In part 1 of my Sequel Trilogy Theory of Everything, I discussed my thoughts on the events that led up to the state of affairs that we find the major character’s in at the beginning of the Force Awakens.
The post can be found here:
The TLDR version is that I believe:
Snoke is a villain more akin to Voldemort or Suaron than to Palpatine in that I believe he is seeking to regain lost power and that he sees the members of the Skywalker family as a means to that end.
Rey is Luke’s daughter and was separated from her family when the Falcon was stolen from Han Solo during an attack on the Skywalker/Solo family orchestrated by Snoke. Luke, Han, Leia, and Ben were led to believe that Rey had been killed. The loss of Rey was the catalyst for a chain of events that culminated with Ben Solo’s fall to the Dark Side.
Luke is aware of the Chosen One prophecy and believes that his family are the ones that need to maintain the balance of the Force. He originally thought that Rey would be the one to carry on that legacy, but after her “death” he put all of his hopes on Ben. After Ben fell Luke went looking for answers at the First Temple to try to figure out both how he went so wrong and how to make things right again.
The Force Awakens drops hints to the back story and also poses a few other minor mysteries that I would like to address here.
A possible explanation for why Lor San Tekka had the map at the beginning of the Force Awakens is that Luke at some point in his studies (possibly with Lor San Tekka and the Church of the Force) discovered the location of Ahch-To but not the hyperspace lanes to get there. He left the location with Lor San Tekka. After Luke’s disappearance Lor San Tekka could have learned of the Observatory on Jakku (mentioned in the Aftermath novels) and used it to plot the map to Luke. He then meets with Poe Dameron in the hopes of getting the map to Leia so that things in the galaxy can be made right. Ben Solo would know both of the observatory on Jakku and of Lor San Tekka. If he learned that San Tekka had used the observatory he would have arranged an assault to retrieve the map.
In The Force Awakens, both Snoke and Kylo Ren sense an “Awakening” in the Force. Some have postulated that what they are sensing is Rey’s awakening to the Force. However, the scene where they discuss the Awakening is prior to when she discovers the lightsaber and knowingly experiences the Force for the first time in the film. Her finding the lightsaber and subsequently experiencing visions of the past and future would seem a more appropriate time to refer to as her Awakening. She had, of course, been using the Force unknowingly while piloting the Falcon off Jakku, but we know from Forces of Destiny and comments from J.J. Abrams that Rey has been subconsciously using the Force her whole life. So it would seem odd that the “Awakening” Snoke and Kylo sensed was just from her using the Force while flying the Falcon, but they didn’t sense her “Awakening” at any other time that she subconsciously used the Force throughout her life.
The Aftermath books hint at a solution for this with the introduction of the corrupted essence of Jakku. The corrupted essence could potentially be hiding Rey’s “Force signature” for lack of a better word. (There is canon precedence for this. A Sith shrine under the Jedi Temple was to blame for the Jedi not being able to sense that Palpatine was a Sith.) If we assume this idea is correct, then Rey’s “Force signature” would have no longer been blocked as soon as she escaped from Jakku in the Falcon. The emergence of her powerful “signature” could be what Snoke and Kylo sensed as the “Awakening”. Sensing Rey’s “signature” as the “Awakening” could also have been what prompted Kylo’s “What girl?!” freak out when he learned that a girl had escaped Jakku with Finn and BB-8. Kylo isn’t freaking out about a girl from Jakku, he’s freaking out because there is an indelible link in his mind between “stolen YT model freighter” and “a girl” and now he’s sensing her presence again. The corrupted essence also could explain why Luke was never able to sense that his daughter was alive all the years that she was on Jakku waiting for her family to come for her.
Throughout the Force Awakens, Snoke seems far more concerned with Luke than he does with the Republic and the Resistance. Luke and any Jedi he might train are a major threat to Snoke if he is indeed in a weakened state. His orders regarding BB-8 were to capture him if possible, but destroy him if they must. Snoke doesn’t want to find Luke, he just wants to make sure Luke isn’t found. Snoke gives Ben the test of killing Han to prove his loyalty. Kylo might not have Snoke’s knowledge and wisdom but he has a ton of raw power. Snoke knows he’s vulnerable, and doesn’t feel like being thrown down a reactor shaft, so he wants to make sure that Kylo won’t give in to that pesky sentiment like his grandfather. It’s possible that Snoke and Ben haven’t actually met in person as of the Force Awakens and all of their contact is either telepathic or via holo-projector.
Han doesn’t initially recognize Rey (and why would he when he thought his niece had died?), but he seems to have a suspicion of who she is by the time they reach Takodana. He gives Rey a very guilty look when she says that she had never seen so much green before. He could be feeling guilty for not being able to protect her or find her which led to her horrible childhood. Han also gets a thoughtful look on his face when Rey tells him her name and then he immediately offers her a job. He’s not 100% sure at this point but he’s pretty darn sure and he wants to keep her around until he can get some sort of confirmation.
Maz asks Han “who’s the girl?” like she expects he knows. The scene then cuts away and we don’t hear Han’s answer. When we next see Maz, she is utterly delighted that this strange girl is poking around in her basement and handling what Maz surely considers a very valuable item. When Rey tells Maz that she needs to get back to Jakku, Maz replies that Han told her. If Han’s answer to Maz’s question “who’s the girl?” was omitted purely because Han’s answer was redundant information that the audience already knew then the question could also have been omitted. Maz saying “Han told me” is enough to inform the audience that Han and Maz had talked about Rey. The reason for the inclusion of the question but not the answer is to draw the audience’s attention to the question itself while still maintaining the mystery. That tells us that Maz and Han discussed something of significance with regard to Rey off screen. Maz tells Rey “whomever left you on Jakku they are never coming back, but there is someone who still could.” Notice that Maz makes no assumptions about who left Rey on Jakku. She doesn’t say “your family” or “your parents”, she says “whomever”. This sentence, grammatically, is either a non sequitur or a verb phrase ellipsis. If Maz is saying “Whomever left you on Jakku they are never coming back (for you), but there is someone who still could (come back to help the galaxy).” then the sentence is a non sequitur as the first and second half of the sentence have so little to do with each other that the sentence is rendered nonsensical. The far more logical interpretation of the sentence is that it is a verb phrase ellipsis. If it is a verb phase ellipsis then Maz is saying “Whomever left you on Jakku they are never coming back (for you), but there is someone who still could (come back for you).” Rey replies “Luke” and Maz doesn’t correct her, but instead says “The belonging you seek is not behind you, it is ahead.” For Maz, the saber calling to Rey likely all but confirmed the suspicions that Han shared with her so she tries to persuade Rey to go find Luke.
When Kylo first encounters Rey in the Force Awakens he feels a connection to and certain level of compassion for Rey. (There is wonderful potential to add an element of tragic irony here: As per my background theory, Ben fell because he couldn’t protect someone he loved and that led him into direct conflict with that very person. This would also add a further parallel between Kylo and Vader. If Snoke was behind Rey being separated from her family the irony is doubled as Kylo is now working for the organization that caused him so much pain in the first place.) Ben, like the rest of his family, believed that Rey had died, but this girl seems so familiar to him. The Force Awakens novelization mentions that when Kylo captured Rey she saw flashes of memories from her childhood as Kylo scanned through her mind. Kylo then discovered that she had seen the map. But why was he looking through her childhood memories? Likely he was looking to see if she was who he thought she was. In the interrogation scene Kylo takes his mask off without hesitation, possibly to judge Rey’s reaction to him. She doesn’t recognize him and that makes him decide that she really is just a scavenger which leads him to be less cautious than he should have been. While probing her mind he finds something that intrigues him, but then immediately runs into a wall in her mind. The memory that so intrigued him could have been Rey’s memory of Luke’s voice telling her “I’ll come back, Sweetheart. I promise.” Rey then breaks into his mind proving that she is every bit as strong as he is which raises his suspicions about her again. His suspicions are confirmed when the lightsaber goes flying past him and into her hand. “It is you!”
Is Rey a Mary Sue?
Rey’s rapid increase in power after the interrogation scene has a very simple explanation. Everything that she does is something that Kylo did to her first. He entered her mind and tried to force his will onto her. She entered the Stormtrooper’s mind and overpowered his will. Kylo flung her against a tree using the Force. Rey used the Force to call the Saber to her. When Rey channels the Force at the ledge she was doing exactly what Maz told her to do: closing her eyes and letting the light in to guide her. The biggest reason that Luke struggled with using the Force was his own self doubts. As he says when Yoda lifted the X-Wing from the Dagobah swamp, “I can’t believe it.” Yoda replied “that is why you fail.” Rey believes because she’s seen and felt what the Force can do. After she successfully breaks into Kylo’s mind she has no reason to believe that she can’t do everything that he can.
In the scene where Rey arrives at the Resistance Base at D’Qar, the script for the Force Awakens describes Leia as giving Rey a “motherly” hug. Leia is Force Sensitive and likely recognized her niece as soon as she sees her both from what the Force is telling her and from what Han told her in an off screen conversation about Rey (“Han told me about the girl.”). Artoo doesn’t wake up until Rey is in the same room as him. I believe what prompted him to wake up is that he also recognized her somehow.
For the final scene where Rey finds Luke on Ahch-To the script says that Luke doesn’t need to ask who Rey is or why she is there. Luke has an emotional reaction to seeing her. There are tears in his eyes and his mouth and eyes twitch like he’s about to start crying. He also sighs with his shoulders slumping down in a very similar manner to how he did when Yoda and Darth Vader died. Some part of him is listening to what the Force is telling him and knows exactly who she is.