The Definitive “The Last Jedi” Case for Rey Skywalker – The Narrative

Written by: robotical712, Josey, Needs_More_Sprinkles and HypersonicHarpist

In this section we expand on the key parts of the The Last Jedi that indicate there is much more going on between Rey, Luke and Kylo Ren beneath the surface.

Part of our analysis of The Last Jedi.

Motivations

“What’s Special About You?”

Ironically, prior to the release of The Last Jedi, the inclusion of his first line in this scene, “Who are you?” was taken as proof that Luke has no idea who Rey is. But in context, this and associated dialogue seem to imply something quite the opposite. Luke’s repeated interrogation of Rey–”Who are you?” “They sent you?” “What’s special about you?”–isn’t casual, snide, or dismissive in tone. Luke is asking Rey, seriously and earnestly, who she is and why Leia would send her, in particular, to convince Luke to return. (“Why are you here?” Why is Rey in particular there to get Luke? And in a more meta sense, why is Rey in this story and not, say, “Broom Boy”?) Luke is not baffled, but rather suspicious. Leia, after all, has expressed no desire for Luke to restart the Jedi order; she merely wants for him to come back and join in the Resistance effort. In fact, Luke staying on Ahch-To to train Rey would only delay his return to aid the imperiled Resistance, so the idea that Leia sent Rey to Luke to learn the ways of the Jedi doesn’t square with what we know about the characters and their situations thus far.

Rey herself doesn’t ask to be trained until Luke has already rejected her invitation to return, implying that this is a secondary tactic on her part–”if you won’t help them, teach me to.” As such, we are left with these facts: Leia sent a girl she’d just met to Ahch-To for the express purpose of convincing Luke to return, and Luke is curious enough about this fact to ask Rey, several times, why she is the one Leia thought could bring him back and doesn’t allow Rey to redirect the conversation away from herself.

Luke not only asks “why [Rey is] here” (to which she replies that she needs someone to help her with her newfound Force abilities–possibly a deflection of his question, or possibly a sincere answer), he’s asking her who she is and why it is relevant to her being sent to him. Furthermore, we hear Luke call Rey by her name in this scene, before we hear her tell it to him. This means that Rey already told him “who she is” offscreen, and his questions are intended to specifically find out who she is in relation to him. This only makes sense if Luke has reason to believe someone exists whose very identity would be able to convince him to return, and that Rey could conceivably be that person.

When Luke finally gets an answer as to why Rey thinks she is on Ahch-To (a plea which he shows no reaction to), he shifts the conversation away from Rey personally and to himself. Rather than address what she’s actually asking for (direction and guidance), he addresses it as though she came to him looking to be a Jedi and uses it to shut down the conversation.

By our interpretation, Luke knows or strongly suspects who she is, but is now concerned about how much she knows and what she’ll figure out by staying on the island. Therefore, it is no longer enough to ignore her until she goes away, but to actively try to get her to leave as soon as possible. Therefore, after confirming she doesn’t know much about herself, he reinterprets what she feels she needs and tells her he won’t provide it.

Luke’s Cold Shoulder

Much has been made of how different Luke is compared to the end of Return of the Jedi or the glimpses we see of him in the wider Canon. Yet, the most striking differences are within The Last Jedi. When they first meet at the end of The Force Awakens, Luke looks at Rey with a sad expression (importantly, The Last Jedi takes care not to show Luke’s expression again until after the saber handoff) and when she hands the saber to him in The Last Jedi he accepts it initially.

As we all now know, he tosses it over his shoulder and walks off. However, he actually regards the saber and then Rey for several seconds each before actually tossing the saber. From that point on Luke treats Rey with rude indifference, yet has no problem talking to Chewie and notably acts like his old self around Artoo – away from Rey. The swing in attitude combined with the time before throwing the saber suggests there was something about Rey herself that Luke came to a decision on. Many have suggested it’s because Rey comes and hands him the saber while asking him to come back to the Resistance, yet Chewie and Artoo are there for the exact same reason and he acts normally around them. Artoo even asks him about it. Nor can it be because Rey is a prospective padawan, as it doesn’t come up until inside the tree. The answer to Luke’s behavior therefore comes down to something about Rey herself.

While one could surmise it’s because she’s a stranger, Luke’s panic and concern for Rey during her Force connection in the hut suggests it is indeed something deeper. Particularly since, once he sees she’s in no danger, he reverts to his aloof and indifferent attitude towards her.

The Need in Front of Luke’s Nose

Much as “coming back” was a refrain in The Force Awakens, in The Last Jedi, there is a repeated focus on the concept of what the characters, specifically Rey, “need.” There is a particular divide in Rey’s statements about what she personally needs, and what the galaxy at large needs, from Luke. The galaxy, according to Rey, needs “Luke Skywalker,” needs “the Jedi Order back,” needs “a legend.” What does Rey need? “Someone to show me my place in all this.”

There is a marked contrast between the broad, symbolic needs of the galaxy at large, and the extremely personal need of Rey to find belonging and identity in her own story. Luke, in Rey’s mind, could show her her place in the story; while having “nobody” parents, according to Kylo later in the film, “proves” she has no place in said story. While untrue, this assertion hits Rey hard, indicating that she feels that if she knew who her parents were they could give her a “place”–the same sort of “place” she pleaded for with Luke. Rey’s need for her family is so prominent that both Kylo and Luke perceive and reference it–Kylo by telling her that “needing” her parents is her “greatest weakness,” and Luke by telling Rey that the cave (where she goes to ask who her parents are) “offered [her] something [she] needed.”

Through references to Rey’s needs, we are setting up a connection between Luke, Rey, parents and “having a place” in the world. This point is driven home when Luke, while being chastised by Yoda, is told that in his focus on the scholarly elements of the Jedi (namely the sacred texts) he has missed “the need in front of his nose.” Luke told Rey she needed a teacher, but Yoda tells him that Rey has everything she needs to learn the ways of the Jedi already–that Luke has missed what she actually needed from him. To this, Luke replies with possibly the most fatherly line in the entire screenplay: “I can’t be what she needs me to be.” Not “I can’t be what the galaxy needs me to be,” or “I can’t do what she/they need me to do.” Rey needs something from Luke that she cannot obtain by studying the ways of the Jedi: she needs her father.

Kylo’s Ulterior Motives

Much has been made of Rian Johnson’s comments saying that Kylo wasn’t strictly and knowingly lying about what he saw in Rey’s mind when he told her her parents were “nobodies.” But he has also said that Kylo wanted to use what he saw to weaken Rey, to make her feel meaningless and lost without him and to push her to join him as a result. This is bolstered by an often-missed line earlier in the movie, where Kylo tells Rey that her parents “threw her away like garbage,” long before he touches her fingers and purportedly sees her parents. (Note that there was no indication in TFA that Kylo saw anything about Rey’s parents in her mind. In fact, his line “Han Solo…You feel he’s the father you never had” is somewhat odd if Kylo had seen memories of Rey’s parents abandoning her.) Going by what Rian said about Kylo’s motivations in Snoke’s throne room, this earlier line indicates that he began attempting to emotionally manipulate Rey using her purported parentage even before he had an idea of the truth.

Kylo knows that Rey’s parents are her weakness (and says as much), and from early on, we see that Kylo believes it is in his best interest for Rey to believe her parents are dead, that they never loved her, and that she’s completely alone in the world. Whether or not his “garbage” line was a lie or something he actually believed for whatever reason, he delivered it to Rey knowing it would sow doubt in her mind.

Unlike with the bedside scene recounted by Luke and Kylo, we the viewer are not actually shown what Rey and Kylo each saw when they touched fingers. And it may well be that Kylo saw exactly what he told Rey he saw. However, earlier in the narrative, we’re shown what Kylo saw during the bedside scene was not the truth. And yet Kylo was not necessarily lying to Rey; that may very well have been what he actually saw, and his perception was simply warped, either by the dark side or what he hoped or expected to see. However, this implicitly challenges the truth of what Kylo tells Rey he saw of her parents. (A narrative does not lightly cast doubt on the credibility of a major character). And, lie or no, Kylo’s use of this information, obtained in a moment of genuine emotional connection, was him taking advantage of what he himself calls Rey’s “greatest weakness” to get her to join him. He does to Rey exactly what Snoke told Kylo he did to control Hux and, the scene heavily implies, what Snoke did to control Kylo – manipulate the “rabid cur’s” weakness to use as a “sharp tool.”

(A second consideration regarding what Kylo saw in Rey’s mind is that what Rey saw when she touched Kylo’s hand was incomplete and out of context.  She saw Kylo turning and believed with all of her heart that if she went to him he would return to the light.  She isn’t lying when she says that because she honestly believes it to be true.  However as the film unfolds we learn that what Rey believed so firmly wasn’t objectively true.  Kylo turns on Snoke, but doesn’t return to the light when Rey goes to him.  So if what Rey saw wasn’t an objective complete truth, why should anyone believe that what Kylo saw was?)

The Real Meaning of “Nobody”

One of the more bafflingly out of character moments in The Last Jedi occurs when Rey, whose previous goal was simply a reunion with her parents, suddenly cares who her parents were–specifically, that they were not “nobody.” This may not have raised too many eyebrows for those of us who are used to other fans describing Rey’s parents as possibly being “nobodies,” but it doesn’t make sense in-universe for it to be something Rey suddenly cares about, unless she was hoping her family was significant (what “significant” families exist in the Star Wars universe?) or that they were a specific “somebody.” She also seems to have a somewhat contradictory view of her parents when she speaks to Kylo. She disagrees vehemently with his statement that her parents abandoned her, but also lashes out at him in tears for killing the father who “loved” and “gave a damn” about him. One can then surmise that Rey doesn’t believe her parents abandoned her, but also feels that she does not have a father (specifically a father) who loves or gives a damn about her. Luke’s behavior towards her on Ahch-To would reconcile these two seemingly contradictory sentiments–she does not believe she was intentionally abandoned, but she does feel that the man she thinks is her father no longer cares about her. It’s implied more clearly a few times throughout the script that Rey has some suspicion Luke might be her father, most notably when Kylo says she was looking for a “parent” in Luke (with no explicit evidence for why that would be the case). But this sudden shift in Rey’s desires–a desperate need to know who her parents are, and if they are somebody significant–is nearly inexplicable unless we assume Rey thinks or hopes Luke Skywalker is her father.


Relationships

A Mysterious Connection

The ostensible explanation for Rey and Kylo’s “mysterious connection” was given in The Last Jedi, when Snoke claims to have bridged their minds for the purpose of finding his way to Luke Skywalker. However, this explanation seems transparently false for a number of reasons. For one thing, the two share one final exchange after Snoke is already dead, implying that the bond is rooted in something other than Snoke’s powers. For another, Kylo references his strange connection with Rey the first time they come face-to-face in the interrogation chamber in The Force Awakens–“Don’t be afraid, I feel it too.” So it’s apparent that the two of them have an existing connection to each other, one that exists by the time they first speak.

The connection is also “mysterious,” indicating that it’s not (as some assert) something as commonplace as two people being attracted to one another. The fact that they meet in a hostile situation also indicates that the bond is something that transcends their (negative) personal feelings towards each other. Something organically connects these two, before they ever meet, in a way neither fully understands. The two of them being related would answer these mysteries–they are inextricably connected to each other through family, so the bond is in place before they ever come face-to-face. The bond is “mysterious” because neither has encountered a long-lost family member before, and don’t understand why they would feel this connection to a supposed stranger. And it further underscores the theme of coming to grips with family, as their connection exists in spite of their antagonism towards each other, and cannot be shut off by either party when they want to sever ties. As with so many points, Rey being a Skywalker is the simplest and most thematically resonant explanation for these lingering questions.

Equals in the Dark and Light

Though the film offers a vague description of the significance of Rey’s powers–ie, that she is Kylo’s “equal in the light,” destined to rise and confront him as he grows darker–it offers no satisfactory explanation for why Rey, of all people, was the one to counterbalance him. If the mechanic of “equals in the Force” is simply a matter of the Force creating a person, at random, to balance out another person, why wasn’t Rey born until Kylo was 10 years old? According to Yoda, the future is always in flux–if Kylo’s fall had culminated at 20 instead of 30, would it have fallen to preteen Rey to take him down? Is this a phenomenon that has always existed in the Star Wars universe? Did Anakin have a counterpart in the Light as well? Was it Luke? If so, was it just a coincidence that they happened to be father and son? Why would Luke have two counterparts, one in Anakin and one in Kylo? Was Kylo Luke’s counterpart, but Luke wasn’t Kylo’s?

The answer to this entire tangle of questions lies in a throwaway line from Snoke, who idly mentions he’d assumed that Kylo’s “equal in the Light” was “Skywalker.” This ties into the assertion in the VD that Snoke believed only one of Luke’s relatives would be able to kill him. One can then reasonably draw the connection that Snoke believed Kylo was Luke’s equal in the Dark, in part, due to the fact that they both came from the same family. If Rey truly is nobody, this statement about “equals” in the Dark and Light begs more questions than it answers. But if Rey is a Skywalker, the entire situation is distilled into a simple, clever twist: “Skywalker” was Kylo’s equal in the Light, just as Snoke predicted. It just happened to be a different Skywalker than he expected.

All of the contradictions above can be explained by claiming that the reason the two are opposing equals is because they are the two descendents of the original child of the Force, Anakin. There is no need to explain the function of the phenomenon, or how it operated in previous Star Wars media. Snoke knows Kylo has an equal in the Light who is rising in power, and that person turns out to be Rey. Rey shares Kylo’s power because they are both the embodiment of their grandfather’s constant, equally matched inner struggle. This was the “equality” that Snoke perceived in the Force, and (again) by proving her mettle without knowing the provenance of her power, she demonstrates that being a Skywalker is about more than simply blood–it’s about character and spirit.

Peace and Purpose

The laws of Force bonds and communication in the Star Wars universe are inconsistent, to say the least. Nonetheless, it’s self-evident that to connect with another human being through the Force requires some degree of either deep intimacy, or deliberate exertion–otherwise, being a Force user would entail near constant bombardment with the thoughts and feelings of those around them. We first see the ability to sense an individual through the Force in A New Hope, when Vader perceives that Obi-Wan has returned to him after many years (thus indicating that physical proximity plays a role in how easily Force users can perceive each other’s presence, much less read their thoughts and emotions). Direct connections from a distance in the saga films (ie, not perceptions of mass casualties like the destruction of Alderaan) are limited almost entirely to spouses and family members–Luke with both Leia and Vader in Empire Strikes Back, Leia with Han in The Force Awakens, and Leia with Kylo in The Last Jedi. So how does Rey, a girl who has known Luke for a matter of days, perceive not only his death, but the exact emotions he was feeling as he passed into the Force from half a galaxy away? Is it lazy writing, or something more?


Cohesion of Plot

Dreams of an Island

We learn in The Force Awakens–and are reminded in The Last Jedi–that Rey has been haunted by visions of Ahch-To prior to even leaving Jakku. It would make sense for Rey to be somehow called to Ahch-To if her presence there ended up being pivotal to her character arc, but by the end of the film, the only concrete thing she has achieved there is rescuing the Jedi texts. We know she’s never physically been there before, as she’s only seen it “in dreams.” One could argue that she needed to be there to inspire Luke to rejoin the fight, but it’s ultimately Yoda who convinces Luke to do that, not Rey. To say she’s being called there because she’s being lured to the mirror cave would be unsatisfying, given how futile that experience ends up being. And to say it’s simply a premonition is a passable explanation, but emotionally hollow.

Why would Rey  have such vivid dreams of that specific place, given how little ultimately happens there? It appears, on the surface, that had Rey never gone to Ahch-To, Yoda could have still appeared to convince Luke to Force project himself to Crait, tell Rey, “go to Ahch-To and get the Jedi texts,” fight off Kylo, and pass into the Force, all to the exact same effect. The only thing, both narratively and in-universe, that explains Rey’s visions would be a special personal connection on Ahch-To, something meaningful that is spurring her vision. What are the other most notable times that a character in Star Wars has had a vision of a distant planet? In The Empire Strikes Back, Luke, seeing “a city in the clouds,” senses that Han and Leia are there and feels compelled to run to them. And in Attack of the Clones, Anakin, having dreams that his mother is in danger and great pain is spurred to return to Tatooine in a desperate attempt to save her. Given this precedent, and the lack of a satisfying alternate explanation, it is reasonable to believe that Rey’s vision of the island was somehow tied to the one human being living there: Luke.

The Skywalker Saber, Revisited

Among the strongest pieces of Rey Skywalker evidence in The Force Awakens was the scene in which the Skywalker lightsaber calls to Rey and shows her a vision that intertwines her past with Luke’s. Skeptics argue that the saber was calling to Rey because it was her destiny to deliver it to Luke. But The Last Jedi rips this theory to shreds–Luke rejects the saber and it ends up exactly where it started, in Rey’s hands. If the saber called to her because of “destiny,” then that destiny was evidently for Rey herself to wield it. Why did this lightsaber, of all lightsabers, call on Rey, of all people? Either this saber has an inherent special attachment to Rey, stronger than its bond with Kylo (like the bond a daughter would have over a nephew), or Rey is somehow otherwise destined to become the Skywalker saber’s owner. In either case, the end of the film showed us that Rey is not the only Force-sensitive in the galaxy–her claim to the saber must be something greater.

In The Last Jedi we see another Force contest over the saber, but with both claimants pulling from opposite sides. This time, Rey and Kylo are even matched and end up tearing the saber apart indicating the Force considers their claims equal. The question arises, why would Kylo have any claim to the saber if the Force has chosen Rey to be the light’s champion and doesn’t care about lineage? Conversely, why does Rey have a claim if she’s not related to the Skywalkers?

Weakness and Manipulation

Snoke’s first lines to Kylo include the phrase “a cur’s weakness, properly manipulated, can be a sharp tool.” Though this sentiment is stated in regards to Hux, it is not clarified what Hux’s supposed “weakness” is, nor does this theme ever come up in Hux’s story arc. Therefore, it stands to reason that this line is included for another purpose, and is meant to reflect upon another part of the story.

Shortly thereafter, Snoke claims to have bonded Rey and Kylo’s minds together for the purpose of manipulating Rey and betraying the location of Luke Skywalker. And what does Kylo say to Rey in one of their first Force Skype sessions? That her need for her parents is her “greatest weakness.” He adds, in this scene, that her parents “threw her away like garbage.” If Kylo is not deliberately using Rey’s parents to manipulate her and exploit her weakness, Snoke’s line at the beginning serves no purpose in the story. As it is, the inclusion of this line suggests Kylo has a vested interest in convincing Rey her parents are gone forever, so that he can manipulate her into doing what he wants her to do. Whatever scenario he might see in her mind, it is in his best interest to interpret it as though it supports his argument that she is “nobody” and “nothing,” just as Snoke taught him to. So why should Rey, or the audience, trust a word he says about who she is and where she comes from?


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3 thoughts on “The Definitive “The Last Jedi” Case for Rey Skywalker – The Narrative”

  1. A thought I had about Rey and her parents is that the filthy junk traders who threw her away may have been the ones who took care of her but were never her actual parents just the ones she knew about. After all, if her parents were really that bad then why would she want to see them unless she already knows they wern’t and her real parents were someone even further in her past who did. Also its very interesting note that when Maz says her parents arent coming back her immediate reply that theres someone who could is simply “Luke”

    Like

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