While The Force Awakens left us with many questions: Who is Supreme Leader Snoke? What will become of the still injured Finn? Did Captain Phasma escape Starkiller Base? But the most obvious and powerful question introduced so far is the question of Rey’s parentage. Who are her parents? Theories abound, ranging from “She’s a nobody,” to “She’s a Kenobi” to the most controversial “She was conceived by the Force, like Anakin Skywalker.” While any (or none) of these could be the answer, I think the most obvious one is the the answer we find implied through the course of the film: Rey is the daughter of Luke Skywalker.
While this is considered by many to be the most obvious theory that doesn’t necessarily make it unlikely. I’d like to take a moment and review not only the evidence based on the events of the film, but also the thematic evidence – the subtle hints and nods placed with the film which will allow the audience to accept Rey as the third generation of Skywalkers in the Star Wars franchise.
But first, let’s look at the obvious similarities between Rey and Luke Skywalker. Both live lives under surrogate parents. Luke is still in the custody of his Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru in A New Hope and in The Force Awakens we that while Rey is introduced to us as an independent character she did at some point reside in the custody of Unkarr Plutt. We can see Rey being placed with him during her flashback at Maz Kanata’s temple/bar. We see both of them raised on a desert world. We see Plutt’s arm in the shot where she is crying out for the ship to come back. But these things could all be coincidental. Similar backgrounds don’t necessarily denote familial ties.
But, let’s look a bit deeper at Rey’s life on Jakku. She lives in a crashed AT-AT walker. While its ridiculously unlikely that Luke himself destroyed said walker, it still immediately reminds the audience of his heroics during the Battle of Hoth. When she sits there she fiddles with her findings and takes the most interest in an old Galactic Civil War era X-Wing pilot’s helment. Again, a reminder of Luke. This is the director and writer reinforcing the connection between not only the classic and the new trilogy, but the specific characters. Even in Rey’s home we see a doll which is stitched to look like an X-Wing Pilot. Likely this is one of the few surviving relics from her childhood. Again, it hints at Skywalker’s legacy as a pilot.
Her connection to Skywalker is reinforced by her natural gifts. She’s a natural pilot to a degree that clearly shows some Force-based affinity. Anakin was the only human had the reflexes to race pods and Luke was able to go from hot-rodding a landspeeder to flying a complex military starfighter (the X-Wing) with little to no training. Rey hops into the cockpit of a “piece of garbage” ship and is able to pull of phenomenal maneuvers as if she was born behind the stick.
When Rey and her friends arrive on Takodana and seek the aid of Maz Kanata, she is drawn to Luke’s lightsaber. Maz even says it “calls to her.” At a touch, Rey sees visions of Luke’s duel on Cloud City, hears the voice of Obi-Wan Kenobi, and images of Luke Skywalker mourning the death of his students before a fire. These all harken to something more than a simple vision of the Force. All these images are of places, events, and people important in the life of young Luke. This is more than a simple vision. These are images of her legacy. Of a past she does not yet know. The Force is built on these connections of deep emotion and legacies of the blood.
Rey even catches glimpses of the future, though this is presented in a more subtle fashion. When Kylo Ren is interrogating her he sees images of a vast ocean. This is hinting at Ahch-To, the sea swept planet Rey will soon visit when she finally discovers Luke’s location. As Yoda said when Luke had his own visions: “It is the future you see.”
The strongest evidence of Rey being Luke’s daughter comes in her fight with Kylo Ren. It opens with a blatant call back to The Empire Strikes Back. Rey yanks the Skywalker Lightsaber from the snow in a life-or-death situation. Just as Luke did on Hoth over thirty years ago. But more so than that is the thematic evidence. When Rey ignites the lightsaber she is embracing her place in the galaxy and her heritage as a Jedi. The film’s score swells – but not with Rey’s Theme heard earlier in the film. Instead we here Luke’s Theme. The Skywalker imagery is overwhelming. Add to this the fact that the novelization features a small snippet not present in the film: As Rey ignites the blade Kylo Ren says “It is you.” He knows the truth of her legacy.
When the battle is over and Starkiller Base destroyed, the Resistance pilots and the heroes return to D’kar. Rey is greeted by General Leia Organa. Leia doesn’t greet her as a stranger, but instead as an old friend of family member. A warm hug and a comforting smile. The kind of greeting given to a family member, perhaps? Soon after, the location of Luke is revealed.
But why not send Leia? Would not Luke’s own sister be the one to draw him out from hiding? No. Skywalker has turned away from his friends, his sister, and the galaxy at large. He has been hiding for years. What could draw him out? Whose words could have an impact? Would not the pleading of his own daughter have a stronger impact than that of even his own sister? Is this why Rey went instead of Leia?
Her final confrontation with Luke himself is the final evidence of their relationship. When Luke sees her his face is not painted with surprise. Instead it seems as if he was almost waiting for her. As if he knew she was coming. When she draws forth the lightsaber and holds it before him, Luke’s face is suddenly pained. Why? Perhaps Luke hoped to break the dark legacy of the Skywalker bloodline. His own father had fallen to the Dark Side. His nephew was seduced to the service of evil? Would he not go to any lengths to see his daughter protected from the same destiny, even if it meant leaving her on a backwater world in the care of one so self-serving as Plutt? Who, after all, would think a scavenger girl could be the son of the mythic Jedi hero of the Rebel Alliance?
But as Obi-Wan told Luke long ago: “You cannot escape your destiny.”
And destiny has found Luke Skywalker in the form of his daughter – a Rey of hope.