Could Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker's Dark Rey actually be the original iteration of the character, and the one fighting for the Resistance merely a clone? Rey's ancestry was all set to dominate conversation surrounding the character leading up to The Rise of Skywalker, but then along came trailer footage that altered that discourse completely. In the movie's second trailer, a brief shot was included that hinted either towards Rey being tempted to the Dark Side, or to some other evil incarnation of the character existing. This version of Rey is dressed in a black, hooded cloak, demonstrating fashion sense similar to the Sith and, more tellingly, she also wields a red double-bladed lightsaber that folds out with a dramatic snap.
Of course, there's a distinct possibility that the appearance of Dark Rey takes place in the context of some kind of dream or vision. This would certainly be a cheap trick for a Star Wars trailer to pull, but plenty of other films have been guilty of something similar. In the case of Dark Rey, however, the scene doesn't feel like an illusion. If Rey was simply dreaming up an evil version of herself (similar to how Luke sees himself as Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back), why would she mentally invent a snazzy new lightsaber design that she's never seen previously? This suggests that, whatever other misdirection might be at play, Dark Rey is a real entity.
Verging into more speculative territory, it looks like Dark Rey may be standing in the same location as Palpatine's throne, which has been seen in subsequent trailers. Daisy Ridley has described portraying this alternate Rey in glowing terms, but the true context of the story remains to be seen. The appearance of Dark Rey fits surprisingly well alongside a number of different fan theories regarding Rey's origins, Palpatine's return and the endgame of the Sith. At the core of this argument is the assertion that the Rey seen in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi is NOT the original article - but Dark Rey is.
Palpatine Was Obsessed With Creating The Perfect Sith
Emperor Palpatine is making his glorious return in The Rise of Skywalker and the simultaneous debut of Dark Rey is unlikely to be a coincidence. Aside from dominating and ruling the galaxy, Palpatine's main goal throughout the Star Wars series has been to personally create the perfect Sith to serve as a warrior, and examples of this can be found throughout the villain's fictional history. It's strongly implied that Palpatine was the one who manipulated the Force into conceiving Anakin Skywalker, the boy he would later corrupt and turn into Darth Vader.
However, Palpatine didn't stop there. In The Clone Wars, the Emperor begins abducting Force-sensitive children, he had a cloning facility built in the old Star Wars expanded universe and, after Darth Vader's failure at the Battle of Yavin, Palpatine sought to use the Empire's leading scientist to replace Anakin with a cybernetic enforcer. In summary, the Emperor has explored a number of different avenues in his quest to create the perfect warrior, and after Darth Vader turned against him in Return of the Jedi, a new pet project would've been needed. Enter, the original Rey.
There are several places Palpatine could've drawn a new apprentice from. The group of kidnapped children strong in the Force, his cloning experiments or perhaps even his own bloodline. Dark Rey could originate from any of these sources and have been molded into a powerful and obedient new apprentice during the years Palpatine has been in hiding. However, the Sith leader clearly has a strong interest in the benefits of cloning. If Dark Rey is a regular human, Palpatine might've been tempted to clone her in an attempt to create an army of Sith fighters. If she is a completely bio-engineered creation, perhaps derived from Anakin or Palpatine's DNA, then there are likely a number of other Reys (prototypes, failures, etc.) hidden in the basement of an abandoned Empire facility somewhere out in space.
Rey's Parents Are "Nobody"
If the original (dark) Rey has been serving at Palpatine's side as his prized apprentice, what might happen if one of her Force-sensitive clones escaped out into the galaxy? Perhaps this is how Rey ended up abandoned on Jakku; a kindly Stormtrooper or Empire scientist took pity on a child clone and hid her on a desolate planet, rather than leave her to rot along with the other Rey clones or be used as a pawn of the Emperor when she matures into an adult.
This would explain why Rey only has hazy visions of her "parents" saying goodbye on Jakku, as well as accounting for how she's so well-versed in the ways of the Force. If the Rey seen throughout The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi was indeed revealed as a clone, this would also fit neatly alongside what has already been revealed about the character's family history. Kylo Ren described Rey's parents as "nobody," and since he might've known about the Empire's cloning experiments, perhaps the First Order leader was being more literal than he let on. Clones really do have "nobody" as parents, after all. It's also worth noting that when Rey asked the strange Force cave on Ahch-To to reveal her parents, she saw a long line of reflections. At the time, this was seen as a challenge Rey had to get through to reach answers but, once again, it could've been a more literal answer. Lots of Reys = one of many clones.
Both J. J. Abrams and Daisy Ridley have hinted that there's more to Rey's parentage than what was revealed in The Last Jedi, with some fans left disappointed at the anti-climactic reveal. However, it would be far too predictable at this point if Rey was simply a Skywalker or Kenobi descendant. Should Rey be a clone of Palpatine or Anakin instead, this would give fans the ties into the wider Star Wars world they're evidently seeking, but in a more unconventional way.
Star Wars' Themes Of Balance & Destiny
The Rise of Skywalker acts as the conclusion to the Skywalker saga and the culmination of a series that has spanned decades. The overarching theme of Light vs. Dark will undoubtedly be at the center of the finale, as will the role of destiny and fate in a person's individual journey. Rey being a clone would perfectly encapsulate all of these motifs. A light Rey vs. Dark Rey battle could act as a symbolic representation of the ongoing battle between the two sides of the Force in Star Wars mythology, but it would also be in keeping with the franchise's themes of an underdog struggling against a greater power.
If Rey is merely a clone of the original Dark Rey, not only should she be weaker, but she should also be evil. By joining the Resistance and becoming a Jedi, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker sends out the heartwarming message that no person's fate is ever sealed by their DNA and upbringing; that a person can choose their moral path and what they do with their abilities. By overcoming her original dark self, Rey would also prove that, just like the Rebel Alliance, someone with no hope of victory can overcome the odds with enough guts, hard work and courage.