maury voice

Like It or Not, Rise of Skywalker Addresses Rey’s Parentage

Photo: Jonathan Olley/Lucasfilm Ltd.

Spoilers for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker follow, obviously.

One of the more daring decisions in Star Wars: The Last Jedi was the movie’s implication that the sequel trilogy’s Force-sensitive ponytail-aficionado hero, Rey (Daisy Ridley), wasn’t related to anyone important in the series’ big dynastic battles. According to Kylo Ren, her parents were just junk traders who abandoned her as a kid. Whether you like it or not, The Rise of Skywalker quickly rewrites that plot point. In the first third of the movie, Kylo and Rey face off in one of their many middle-school-instant-message-style bits of fighting-slash-flirting through their Force connection, and Kylo comes at her with a twist explanation: Her parents are nobodies but only because they chose to be. As it turns out, they were actually hiding out on Jakku from someone further up the family tree. Kylo, all but adopting a Maury voice, tells Rey that, in fact, she’s the granddaughter of Emperor Palpatine.

That moment, laden with the weight of what’s supposed to be a franchise-shaking reveal, landed with more than a few laughs when it came up in a press screening. Rey, our nice British hero, is somehow related to this guy? This is supposed to be more satisfying than the notion that Force sensitivity can come from nowhere and anyone can become a galactic savior? Sure, J.J.!

Whatever the reasoning behind this decision, the rest of the movie does a lot of work to try to explain the consequences and establish a few clues beforehand. Rey uses some Sith-style Force lightning during a confrontation with Kylo early in the movie, which implies that her powers may come from a source of darkness, and in Rise of Skywalker’s first scene, we meet a resurrected Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid), who has come back to life thanks to franchise-fatigue dark Sith magicks. His resurrection, we might add, has some precedents in deep Star Wars lore in the skills of the death-defying Darth Plagueis, but the movie doesn’t explicitly address that.

According to Kylo, who is the Skywalker opposite to Rey’s Palpatine, the two of them constitute a “Force dyad,” which explains (?) their deep connection and could give them the power to overthrow Palpatine and rule the galaxy together. Rey spends a lot of the rest of the movie worrying that she was born bad but is trying to be good, while Kylo is wrestling with the fact that he was born good but has tried to be bad. I won’t spoil the ending here, but the pseudo-Taoist dyad concept means Rey and Kylo do eventually have to team up, and Rey ultimately forsakes her Sithness to rise again as a Skywalker — hey, that’s the name of the movie.

But who are Rey’s parents, actually? We get precious few details from Rise of Skywalker, aside from a brief flashback in which Killing Eve’s Jodie Comer and some random British hunk who looks like he was left off the young Han Solo short list (turns out, it’s On Chesil Beach’s Billy Howle) play Rey’s parents. Dialogue briefly clarifies that Rey’s father was the Palpatine, but that distinction is never relevant to the plot. We also don’t learn anything much about who helped Rey’s parents run off to Jakku or when the “I happen to be related to a Sith lord” thing came up in their relationship (I mean, it’s definitely not first-date material).

The Rise of Skywalker introduces one other major question into the Star Wars universe: Wait, Emperor Palpatine fucks? He is human, but who was he having sex with and when? A close read of Darth Sidious’s Wookieepedia page, which will surely be updated soon, offers nothing about his sex life, though perhaps this will all be addressed in some later Star Wars movie. But Disney, please don’t take this as an invitation to actually make a movie about whatever went on with Sidious’s semen.

Who Are Rey’s Parents in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker?