it takes a family

What Do We Know About Rey in The Force Awakens? A Brief Investigation

Photo: Lucasfilm

Earlier today, my colleague Kyle Buchanan posted a great roundup of The Force Awakens talking points. Let’s take a minute now — lots of spoilers ahead — and really drill down into one of the most tantalizing questions coming out of the movie: the nature of Daisy Ridley’s character, Rey. Obviously, she’s already been established as the pseudo–Luke Skywalker of this new series of films: the young nobody who turns out to be strong in the Force. (And not just kind of strong in the Force; she’s really strong in the Force. As in, beat-the-crap-out-of-powerful-bad-guy–Kylo Ren–the-first-time-you-wield-a-lightsaber strong.) Though she is ostensibly an orphaned scavenger stuck on the desert of Jakku, there are more than a few questions as to where, exactly, she comes from.

For starters, if you watch closely, it appears that Han Solo knows who Rey is. Right after she tells him her name, he seems to do a double-take and softens toward her, even offering her a spot on his crew. But more significant is this later scene: At Maz Kanata’s lair, after Rey walks away from the table to try to stop Finn from leaving, Maz turns to Han and asks, “Who’s the girl?” At that point, Abrams cuts away — so that we don’t see or hear Han’s response. Instead, he cuts to Finn trying to explain to Rey why he’s leaving, and talking about how he was “taken from a family I’ll never know.” This helps further establish the ongoing theme of abandonment, and subtly sets up what that follows: Rey’s flashbacks.

They begin with her hearing a child’s voice, which draws down to the basement and leads to her finding Luke’s lightsaber. When she touches the saber, she suddenly has a series of visions: She sees Luke’s mechanical hand reaching out to R2-D2 — presumably, as we later learn, shutting him down. Next, she sees Kylo Ren and a small group of black-clad figures standing over a field of what appear to be corpses — a brief glimpse of the Jedi slaughter that likely prompted Luke’s self-exile. And then she sees herself: a young, screaming child, being pulled away as she reaches desperately toward a spaceship flying off in the distance. In other words, Rey was left behind on Jakku — hidden, perhaps, like Luke and Leia were as babies — after the massacre, possibly to preserve her life. Then we hear a voice that appears to whisper, “These are the first steps.”

One suspects that, prompted by Han’s unseen response, Maz has helped lead Rey to the lightsaber. A beat later, Maz herself shows up in the basement room and confronts Rey: “This lightsaber was Luke’s. And his father’s before him. And now, it calls to you.” Then, Maz says something even more interesting: “Dear child, I see it in your eyes. You already know the truth … Whoever you were waiting for on Jakku, they’re never coming back. But there’s someone who still can: Luke.”

So, is Rey Luke’s daughter? Or Han and Leia’s other child? (“Han Solo … You feel like he’s the father you never had. He would have disappointed you,” Kylo Ren tells Rey when he’s trying to read her mind, which can be read several ways.) Or is she the child of some other figure strong in the Force — either one we haven’t heard from for a while, or someone we have yet to learn about? (Did Yoda have something going on the side?) The notion that the person Rey was waiting for is never coming back is interesting: Does that mean that she’s not Luke’s daughter? Or maybe she was waiting for her mother (whoever that will turn out to be) and the mother’s never coming back. Or maybe Maz is being figurative, or outright lying. Either way, it appears that, contrary to what George Lucas has said, these new Star Wars films aren’t going to be skimping on the soap opera.

Who Is Rey in Force Awakens? An Investigation