Spoilers ahead for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens posed a major question: Who are Rey’s parents? In The Force Awakens, we’re told that she has no last name and that the last she saw of her parents was them flying off in rocket ship. She held out hope that they would come back for her one day, but in her heart, she knew that they were never coming back and there was nothing left for her on Jakku.
In Star Wars: The Last Jedi, we got an answer to the question of Rey’s parents: they were nobodies. While Star Wars had been built on tropes parentage with the relationship between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, writer-director Rian Johnson chose to go in a different direction. What Rey wants more than anything is to know her parents, and The Last Jedi turns around and says, “You’re all there is,” which then ties in nicely to the film’s overall conclusion that greatness can come from anywhere. You don’t need to be born a Skywalker to be great; The Force, which seeks balance, chose “Rey from Nowhere” to balance out the darkness created by Kylo Ren. Some people were unhappy at this conclusion, and apparently writers J.J. Abrams and Chris Terrio chose to listen to them.
Which brings us to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. In order to not completely undo The Last Jedi but just pretty much undo it, The Rise of Skywalker says yes, Rey’s parents were nobodies, but WHAT ABOUT HER GRANDPARENTS?!?!?! While Rey’s parents were nobodies, they weren’t filthy junk traders who sold her off for drinking money. Her father was the son of Emperor Palpatine, and while her parents technically abandoned her on Jakku, it was to protect her from her evil grandfather. Instead of being bad parents, Rey’s parents were the best parents as they sacrificed their lives to keep their daughter’s identity a secret. How could they have known that she wouldn’t stay in a life of scavenging and starvation on Jakku for her own good? How could they have known that a zombie Palpatine would start searching the galaxy for her?
The bigger problem with having Rey’s dad being Palpatine’s kid (aside from now you have to think about Palpatine having sex), is that it reverses the thematic impact of The Last Jedi. Rey didn’t come from nobody; she’s the granddaughter of the freaking Emperor. This makes the world of Star Wars so much smaller where the only important people have the last name “Palpatine” or “Skywalker.”
Furthermore, it’s a lineage that feels random and abrupt as it’s linked to a darkness that Rey has never had to wrestle with before this movie. We’ve never had to have conversations along the lines of, “Do you think Rey is secretly evil?” It seems like where Abrams and Terrio wanted to go was, “If your heritage is evil, does that mean you will also be evil?” and I suppose the answer of “Nope!” will be of great comfort to Adolf Hitler’s grandchildren.
For everyone else, it makes Star Wars more insular and exclusive. We live in a world filled with dynasties and entrenched power. If you were born rich and powerful, you’re likely to stay rich and powerful. If you were born poor and powerless, you’re like to stay poor and powerless. The Last Jedi offered an alternative viewpoint where greatness could come from anywhere. Anyone could become a Jedi not because of who their parents (or grandparents) were, and that was exciting and inspirational. The Rise of Skywalker reduces Rey to a legacy admission.
To read about issues with the film’s ending, click here.