In the years to come, I imagine the emerging narrative surrounding the making of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is that it was a convoluted confluence of a studio rushing to make its release date, worried about displeasing the vocal detractors of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and bringing in a notoriously indecisive director to try and thread the needle. While some will argue that the only solution is to have a clear trilogy sketched out from the beginning, that’s not how filmmaking works or even the beloved Original Trilogy of Star Wars movies worked. Things change, sometimes it’s for the better, and sometimes you’re the granddaughter of Emperor Palpatine.
But this wasn’t always going to be the case. In an interview with Josh Gad, who was guest-hosting Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Daisy Ridley revealed that at one point Rey was supposed to be a Kenobi. “At the beginning, there was toying with an Obi-Wan connection,” Ridley revealed. “There were different versions, and then it really went to 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, then I was filming and I wasn’t sure what the answer was gonna be,” said Ridley.
From what I’ve gathered (and what you can even tell in the making-of documentary The Skywalker Legacy) is that there was a lot of uncertainty about how to close out the saga even as they were filming. Obviously, you’re not going to please everyone, but the weird thing about Rise of Skywalker is what an uninteresting blip it turned out to be. There’s just not much personality to it. It took over the monoculture for about a month, and then we all moved on, and while obviously it’s easy to get overshadowed in the midst of a pandemic, Rise of Skywalker falls flat. I’m not sure making Rey a Kenobi instead of a Palpatine would change the outcome, but it’s further evidence of a muddled, disappointing conclusion to the sequel trilogy.