'Force Awakens' music teased a huge Palpatine twist in 'Rise of Skywalker'

Did John Williams know how the Skywalker saga would end back in 2015?


It wouldn’t be Star Wars if someone wasn’t making it up along the way. George Lucas didn’t know Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker’s father when the first movie came out in 1977, and we’re pretty sure J.J. Abrams didn’t know where this trilogy was headed when he wrote and directed The Force Awakens in 2015 — he wasn’t even supposed to direct The Rise of Skywalker!) But it’s possible one person might have known about Rey’s big twist in Rise of Skywalker back in 2015: John Williams.

The world-renowned composer behind Jaws, E.T., Home Alone, and the entire Skywalker saga might have hidden a major Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker clue in the music for “Rey’s Theme” when he wrote the music for The Force Awakens. Intrigued? Let’s dive in.

Warning: Major spoilers for The Rise of Skywalker below.

Back when The Force Awakens first hit theaters, inquisitive fans quickly realized that “Rey’s Theme” (the song that plays when we first meet her and several more times throughout the trilogy) shared some striking similarities with John Williams’ themes for Kylo, Darth Vader, and… Emperor Palpatine.

You can probably guess where this is going. Did John Williams know Rey was actually Palpatine’s granddaughter all along? Did he take a lucky guess? Or does he just like riffing on classic Star Wars music when composing new songs for the sequels? To find out, let’s take a closer listen.

First, check out the opening bars of “Rey’s Theme.”

Then, listen to the beginning of “The Emperor’s Theme” at x2 speed:

Notice the similarities? No, allow one Reddit user to explain:

So, not only is it A-C-A-C-A (if they were both transposed, simply resolving on different parts), but Palpatine’s theme also has that fast little horn “ti ti tah” that is exactly the same rhythm as Rey’s theme.

Still not convinced? Let’s go deeper. Back in 2015, YouTuber thekangatron used John Williams’ The Force Awakens score to predict that he was teasing the return of Emperor Palpatine:

And, finally, this August 2019 video deftly explains how Rey and Kylo Ren’s themes both borrow from Palpatine’s music (and also reference each other). It’s also a fascinating breakdown of how John Williams’ Star Wars themes interact:

So what does all this mean? Well, it seems unlikely that Williams knew Emperor Palpatine would return, let alone that he would turn out to be Rey’s grandfather (side note: gross!). Then again, maybe bringing Palps back was the plan all along, but it was unclear back in 2015 exactly how he would connect to The Force Awakens’s new cast. Or maybe it was just a lucky guess.

Either way, leave it to John Williams (the true hero of Star Wars) to totally predict The Rise of Skywalker’s biggest twist four years before its release.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is in theaters now.

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