In Defense of a Delayed Skywalker Reveal

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For those of us who were hoping Rey would be revealed to be a Skywalker in Episode VIII, the promise of a surprise reveal in Episode IX feels like cold comfort. Why should we care if she’s a Skywalker now? Luke’s dead, so what would be the emotional payoff? (I’m a “Yoda Interacted With The Physical World To Explain Why Rey Can Hug Her Ghost Dad In The Next Movie” truther, myself). And most of all, what does Rey get out of this as a character? How does a delayed reveal further her development whatsoever? I’d like to share this mini-essay, originally from the Shadow Council tumblr, to explain my thoughts on the situation.

Possibly the biggest pitfall that this trilogy could have fallen into would have been making Rey seem like she was just filling an obligatory role, as opposed to being her own character going on her own journey. By revealing her as a Skywalker at the beginning or middle of her story, she essentially becomes a reflection of Luke–oh look, another plucky young Skywalker doing the things her dad did! Here she is, the Skywalker hero of the trilogy! Beyond that, Rian is right that finding out who her family was would have given her easy answers and cut a lot of the tension out of her inner struggle. Okay, sure, your family is dysfunctional, but now you know that you have one, and that you matter in the story; all that remains is to kill the bad guy and save the day. With the right approach, of course, this could have been resonant too, but what thinking she’s a “nobody” does for Rey is, as Rian said, to force her to decide that nobody else can tell her who she is and what her value is–that she has a right to be the hero of the story no matter where she came from.

I see the Skywalker identity as the equivalent of Dorothy’s ruby slippers in The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy had the power to achieve her goal–returning to Kansas–from the moment she set off down the yellow brick road. But as Glinda says, if she’d simply told Dorothy she had the power, Dorothy wouldn’t have believed her enough to actually wield it. She had to discover her power by herself first. Yes, Rey being a Skywalker is necessary in order to satisfyingly conclude the thematic and narrative arcs of the saga. And yes, we believe, she will be one, because the rest of the story demands it, even if her own story could conceivably work without it. But by making Rey become a hero while thinking she has no inherent claim to that title, we give her a story that is entirely her own, and which parallels her father’s without just mimicking it.

Rey’s story is one of a girl who holds within her an incredible power, but does not believe she has the right to wield it because she’s waiting for someone to tell her she is worthy. Instead, she must discover, by herself, that she is worthy of being a hero simply because she is brave and good and strong, not because she has a predetermined “place in the story” through her family. Her finding out she’s a Skywalker then becomes a reward for her at the end of the story, rather than a defining factor in her character arc, allowing a feel-good “heroes can come from anywhere” message to coexist with the themes of a saga that is first and foremost about family.

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