[Warning: MAJOR SPOILERS for Star Wars: The Force Awakens ahead]
Heading into this past weekend’s Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, one of the biggest questions we had was just who exactly would be the next generation of the Skywalker lineage. Most bets were on the mysterious Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), and while, indeed, he did end up being unmasked as Ben Solo, General Leia Organa’s (Carrie Fisher) son, there is still the very real possibility that he’s not the only continuation of that famous lineage.
The amount of evidence suggesting that protagonist Rey (Daisy Ridley) is also a new member of the Skywalker clan is very compelling. Much like Anakin (Hayden Christensen) and Luke (Mark Hamill), she grows up on a remote desert world, away from the intergalactic action; she’s an expert tinkerer/mechanic and pilot extraordinaire; the lightsaber that General Skywalker constructed at the start of the Clone Wars – and which was subsequently passed on down to Luke – calls out to her, wanting her to become its new master. Oh, then there’s the fact that she’s quite obviously the single most powerful Force wielder the films have ever produced, something which practically begs her to be the granddaughter of the Chosen One.
But is this really the best course of action for executive producer Kathleen Kennedy and her assembled teams of filmmakers to pursue? Is it a more contrived storyline, forcibly following creator George Lucas’s “rhyming” pattern from the first six films at the expense of an inventive new twist – or is it the best possible bow to package the Star Wars triptych in? In short, Should Rey Be a Skywalker?
The case for
While having the Skywalker family tree continue on down through Leia – who is, apparently, the less powerful of Anakin’s two children – would be perfectly fine, there would be so much more heft behind Luke being the main vessel of familial continuation; he is the protagonist of the original trilogy, after all, and the only one to undergo anything even remotely resembling traditional Jedi training. And how else, after all, would Rey lull herself to sleep with the vision of the place where Luke has spent (apparently) so many years residing on a planet on the other side of the galaxy?
It would also allow for a strong parallel to Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back’s grand revelation – Darth Vader’s admission to Luke that he is the would-be Jedi’s father – and would do so nearly word for word: imagine the scene in Episode VIII when Luke admits/realizes that he is Rey’s father, and the effect it would have on the abandoned girl who’s been forced to subsist as a mere scavenger for the past 14 years. It could certainly rival the psychological fallout that Luke faced, though it wouldn’t necessarily have the same impact on either Rey (discovering your father is a Jedi Master hermit is quite a stretch from discovering he’s a Dark Lord of the Sith responsible for countless deaths) or on audiences (given all the strong foreshadowing in The Force Awakens).
And then there’s the other strong parallel to the original trilogy that such a move would entail: it would make Rey and Kylo Ren cousins, and it would go back and change the tenor of their encounters throughout Episode VII, just as the revelation of Luke and Leia’s true relationship in Episode VI: Return of the Jedi threw all of their scenes together from the entire trilogy into an entirely different light. Of course, here, the twist on the familiar narrative ground – something which the sequel trilogy has already invoked several times, starting with the simple fact that its central character is a woman – would be that the relations are hostile with one another instead of cooperative, with one sworn to the dark side and the other, the light.
Would this make for one too many parallels? For better or worse, this is the way that Star Wars has been set up for at least the past 16 years, showing how various generations of the same family face the same set of (mythologically archetypal) choices, and how the consequences from these choices have interstellar ramifications. If Kennedy wanted to show she were serious about continuing (although not necessarily evolving) Lucas’s mythos, there are few better ways to do so than by making Rey have that most famous of last names.
The case against
While audiences have known for the past 30 years that Luke Skywalker is the last Jedi, we have only recently learned, in the prequel trilogy, what the Jedi Code entails – including, critically, the policy of no emotional attachments, particularly when it comes to matters of romance or marriage. Thus, Luke’s settling down with a woman (it can be out of wedlock now, with Lucas – and his insistence on classic/mythological storytelling – out of the picture) would instantly make the storyline a major break of continuity, undercutting the narrative structural integrity of the entire saga.
That is, unless this was precisely the point of the development. It could very well be that Kennedy and her cadre of directors and writers have made this the underlying reason of Luke’s shame and guilt and self-imposed exile. For the first 19 years of his life – if not more, depending on how complete Ben Kenobi’s (Alec Guinness) or Yoda’s (Frank Oz) training was – the kid had no idea that he would be forbidden to enter a relationship. Maybe he couldn’t resist the temptation before creating the new Jedi Order, and, afterwards, when it all falls apart, he blames the failure on his lack of self-control and sees no other option than to flee his responsibility to both himself and the entire rest of the galactic community.
This would certainly resolve the continuity problem, but it would also open up a whole other can of worms, such as placing Luke’s hallowed sense of morality and Jedi justice into far more dubious light. We know the question of “Who is Luke Skywalker?” is what tempted J.J. Abrams into directing and co-writing The Force Awakens, but would audiences be ready for such a drastically different interpretation of the character, especially after so many decades of adventures across so many different media?
Speaking of which, there is the little matter of precedent to contend with. In the original iteration of the Expanded Universe (that vast collection of novels, comic books, short stories, and videogames), Luke did, indeed, marry and have a son – named Ben, incidentally – which would mean that making Rey his offspring could be derivative as well as contrived. The story would be too expected within the confines of the canon, and it would be too repetitive of the larger “Legends” community – if, indeed, the filmmakers pay any sort of attention to it whatsoever, which all evidence thus far most definitely points against.
That, really, goes to the heart of the challenge that Kennedy and her vanguard have in continuing the Star Wars saga not only for this current trilogy, but for a possible fourth one, as well (should Disney get its way and the fanbase support it financially): how much of a new approach to old material can/will/should they introduce? Having Rey be a member of a whole new, Force-powerful family, perhaps one that also was active during the key parts of galactic history (the Clone Wars, the Galactic Civil War, et al.), would simultaneously be an unforeseen twist and open up the story to a whole new – but still thematically resonant – set of narrative avenues to explore.
As is the case with most endeavors in human existence, there are both advantages and hazards to either approach – but which do you think would make for the better story, both in terms of this trilogy and the overarching saga? Which would you pursue if you were in Kathleen Kennedy’s shoes?
Be sure to let us all know in the comments below.
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens is now in theaters, followed by Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on December 16th, 2016, Star Wars: Episode VIII on May 26th, 2017, and the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25th, 2018. Star Wars: Episode IX is expected to reach theaters in 2019, followed by the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.