One of the biggest revelations of The Last Jedi which everyone is talking about – and, in some cases, getting absolutely furious about – is the issue of Rey‘s parentage. After two years of some of the most insane speculation imaginable, the film gives you a very simple answer: Rey’s parents are no one. She’s a nobody, completely divorced from existing canon and the now quasi-aristocratic Skywalker bloodline.
And it’s not like Rian Johnson spat on J.J. Abrams plans by making that the case either – by all accounts, it looks like the director of The Force Awakens was happy to ask the question, pass the baton and let Johnson sort out an answer. It’s pretty daring, and smashes apart the mythos of Star Wars. Now anyone can be a legendary Jedi. It doesn’t matter if you’re connected to some mythical parentage.
Of course, this has some people wondering about whether this is just a fake-out, and whether Abrams might provide a real answer in third instalment of the trilogy. Looks like that probably isn’t the case, according to an interview with Johnson in Entertainment Weekly. When writing the script, Johnson said he thought very hard about what would be the most powerful answer to the question of Rey’s parentage, focusing on what would be “the hardest thing that Rey could hear”.
I think back to the ‘I am your father’ moment with Vader and Luke, and the reason I think that lands is not because it’s a surprise or a twist but because it’s the hardest thing Luke and thus the audience could hear at that moment. It turns someone into a bad guy that you just hate and want to kill into suddenly, Oh my God, this is a part of our protagonist. We have to start thinking of this person in more complex terms. We need to start thinking in terms of a redemption arc.
Conversely, Johnson argues, Rey really wants to know the identity of her parents – and she implicitly wants them to be someone important and powerful. The hardest thing for her to hear is that her parents are nobodies.
The hardest thing for her is to hear she’s not going to get that easy answer. Not only that, but Kylo is going to use the fact that you don’t get that answer to try and weaken you so you have to lean on him. You’re going to have to find the strength to stand on your own two feet and define yourself in this story.”
Johnson’s done a lot to lay a thematic groundwork which supports his revised vision of power in the Star Wars universe. The last shot of the Force-sensitive kid in Canto Bight looking up at the stars while wearing the ring with the Rebel logo reinforces this idea that it doesn’t matter where you come from: you can still be a big part of the Star Wars canon. It’s a big change from the old Expanded Universe stuff, which somehow always came back to Anakin Skywalker‘s many descendants.
That being said: this could change. Abrams is back for part three, and he might shake it up again. “I can’t speak to what they’re going to do,” Johnson says, implying this could change. “And there’s always, in these movies, a question of ‘a certain point of view.’”