Out of all of the questions that loomed over the Star Wars sequel trilogy, none of them cast a bigger shadow than how Rey—the Jedi hero of the sequels—was connected to the rest of the galaxy far, far away. And while we finally got the final answer in The Rise of Skywalker, its star revealed that it wasn’t always the case.
Who were Rey’s parents? That’s the billion-dollar question that hung over most of the sequel trilogy with Daisy Ridley’s Rey caught in the crossfire. The Force Awakens introduced the mystery with Rey keeping her parents’ identities a big secret; fans immediately clung to the idea that she could be a Skywalker, a Solo, or a Kenobi. The Last Jedi threw all of that out the window, revealed that Rey was a nobody, and rejected the idea that the Force was only limited to a powerful bloodline. The Rise of Skywalker then threw that out the window by revealing that Rey was actually Palpatine’s granddaughter and the reason she became powerful was because of his bloodline before she rejected that heritage and embraced the Skywalker name.
Nobody may have been more invested in Rey’s parentage than Josh Gad, Ridley’s Murder on the Orient Express co-star, who made several noble attempts to get Ridley to spill the beans about Star Wars. (At one point, he got Dame Judi Dench to ask Ridley about Reylo.) Now that that the sequel trilogy is complete, Gad, who’s been guest-hosting Jimmy Kimmel Live this week, was finally able to ask Ridley about it.
As it turns out, despite several assurances of some grand unified plan on Rey’s parentage from the creative minds who worked on the trilogy, director J.J. Abrams didn’t really know until they were in the middle of making The Rise of Skywalker.
“At the beginning, there was toying with an Obi-Wan connection,” Ridley explained. “There were different versions, and then it really went to that she was ‘no one.’ Then it came to Episode IX and J.J. pitched me the film and was like, ‘Oh yeah, Palpatine’s granddaddy,’ and I was like, ‘Awesome.’ And then two weeks later he was like, ‘Oh, we’re not sure.’ So, it kept changing. So, when I was filming and I wasn’t sure what the answer was gonna be.”
She even joked that Olaf from Frozen was in the mix.
The ever-evolving answer of Rey’s lineage throughout the sequel trilogy is both an encompassment of the Skywalker Saga and the sequel trilogy’s biggest issue: It made things up as it went along, sometimes for the better. George Lucas didn’t always plan for Darth Vader to be Luke’s father or for Luke and Leia to be related (see their kiss in Empire Strikes Back), so it’s not unprecedented in Star Wars. But the original trilogy didn’t have 40 years of canon behind it, so the sequel trilogy’s continuous flip-flopping over Rey’s lineage—perhaps a central question of these films—doesn’t have the same luxury.
Because, as far as Rey’s lineage was concerned, The Last Jedi revealed one answer before The Rise of Skywalker retconned that and pointed to her bloodline as the source of her power. And in doing so, the decision never really shook off its greatest criticism: That making Rey a Palpatine was a rebuke of the film (and possibly even the filmmaker) that came directly before it—and also served to placate the viewers who were mad that a young woman could be powerful without a way to explain it. We just now know that it was just as messy behind the scenes as it appeared on-screen.
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