Star Wars: The Force Awakens left fans with a lot of questions, but as follow-up The Last Jedi moves slowly closer to its December release one mystery eclipses all others. While Maz Kanata’s “a good question for another time” isn’t a satisfactory explanation for Luke’s lightsaber suddenly popping up again, it’s not movie-breaking, and dangling threads persist, like Phasma’s escape from Starkiller or how Leia formed the Resistance – as told in a new comic and the novel Bloodline respectively. However, we’re still no closer to learning who Rey’s parents are.
Speculation of where the scavenger-turned-Jedi comes from has been rife, but far and away the two most popular theories are that she’s a Skywalker (the daughter of either Han and Leia or Luke) or a Kenobi (granddaughter of Obi-Wan). Rian Johnson has confirmed that Episode VIII will deal with this tricky subject, although when it comes to the Ahch-To-shattering reveal, it probably shouldn’t be either of those options.
What we know concretely is that Rey – who is 19 around the time of The Force Awakens – was left on Jakku as a young child with Unkar Plutt, presumably 20-25 years ABY (after the Battle of Yavin) and so 10-15 years before the sequel trilogy begins. From what Rey remembers, she’s explicitly waiting for her family to return, although whether that’s the result of a child trying to account for her abandonment isn’t made clear – her arc in the film definitely suggests she hanging on to a false truth. There’s a lot of directions this could go in, but perhaps the best is something more unknown.
Why She Shouldn’t Be A Skywalker
The longest-standing theory is that Rey is a Skywalker-Solo. This was the assumption from the moment Daisy Ridley – who looks a bit like a young Carrie Fisher if you squint – was cast and the build up of mystery in The Force Awakens’ marketing only solidified that (rumors even predicted a big reveal). However, post-movie the only way to have it work requires making Han and Leia the worst parents in galactic history. Throughout the film, neither of the estranged lovers even seem to consider for a second that Rey is their daughter and as the stakes are raised are almost ignorant of the possibility – when she’s taken by Kylo Ren or recovering from Han’s death to not figure it out and explain takes extreme obliviousness. That’s nothing on the shoddy explanation for her being stranded though; in Bloodline, set six years before The Force Awakens, Ben Solo is still working with Luke to find Jedi Temples, his turn to the dark side still a long way off. Per the established canon, Rey has been on Jakku a good five years at this point, leaving no explanation for her being left behind (unless Han is really forgetful). Small things – like Kylo’s scar – can be retconned, but there’s too much of contradiction to allow this to sit.
If not Solo, it must be Rey Skywalker then? That was many people’s assumption coming out of The Force Awakens in December 2015; it neatly side-steps many of the Han and Leia issues if Rey’s their niece rather than daughter and due to Star Wars’ familial galactic dominance he’s really the only other option. But as time’s worn on this has got strained too. Bloodline obviously makes Luke look negligent, while it seems that – unlike in the Expanded Universe, where Luke married Mara Jade and fathered Ben Skywalker – he’s followed the Jedi Order’s celibacy rules in the new canon. This has been compounded by the reveal that Luke has never met Rey before the end of The Force Awakens.
But the real reason why Rey shouldn’t be related to Anakin, Luke and the rest of the clan in any form is what it represents to the underlying story. On an operatic stage, having the prequels follow Anakin, the originals his twin children, and the sequels their offspring is suitably grandiose (especially if Rey and Ben are cousins, representing diversification and expansion), but it stretches the incestuous credulity of the franchise to a breaking point. That the Rebellion leader and unexpected savior were both the children of the maniacal dictator is a major contrivance that worked thanks to the original trilogy’s almost fairy-tale feel, but this next step would be reductive as The Force Awakens sets it up.
We already have one new generation Skywalker (and a jaw-drop “did he just say that” reveal) in the form of Kylo Ren. The extreme wannabe Darth Vader manages to embody all the facets of Star Wars’ multi-generation story without needing a companion; in terms of exploring the sins of the fathers he hits the notes of both previous trilogies and advances them. Rey Skywalker just retreads old ground. We’ve come to expect anybody important to be a Skywalker, but it’s a neat subversion to have the only new family member in the sequel trilogy be the villain, showing down against another, outside force.