A Shadow Council tour de Force
Written by: robotical712, Josey, Needs_More_Sprinkles
The vast majority of the fandom feels The Last Jedi has unequivocally shut the door on Rey being the daughter of a legacy character, particularly Luke Skywalker. In this series, we’ll make the case that the movie does not close the door, but in fact makes the Rey Skywalker theory just as viable, and immeasurably more meaningful, satisfying and powerful.
As of the release of The Last Jedi, the fandom now widely regards Rey’s parentage as settled, and Rey Skywalker debunked. This, of course, is due to the scene in which Rey – in response to Kylo’s goading – admits that her parents were ‘nobodies,’ with Kylo claiming that he saw in Rey’s memories that her parents were “junk dealers” who sold Rey “for drinking money” and were now dead in unmarked graves. The most commonly-held interpretation is that Kylo is telling the full truth, as Rey appears to affirm his words, and Luke never shows any obvious sign the two have a prior connection to each other. Further, the popular understanding is Luke’s failure with Ben explains his attitude and behavior and it’s the mentor-student relationship between him and Rey that drives their respective arcs. However, if you examine the movie in the context of its characterization, structure and symbolism, information from the wider Canon and the themes of the saga, it looks far less definitive.
The key problem with the common interpretation is there is little indication Rey and Luke have any real effect on each other. It’s not Rey that convinces him to help her in any capacity, but Artoo replaying Leia’s message. Luke spends the entirety of their brief relationship explaining why the Jedi need to end and that relationship ends in conflict. Again the movie gives the appearance that it’s not Rey who convinces Luke to break his isolation, but a brief talk with Yoda. Even there, the discussion with Yoda would suggest he’s convinced Luke to train her after all, but they never communicate for the rest of the film. Instead, Luke helps save the surviving Resistance and then passes into the Force.
On the other side, Rey comes to Luke seeking answers about who she is and why she has this mysterious power. First, Luke does his level best to avoid her and then grudgingly explains why he sees the Jedi Order as a disastrous failure. After making no progress in her personal exploration on the island and learning Luke has not been entirely honest about his history with Kylo, Rey gets frustrated and leaves for the one person who seems to seems to understand her (with the added hope she can stop the war). Rey then discovers Kylo only values her for her power and serving as a means to dispose of his master. As Kylo states, Rey has no obvious purpose in this story and she does little to move the respective players with her own actions.
As an alternative, we present two interpretations that puts Rey front and center to the narrative and resolves many of the standing questions and strangeness of the plot:
- Not only is Rey Luke’s daughter and he full well knows this or at the very least strongly suspects it when they first meet.
- Luke not only knows, but is doing his utmost to keep her from knowing her heritage that led to the ruin of every other member of the Skywalker family and is trying to dissuade her from the Jedi path, which he considers to be the root cause of that ruin.
- Rey’s appearance at the end of the Force Awakens throws Luke into a state of existential crisis.
- His heart knows that she’s his long lost child but his mind refuses to believe that the daughter he thought long dead could have returned to him. This inner turmoil is reflected in how throughout the film Luke oscillates between being drawn to Rey and rejecting her.
In the posts to follow, we’ll explore the movie and larger story in depth from these perspectives.