Warning: Major, major spoilers for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker are ahead. MAJOR.
If you loved The Last Jedi, there’s one particular piece of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker that’s a tough pill to swallow: Rey’s parents are important after all. Fans who were frustrated by the lack of a clear answer in the last film will likely feel vindicated to learn that Rey is actually a Palpatine, but that fan service comes at a cost.
Technically, because they are never named and there’s whole mystery as to how Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) even had a son in the first place (we never get that answer, unfortunately), Rey’s parents are still two people we don’t really know. But in The Last Jedi, her parents were some random duo that didn’t connect to any major Star Wars figures, and access to the Force and its immense power was effectively democratised. If this young woman, an orphan with no claim to an illustrious legacy or bloodline, could be the most powerful Jedi in the galaxy, anyone could be. It was a beautiful thought and it allowed The Last Jedi to say something that Star Wars has been telling us for decades with characters like Han Solo: Greatness comes from within. Where you come from doesn’t have anything to do with where you’re capable of going.
But, by changing the trajectory of the last film in The Rise of Skywalker with one conversation in which Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) admits he was wrong about Rey’s origins the first time around, Rey becomes the equivalent of Force royalty. As the granddaughter of Emperor Palpatine, she’s basically the Princess of the Dark Side while Kylo Ren/Ben Solo is the Prince, having come from Darth Vader’s bloodline. These two powerful kids have been destined for each other from the moment they were born. It’s all very royal and exclusionary, which is exactly what The Last Jedi attempted to undo.
There is good news though. The way the film wraps up the storyline, having Rey kill Palpatine and renounce the name and its Dark Side roots before calling herself a spiritual Skywalker, is a pretty satisfying conclusion to a frustrating twist. There’s also a pretty incredible moment for anyone who loves Killing Eve, when we see, via flashbacks, that Rey’s mother is played by Jodie Comer. But there’s something unshakably irksome about watching the final film in a trilogy that behaves as if the entire chapter before it never happened. The effect of angry fans is instantly visible, and it’s not hard to feel thrust out of the fantasy of the films and into the depths of a million nasty reddit threads.
This new twist in Rey’s story is fandom infighting brought to life and effectively renders the entire trilogy a disjointed series of films that only sort of affect each other. Even the Star Wars prequels, for all their many faults, at least felt like films cut from the same cloth.
This twist is also just plain rude to The Last Jedi writer-director Rian Johnson. And after the heated vitriol he (and anyone who enjoyed his movie) withstood after TLJ’s release, couldn’t Abrams have just given us all a break?