Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the ninth entry in the Star Wars saga, is set to arrive in Cineworld on 19th December.
As we’re gradually drip-fed tantalising nuggets of information, fan theories and speculation have once again flooded the internet, indicating possible outcomes and directions the film will take.
One of the most interesting posits that Jedi hero Rey (Daisy Ridley) could be the daughter of original trilogy villain Palpatine (aka Darth Sidious). This was sparked by the reveal that actor Ian McDiarmid would be reprising his role as Palpatine in The Rise of Skywalker – more than a little confusing since he apparently died at the end of 1983’s Return of the Jedi.
Additionally, a provocative image of Rey sporting a hooded robe and dual-sided red lightsaber appeared to allude to her joining the Dark Side of the Force.
The father-daughter theory would certainly make for an interesting twist and further complicate the tangle of relationships that define the series, including Rey’s emotional Force connection with the war-mongering Kylo Ren (Adam Driver).
But just how plausible is this theory and how does it all fit together? Scroll down beneath the image to find out.
The mystery of Rey’s parentage
Before jumping headfirst into this theory, it’s best we give some context on Rey’s parents.
When we first met Rey in The Force Awakens, she was a scavenger on the desert planet of Jakku, counting the days until her parents came back for her. We were told that she was abandoned on the planet as a small child but the identity of her parents remained mysterious, seeming to suggest they would be of some importance within the franchise – some believed Obi-Wan Kenobi or Luke Skywalker.
However, in The Last Jedi audiences were hit with a bombshell by Kylo, who told Rey her parents were "filthy junk traders who sold [her] off for drinking money". Unsurprisingly, this left a sour taste in the mouths of many filmgoers, but was this line purposely deceitful?
Rise of Skywalker director JJ Abrams's statement "there is more to the story [of Rey’s parentage] than you’ve seen", suggests as much.
Rey’s connection to Palpatine
Even before they got a glimpse of 'Dark Rey' in the latest trailer for The Rise of Skywalker, some fans were already theorising she had a connection to Palpatine.
One theory posted on Medium back in 2016 drew a lot of parallels between Rey and Palpatine, including similarities in their musical themes (courtesy of composer John Williams), fighting styles and even names. But does this actually mean she is his biological daughter?
We think it’s unlikely. Palpatine was already at a ripe old age during the events of the Star Wars prequel trilogy, meaning that Rey would be far too young to be his daughter. Moreover, if Palpatine did die in Return of the Jedi, then Rey would have been born decades after his death.
However, some have argued that Rey could be Palpatine’s granddaughter, possibly a more plausible outcome.
Midi-chlorians and the cave
If Rey wasn’t physically conceived by Palpatine, how could she be his daughter? To answer that, we’ll need to look back to George Lucas’s Star Wars prequel trilogy where we learn about the existence of midi-chlorians, microscopic lifeforms in cells that allow a person to engage with the Force when their numbers are high enough.
Fast forward to Revenge of the Sith, and we see Palpatine recount the story of Darth Plagueis, a powerful Sith lord able to manipulate midi-chlorians to create life itself, who was later killed by his apprentice after passing down this knowledge. And the apprentice was – you guessed it – Palpatine.
The Last Jedi may offer evidence to support this theory in the sequence where Rey descends into a mysterious cave on Ahch-To to ask about her heritage. Not only is she totally unshaken entering the evil place, the answer to her question is a vision of two figures that merge into an image of herself.
This could well be more misdirection, but does the absence of her biological parents in the scene suggest that she has none? And more importantly, does it imply that midi-chlorians manipulated by Palpatine are what gave her life in the first place?
Contingency plans and Jakku…
In the novel Aftermath: Emperor’s End (which is considered canonical within the Star Wars saga), we’re told that Palpatine had prepared for the likelihood of his death by putting not one, but 150, contingency plans in place.
We’ve already seen some of these plans in action in the extended Star Wars franchise. Video game Battlefront II centred around a terraforming plot codenamed Operation Cinder, and another plan outlined in the novel told of how the remnants of the Empire came to be the First Order.
Most interestingly, one of the plans directly involves an observatory built on Jakku. Judging from the trailers for The Rise of Skywalker, it appears we’ll be heading back to Jakku, which, lest we forget, is where we first met Rey.
Could this all be a coincidence, or could we be seeing the final stages of Palpatine’s plan come to fruition?
- Star Wars: your guide to the saga in order of release
- 4 theories about Rey's red lightsaber in trailers for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
- Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – analysing the new footage
… Or maybe not
As intriguing as the Rey/Palpatine theory is, it’s important to remember that it’s just a theory. Big blockbusters are known for including red herrings in trailers to throw fans off the scent.
The image of evil Rey in the trailer is likely taken way out of context and could easily be from a vision or dream sequence (a la Luke Skywalker’s chilling Darth Vader vision in The Empire Strikes Back).
Andy Murray is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.