin Skywalker brought balance to the Force by destroying the Sith in Return of the Jedi. But, The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi upended that. According to Luke, there was balance for a little while, but then Kylo Ren and Snoke showed up and everything got screwed up again. Obviously, if Palpatine is back from the dead somehow, then Anakin/Vader didn’t destroy the Sith, which means the Force is unbalanced right there. But, one underlying message of nearly every single Star Wars movie is that the binary distinctions between Light and Dark might be dangerous. In The Last Jedi, Luke outright blames the Jedi for the creation of Darth Vader in the first place, weirdly echoing Palpatine’s comments about “the dogmatic” views of the Jedi in Revenge of the Sith. In that same film, Obi-Wan paradoxically said, “Only a Sith deals in absolutes,” but the Jedi are extreme in their beliefs, too.

So far, both Kylo Ren and Rey have demonstrated a willingness to move beyond the simple distinctions of good and evil. In the same reaction interview about the D23 footage, actress Naomi Ackie says that the script for Rise of Skywalker “reaches and tries to ask a question that we need to answer in ourselves.” On some level, it seems like this question might have to do with the use of anger and the power anger might have for change. In the existing films, Yoda and Obi-Wan caution Luke against using his anger, while Palpatine encourages people to be immersed in it. And yet, Darth Vader must have acted out of anger — at least partially — in Return of the Jedi when he threw the Emperor down that reactor shaft.

So maybe we’re not seeing a Dark Side Rey. Maybe we’re seeing a version of Rey that has combined aspects of Dark and Light to become a more balanced person. This would reinforce the theory that the “Skywalker” is a new kind of title, perhaps referring to a person who combines aspects of darkness and lightness in total balance. In Rey’s case, this means that two lightsaber blades might actually be better than one.


Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is out everywhere on December 20, 2019.