New Star Wars 9 footage teases Rey turning to the Dark Side, but there are a few theories as to why Disney's Star Wars Sequel Trilogy hero is apparently turning evil. Directed by J.J. Abrams, who has co-written the script alongside Chris Terrio, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is bringing to an end the Skywalker Saga that George Lucas started all the way back in 1977.
Although much of Star Wars 9's plot is still being kept under wraps, there are a few key details we know of, including the return of Emperor Palpatine and the wreckage of the second Death Star. Both are important to the new footage for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker shown at D23 Expo this week, which features a duel between Rey and Kylo Ren, and also ends with a shot of Rey wielding a double-bladed red lightsaber while dressed in what appears to be a Sith-type robe, suggesting she has turned to the Dark Side.
Of course, this is Star Wars, and on top of that, it's Abrams, so we shouldn't just take this at face value. There are compelling ways to have Rey turn to the Dark Side, but just having her simply go evil on its own isn't really enough, not least when we've already seen that with Anakin Skywalker. After the Star Wars 9 footage, there are three major reasons why we're seeing Rey join the Dark Side.
Theory 1: Dark Side Rey Is Just A Dream
Rey turning to the Dark Side in Star Wars 9 would be a huge deal, and one of the biggest plot twists in the entire saga - so why, then, would they give that away during the marketing? Sure, trailers have spoiled movies before, but J.J. Abrams and Star Wars are both notoriously spoiler-phobic and instead love to tease and misdirect fans, which is what this Rey twist feels like. Rey wielded a red lightsaber in a TV spot for Star Wars: The Last Jedi too, which ended up being part of her brief team-up with Kylo Ren to take down Snoke's Praetorian Guards, but since this is a different lightsaber, there's likely something different again at play, and the most obvious idea is that it's a dream or vision sequence.
These aren't uncommon, either in Star Wars or general trailer marketing: there's Rey's vision in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Tony's in Avengers: Age of Ultron, and the Knightmare sequence from Batman v Superman. All of these were cases that seemed like potentially big spoilers, but actually ended up being visions/dreams, and there's a great chance that's what is happening in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker too - not least because there's actually a good reason for it to happen.
We know that Palpatine is returning in Star Wars 9, so it wouldn't be a surprise if this vision was created by him in order to torment or control someone. It could be that he is showing it to Kylo Ren, or perhaps even Rey herself. On the flip side, it could be a dream or vision Rey has, much like Luke seeing himself beneath Darth Vader's mask in The Empire Strikes Back. It could be a warning of things to come, if she allows herself to be controlled by Palpatine, rather than something that is set in stone, which feels more plausible as she was so committed to the Light Side by the end of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Since it's in the Star Wars 9 marketing footage, then this feels more likely right now - but then, maybe that's what they want us to think.
Update: StarWars.com updated their story about the D23 presentation to change "...and of course the vision of a Rey with a reticulated red blade, was nothing short of thrilling.” to "...and of course the sight of Rey with a reticulated red blade, was nothing short of thrilling,” lending credence to the dream theory.
Theory 2: Dark Side Rey Is A Clone
A Dark Side clone of Rey being in Star Wars 9 sounds like a crazy idea - but then, so did the return of Emperor Palpatine not so long ago, and it's directly because of that the theory of Evil Rey being a clone feels somewhat plausible. It's not only the kind of thing Palpatine would do, but something he has done before in a sense. Star Wars Legends has a number of Force clones, and since Abrams hasn't been shy in tapping into elements from the EU previously, it's not beyond reason that he'd do so again.
In The Last Command, the final installment of Timothy Zahn's Thrawn Trilogy, we're introduced to Luuke Skywalker, a clone of, as you might've guessed, Luke Skywalker, who was created from cells extracted from the hand Luke lost during his duel with Darth Vader on Bespin. Luuke was a physical replica of Luke, possessing all of the same attributes when it came to dueling and using the Force, but mentally he was a mindless clone who could easily be controlled, and thus used to do the Dark Side's bidding. Dark Empire, another key EU story, was about the resurrection of Palpatine - something Star Wars 9 is sure to explore in some way - by using clone bodies.
In canon, meanwhile, there's, well, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, which gives us both Clone Troopers and reveals that Boba Fett is a clone of Jango. It might not be quite as major as cloning one of the main characters, but it nonetheless means that clones are a) a well-established part of Star Wars canon, and b) something Palpatine has weaponized before. If he can create a clone version of Rey in order to defeat Kylo Ren, or use her to convince him to join his side too, then it's very much the kind of trick he'd pull. It's not beyond major franchises to try this with the main character either (see: Logan), and it'd mean that they can tease it in the marketing, but it still keeps it as a real twist.
Theory 3: Rey Really Does Turn - And There's A Time Jump
J.J. Abrams is a director who likes to mess with audiences, convincing them that what they're seeing isn't what they expect: he spent months telling everyone Benedict Cumberbatch wasn't playing Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness, only for it to turn out that Benedict Cumberbatch was indeed playing Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness. He knows that by including a shot of Rey wielding a red lightsaber in Star Wars 9's marketing, there will be a variety of fan theories as to what it means, and he could be using that to his advantage in order to have Rey genuinely turn to the Dark Side - but that's not where the story ends.
Star Wars 9 ending with Rey turning to the Dark Side would be a bold move, but it'd also be hard to pull off. For starters, it essentially repeats Revenge of the Sith, but it'd also mean there'd surely have to be another trilogy to explore what comes next. Star Wars 10 may happen, but it's far from a sure thing, and it'd be a weird way to sign off the entire Skywalker Saga. If Rey turns, she also has to turn back, so that means she goes to the Dark Side early in the second act, and then comes back to the Light towards the end. But doing that within the space of a few days in-universe is tricky, so the real kicker would be that Rey does turn to the Dark Side - and then turns back after a significant time jump.
Disney revealed a new timeline for the Star Wars Saga at D23, which noticeably did not end with Star Wars 9, but instead runs for another 13 years. There are various possibilities as to what that means, but having a 13-year time jump in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is very much in-play, and would allow for them to cement Rey's turn to the Dark Side. She could join Palpatine's side, and all hope could be lost, before then being brought back to the Light Side - or at least, finding a sense of balance - after such a long period of time, thus giving more weight to her turn and allowing greater consequences to come about from it. It'd also be a means of expanding Disney's Sequel Trilogy, which so far has all happened incredibly quickly. To jump forward into the future, bring Rey back, and then end the Skywalker Saga on a big note of hope feels like a more fitting conclusion to Star Wars 9, and the best way to have this twist - if it really happens - actually work.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019