The entire sequel trilogy of Star Wars was colored by a singular question: just who is Rey? In The Last Jedi, we got what we thought was our answer — she was Rey Nobody, she came from nothing, she wasn’t some destined Chosen One from a famous family like Luke. She was more like Anakin, found in the slums and thrust into greatness.
One movie later, and this was completely rewritten — suddenly, she wasn’t Rey Nobody, she was Rey Palpatine, the daughter of a discarded clone. The about-face was seen as a side effect of the changing hands of creative leadership — while Rian Johnson wrote and directed The Last Jedi, JJ Abrams bookended the trilogy with The Force Awakens and The Rise of Skywalker. But the truth may be more complicated than that.
In conversation with Rolling Stone, sequel trilogy star Daisy Ridley revealed that the “Rey Nobody” reveal wasn’t a creation of Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi, but had its roots in its predecessor, The Force Awakens:
“Well, J.J. [Abrams] was the one who was like, she is of no one, so it wasn’t just The Last Jedi where that was the message. What was interesting about the last one, for me, was that you can be a hero and not come from anywhere or you can be a hero and come from literally the worst person in the universe. You’re not your parents, you’re not your grandparents, you’re not your bloodline and you’re not the generations before you.”
This sounds like it’s a win for those who side with Abrams in the seemingly eternal argument over who had the best vision for the next chapter of Star Wars, but if you think about it, it only makes the discussion more confusing.
If Abrams was the one who thought up “Rey Nobody” first, then it doesn’t explain why he would later double back on his own decision and establish Rey as a descendent of Palpatine — or why he would bring back Palpatine in the first place.
The Palpatine reveal in The Rise of Skywalker garnered criticism for how sudden it seemed, and some speculated it was a last-minute fix to recenter the franchise after fans accused The Last Jedi of veering off course. But this quote confirms that The Last Jedi wasn’t a diversion from Abrams’ original plan, but a continuation of it. It may not be the explanation of Rise of Skywalker we need, but it at least shows where everything went wrong.
The Star Wars sequel trilogy is now streaming on Disney+.