This article contains major The Rise of Skywalker spoilers. You can read a spoiler free review here instead.
At last, The Rise of Skywalker has arrived to provide us with all of the Star Wars answers we’ve been searching for since Disney revived the Skywalker saga in 2015 with The Force Awakens. Here, at last, is the final battle between the Jedi and the Sith, good vs. evil. Of course, this movie shows us this conflict is a little more complicated than two opposing sides by delving into some real darkness inside of the Sequel Trilogy’s hero.
Throughout the film, we watch as Kylo Ren and the Emperor tease out Rey’s darker tendencies. In a fight with the Supreme Leader, Rey pushes her Force powers beyond the usual abilities of a Jedi. Her Force pull on Pasaana turns into lightning, as she zaps a First Order transport, sending it tumbling to its fiery doom. This use of a Force power generally reserved for the Sith is foreshadowing for the movies biggest twist: Rey herself is a Palpatine, born of Sith blood and heir to the throne of her grandfather’s Final Order.
This is a revelation that sends Rey into a rage. She thirsts for revenge against the man who murdered her parents so that she could be safe from the Emperor’s plans. But such hatred leads to the dark side. Were she to fulfill her destiny as a new Sith Lord — and perhaps even the new Empress to continue her grandfather’s legacy — Rey would be transformed into something even darker than she could possibly imagine.
Fortunately, Palpatine had a secret chamber inside his throne room on the Death Star II to show our hero what a Dark Rey would look like. While it’s not clear how this chamber works, it seems to operate like the Force cave on Dagobah, showing a Force user their worst fear in order to attain some sort of knowledge. The knowledge Rey is searching for in this case is located inside the wayfinder (the little pyramid-shaped device that looks a lot like a Sith holocron), which she needs to track down Palpatine’s hideout. (Exegol is in the Unknown Regions, an uncharted part of the galaxy, so no one has any idea how to find it.) But before Rey can take the wayfinder, she is confronted by a dark side, mirror version of herself.
You likely watched the debut of Dark Rey in the D23 sizzle reel before the release of the movie, dark robe to shroud her face in darkness and double-bladed lightsaber in hand. The tease sparked tons of fan theories about what might happen to Rey in The Rise of Skywalker. But Rey’s fall to the dark side was greatly exagerrated. Dark Rey is no more than a vision, a possible future for Rey just as Luke’s head inside Darth Vader’s helmet was a vision in The Empire Strikes Back. More importantly, it’s a warning for what could happen if Rey follows the Emperor and Kylo Ren down a dark path.
If you’ve already watched the movie — why else would you be reading this article! — then you know this Rey doesn’t fall to the dark side in the end, but she does come close during the climactic battle with the Emperor. But instead, she vanquishes her grandfather and the Sith in turn, bringing back balance to the Force. Maybe.