(Guest article by Matthew W. Quinn)
One of the great mysteries of the Star Wars “sequel trilogy” is the parentage of heroine Rey (Daisy Ridley). All she remembers is that her parents left her on the isolated world of Jakku and fled, and she has been waiting for many years for their return. That they’re not coming back is something she learned to accept in The Force Awakens, but her desire to learn more about them is part of The Last Jedi. There the evil Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) claims they were vagrants who sold her for beer money and she’s “nothing,” but given the fact he’s a wannabe Sith Lord, he might not be the most trustworthy source.
The following discussion contains spoilers for The Rise of Skywalker, so be ye warned…
The new movie reveals that her parents weren’t really “nobodies” after all – her father was the fugitive son of none other than Emperor Palpatine. Although some fans had noticed that Rey’s lightsaber technique resembles Palpatine’s from Revenge of the Sith, the fact she’s Palpatine’s granddaughter raises a lot more questions than it solves.
For starters, if Palpatine had a son, why isn’t he ever referenced in the original trilogy or the prequels? The son of the Senator from Naboo might not attract a lot of attention, but as the Hunter Biden-Ukraine situation shows, the son of the Supreme Chancellor definitely would. And when said chancellor makes himself Emperor, said son is a logical candidate for succession if Palpatine dies. And given how Darth Vader is the Sith Apprentice to Palpatine’s Sith Master, he probably expects to be Palpatine’s successor. Palpatine having a child at all isn’t some minor bit of trivia, but something that realistically would have come up earlier. This is a Chekhov’s Gun that should have been revealed before it was fired or, to put it in cruder TVTropes terms, an Ass Pull.
I will concede that one positive result of the Palpatine connection is the character moment it gives Leia. In The Rise of Skywalker, Leia trains Rey in the Jedi techniques she herself had learned from Luke, even though, according to Luke’s shade, she knew Rey was Palpatine’s granddaughter. This reflects well on Leia that she will not condemn someone for their ancestor’s crimes, especially given how the revelation she was Vader’s daughter ended her political career in the new-canon novel Bloodline. However, her not being a massive hypocrite is a relatively low bar to jump.
It’s easy to criticize without offering solutions. Here’s an idea for Rey’s parentage that allows for the Palpatine connection, gives Leia an even better character moment, and gives Rey conflict about whether or not she’s somehow tainted or prone to the Dark Side.
Rey isn’t Palpatine’s granddaughter. She’s actually his gender-flipped clone or another type of being created from his DNA — either way, some kind of Sith science project. The cult that raised Palpatine from the dead created her, perhaps as an alternative body or some kind of blood sacrifice to revive him. Rey’s “parents” weren’t really her parents, but scientists from the project who had become attached to her and bolted, leaving her on Jakku while they fled in a different direction as a distraction. Unfortunately, they were killed in some kind of starship accident (and so the cultists assumed Rey was dead too) and so Rey was abandoned. Kylo Ren finds this out from his dealings with Palpatine’s cult or perhaps some kind of independent espionage on his part. This would explain why she flees to Ach-To and destroys the stolen TIE fighter to strand herself there — she views herself as tainted, something the shade of Luke has to talk her out of. Having an evil man as the grandfather you never knew doesn’t make you have visions of ruling from the Sith Throne and cause you to strand yourself in the middle of nowhere, but thinking you’re some kind of Sith science project intended to help revive the most evil and reviled man in galactic history just might.
This also gives Leia an even better character moment. Given all the crap she’s gotten due to being Darth Vader’s daughter, she doesn’t seem like the sort who would mistrust or mistreat someone due to their parentage. But Rey as a clone of Palpatine is a completely different matter — given how clones are treated as expendable cannon fodder during the prequel era, people might fear Leia would not view Rey as human, much like how droids are treated as property despite being clearly thinking beings. Furthermore, in this scenario Rey isn’t a blood relative of her greatest enemy who never knew her grandfather but is some kind of Sith black magic spinoff of him. The fact Leia judges Rey on the content of her character and views her as an ally (and given all the hugging possibly the daughter she never had) rather than a monster or potential threat shows even better Leia’s kindness and wisdom.
–Matthew W. Quinn is the author of the Lovecraftian horror novel The Thing in the Woods and the horror-comedy novella Little People, Big Guns. His military fantasy novel Battle for the Wastelands, which Jack blurbed, is available HERE on Amazon.