NB: The following contains speculation and possible spoilers – if the speculation’s correct – for Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Oh, and inevitable spoilers for The Force Awakens. And a mention of TV’s Lost.
There’s a moment at the end of the 70s martial arts classic Enter The Dragon where, during the final fight between our hero Bruce Lee and the villainous Mr Han, the latter ducks into a seemingly huge room full of mirrors. Lee, surrounded by infinite corridors of his own reflection, turns this way and that as Mr Han, a spiteful claw attached to his wrist, takes cowardly swipes at Lee’s torso.
Since Star Wars: The Force Awakens came out in 2015, trying to navigate our brains around the bewildering number of fan theories dotted around the web has left us feeling a bit like Bruce Lee, but without the toned muscles or Mr Han jabbing at us with his little claws. The theories surrounding The Force Awakens seem to stretch off into infinity, and we’re left bumping around from one idea to the other, unable to distinguish between truth and reality.
Who are Rey’s parents, and why would they leave their young, defenceless daughter on an inhospitable desert planet like Jakku? Who is the evil Snoke, and what are the significance – if any – of those prominent scars all over his face? How did Rey become so powerful so quickly? And so on.
In the two years since The Force Awakens’ release, we’ve seen just about every permutation of theory imaginable, so it’s inevitable that some are more outlandish than others. Snoke is Jar Jar Binks, who was a Sith lord all along! No, Snoke is Mace Windu, who survived Palpatine’s attack in Revenge Of The Sith and has since turned to the Dark Side (never mind that Snoke looks nothing at all like Samuel L Jackson). Rey is a Skywalker! It stands to reason. Don’t be daft, another theory says, she’s obviously a Kenobi. A more far-fetched fan theory suggests that Rey’s the reincarnation of Anakin Skywalker, which will lead, the thinking goes, to Luke delivering the shock line in The Last Jedi: “You are MY father.”
Put a Force Awakens character name followed by the word ‘is’ into Google, and the auto-complete will do the rest: Rey is reincarnated. Rey is a Skywalker. Rey is Obi Wan’s grand daughter. Hux is Snoke. Snoke is Darth Plagueis. Darth Plagueis is Anakin’s father. Round and round it goes, like a snake swallowing its own tail.
This year, at least a few of the nagging questions are set to be answered in The Last Jedi, Rian Johnson’s eagerly-awaited sequel to The Force Awakens. It’s all but certain, for example, that Rey’s lineage will be revealed in this December’s chapter: a couple of months ago, Rey actress Daisy Ridley told Yahoo Japan, “To be honest, I was very moved. I think it will be a moving moment for everyone else as well.”
Admittedly, that interview’s translated from Japanese, so it’s possible that something’s been lost in translation. But it’s clear just from watching the trailers that The Last Jedi has a dramatic reveal or two in the offing. Indeed, there are some shots and exchanges in the preview footage that have lent a little weight to existing fan theories; far from embracing Rey as his new Padawan, Luke seems actively frightened of her powers in the brief scenes we’ve seen so far. Some Star Wars fans, such as this one by Sylo, which makes a convincing argument for Rey being some kind of descendant from Palpatine.
When Luke says, “I’ve seen this raw strength only once before,” it’s widely suggested that he’s referring to Kylo Ren, the villainous little brat who ruined Luke’s Jedi school in murderous fashion years earlier. But could it be that he’s thinking back to his fateful confrontation with the Emperor at the end of Return Of The Jedi? This, together with earlier observations that Rey’s fighting style matches Palpatine’s in Revenge Of The Sith, and that her theme music carries faint echoes of the Emperor’s, have all been cited as evidence for the Palpatine theory. It’s one of the more convincing arguments we’ve encountered so far, certainly, and it’s just the kind of big, rug-pull reveal that’ll leave the internet chattering in its wake.
Then again, there are all kinds of other possibilities, too. As our own Star Wars expert John Moore pointed out in a recent conversation, one of Rey’s lines in The Force Awakens was, in essence, “I’m no one”. Could it be that, in the grand Star Wars scheme of things, she’s telling the truth? One theory suggests that a pair of minor characters in the new videogame Star Wars Battlefront II might in fact be Rey’s true parents (we won’t say who they are so we don’t spoil the game). It’s not an outlandish thought, but then again, fans might find a reveal like this a little too anticlimactic; after two years of build-up, having Rey’s parents turn out to be a couple of nobodies from a videogame that at least a certain percentage won’t have played.
Then again, we’re rather intrigued by another possibility: that it’s not Rey whose parentage we should be most keenly watching, but Kylo Ren’s. YouTuber SuperCarlinBrothers floats the possibility that Kylo Ren might not be Leia and Han’s son at all, but the progeny of Luke Skywalker and an as-yet unspecified mother. Leia and Han then adopted Kylo Ren and raised him as their own for reasons we don’t yet know. It’s another intriguing notion, particularly as Kylo’s real name – Ben – always seemed a little jarring. That Luke would name his son Ben, after his late mentor, would make much more sense, as the YouTuber linked above says at around the twelve minute mark.
Just to really mess with our heads, maybe the writers have switched light and dark around for these Star Wars sequels: Kylo Ren’s chosen the path of evil but is descended from a Jedi; Rey’s fighting for the light side of the Force but is descended from the Sith. Who knows, maybe Rey’s somehow descended from that wizened villain, Snoke? That’d really get people talking.
We’ve made it this far, and we haven’t even mentioned Luke’s old Lightsaber. How did Maz Kanata end up with it, given that she gave the subject such short shrift in The Force Awakens? When Rey touched the saber for the first time, was the vision she saw the latent memories of her own parentage, or was it, in fact, the ‘memories’ of the Lightsaber (a theory suggested by John Moore)? Maz Kanata’s back for The Last Jedi, so maybe she’ll be a bit more forthcoming this time around.
More cynical readers might now be wondering why Star Wars fans even bother with all this speculation. With all the rumours flying around the web, it almost stands to reason that at least one of them must be true. It’s a bit like the theories that swirled around TV’s Lost, where its creators insisted that nobody had guessed what the truth was – right up until the last episode, where it was revealed that everything was pretty much as fans had suspected all along. But then, discussing the mysteries of Star Wars is all part of the anticipation: the franchise may be an annual event these days thanks to the spin-offs, but the main chapters are still two years apart – plenty of time to sit around and ponder what on earth the writers are cooking up behind the scenes.
So is Rey a Kenobi, a Skywalker, a Palpatine or a relative nobody? Is Snoke Jar-Jar Binks? The Last Jedi’s sure to provide at least one answer, but at the same time, we’d be surprised if it didn’t raise even more questions of its own. With the web now part of the pop cultural landscape, Disney-Lucasfilm know that speculation creates its own kind of marketing; and as long as there are fan theories, we’ll be trapped in their room of mirrors, trying to figure out what’s the truth and what’s just a confusing reflection…