This article contains major The Rise of Skywalker spoilers. You can read a spoiler free review here instead.
The Rise of Skywalker answers many of our most burning questions about the Star Wars saga, including the Sequel Trilogy’s biggest mystery: who are Rey’s parents? While The Last Jedi seemed to give us a definitive answer that satisfied at least this writer’s curiosity, J.J. Abrams’ movie takes that origin a step further. Is Rey the Skywalker who “rises” in this movie? Or is there an even bigger twist at work?
Here’s what we learned about the hero of the Sequel Trilogy and what her origin story might mean for her future adventures:
In The Rise of Skywalker, the Emperor has returned, but Palpatine‘s goal isn’t to rule the galaxy once again — at least not at first. He knows he’s too old and too broken (he’s on life support for much of the movie) to do it. Instead, he wants his granddaughter Rey to do it. Yes, Rey’s destiny is finally revealed in The Rise of Skywalker, her origin story finally told: she is the daughter of Palpatine’s unnamed son (played by Billy Howle). Rey is a Palpatine and the heir to her grandfather’s Sith throne. The galaxy is her birthright if she chooses to take it.
Palpatine reveals the truth to Kylo Ren, who then tells Rey appriopriately enough in what remains of the Emperor’s old throne room inside the wreckage of the Death Star II. We watch in a flashback as Rey’s father and mother (played by Jodie Comer) are forced to abandon their daughter on Jakku in order to protect her from the Emperor’s minions. Her parents are later killed by a Sith loyalist named Ochi, who hunts them down and murders them with the dagger that will one day lead Rey to the Sith temple on Exegol.
If the fact that Palpatine had a son is a plot twist that seems to come out of nowhere, that’s because it does. His son, who currently doesn’t have a name, has never been mentioned elsewhere in the saga or the Expanded Universe of novels and comics. Instead, it seems that Palpatine’s son has been ushered into the story just to provide a direct connection between Rey and the Emperor. (At least two characters from the now non-canon Legends timeline claimed to be Palpatine’s sons, but neither Irek Ismaren or Triclops were ever confirmed to be Palpatines.) Regardless of Sheev Jr.’s backstory, he is at odds with his father’s wishes, which is what dooms him to a violent death.
Meanwhile, Rey is left to fend for herself as a scavenger working for the vile Unkar Plutt in the wastelands of Jakku, but she’s at least safe from a much darker fate. As we learn in The Rise of Skywalker, the Emperor has laid out a path for Rey to restore his Empire and fulfill her dark side destiny.
Throughout the movie, we watch Rey’s ongoing conflict with Kylo Ren and the First Order tease out the duality within her — on Pasaana, we see her use the Force to both heal a wounded creature and zap a First Order transport with the same lightning ability Palpatine is known for. She feels love for her friends but also hatred towards Palpatine for killing her parents. Like Luke Skywalker before her, Rey begins to stray towards the dark side as she gets closer to the Emperor, who wants to corrupt her the same way he did Ben.
During the final battle between the Resistance and the Final Order rages on above her, Rey is faced with the same choice Anakin and Luke had to make: join the Emperor or watch all the people you love die. To refuse to strike down her grandfather and take his place as the new Sith Lord means that the Final Order will completely annihilate what remains of the Resistance. To rise to the throne of the Sith means taking control of the Final Order, saving her friends, but ultimately going down a path she likely can’t return from.
With Finn, Poe, and the rest of the Resistance’s lives in her hands, Rey makes a difficult choice: she agrees to perform “the ritual” that will guarantee her place on the throne and the safety of her friends. In her long search for a family, Rey has finally found one but it’s not the one she expected or particularly wants. She’s forced to live up to her true name and join the Palpatine legacy, securing her grandfather’s in the process.
It’s only through the intervention of an unlikely ally, Ben Solo, that she’s able to choose the light side and defeat the Emperor by channeling the Force energy from thousands of generations of Jedi spirits. We talked more about the meaning of that climactic scene here. What you need to know regarding Rey is that she rejects her Palpatine heritage to become a Jedi instead.
With the Emperor disintegrated and the Sith finally dead, it’s all but clear that Rey has rejected her dark heritage. Rey is a Jedi like the heroes before her. She sheds her past, choosing a new path forward. Rey completes the final trial of her Jedi training, building her own lightsaber and putting the Skywalker lightsabers to rest on Tatootine. When a wanderer whose passing through the desert asks Rey her name, she answers “Rey Skywalker,” the spirits of both Luke and Leia smiling at her from afar. Rey chooses to be who she wants to be, refusing to let her past or origin story define her.
While there’s something to be said about how The Rise of Skywalker plays like a revisionist version of The Last Jedi‘s central theme, which is that anyone can be a great hero regardless of bloodline, Rey choosing the name “Skywalker” does make sense for the character. Our hero has longed for a family through three movies and she finally feels like she has one, thanks to Luke and Leia’s (mostly Leia’s) guidance.
So what now for the heir of the Skywalker legacy? The Rise of Skywalker‘s final shot, as Rey watches twin suns rise over Tatooine, leaves the future pretty much open for future stories. With Rey now in full command of the Millennium Falcon, she might choose to restart the Jedi Order once again. Or maybe a new order of Force users will be created to better represent the balance between the light side and the dark. After all, Rey is a Palpatine who chooses to be a Skywalker. Perhaps she was the Chosen One all along.