by @holocronGeorge for @sw_holocron
In speaking with Josh Gad on Jimmy Kimmel Live! recently, Daisy Ridley revealed some insights into the behind the scenes process of determining who Rey’s parents are in the sequel trilogy. When asked whether she knew who Rey’s parents were from the beginning, Ridley stated, “No. At the beginning, they were toying with an Obi-Wan connection…There were different versions and then it really went to the ‘she was no one.’ And 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 two weeks later he was like, ‘We’re not sure.’ So it kept changing. Even when filming, I wasn’t sure what the answer would be.” While these comments have sparked some rather heated discussions among fans regarding the lack of an overarching plan for the sequel trilogy, Ridley’s comments are interesting in that they confirm that the creative minds behind the sequel trilogy actually thought of making Rey a descendent of Obi-Wan Kenobi. So, what would it have meant to the Skywalker saga if Rey indeed was a Kenobi?
The Importance of Obi-Wan
One obvious implication of Rey Kenobi is that it elevates Obi-Wan and the entire Kenobi lineage to a whole other level, on par with that of Skywalker and Palpatine as being a central family in the Star Wars saga. Despite the galaxy-wide implications of events depicted in the prequel and original trilogies, the first six films are primarily centered around the Skywalker family, hence the term the Skywalker Saga, and the family members’ relationships and interactions with Sheev Palpatine. This thread largely continues in Episodes VII and VIII, in which the story focuses on Skywalkers (i.e. Leia, Luke, Ben) and their conflict with Palpatine (or Snoke via Palpatine). This pattern of Skywalkers and Palpatine at the center of the entire saga would have been altered quite radically by making Rey, the firm protagonist of the last trilogy in the saga, a Kenobi. Obi-Wan plays a minor role in The Phantom Menace, but is one of the main characters in Episodes II, III, The Clone Wars, and plays a key supporting role in Episode IV. Despite this, Obi-Wan is never the true centerpiece of the saga, like Anakin, Luke, and Rey are. Yes, Obi-Wan is given extensive screen time and plays a big role in the saga, but his story and actions are often in service of Skywalkers, in particular Luke and Anakin. Indeed, much of Obi-Wan’s back story as a character comes from several episodes in The Clone Wars and several prequel novels and comics, while the film’s largely shift focus toward Anakin or Luke. Given the magnitude of Obi-Wan’s role in the saga, relative to Skywalkers, Rey being a Kenobi would have been a little jarring. All of a sudden, in the last film of the saga, a new family of importance – Kenobi’s – are positioned at the forefront. Thematically, this doesn’t quite feel right.
Another important implication of Rey being a Kenobi is that it entails Obi-Wan must’ve had a child at some point. It’s highly unlikely, if the filmmakers made Rey a Kenobi, that they would make her a descendent of a never-heard-of sibling of Obi-Wan. Rey would likely have been Obi-Wan’s granddaughter had the filmmakers opted for Rey Kenobi. This brings back a discussion we had earlier this year in our article entitled “Did Obi-Wan and Satine Have a Child?”, in which we discussed the possibility that Korkie Kryze was indeed their child. Now, we’re not saying that Rey would’ve been the child of Korkie, but, if Rey was a Kenobi, the filmmakers would’ve had to establish that Obi-Wan and Satine had a child, whether it was Korkie or not. Although Obi-Wan hasn’t featured in a live-action project since Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, the revelation that he and Satine had a child (and eventually a grandchild) would be massive in the development of Obi-Wan’s character – once again, highlighting the similarities between Obi-Wan and Anakin in both having forbidden loves and, potentially, both having children without their knowledge.
The hardest thing Rey’s ever heard
The Force Awakens was the epitome of a J.J. Abrams mystery box. In a fun, fast paced, brilliantly crafted film, the seventh chapter of the Skywalker saga introduced many mysteries, without posing answers to most of them. Who is Snoke? Why did Kylo Ren turn to the dark side? Where is Luke and what happened to him? And, perhaps most notably, who are Rey’s parents? While many suspected Rey would be revealed as a Skywalker, the daughter of Luke, Rian Johnson took this mystery in a novel, unexpected direction by making her a nobody. Johnson spoke about why he made this decision when he said:
“The hardest thing she could hear is, ‘No, you’re not going to get that answer, that definition.’ In fact, the fact that you don’t have that is going to be used against you by Kylo, to try and make you lean on him. You’re going to have to find the strength to define yourself and stand on your own two feet.”
In this sense, Johnson used the mystery of Rey’s parentage, not to highlight her special lineage and position in the galaxy, but, rather, to deliver a crushing blow to the character that this idyllic view of her parents is misguided and that she is, in fact, a complete nobody. J.J. Abrams took this a step further in The Rise of Skywalker by twisting Rey’s parentage yet again, revealing that she is a descendent of none other than Sheev Palpatine himself. Following Johnson, Abrams was delivering to Rey the most difficult news she could possibly hear, placing his lead protagonist, not in a position of comfort as a reveal that she is Luke’s daughter would, but, instead, giving her a seemingly impenetrable obstacle to overcome regarding her lineage.
The themes of personal struggle and familial uncertainty that Abrams and Johnson imbued within Rey would have been diminished had she been a Kenobi. The reveal that she is a nobody in The Last Jedi is devastating and really challenges her. The reveal that she is a Palpatine in The Rise of Skywalker is devastating and arguably challenges her even more. But the reveal that she is a Kenobi wouldn’t have done anything bad for Rey. In fact, this reveal would have been confirmation of her assumption all along that her family was special in someway. The great moments of Rey overcoming her disappointment and triumphing against her thought that she will inevitably do wrong due to her relation to Palpatine would be lost if her grandfather was Obi-Wan Kenobi, a legendary, powerful Jedi.
Regardless of how the sequel trilogy is analyzed, it’s pretty clear Rey always had to end up being a Skywalker – either by blood or in name only. The saga is titled the Skywalker saga and it wouldn’t feel exactly fitting if the final trilogy centered around a new character completely distinct from the Skywalkers. Especially with the youngest individual of Skywalker blood, Ben Solo, being on the dark side of the Force for the vast majority of the sequel trilogy, it wouldn’t feel right if the Skywalker saga ended with the last Skywalker being evil until his final moments of redemption, only to see the name die out forever after his death. Rey Skywalker, more than Rey Kenobi, is an incredible statement that people can overcome the worst of adversity and are truly more than who their lineage dictates them to be. Furthermore, it shows that our family is not necessarily who we’re related to, but who we choose to be close to. In this sense, Rey Skywalker felt truly fitting for the end of the saga, something that could not have been achieved had she been a Kenobi.
Images courtesy of Lucasfilm & Disney+