Daisy Ridley was reportedly told Rey was no one until Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Over the course of the Star Wars sequel trilogy, Rey’s heritage was a hot talking point, as viewers continuously speculated about her mysterious backstory. Those questions appeared to be answered in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, where it was revealed she was the daughter of two nameless junk traders who sold her off for drinking money. Like many of that film’s creative choices, separating Rey from the classic Star Wars bloodlines proved to be polarizing, though some saw it as a necessary step for the franchise’s evolution.
However, The Rise of Skywalker backtracked on “Rey Nobody” by making her Emperor Palpatine’s granddaughter. The twist was seen as one of the many ways The Rise of Skywalker retconned The Last Jedi, upsetting those who preferred Rey descending from an anonymous family. A common criticism lobbied against Palpatine’s role in The Rise of Skywalker in general was that it came across as rushed since there was no setup for it in the previous films. As it turns out, the villain’s connection to Rey was seemingly a last-minute addition.
Author Sariah Wilson conducted an interview with Ridley recently, where the topic of Star Wars came up. On Twitter, Wilson relayed part of the conversation, where she told Ridley how much she enjoyed the “Rey Nobody” revelation and that she was “sad” when it was determined Rey was a Palpatine. Ridley understands that sentiment:
“I literally was told that she was no one, so yeah, I totally understand that. I do understand that.”
I apologized again for bringing up SW, and she smiled and told me, “It’s all good!”
— Sariah Wilson (@sariahwilson) February 26, 2021
The first two sequel trilogy installments downplayed the importance of Rey’s family. Even in The Force Awakens, Maz Kanata told Rey the belonging she wanted was ahead of her, not in the past. That seemed to be telling the audience to not worry so much about where Rey came from and that her journey in the movies was more pertinent. It’s unclear why this was changed for The Rise of Skywalker, but it definitely sounds like Rey’s legacy heritage wasn’t part of a years-long plan. Ridley has even admitted she wasn’t sure Rey was a Palpatine while she was filming The Rise of Skywalker. It’s unfortunate that such a massive, canon-altering plot point was seemingly tacked on late in development, as it deserved more care and consideration.
In a vacuum, Rey being a Palpatine isn’t necessarily a problem. There is a compelling story in a descendant of ultimate evil choosing the light path and saving the galaxy. The issue is the first two movies in the trilogy did nothing to establish Palpatine’s presence in the narrative, forcing The Rise of Skywalker (and various publishing materials) to do the heavy lifting to explain his involvement. If The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi played things differently, then perhaps Palpatine’s role wouldn’t have felt forced. There is something to admire about Lucasfilm giving J.J. Abrams and Rian Johnson creative freedom on their projects, but this is an instance where having a solid plan in place would have benefitted the studio, allowing the three movies to tell a cohesive story instead of seemingly being at odds with each other.
Source: Sariah Wilson