One of the most talked about unanswered questions of Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the identity of the young woman from Jakku – Rey. In previous interviews director J.J. Abrams has stated that last names were kept secret on purpose. Perhaps they were kept secret from the characters as well because if they had just introduced themselves as such (“Hi I’m Rey Skywalker.” “Hello there. Finn Calrissian at your service.”) a lot of suspense would have been removed and plot points would necessarily change. Having seen the film 3 times I think I have an idea about at least one of these newcomers (earlier I said I had cemented a theory, but it’s still malleable, not quite solid rock yet, all speculative).
SPOILERS, of course, TO FOLLOW
Who is Rey?
From a real-life standpoint the actress Daisy Ridley shares a great deal of similarities with Keira Knightley in the “looks” department. I didn’t notice this right away in the trailers, or even in the film itself, but at the world premiere of Star Wars:TFA a friend of mine was lucky enough to be a costumed backdrop on the red carpet, snapped a picture of her, then quickly uploaded it to Facebook (this is not his picture below, but it’s from the same premiere). Suddenly it all became clear – KK was in The Phantom Menace as a double for Natalie Portman’s Queen Amidala (as Jackrabbit Slim pointed out in his review) and those two honestly looked identical in 1999. Amidala, you’ll remember, is the mother of Luke & Leia. Sometimes visages can skip a generation so it’s possible that Rey looks like her grandmother which would make her
A member of the Skywalker family
This was my initial guess and after seeing the movie for the first time I was convinced that she was Luke’s daughter. Maz Kanata intimated as much after finding out that the lightsaber “called” out to Rey. The lightsaber was constructed by Anakin Skywalker, given to Luke by Obi-Wan and then abandoned by Luke in Bespin or retrieved and given away (we can only assume) some time between Empire & Jedi. I’ve never been into the expanded universe, but Marvel has been releasing comics all through 2015 as part of establishing new canon and in the Lando miniseries we find out that objects used by Force-enabled people can retain some sort of the ‘juju’ from the owner/user. Therefore since Luke & Anakin used the saber it only makes sense that it has quite an effect on another family member, right? When Luke sees Rey at the end of the film there is clear recognition and his eyes even start watering. Couple that with the trailer which clearly has Luke speaking to a family member (“The force runs strong in my family. I have it. My sister has it. You have that power too.”) There are no other Jedi in the universe so she’s Luke’s daughter – case closed. Well, Yoda did say ‘there is another’ so she could be
The same genetic/looks theory would apply if Rey was Leia’s daughter as well. The second time I saw the movie I became more open to this idea. She instinctively knows how to fly the Millennium Falcon and where things are on the ship. As far as we know only Lando, Han Solo & Chewbacca know the ship that well. Han doesn’t outright recognize the girl, and he is surprised by her technical skills, but he doesn’t have any hesitations of helping her or asking her to stick around. She even speaks Wookiee somehow! When Leia arrives on the scene their first interaction ends with Han saying “I saw our son” and then cuts away. He could have easily said “and he was carrying our daughter” but that would have given away too much, I guess.
The most “convincing” circumstantial evidence that Han even knows who Rey is, is during the scene at the table with Maz Kanata. Finn admits he’s running away and goes off to secure safe passage. When Rey goes after him Maz turns on Han and asks point-blank “Who’s the girl?” We never get to hear his answer but Maz immediately follows Rey to the basement and tells her about the lightsaber, how no one is coming back for her, how she sees the Force in her, etc etc etc. Wait, how does Maz know no one is coming back for Rey or that she was even waiting for someone on Jakku? Did Han tell her? Rey did tell Han that she has to get back home and that she’s been gone too long, but how much else does he know?
Slightly less convincing is Kylo Ren’s obsession with finding “the girl” and not killing her. After Finn & Rey’s (& BB-8’s) escape from Jakku it’s left to a First Order underling to break the news to Ren. After he freaks out the first time he goes even more ballistic when finding out that a girl helped them escape. Ren force-grabs the officer and asks “What girl?” as if this is the most important information. Perhaps he recently learned that his parents stranded his sister on Jakku in order to keep her from him. I’m not convinced, because the film makes it seem that he doesn’t know she has Force powers until she reads his mind while in the chair. Snoke asks Ren to bring her to him and it seems like they are all shocked by the revelation of her abilities.
Also Leia is clearly more concerned with blowing up Starkiller base & having Han bring their son home vs. Finn wanting save his “friend.” If Leia knew she had a daughter she might want to add saving her to the list of primary action items.
Some other Skywalker relative – a product of Shmi Skywalker’s marriage to Cliegg Lars, or maybe Anakin had an affair sometime between Clones & Sith?
These ideas seem too far-fetched for me. George Lucas did recently say that the saga was nothing more than a family soap opera, and these plotlines seem tailor made for a soap opera, but I don’t think the new writers would inject this sort of thing into the prequels. Plus Shmi & the Lars family have no midichlorian counts as far as we know (hahaha, oh midichlorians).
Conceived by the Force like Anakin
Didn’t everyone scoff at that story? I think the writers and everyone involved would have to hate Star Wars fans on some level to reintroduce that plot line.
A member of another Jedi family
Obi-Wan’s lost great-grandchild? A result of Ki-Adi Mundi’s mistress on the side?
Again these seem like they’re reaching too hard to get everyone to interconnect. I could maybe see Finn as Mace Windu’s great-grandson, but I think all the old school Jedi really held to the code about love & romantic relationships. These threads are more implausible than impossible, but certainly seem like copouts.
It’s complicated, but not really
If you’ve stuck with me this far I will go ahead and give the answer I’m leaning toward before diving into the explanation. I believe Rey is Luke’s daughter and/or his ‘Manchurian candidate/failsafe switch’ for when stuff hits the fan. After my 3rd viewing this theory came a little more into focus. It’s going to take a while to get there so hold on…
Lor San Tekka (Max Von Sydow) is on Jakku and conveniently has the missing map to the first Jedi Temple (and, presumably, Luke Skywalker). The opening crawl calls Lor “an old ally” who “has discovered a clue to Luke’s whereabouts”. In his discussion with Poe Dameron when Poe calls Leia the General, Lor says “to me she’s royalty.” Leia was royalty on Alderaan, not necessarily to all members of the Rebellion, so I’m thinking this guy is one of the last surviving residents of Alderaan. So why the heck is he on a desert planet and how did he get the map portion?
I suspect that, much like Obi-Wan to Luke on Tatooine, Lor San Tekka was stationed on Jakku as a distant watchman over Rey. Lor is not a Jedi but I read somewhere that he was a fan/follower of the religion. It is likely that he was given the map portion by Luke indirectly (through R2-D2 or some other courier). When Lor & Kylo Ren have a face-to-face, Lor says he knew Ren before the name change and the darkside. He knows his family. Which means he certainly knew Luke as well. Probably well enough to be trusted with information about the map and the girl. It seems too coincidental that these two key pieces would be on the same planet unless there was an overseer of both. I say that’s Lor.
IF that’s the case then who left Rey on Jakku? Her vision after touching the lightsaber is full of information to speculate about, but near the end we see her as a young girl (maybe 6 or 7) yelling at a departing spaceship to “Come back!” Her arm is yanked away by someone who sounds a LOT like the “pawn broker” (Unkar Plutt) in charge of paying out food portions for scavenger finds. So I think she was pressed into scavenging by this guy who was somehow her guardian/slave owner while she grew up on Jakku. Kind of a like a Watto/Skywalker relationship on Tattooine. Since Plutt is now in possession of the Millennium Falcon I believe Rey played around there as a kid. He thought it was garbage so she thought it was just a junkheap to go exploring in. She probably knows all the nooks and crannies of that thing inside and out, but never flew it until she had to make her escape with Finn & BB-8. Plus she’s a scavenger so why not have a look?
Rey makes her home inside a fallen AT-AT and we only get short glimpses of her possessions. She has an old Rebel pilot helmet that was either left there after the Battle of Jakku or by whoever deposited her on the planet. She counts the days from when she was abandoned by etching vertical lines on the wall. She also has a curious doll fashioned to look like a rebel pilot. How?? Sure it’s possible that she’s seen them in hologram but Jakku does not look like a burgeoning technological center. The Resistance fighter pilots wear similar uniforms, but Rey admits to Finn that she has never seen a member of the Resistance and has no idea what they look like. I believe she was either given that doll by a member of the original Rebellion or made it in [faded] memory of her original family who are/were members of the Rebellion.
As she cleans parts she looks up at the ships as they launch away from Jakku. Initially I thought this was just her longing to leave, which it probably is, but after her vision it now seems like a sobering reminder of how she was left in the desert.
Speaking of her vision let’s go through what I can remember. As Rey touches the lightsaber she find herself in a hall that looks like the halls of the Empire/Death Star/First Order ships (UPDATE: Slashfilm says it’s Cloud City…a ha!). That all collapses and she’s in a rainstorm and sees Luke reach out and touch R2-D2. As she turns she sees Kylo Ren kill a Jedi (assumed to be a member of Luke’s Jedi Academy) and the Knights of Ren standing over the dead bodies of many Jedi (again, assumed members). It then cuts to young Rey on Jakku screaming come back and then to the snowy forest lightsaber battle which comes near the end of the film. There are voiceovers by Yoda, young and old Obi-Wan, and at the very end as she stumbles back out into the hallway “…these are your first steps” is whispered. This is an echo of Obi-Wan’s line to Luke in A New Hope when, after Luke successfully blocks a few zaps from the remote while blinded, he says “You have taken your first step into a larger world.” At this point Maz tells Rey about the Force and tells her to close her eyes and let the Force guide her. How does Maz know about these things? Or even what Rey touched or what happened when she did touch it? Or that the people she’s waiting for won’t come back, but someone else can – and it’s Luke? That’s a lot of info Maz has and I think she was prepped by Luke either directly or indirectly for whenenever she found ‘the girl.’
How/why does Maz have Luke’s lightsaber? It, and his hand, were cut off in Bespin and fell to the bottom of whatever that Cloud City building was. Who retrieved it? Did Darth Vader force grab it as a memento? Did Lando come back for it? Are there other relics in that room? Maz says it’s an excellent question for another time. I hope the writers have it figured out.
Shortly after that, Kylo Ren finds Rey in the forest (“The girl I’ve heard so much about”) and takes her to his ship for enhanced interrogation. When he is in Rey’s head he goes through her emotions but also mentions a dream she has about an ocean and an island. This is absolutely where we find Luke at the end of the movie so the question is how did it get into Rey’s brain? I’ll get to that later, but this is the point that we all realize for certain that the Force is strong with Rey and she starts using her powers (which she’s presumably never seen an example of). I believe Kylo opened up some portions of long-hidden memory while he was trying to read her mind with the Force. He completely flips out when she turns the tables on him and then when she’s left alone Rey uses the Jedi Mind Trick which, as far as we know, has not been used in her presence before. She actually tries 3 times in order to succeed which leads me to believe that she knows it’s going to work but is trying to ‘remember’ how.
The next time Rey uses the Force (that we are privy to) is in the snow after Ren disarms Finn. She retrieves the lightsaber from the snow (a shock to herself and Kylo Ren…and my absolute favorite part of the film as well as a callback to Luke in the Wampa’s lair), Kylo says, “It is you” (recognition??) and then she relies on her gutsy “street-fighting” skills she learned on Jakku with her staff. Only when Kylo Ren mentions the Force does Rey remember Maz Kanata’s words about closing her eyes and letting the Force guide her. She then gains the absolute and overwhelming upper hand. She seems to seethe with anger after Ren is beaten (I hope that anger is explored later) and does not have a chance to give in to hate because a fissure opens up in the ground as the planet is exploding/imploding.
Later Rey is tasked with finding Luke Skywalker with only Chewbacca & R2-D2 as her companions. This leads me to believe Leia knows more about Rey than she let on, maybe Chewie & R2 know as well, but it’s not enough information to support a mother-daughter relationship.
The Millennium Falcon arrives on the planet literally of Rey’s dreams and she gives Chewie a look that to me says “I’ve seen this before.” She climbs the steps fraught with symbolism and finds Luke at the top. Once she sees him she offers up the lightsaber. How did she know it was him? Old home videos? That’s actually not a big deal. What is a big deal is the emotion on display from both Rey & Luke as she awkwardly holds the lightsaber way longer than a normal interaction would require. But they needed the helicopter shot so…
There has been an awakening
Here’s my theory. Rey was a member of Luke’s Jedi Academy. She may be Luke’s daughter or another Force-enabled (I don’t know why but I just don’t like force-sensitive) person. She was trained very early in life about all the Jedi arts and also learned from Luke (& maybe Leia & others) how to speak Wookiee & droid (maybe a few other languages). Kylo Ren may or may not have been a student at the same time. I’m leaning towards yes (his recognition after she force grabs the lightsaber), but that also doesn’t necessarily matter either way. Rey’s vision of Luke and the Jedi slaughter may actually be memories rather than visions from the Force so she could have been hidden while it was all going down. Luke manages to save Rey and devise a plan to keep her on a junkyard planet way out of the way (like Tattooine but that would be too obvious as Ren would absolutely go there) and assigns Lor San Tekka there as well. Rey’s memories (but not her skills) before her time on Jakku are buried and replaced with one direction: wait on Jakku for me/us to come back.
That instruction is almost like a hypnotic suggestion that she is mostly powerless to overcome. She has piloting skills but has never tested them. She’s never hijacked a ship to leave the atmosphere. The moment she does leave she has an overpowering urge to go back. Even after experiencing things that should seem exciting to a young adult she constantly claims she has to go back. Han offers her a job which she is elated about, only to have her face completely change when she thinks about Jakku. This may even have been a test by Han to find out if her programming is still intact.
Her only knowledge of Luke Skywalker is that he’s a myth. She may have never even heard of the Force until Han says it’s all true. After that scene (and rathtar battle and escape) Emperor Snoke tells Kylo that there has been an awakening. Leaving Jakku and hearing that Luke and the Force are real may have started Rey on the journey to unlock her original potential. Then she stumbles onto the lightsaber, then has more thoughts moved around by Kylo Ren and then after the battle she is ‘fully woke.’
I believe Luke also implanted in Rey’s mind the location of the first Jedi temple, which is why she dreams about it. This is a little hazy because Han says after Kylo destroyed everything Luke worked for he then went looking for the temple. It’s possible that he had Rey with him when he found it and then concocted the Jakku plan, or that he transmitted it to her brain at a later time using the Force, but now I’m a few levels of speculation removed from what we actually know…
This “sleeper cell” scenario hit me pretty hard after my 3rd viewing. I’m probably not the first, but I wrote this before reading any similar theories. Let me know your ideas in the comments below.