Calling the decision to make Rey a Palpatine polarizing would be an understatement. Rey, the hero of the sequel trilogy, went from just a "nobody" to the granddaughter (kinda) of a suddenly reemerged supervillain over the course of a single film. But with the recent reveal from Daisy Ridley that Lucasfilm "toyed with" the concept of Rey being Obi-Wan Kenobi's granddaughter instead, we need to ask: was there a better option?
The short answer: Yes, but it's not Rey Kenobi. Here's why.
At their core, each Star Wars trilogy is an archetypal Hero's Journey. It's well known George Lucas was heavily inspired by the work of mythologist Joseph Campbell, and it shows, as the first two trilogies are clear cut Chosen One stories. In the original trilogy, Luke was just a humble moisture farm boy who wanted to go to Tosche station for some power converters, only to realize he's the son of one of the most powerful figures in the galaxy.
The sequel trilogy takes a similar premise but changes it in one key way. As viewers knew what Anakin Skywalker would eventually evolve into, his Chosen One story was darker, and instead of the rise of Luke Skywalker, we witnessed the fall of Anakin from young Jedi wunderkind with immeasurable amounts of midi-chlorians to fierce Sith apprentice.
With Rey, the minds behind Star Wars were obviously looking for a new angle to the classic story. After The Rise of Skywalker, the answer was revealed: Rey is the granddaughter of Sheev Palpatine himself. Yes, at this point, it feels a little eye-roll-worthy, but compared to the other stories, it makes sense. From a boy turned hero, to a boy born a hero but turned to villain, to a girl born a villain but turned to hero. Like it or not, Rey Palpatine is the natural progression for the franchise. But it almost wasn't.
Speaking to Jimmy Kimmel Live! guest host Josh Gad, Daisy Ridley revealed an earlier draft of her character's journey:
"At the beginning, there was toying with an Obi-Wan connection — there were different versions — then it really went to it was no one, and then it came to episode nine and J.J. [Abrams] pitched me the film and was like 'Oh, yeah, Palpatine is granddaddy,' Then two weeks later he was like, 'Oh, we’re not sure,' So, it kept changing. So, then even as we were filming, I wasn't sure what the answer was going to be."
The revelation that execs were toying with the idea of Rey being Obi-Wan Kenobi's granddaughter spurred a lot of excitement in fans, who speculated about what could have been. But in the abstract, that idea just isn't as good as Rey being a Palpatine. In a way, it's Anakin's story, just with a happy ending. Rey Palpatine failed as an idea purely because of execution, and Rey Kenobi could have fallen into the same trap, so speculation is no way to judge the two concepts.
Many praised the Rey Kenobi theory because it meant Anakin's grandson and Obi-Wan's granddaughter teaming up to fight Palpatine in a very full-circle moment, but isn't a team-up of Leia's son who idolizes the Sith and Palpatine's granddaughter who idolizes the Jedi just as full circle?
Perhaps the best answer for Rey's identity lies in a since retconned line from The Last Jedi when Kylo tells Rey that she "comes from nothing." This would not be the natural progression of the Chosen One story, in fact, it wouldn't be a Chosen One story at all, just the story of a girl with massive Force capabilities swept up into a revolution.
Rey Nobody would have subverted everything we'd seen in Star Wars so far, and it would leave an important message: You don't have to be from a famous family to be a hero, all you need is passion and drive. Star Wars could have gone from a hero's journey to a villain's journey to an everyman's story — even if it's an everywoman who could use the Force.
The entire Star Wars saga is streaming now on Disney+.