‘Anything’s still open.’
Warning: This article contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Out of the many revelations delivered in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, one of the more divisive choices (outside of Snoke’s non-importance and Luke’s characterization) was the identity of Rey’s parents, revealed at last during an emotional and tense scene between Rey and Kylo Ren. But with Episode IX looming in the distance, the director of The Last Jedi left a small window of hope open for fans who wanted a different answer.
In an interview with HuffPost, Last Jedi writer-director Rian Johnson broke down what went into the reveal that Rey’s parents were nobodies: junk traders on Jakku who sold her for drinking money. Johnson described the moment as “the most difficult thing dramatically for Rey in this movie to hear.” He compared the emotional impact to Luke Skywalker learning that Darth Vader was actually his father in Empire Strikes Back, something Johnson has touched on before in previous interviews.
“The easy thing would be, ‘Yes, your parents are so and so and here’s your place in the world. There you go,’” Johnson explained. “The hardest thing she could hear would be […] ‘No, you’re not going to get the answer. This is not going to define you. You’re going to have to find your own place in this world. Kylo is going to use that even as leverage to try and make you feel insecure, and you’re going to have to stand on your own two feet.’”
But Johnson acknowledged the possibility remains that those revelations (or even how they’re interpreted in the Star Wars universe) could change with the release of Episode IX in 2019.
“Anything’s still open, and I’m not writing the next film. [J.J. Abrams and Chris Terrio] are doing it,” Johnson said.
On the surface, that’s a given. Johnson isn’t attached to work on Episode IX, and Abrams’ involvement was only announced in September after Lucasfilm parted ways with original Episode IX director Colin Trevorrow. Johnson may not know anything about Episode IX, so the idea that the director helming the next film could pry those mysteries back open is a real possibility.
Suggesting that some mysteries are still “open” also gives fans who weren’t thrilled with the film’s revelations a glimmer of hope that perhaps Abrams could revisit them. (Exploring the mysterious Supreme Leader Snoke’s past could be one way of rectifying this.)
As far as Rey’s parents are concerned, that would potentially mean leaning on a common fan criticism: Kylo Ren could have lied to Rey about her parents in The Last Jedi and Episode IX would reveal that she’s actually a secret Skywalker or Solo or Kenobi or the child of whichever Star Wars-famous parent would fit best. But that idea would ignore a couple of factors already set into play.
For one thing, a recent Rolling Stone cover story on The Last Jedi suggested that both Johnson and Abrams arrived at the same conclusion about Rey’s parents on their own. (Though there may have been a bit of coordination.) Rey actress Daisy Ridley said that Abrams told her the answer while she shot The Last Jedi and that Johnson’s own answer didn’t change what she knew. Johnson said he “wasn’t given any directive as to what that had to be.”
Knowing what we know now, it seems Abrams also believed that Rey’s parents were nobodies.
Backtracking on that point would throw a wrench into one of the major themes of The Last Jedi: that you don’t have to come from a famous bloodline to be somebody of importance or to become a hero in the Star Wars universe. Anyone can be a hero, whether it’s a stable boy who summons his broom with the Force, a Resistance mechanic who steps up to fight the First Order, or Rey from Nowhere .
Bloodline might affect the scope of power—and Ben Solo is powerful—but it was never a guarantee that he’d step up to become a Chosen One. Instead, he’s diving even further into darkness by the end of the movie. Luke, the son of Darth Vader, won’t be the one to lead the charge, either, although his last stand against his former apprentice cemented his status as a legend in the galaxy.
The possibility that Kylo Ren was lying runs into another Star Wars theme on truth and perspective. Johnson—as he’s done previously—points to the scene from Return of the Jedi when Luke confronts Obi-Wan Kenobi over lying about Darth Vader murdering Luke’s father. Darth Vader did kill Anakin Skywalker, in a way, and when Kylo Ren tells Rey about her parents Johnson believes that Kylo Ren is telling her the truth.
“With all of these movies, Obi-Wan’s whole speech about a certain point of view always applies, so I think that you have to always think about the context of how information is given,” Johnson said. “But for me, dramatically, that’s why that reveal at that moment made sense.”
Another possibility? Even if Kylo Ren isn’t right about the particulars of Rey’s parents, but the admission that they are nobodies isn’t made by Kylo Ren. Rey’s the one who says it, and it’s something she’s known all along. Although that could always change (or be retconned) by the time Episode IX comes out, it’d be much more interesting—and more daring—if it didn’t.