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Star Wars: The Force Awakens: let's try to solve the new trilogy’s biggest mystery

There are all kinds of spoilers in this post.

Rey and Finn run from Stormtroopers. One of them is wrapped up in MYSTERY.
Rey and Finn run from Stormtroopers. One of them is wrapped up in MYSTERY.
Emily St. James was a senior correspondent for Vox, covering American identities. Before she joined Vox in 2014, she was the first TV editor of the A.V. Club.

If you've seen Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens (and by now, you probably have), it probably left you with one big question: Just who are the parents of Rey, the new character played by Daisy Ridley?

Suffice to say that if you haven't seen it yet, you should probably quit reading this in favor of something less spoilery. Here's our spoiler-free review, for instance! From here on out, there will be spoilers aplenty.

For roughly the first half of its runtime, The Force Awakens works overtime to make you think Rey is the daughter of Han Solo and Leia Organa. In its second half, it tries to make you think she's the daughter of Luke Skywalker and an unnamed woman.

By the end, it seems pretty clear she's Luke's kid, since neither Han nor Leia seem to remember having a daughter. But the more I think about this, the more I believe it's a bait and switch. I've ultimately decided she's probably Han and Leia's daughter, and I think I can explain why neither of them seems to remember her.

First, though, let's examine the evidence in either direction.

The evidence in support of Rey being Han and Leia's kid

Han and Leia hug.
Han and Leia take time to share a hug.

For approximately the first hour of The Force Awakens — and especially once Han and Chewbacca enter the story — the movie seems to be working so hard to make you think Rey is Han's daughter that you're waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Consider: She grew up right near the Millennium Falcon, which has been sitting in a junkyard for years. When it comes time to pilot it, she's almost instantly great at doing so, even though it's a cantankerous old machine. And once Han and Chewie are on board, she and Han strike up precisely the type of relationship you'd expect from an estranged father and daughter. They even say the same things at the exact same time.

The film ladles it on even more heavily from there. Kylo Ren (who turns out to be Han's son who broke bad) sneers at Rey and taunts her by teasing that Han is the father she never had, and the film later contrives a way to have Rey watch as Han is killed by Ren. (Also: Rey/Ren could suggest a sibling connection.) The best reason to do any of this is so the movies can eventually reveal that Rey is Han and Leia's daughter and pay off the emotional beats they're setting up here. Except...

The evidence against Rey being Han and Leia's kid

Look: Han and Leia know that Kylo Ren (whose birth name was Ben) is their son. They know he's betrayed them and Luke — an event that destroyed their relationship. But they hope against hope they can win him back to their side.

And if they're so broken up about what happened with their son, don't you think they would remember having a daughter who was apparently taken from them and abandoned on a desert planet? (It seems out of character for Han and Leia to abandon a child themselves.) Any theory that suggests Rey is their child has to get around this pretty huge central fact. If she is, Han and Leia just don't remember her.

The evidence in support of Rey being Luke's kid

R2-D2 in The Force Awakens.
R2-D2 spends a lot of the film non-operational. His return to life suggests a connection between Luke and Rey.

Once Rey discovers Luke's old lightsaber around The Force Awakens' midpoint, the film shifts to trying to convince us she might be his kid. In particular, the lightsaber "calls" to her — and in a way that suggests she might be Luke's direct offspring, instead of just his niece.

Later, we meet R2-D2, who hasn't been operational since Luke skipped town to go into hiding. (The villainous First Order wants him rounded up so they can get rid of the galaxy's last Jedi knight. The more things change, etc.) R2 is at the secret Rebel ... er, Republic ... base that the First Order hopes to wipe out, and he might have the last piece of the map needed to find Luke. Rey is kept away from this base for almost all of the movie's running time, but once she shows up there, guess who beeps and boops back to life? You've probably guessed it already, but it's R2-D2.

The Force Awakens concludes with Rey finding Luke and holding the lightsaber out to him, as if begging him to take its burden from her — a moment that will prove to be much more powerful if he is her father instead of her uncle.

The evidence against Rey being Luke's kid

This evidence isn't as strong as the evidence against Han and Leia being Rey's parents, but it basically boils down to a bunch of story elements that later films would have to introduce. Chief among them would be Rey's mother, someone whom Luke apparently loved and lost. And, yes, the franchise could deal with this in a quick line of dialogue (like I just did), but that could end up seeming awfully convenient in a universe that tends to completely fill in stories like that.

Also, doesn't it seem a little weird Luke would just leave Rey behind on a desert planet, but not Tatooine, the one he has ties to? And that's to say nothing of how weird it would be for Luke Skywalker to abandon his daughter at all. It's the sort of thing future movies might have trouble explaining in terms of its emotional weight.

So here's what I think happened

Rey in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Rey deserves answers, people. ANSWERS!

Stick with me.

Ben Solo-Organa breaks bad and becomes Kylo Ren, at the behest of a still-somewhat-mysterious villain. As Leia laments, he just had too much Vader in him, which must be a persistent concern for any and all Skywalker offspring.

Which would include Rey (or whatever her name was when she was just another Solo-Organa kid). Luke, whose training inadvertently caused Kylo Ren to join the Dark Side, realizes what a potential danger Rey is to everyone around her. He takes her from her parents — something we see in a very, very brief flashback as young Rey is left on Jakku — and then uses the Force to mind-wipe everybody he can get to, to erase their knowledge of Rey's existence. (Can Jedi mind-wipe others? There's nothing in canon to suggest they can, but it's not such a stretch from the old "these are not the droids you are looking for" trick.)

The alternative to this is that everybody was indeed mind-wiped, but by Kylo Ren himself instead of Luke. This theory supposes that Ren somehow got to his parents and couldn't kill them but could take their daughter from them and leave her on some desolate wasteland of a planet. He then mind-wiped his sister as well, which would explain why Rey doesn't remember anything from her pre-Jakku days (she appears to have been left there at age 7 or 8) and why the Millennium Falcon was just sort of hanging out in a junkyard all those years, without Han knowing what happened to it or Rey knowing what it was.

There are a lot of storytelling advantages here. For one thing, this potential scenario sets up the trilogy's central conflict — between Rey and Ren — as one between brother and sister, which has slightly higher stakes than a conflict between first cousins. For another, it gives actor Mark Hamill a big storyline to play, particularly if Luke was the one who made the disastrous decision to leave Rey on Jakku (perhaps taking a page from the playbook of his own mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi). For still yet another, it explains why Kylo Ren — the only character who couldn't have been mind-wiped — seems so fascinated by the person he calls "the girl." He must know, on some level, who she is.

But finally, it underlines something that's always been important to Star Wars: choice. Finn, the Stormtrooper who decided to leave his unit behind, underlines this from the first. You are not predestined to join one side of the Force or another, nor one side in a conflict or another. If Kylo Ren and Rey have different parents, that could suggest, at least a little bit, that their respective sides in the battle were assigned because of the parents they were born to. If they have the same parents, choice becomes the overriding thematic idea of this trilogy.

And did you see that lightsaber duel between them? Their fighting styles are far too similar for them to not be brother and sister. Join me in May 2017, when Episode VIII comes out and we find out whether I'm right (unless everyone involved in the franchise stretches out this storyline for yet another movie).

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