Warning SPOILERS below for Blade Runner 2049!
Blade Runner 2049's marketing touts the reunion of the original film's director Ridley Scott, now serving as producer, and its star Harrison Ford, reprising his role as the former Blade Runner Rick Deckard. Ryan Gosling, who plays a new Blade Runner named "K', is also front and center, as is director Denis Villeneuve (Arrival), who takes over helming this visionary sequel 35 years in the making. Even Guardians of the Galaxy's Dave Bautista is a major selling point of the new film. As the trailers and advertisements convey both a return to and upgrade of the post-apocalypic Los Angeles of the Blade Runner universe, one vital piece of the original film's puzzle is absent entirely: Where is Rachael (Sean Young)?
"Too bad she won't live, but then again, who does?" are the last words about Rachael spoken in the original Blade Runner. These words, sadly, turn out to be prophetic. The new film does address the fate that befell Rachael, who was last seen in the company of Deckard as they planned to go on the run from Blade Runners hunting and seeking to 'retire' them. Whether it's the more ambiguous ending of the 1992 Director's Cut or 2007 Final Cut or the happy ending of the 1982 Theatrical Cut, every version of Blade Runner ends with Deckard and Rachael going on the run together. But what happens next to the Adam and Eve of the Replicant race?
Blade Runner 2049 does provide answers to what happened, not just to Rachael and Deckard, but to what their lives were like on the run and how they were destined to help usher a new future for all Replicants. The fate of Rachael, hidden from the film's marketing, ends up as the key to unlocking the story of Blade Runner 2049, both for the world in the film, and for Officer K's on personal quest for uncovering his own identity.
WHO WAS RACHAEL?
Rachael was a prototype Nexus model Replicant created by the late Dr. Eldon Tyrell (Joe Turkel). As the Nexus 6 model Replicants began to develop emotions, they began to rebel against their programming. Tyrell created Rachael and implanted her with childhood memories of his niece to cushion Rachael's developing emotions. Rachael was also unaware she was a Replicant and believed herself to be human; she even worked as an administrator in the Tyrell Corporation.
Rachael encountered Rick Deckard, who was a retired Blade Runner returned to active duty, when he arrived at the Tyrell pyramid to apply the Voight-Kampff test to Replicants in the building. Not letting on that Rachael was one such Replicant, Tyrell urged Deckard to test Rachael to see if she could pass for human. Deckard determined through testing that Rachael was both a Replicant and unaware she was a Replicant, though by the conclusion of the test Rachael began to suspect the truth about herself.
The relationship between Rachael and Deckard formed the emotional crux of the original Blade Runner. Deckard revealed to her that her memories, which she clung to as proof of her humanity, were in fact those of Tyrell's niece. Rachael later saved Deckard from Leon (Brion James), one of the Nexus 6 Replicants in the rebel group headed by Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer). After Deckard's climactic battle with Batty when Batty's 4 year life span expired, Deckard - who is himself suspected of being a Replicant by the LAPD - left Los Angeles and went on the run together with Rachael.
Set 30 years after the events of Blade Runner circa 2019, Blade Runner 2049 picks up the trail and answers the questions of what happened to Rachael, Deckard and... their child.
WHAT HAPPENED TO RACHAEL?
In 2049, Blade Runner K is assigned to 'retire' (Blade Runner lingo for execute) a Nexus 8 Replicant named Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista). Morton was once assigned as a combat medic, and after K retires him, K finds a box containing humans remains - bones and hair samples - buried under a tree on Morton's protein farm. Forensic analysis by the LAPD initially indicate the bones belong to a human until a serial number is found on the skull. It's determined that this was a Replicant female who somehow died in childbirth, though the child was delivered via Caesarian section. K brings the hair sample and serial number to the Wallace Corporation - the corporate behemoth that succeeded Tyrell and now manufactures Replicants - and they determine the female Replicant was in fact Rachael.
Furthermore, Rachael being pregnant was, as Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) fumed, "the last trick" of Eldon Tyrell, who was able to create Replicants who could procreate. The secrets of Tyrell's technology where lost in an event called 'the Blackout,' which was a Replicant rebellion that set off an EMP wiping out all electronic records. Since taking over Replicant manufacturing, Wallace had been able to make more advanced and human-like Replicants - like K - but with multiple off-world colonies needing Replicants as a disposable workforce, Wallace's company can't manufacture Replicants fast enough. Replicants being able to procreate would eliminate the limits of Wallace's ability to mass produce Replicants. However, if Replicants can conceive children as humans do, it would be a revolutionary step towards Replicants being recognized as having human rights. It begs the question of whether Replicants born and not made would have a soul as humans beings believe they do. It would, as K's supervisor Lieutenant Joshi (Robin Wright) stated, "break the world."
In any event, Rachael became pregnant by Deckard soon after they escaped Los Angeles in 2019. They sought out a fellow Nexus 8 Sapper Morton due to his medical expertise. Morton delivered the baby on 6/10/21, though the birth records for the date indicate an anomaly: "twins" were born on that day with identical DNA, though only the boy survived. Rachael died in childbirth while Deckard, as per their plan to keep themselves and their child safe, left and took refuge in the ruins of Las Vegas, never seeing Rachael again nor meeting their child. For the bulk of K's investigation, K believes himself to be the son born on 6/10/21 thanks to his memories of his childhood which he believes are real, and were verified as real by Dr. Ana Stelline (Carla Juri), the subcontractor who designs and provides the artificial memories for Wallace Corporation Replicants.