Warning: This post contains major spoilers for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
When The Force Awakens hit theaters in 2015, it left a major question unanswered: Who are Rey’s parents? Now, with the Dec. 20 release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the sequel trilogy has come to an end and fans finally have a definitive answer about Rey’s identity: She’s a Palpatine.
In The Last Jedi, director Rian Johnson’s 2017 sequel to the J.J. Abrams-directed Force Awakens, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) told Rey (Daisy Ridley) that her parents were nobodies who sold her for drinking money on Jakku and were buried in a desert grave there. Kylo wasn’t exactly lying, but with Abrams back at the helm for The Rise of Skywalker, we learn that he simply didn’t know the whole truth.
“The dead speak,” the first line of Episode IX’s opening crawl reads, and it turns out they have a lot to say. After getting his hands on something called a Sith Wayfinder, one of only two glowing green 3D maps to the planet Exegol that exist in the galaxy, Kylo makes his way to the secret Sith hideout and discovers that Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) somehow managed to survive his fall down the Death Star reactor shaft all those years ago and has been the one pulling the strings behind the rise of the First Order. The only explanation we get for this is that he used “unnatural” powers made possible by the Dark Side to cheat death. Nonetheless, he’s looking much worse for the wear.
The Emperor reveals that he wants Kylo to kill Rey, assume his rightful place on the Sith throne and finish the job that his grandfather Vader couldn’t. “She’s not who you think she is,” Palpatine tells him.
But Kylo has other plans. Still hoping to convince Rey to rule by his side, he takes advantage of their Force connection to make her come to terms with the truth about her parents: They did abandon her, but only to protect her. See, it turns out that Palpatine not only had a secret son, but this son was also Rey’s father. When Rey was born, Palpatine sensed how powerful she would become and tried to have her killed. In a last-ditch effort to keep her safe, Rey’s mom (whose identity isn’t revealed but who’s played by Killing Eve‘s Jodie Comer) and dad hid her on Jakku and refused to reveal where she was when they were captured. They were then murdered on Palpatine’s orders.
Of course, this revelation leaves us with some things to consider about the specifics of Rey’s family tree. First of all, Palpatine’s son is never once mentioned in either George Lucas’ original trilogy or prequel trilogy—let alone the son’s mother. For logistical reasons, we’re going to assume that he was born before his dad went full Darth Sidious in Revenge of the Sith, but for the math of Rey’s age to make sense, it couldn’t have been too long before that. Kylo Ren and Rey seemed to be about the same age, which likely means that their parents were also relatively the same age—and Leia was born almost immediately following Palpatine’s rise to power.
There’s also the nagging question of how there wasn’t a single other soul—including, say, Yoda—who didn’t know, or at the very least, seem to be concerned about the fact that the galaxy’s most powerful dictator had a son. Jedi and Sith sense other similar disturbances in the Force throughout the entire saga!
Last but not least, the whole situation leaves us wondering why the all-powerful Palpatine couldn’t manage to bring his own son into the fold of the Dark Side while he had no trouble turning Anakin into Darth Vader. But that may be a question for a future spinoff.
In the end, though, none of these questions matter too much once Rey, like her two greatest mentors, decides that she isn’t going to let her family name determine her individual destiny. After channeling the energy of every Jedi that ever lived to defeat Palpatine, Rey travels to Luke’s home planet of Tatooine and encounters a local who asks who she is. She turns to see the Force-ghosts of both Luke and Leia appear before giving her answer: “Rey…Skywalker.”