Spoilers from Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker! Do not share the contents of this article open on social media.
Make it up as you go
Since the sequel trilogy began, we Star Wars fans have all been a bit on edge trying to discover what the big conspiracy is. Is there even a conspiracy about Rey and the Skywalkers? Based on things I know from the Trevorrow script, it does not seem as if was a connection between these characters the entire time.
This kind of “make it up as you go” writing has always been a part of Star Wars and it has always been something kept a bit secretive during the release phase of the films.George Lucas could not admit to making it up as he went along,until it was done and loved. This trilogy clearly had more eyes and contributors on it, but it seems to have developed in much the same way.
The pragmatic Palpatines
With Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker J.J. Abrams was tasked with answering our questions and making it make sense. While there were always suggestions of Palpatine, it does not appear as if that was in any way solid until Abrams took over Episode IX.
I have heard that when Abrams began writing Star Wars: Episode IX and it became Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker featuring the return of Darth Sidious aka Palpatine, and an Occam’s Razor approach was applied to the backstory of Rey. With the choice to make Rey confront Palaptine it made sense that she was a descendant of Palpatine.
For what it is worth, back in 2014/2015 I was hearing from reputable sources that confirmed that Rey was a “nobody”, meaning not a Solo or a Skywalker. At that time, Abrams had a preference for the Palpatine direction. The Last Jedi made it easy to sweep it under the rug and forget about.
What the Skywalkers knew
With those two story beats in place, Abrams decided that when Leia meets Rey, she knows Rey is a descendent of Palpatine. The details are a bit fuzzy but I’m told that in The Rise of Skywalker, we will learn that General Leia Organa realized who Rey was. That is why she sends Rey to Luke Skywalker immediately.
Leia sends Rey Palpatine to Luke because she hopes that Luke will see the blank slate Rey is and wish to cultivate it towards the good side. Leia sees it as something that can save Luke Skywalker and bring the Jedi back. Luke failed with Kylo but this is his chance to come back from his failure and save Rey in the process.
In The Last Jedi, Luke sees the darkness in Rey, and that she was attracted to it during their early lessons. In that moment, he senses Palpatine and he knows exactly who Rey is and what she can become. It isn’t clear if Luke understood that Darth Sidious was still in existence as this point but Rey’s potential for darkness is a nightmare come true for Luke. But it is also why he comes around and sees she’s essentially a good kid with all of the potential and possibilities life has to offer.
The conspiracy we’ve all been looking for regarding who Rey is and how it relates to Leia and Luke isn’t in the deep backstory of this trilogy, it happens on screen and was decided upon with the writing of the final chapter with The Rise of Skywalker.
It is important to remember that this isn’t new. Making it up as they go has been how all of the trilogies have been done. I know some will see this and have a knee jerk reaction to it, and take it to a negative place. But in ten years, it will seem like it was a given and that this was the plan,and that there was never a reason to see it any other way. Since learning this, I have watched The Force Awakens and The Rise of Skywalker and it feels cohesive. It feels like a cohesive story.
Personally, I like the beats here. Rey grew up a nobody. She met good people. Luke Skywalker was the son of Darth Vader. Leia was the daughter of Darth Vader. Who better to take it and foster the granddaughter of Palpatine than these two? Tabula rasa, blank slate. For better or worse, we are not our parents. Our choices, social interactions, and environment make us who we become. The Skywalkers helped Rey realize her potential, so that when she comes to her fight, she can do the right thing, just as all Skywalkers do eventually. In the end when Rey becomes a Skywalker and takes on the name herself, any legacy of Emperor Palpatine is destroyed. That sits well with me.