Tag Archives: Star Wars

I Still Think Rey is a Skywalker: Here’s Why

So now that we have all seen Star Wars: The Last Jedi (you have, haven’t you? If not, stop now! Here there be spoilers!).

Now that we’ve all seen it, we know that Rey’s parents are allegedly ‘nobodies’. The director, Rian Johnson, even came out and said this is true, and he thinks the idea that someone can come from nowhere to greatness is an amazing story and very Star Wars. Well, it is a good story, but it is not and never has been the central Star Wars story—unless you count Anakin, except he didn’t really come from nobodies, did he—he came from the Force itself. Or unless you count the fact that Luke appeared to come from nobodies, but in fact didn’t. The only “nobodies” in Star Wars movies have all been non-Force users.

If we assume Johnson is telling us the truth, then Episodes VII and VIII are almost as monumentally poorly written as Episodes I – III. Gasp. I can already hear your outrage. But wait—if Rey is not a Skywalker, I have good, solid writing reasons for my assertion. If.

Johnson has also asserted he inherited no storylines from J.J. Abrams. Now that’s either a bald lie or a furphy—skirting the edge of truth, because he didn’t inherit the storylines from Abrams, but from Disney.

Foreshadowing is the reason I don’t believe him (read here if you need to know more about foreshadowing). You need to know how the story ends before you start in order to successfully foreshadow, and The Force Awakens is full of foreshadowing.

So when Johnson tells me he inherited nothing from Abrams, I call bullshit. All that foreshadowing has to come to something—otherwise, fans will feel extremely ripped off. And that’s why I say it will have been a monumentally bad piece of writing. You don’t mess with your audience like that.

So let’s take a look at my reasons. Bear with me, this is long, but I promise you it’s good!

What About Kylo Ren’s Assertion Rey’s Parents Are Nobodies?

I think Kylo Ren lied. I don’t believe this lie will be “retro-fitted”. I believe it is and always was a lie and it makes perfect sense in the moment in which it was told. Why? Because Ren is trying to convince Rey to turn to the dark side. Consider these arguments:

“Hey, Rey, I know you’re a Skywalker and all, but come be my evil co-ruler?”

“They were filthy junk traders. Sold you off for drinking money. They’re dead in a pauper’s grave in the Jakku desert. You come from nothing. You’re nothing, but you’re not nothing to me.”

See how that second argument isolates her and attempts to make her weak so she makes a bad choice, as well as attracting her to Ren because he’s offering her meaning and validation? The first argument (assuming it is true) gives her reasons not to turn in her present circumstances. She’s a war hero’s daughter, which war hero also happens to be an amazing Jedi, and most of her family is still alive at this point. She can have what she’s always longed for: a family. The truth would make her stronger.

So, if Rey is a Skywalker, Ren has absolutely no motivation to tell her the truth. It does not serve his purposes, and so he has no credibility. There is no good reason to even consider it might be true.

Because, how would Ren even know? We’ve seen nothing to suggest he has any inside knowledge. And Rey doesn’t know either—there’s no good reason for us to believe she knows. She fears (Wizard’s First Rule: a person will believe something because they are afraid it is true or want it to be true), but she doesn’t know, and what she saw in the mirror told her nothing.

The mirror only showed her reflections of herself when she asked to see her parents—possibly reflections of her fear? I don’t see why it should be taken to mean her parents were nobodies—even if they were drunks, they had faces which could have been shown to her, even if the faces meant nothing. The fact the mirror shows her only herself does not support the conclusion her parents’ were nobodies, only that the mirror cannot or will not show her. If it cannot, that means nothing. If it will not—why? If her parents were drunks, is there a reason to withhold that knowledge? One could argue it’s better she is forearmed. More likely, though, the faces would mean nothing and tell her nothing. No harm done. But if her father is someone she knows, like the man she depends upon for her Jedi training, the revelation could compromise her focus.

Also, if Rey’s parents were drunks in such desperate need of money to fuel their alcoholism, why do they have a spaceship? We saw this spaceship in Rey’s vision of the past when she was left on Jakku. You could maybe argue that the ship means more to them, but if they are so consumed by their alcoholism they would sell their child (after about three or four years, judging by her age) a) why didn’t they sell her earlier and b) why are they still functional enough to be operating a ship. The fact they still have a spaceship means they still have other resources they can sell – their services, to start with, the ship itself… they are not scraping the bottom of the barrel where they sell a well-looked after child they’ve had for three or four years. And, at risk of being really horrible, there are more lucrative places you could sell a girl-child than to a junkyard.

Ren also said her parents are dead on Jakku—but why would they necessarily be on Jakku if they have a spaceship (and we saw them leave)? In fact, if they sold her, they almost certainly wouldn’t be. Why would they stay? As Luke says, Jakku’s basically nowhere.

Back to the Foreshadowing

Here are the things that suggest to me that Rey is a Skywalker, and that mean we are all going to feel supremely ripped off if she is not:

Foreshadowing in Episode VII

Luke’s Lightsaber

The lightsaber (which belonged to both Luke and Anakin) calls to Rey. A lightsaber is not inherently a thing of the Force. It is a tool used by certain Force-users (Jedi and the Sith) but does not itself use the Force. So the only thing about the lightsaber that could conceivably call to her is an emotional connection because it belonged in the past to relatives. Indeed, all the visions she experiences through the Force when she touches it are of herself or Skywalkers. Why both, as well? If the saber has no connection to her in any way, why would touching it induce her to have a vision of herself at all? Why not just the men who carried it before her?

Maz says to Rey that “That lightsaber was Luke’s, and his father’s before him, and now it calls to you.” She is literally making the same point I made above, in dialogue—for the viewers who didn’t make the connection themselves, that the lightsaber has been passed down in a lineage that ends in Rey.

Maz’s Conversation with Rey

Apart from talking about the lightsaber, Maz also speaks to Rey about her past. She says: “Whomever you are waiting for on Jakku, they are never coming back, but there’s someone who still could.”

This is a little convoluted grammatically. Firstly, I assume that “whomever you are waiting for” refers to the person who dropped Rey off, as she doesn’t seem to have any clear memories of the people, only the fact they left her there. Also, because if we make the people Rey is waiting for less specific (to mean anyone she cares for), how do you distinguish the “someone who still could” from “whomever you are waiting for”. Which is to say, if the people Rey is waiting for is non-specific, why is the person “who still could” not part of the “whomever you are waiting for”?

Because of this I read “whomever you are waiting for” to refer to the person (or persons) who dropped Rey off. The full statement could mean whoever dropped her off isn’t coming back, but they are still alive and capable—they just won’t.

That’s hard to make sense of. If we assume Luke or Leia is her parent, and dropped her off, we know they are still alive, but why would either one abandon her there permanently? I can’t come up with a good answer. It does fit with her parents not being Skywalkers (so far) but I’ll come back to this.

An alternative interpretation is that the person who dropped her off isn’t coming back (because they are dead or don’t want to come back) but there is still someone else important from her past for her to find.

On that interpretation, let’s try it differently. Her mother dropped her off, she’s now dead, so she can’t come back, but there’s still someone alive who could come (her father), but he won’t, because he doesn’t know she exists (or that’s she still alive, or where she is). This works well if Luke is her father.

This doesn’t work as well for Leia being her mother. If her father dropped her off, and her father is Han Solo, why would Maz say “they are never coming back”? This makes no sense in the context that not only is Han still alive at this juncture, but Rey is literally travelling with him. If Han isn’t the father, who is? Han and Leia were still together when Rey was born. We know this because she is 19, and he is 29 (or possibly 23, on some interpretations), and he turned to the Dark Side when he was 23 (or 17). While Leia and Han already had marital problems, it was his turning to the Dark Side that was the catalyst for them to split up. This means they only separated 6 years before The Force Awakens. That also means that Leia isn’t the mother unless she had an affair. It also means Rey and Kylo are not twins, but might, possibly, be siblings—but there’d need to be some other explanation of Maz’s statement here than I’ve thought of. I’m not ruling it out, just marking it down as less likely.

I also acknowledge that Maz’s statement could also be consistent with drunk parents who sold her and have no intention of coming back (I told you I’d come back to this). But, on that interpretation, who is the person who might still come back? I got nothing. In short, Maz’s statement and Kylo Ren’s statements are irreconcilable. They can’t both be telling the truth—and who do you think is more believable?

Maz then adds: “The belonging you seek is not behind you, it is ahead.” You could read this to mean her family is dead, but she can seek a different kind of belonging in the future e.g. with the Resistance, as a Jedi. Except this doesn’t make sense with the “but there is someone who still could” statement, which suggests a very personal past connection—that is to say, you can’t “come back” unless you were there in the first place. So the person who “could come back” has to be someone from her past, not people she hasn’t yet met. The alternative is to read this as the person who could still come back is someone she never had a relationship with in the past e.g. a father who never knew her. She never had this belonging in the past, it’s still in the future, but such a person could still “come back” because although she never had a sense of belonging with them, they were still part of her past. This interpretation is internally consistent.

Interestingly, when Maz says “there is someone who still could”, Rey says “Luke”. She murmurs it, so softly I don’t think I even half-caught it until my third viewing. She’s feeling something that has made her say that, and it’s probably the same emotions that have called the saber. I don’t think she even realises she has said it, she’s almost in a trance, and there is nothing to follow that acknowledges that she knows she ever said this (or that Maz heard her). She does not at any point behave like she thinks Luke is her father, but she did say his name. Is this what Daisy Ridley was referring to when she said Rey’s parents were revealed in Episode VII?

Rey’s Imagery When She Tries to Sleep

Skellig Michael, UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kerry, Ireland. Star Wars The Force Awakens Scene filmed on this Island. wild atlantic way

Ren says to her that when she tries to sleep, she imagines a vast ocean with an island in it. He’s talking about how lonely she is, and I suppose an island is the classic symbol of loneliness—possibly so classic it’s cliched.

But there is actually an island in a great ocean in these movies (coincidence much?), so perhaps this detail is deliberate rather than totally random. What if Rey imagines this island in the ocean because on some subconscious level she retains a connection with Luke, her father? She’s not aware of it, she doesn’t understand this image comes to her from someone else, and she could never tell you where it was—but nevertheless the image has come to her from Luke’s mind. This could be the most deliberate and perfect form of foreshadowing—so subtle you don’t even realise it’s significant until she’s facing Luke on Ahch-To.

Leia and Rey’s Relationship

Rey and Leia embrace after Han’s death—and they don’t know each other!

I missed this the first time, but realised it the second time around. Leia rushes to hug her, but neither of them can know who they other is. They’ve never met, and there’s nothing to suggest either knows what the other looks like, so they are essentially hugging a complete and utter stranger. Why would they do that? It’s counter-intuitive (especially when Chewie is there for Leia to hug instead).

One explanation could be that Leia felt Han die, Rey saw Han die, and they unconsciously, on some level, through the Force, recognise each other as kin, and in this moment of extremity, they reach out to one another.

For me, this one is the most compelling. There is no rational explanation for this action otherwise.

Note that we never see anything on-screen afterwards to hint at a special relationship that would explain this moment either.

The Lightsaber ‘Chooses’ Rey

The lightsaber goes to Rey not Ren. Both are powerful Force-users, but Ren is better trained. You could argue that Ren is Dark Side-tainted, and that’s why the saber rejects him but a) this is the lightsaber that Vader used to kill Jedi younglings, you could already argue it is itself tainted and b) even if that might be the case, Ren is also a Skywalker, so he has an emotional/familial connection to it as well.

Is Rey’s light-side, untrained strength enough to overcome all of that? Or is there some other explanation? Curious minds wonder….

All of this is basically screaming she’s a Skywalker, and I’m not even considering the plotline parallels (which I consider irrelevant and secondary to the above foreshadowing). At this stage she’s either Luke’s or Leia’s daughter, and I’ll go Luke because I don’t believe Leia could stand face to face with her own daughter and not know it, or conceal it, even if she thought the girl needed to be protected or was dead or lost.

Foreshadowing in The Last Jedi

Then we come to Episode VIII, where suddenly we are supposed to believe she is a nobody. Luke says to her “Who are you?” repeatedly, so he clearly doesn’t know who she is—but that does not mean she isn’t his daughter. Plenty of men have children they don’t know about.

Additionally, no one has mentioned any kind of long-term love-interest for Luke, so if he had a daughter it was with a woman with whom he had a brief fling, or who left him, which increases the likelihood he would never know about the child.

In a bizarre twist, it is possible that Ren told us the truth inside a lie—maybe Rey’s mother was a drunk who sold her off. It’s just that her father was not, and had no idea of her existence. This would be the most evil and clever way for Rian Johnson to have told us all the absolute truth with a straight face while still throwing us a red herring. It’s so clever I wish I’d thought of it (oh wait, I just did). Maybe it’s too clever. Are you that clever, Mr Johnson?

Luke’s Comments to Rey

Luke tells Rey he has never met anyone as strong in the Force as her except Kylo Ren. Now I appreciate he may be trying to explain his fear, or drive home the importance of the strength, but we didn’t need to hear him say it. We already saw her beat Ren with no training. She is clearly just as strong. The only reason to draw this immediate parallel is to draw a connection between Ren and Rey i.e. they are both so strong because they are Skywalkers.

Kylo Ren and Rey Are Connected

Snoke later takes credit for this, but there is no precedent for this in the movies. The only time we have seen people have a connection before is when they are family. Vader senses Luke in Episode V, Luke and Leia sense each other, Leia senses Han die (OK, not direct family, but a pretty strong emotional connection). There are no examples of involuntary communication between non-related Force-users (the closest is that Obi-Wan felt a great disturbance in the Force when Alderaan was destroyed, but this makes sense given how many people died, and whose energy therefore changed, and the Forceis the energy of everything).

I have no doubt that Snoke may have leveraged this connection to his own ends, encouraged it, forced the connection wider, but I do not believe he created it. Additionally, Rey and Ren have a final vision of each other after Snoke’s death. You could argue that Snoke opened the connection, and once opened it remained open after his death—but I would argue in that case he had built on something that was already there.

The reason I say that is because if Snoke was connecting them, without something already there to connect them, he would need to use the Force each and every time to do so (otherwise, how else would he make this connection happen?). Snoke did project himself to Ren, but see how that is an active use of the Force by him? Once he is dead, he can’t do that.

Alternatively, Ren and/or Rey are doing it unwittingly. Now both Ren and Rey could use the Force to project themselves to someone else, even if they are not related, but remember they are doing this unconsciously, even against their will, and very powerfully—it one instance, Ren returns to awareness wet from the rain on Ach-To. I can’t think of a reason why they would unconsciously and unwillingly get themselves trapped inside such a connection unless it’s because of some deeper kinship to one another, something that persistently draws them together—such as a family relationship.

Rey Feels Luke Die

And speaking of family relationships, both Leia and Rey feel Luke die. Now we have previously established that Force-users can feel their family. We have also established that Force-users can feel non-Force-using family members (when Leia feels Han die) so this is an intrinsically family connection enabled by the Force, not an ability for Force users to sense each other. We have never seen non-related Force-users sense each other. So for Rey to feel Luke die, she must be related.

So on the one hand Rian Johnson is telling us that Kylo Ren told Rey the truth, but on the other hand his movie still contains clue consistent with the notion that Rey is a Skywalker. Either Mr Johnson is leading us terribly astray for a lark (highly possible) or, in his eagerness to place his stamp on the movie, he has indulged in some horrible writing which means all the foreshadowing in the previous movie and his own will come to an unsatisfying end. And if it’s the latter, that’s some really shitty writing—because as you can see, there’s a lot of foreshadowing, in both movies.

Luke or Leia?

So, if Rey is a Skywalker, whose daughter? As mentioned previously, I favour Luke for the simple fact only a man can have a child he knows nothing about. Knowing she had, or had had, a daughter, I doubt Leia could have come face to face with Rey and, given their Force connection, not known. Also, I outlined above places were the foreshadowing is less consistent with Leia as mother than Luke as father.

That said, Leia didn’t get written out in The Last Jedi, which is surprising given the situation with Carrie Fisher. You would think it would almost be a foregone conclusion that she would be written out—so… Maybe there was a reason she couldn’t die yet? Maybe we have the problem of Leia in Episode IX because Leia is a Rey’s mother.

Hero From Nothing Theme

Just to be clear, I have no issue with the ‘hero from nothing’ theme that Johnson has asserted (falsely or not) that he was embracing in The Last Jedi. I think that’s a great story. It’s just not the story that these movies have been telling up until now.

I know some people have been embracing the “you are a nobody” idea to say that the story is that you don’t have to be a Skywalker to be special—anybody can rise to greatness. To some degree, the Star Wars franchise has been very much about that—except as it pertains to the Skywalkers. The final scene of The Last Jedi has been used to support this theory, saying here is another nobody, and he also can use the Force.

So I feel I should comment on this briefly. Firstly, no one has ever said that only Skywalkers can use the Force. There are many examples on the light and dark side of non-Skywalkers using the Force. However, we do know that the Skywalkers are particularly strong. On his death-bed, Yoda says to Luke: “Luke… the Force runs strong in your family. Pass on what you have learned.”

It’s not that only the Skywalkers can use the Force. It’s that Skywalkers have caused a lot of grief for the galaxy (first through Vader, and most lately through Ren) and it has largely been left to Skywalkers to fix it. This is a technique used in writing to heighten the tension—there is more at stake when you aren’t just trying to save the galaxy, but save it from your evil father. Face it, the original trilogy wouldn’t have been as strong if Luke hadn’t been Vader’s son, if he’d just been some nobody who’d turned into a hero. You can have heroes from nobodies, but you also need conflicted heroes with a personal stake—what’s Rey’s personal stake if she’s not a Skywalker?

Secondly, I don’t think the scene at the end is saying anything about becoming a hero from nothing. The movie is called The Last Jedi, and Luke is the last Jedi. Except then he leaves Rey, and she has the Jedi texts, and now she’s the last Jedi. Except, there are still other Force-users out there in the galaxy. She’s the last, but she doesn’t have to be—it doesn’t have to end here.

Lastly, the Rebellion has been left decimated, and needs to rebuild, and I think this scene is showing us two other things: there are sympathisers out there, and some of them could become powerful indeed.

Note: I have not looked much to the books in building this theory (mostly only for details like the characters’ ages) and that’s for two reasons: firstly, the books are no longer accepted canon, so their reliability is questionable (yes, even to the extent I did use them) and secondly, most of the viewers of the movies haven’t read the books (like it or not) and so any and all clues need to be wholly self-contained within the movies for maximum effectiveness.

Why Do So Many Movie Sequels Suck? (And Others Don’t)

Do you know why many sequels are dreadful attempts to live up to the glory of the original? Because they are tacked on at the last minute. It’s true that this often primarily to make money off the back of something that was wildly successful, but it’s not that money-hungry motivation that makes them suck per se (although it is a cause of the problem).

The reason this last-minute addition of a further instalment makes them suck is that it means when the first movie was written, the second instalment wasn’t anticipated. This means there is nothing in the first movie that points to, indicates, or even really allows for the second. If you’re lucky, there might be an opening you can leverage for a story. If you’re unlucky, you make something up (and this is how suddenly characters wind up with family members that were never mentioned, or they didn’t know existed).

Movies like this were not written as two small stories inside a larger story, but as two separate and independent stories that happen to be about the same characters, and which might only be loosely connected.

This makes the series very episodic, and while you can make that work—generally not as well.

TV is doing fantastically well at the moment, to the point where people are saying TV is better than Hollywood. At the same time, have you noticed how some of the best TV is no longer episodic? Each season has a story arc. Each season (and sometimes across seasons) is a complete story. Each episode advances that story but may not be a complete story in and of itself, or even if it is, it still contributes to the larger story.

What are some of the best movie series? Star Wars (the original trilogy), Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and you’ll have others as well. There’s also Game of Thrones, although it’s a TV series, but despite the naturally episodic nature of, well, episodes, each episode is clearly part of a larger whole. The genius of GoT is pretty well-acknowledged by now. What do they all have in common? All the stories were planned out in a complete arc (mostly in book form first, in which case the adaptation stays true to the arc described in the books).

When you don’t do this, when you have an unexpected sequel, it has a couple of effects:

Story Arc

Story arc is the way a story unfolds—it’s generally the beginning, middle and end. A good series will have a story arc across each instalment, but another story arc across the whole series—that is, story elements introduced in earlier instalments that aren’t resolved until later instalments. Like the mystery of Luke’s father introduced in A New Hope which wasn’t resolved until The Empire Strikes Back. That’s story arc.

When you have tacked-on sequels, there is no story arc that stretches across the first, second, and any subsequent instalments—at the end of the first movie, the story arc was complete. This means there is usually nothing making the viewer hunger for that second instalment, no mysteries left unsolved, and no loose ends.

Character development

If a first instalment was so successful, it probably means there was some juicy character development. The challenge of a sequel, any sequel, is how do you trump that? How do you raise the stakes and hurt the character in new ways to make them grow in new directions?

The challenge of an unplanned sequel is that there is likely very little left at the end of the first instalment to work with—the character’s issues are resolved, their past revealed, their inner obstacles overcome. This often means the character doesn’t grow in meaningful ways.

Foreshadowing

Wait, what is foreshadowing?

Your average moviegoer with no writing experience can’t explain what that is, but they recognise it when they see it. Foreshadowing is when you drop clues in advance of the plot twists. It’s the things that throw viewers into a frenzy of speculation. It’s also the same things that, even if missed as advance clues, when the big reveal is made, you can look back at those innocuous things and go “Ah…. I see how it makes sense.” Foreshadowing happens within instalments and, in series that were pre-planned, across instalments.

The correlation, of course, is that there in a tacked-together series, there is no foreshadowing in the first instalment to give clues to the viewers about how a sequel with pan out, nothing to entice us forward and, when something is revealed in the sequel, nothing to give us that satisfactory ‘Aha!’ moment. This is why the surprise family members are a surprise (in all the wrong kinds of ways)—because nothing in the first movie even hinted that the character had such family.

Foreshadowing is why you need to know the story’s ending before you start. If you don’t, you can’t successfully foreshadow it. When you write instalment one with no expectation of instalment two, the end is the end of instalment one, because of course you can’t foreshadow an unplanned sequel. You can, if you are really clever and really lucky, find some small detail in the original to use as inspiration, and then you kind of “retrofit” foreshadowing, but you can only use what’s already there (and there might not be much). Otherwise you’re limited to foreshadowing, within an instalment, the events of that instalment.

Series with foreshadowing across instalments are better, because it builds reader expectations and suspense, and the resolution is always more satisfying and complete. Foreshadowing is what breeds the kind of wild speculation we see with Game of Thrones and the latest Star Wars series (more about that next week—seen all the speculation about Rey’s parents? I’ll give you my take). Fans love it, they thrive on it, they will share their theories, and they will hang on waiting to find out what will happen. And when they do, it’s deliciously satisfying.

So that’s it, why sequels generally suck. It’s not because you can never relive the genius of the first movie, it’s because no one planned how to successfully build an equally good second instalment off the back of the first.

Tell me about your most hated sequel! Or, alternatively, your favourite!