I am also a bit confused towards Rey’s motivation.
I agree with Don in that Rey wants to belong somewhere. An expected reaction for someone so isolated. Further evidence for this:
- She is in denial that her family will come in TFA
- She saves BB8, her only friend possibly ever. Her insistence on getting BB8 to the resistance may be due to he trying to help the only friend she has even known.
- She never outright helps the resistance. She only wields the lightsaber to save Finn, a friend.
- She asks Luke to “show me her place in all this”.
- It seems she only wants to know her parents after she is turned down by Luke. Luke’s grumpiness causes Rey to doubt the Jedi way and ponder about her parents once more (the cave).
- She then develops a force connection with Ben and comes to believe he may have what she seeks (a place to belong to).
All this is building to Rey taking Ben’s hand.
Why would Rey want to join the Jedi? Luke has done nothing but criticize her. We all know the Jedi way is right, but from her POV she just met this grumpy hermit who doesn’t want her. Why should she care about the Jedi?
It seems Rey’s primary motivation in turning down Kylo is because she has friends in the resistance? Like Finn and BB8? But the entire film has been building up Kylo and Rey’s relationship. As for the “she realizes she does not need a purpose, she can make one herself” well wasn’t that where she was before TFA. On her own with no one?
I think Rey would have been a great character had she taken Ben’s hand and charted us a new, bold direction for TROS.
Now she feels more like a missed opportunity bordering “perfect” which is a shame given how close we were. I hope TROS does the best job they can with Rey- if they provide some clarification on her motivation I think the whole Mary Sue argument will finally be over.
First of all, Rey had no purpose on Jakku besides waiting for her parents to show up and give her one. Being able to take care of yourself does not mean you have a purpose in life. Her life was literally in wait.
Second, Rey turning down Kylo because she has friends in the Resistance is not a minor thing. It’s a huge part of her character. Her story in TFA is all about learning to find a new family with her friends in the Resistance. You seem to acknowledge this, yet you come to the conclusion that that this is leading up to her forsaking those friends for Ben instead? Her connection to Ben is less about finding family and more about finding purpose (two related concepts yet ultimately not the same). The purpose Ben offers is ultimately in direct opposition to her new family and her underlying ideologies. So instead she goes with the way of the Jedi, and chooses that as her purpose. Why does she choose the Jedi way as her purpose? Well here’s the thing. You’re right that Luke rebuffs her, which is why she turns to Ben in the first place. But why should she have animosity against the Jedi because of how Luke treated her? The whole reason Luke treats her that way is because Luke doesn’t want her to be a Jedi. For most of the film she remains steadfast in her faith in the stories she’s been told of the Jedi, and more importantly Luke. At the end of the film, I tend to think moving forward that Luke’s lessons have convinced her not to be too beholden to the old ways (Luke’s plan is essentially to force Rey to pick up the mantle of the Jedi, but from scratch on her own), but she sees through Luke’s crankiness and believes there is still some wisdom and power to be learned from the Jedi (and she’s right, of course, as Luke proves in his final standoff). Some of the final conclusions to be made here (Rey learning Luke’s final lesson of failure, for instance) aren’t explicitly dramatized in TLJ so I hope it’s a part of Rey’s character building in TROS.
Honestly I’ve always hated the “it would’ve been so badass if Rey turned bad.” It feels like a pretty shallow desire. If it happened it would have been a complete betrayal of everything we know about her character. On the other hand, you could say, well Kylo didn’t have to say he was going to destroy the Resistance, he could have turned good then and there. Except that would have been a betrayal of his character at that moment. What makes Rey/Kylo a compelling protagonist/antagonist pairing is the way they compare and contrast. If they had just joined together and did their own thing, that would have been the bland middle road. What would that choice say about their characters? What direction would they go from there? It feels like a rather uncompelling way to end a middle chapter. What TLJ did is show two people who have a connection, who can work together under the right circumstances, and who can accomplish great things when in that union, but who ultimately have no choice but to go separate ways because of fundamental differences in terms of ideology/personality. It’s a much more interesting conflict to me than Rey and Kylo vs. the world. The version of Rey vs. Kylo that TLJ sets up is a very complex one and I’m very interested to see where it goes.