“Rey Palpatine”. An aspect of The Rise of Skywalker that is frequently criticized, especially by those who loved The Last Jedi; particularly, they crticized it for apparently being done for no [bleep]-ing reason at all, for apparently undoing quote-unquote “Rey’s arc of being nobody and finding her place in all this” and the supposed message, that “Force-sensitives don’t come from bloodlines”.
Firstly, no. Anyone who acts like The Last Jedi was the first to introduce the idea of a Force-sensitive coming from nothing is doing this out of ignorance, because the prequels — the [bleep]-ing prequels — already did that.
Right from the first movie the prequels establish that the Jedi scour the galaxy for children to identify whether they’re Force-sensitive or not, so… there’d be no point in doing that if Force-sensitives did come from bloodlines. Further, the prequels aren’t exactly subtle in communicating the idea that Jedi are forbidden from attachments and are to be expelled if married with another.
If the prequels didn’t exist, then I’d see your point. But no, I like the prequels as well, I think they’re good storytelling and they shouldn’t be taken away just because of blind, toxic haters who argue out of bad faith.
Furthermore, just because Rey’s parents were nobody, doesn’t mean her other ancestors were — as of The Last Jedi, we don’t know whether they were always nobody, and we certainly don’t know their origin story, either. What would make the Palpatine revelation undermine that is if either: A) The Last Jedi explicitly told us that all of Rey’s other ancestors were nobody, or B) if The Rise of Skywalker established that her parents were never nobody at all, not at once.
Secondly, no, Rey’s arc in The Last Jedi isn’t about her being nobody or having to find purpose, contrary to popular belief; instead, she comes to terms with the truth that her parents, as Kylo Ren puts it, “threw [her] away like garbage,” and realizes that she must let this all go, that she must move on from and stop needing her parents.
In The Last Jedi, Rey refuses to accept this truth — even going as far as denying this when Kylo Ren taunts her during one of their conversations —, instead having lied to herself for the past several years of her life that they truly cared for her, that she was worth something to them, that she was abandoned for some important reason which would “show” that her parents cared for her, reinforcing this lie as a way of ensuring it would not perish — henceforth helping her feel happy and thus pushing away her feelings of self-worthlessness.
Her lie that her parents abandoned her for an actual reason was something hinted at in The Force Awakens, when BB-8 asks Rey as to who she’s waiting for: “For my family. They’ll be back. One day.”
Rey, however, is unsure as to what that “importance” exactly is, and thus hopes that if she does find out she is important then it would “show” that her parents loved her and abandoned her to, say, hide her in an act of protection.
It is, for this reason, she, for so long, has wanted to find out as to who her parents were, hoping to infer as to what her “importance” is, only so she would use it to reinforce her lie — and why she hoped for Luke to show her this “importance,” hoping to use that importance to justify her parents abandoning her (“I need someone to show me my place in all this…”); however, when Luke refused, she goes into the mirror cave, hoping for it to show her parents to her — by seeing her parents, she would get to see who they exactly were, and, in turn, infer as to what her “importance” exactly is, judging their appearances.
In the throne room aboard the Supremacy, Kylo Ren, having learned from their touching of hands as to how Rey wanted to find out who her parents were, as well as the truth of her parents, manipulates her into admitting said truth — in that moment, she begins to refuse her lie, coming to terms with the truth that her parents had no true reason for abandoning her, that they hated her, seeing her as nothing but a worthless piece of junk.
(At this point, Rey admits her parents were “nobody,” in the sense they had no important reason to abandon her, instead discarding her as though she is completely worthless; she has “no place in this story” in the sense that, again, her parents didn’t abandon her because she was of some “importance” and they loved her, they abandoned her because, to them… she is worthless.)
As such, remembering that she can still get validation and belonging from the Resistance and all kinds of other people, she takes Kylo Ren’s advice to “let the past die”. By the time we meet her on Crait, she no longer cares about her parents and finds that found family within the Resistance, with Luke having rejected her, with Kylo Ren being the bad guy, with Han Solo now dead, with her parents having thrown her away like garbage.
This was the point of Kylo Ren telling her to: “Let the past die. Kill it if you have to. It’s the only way you’ll become what you were meant to be.” It wasn’t the moral of The Last Jedi, as so many love to believe, but the thing that reinforces Rey’s progression as a character. By the end of The Last Jedi, she became what she was meant to be — a better person, who no longer hinges her life and worth around toxic, drunken parents who threw her away like garbage.
Further, Rey being a Palpatine was absolutely necessary, and an absolutely great storytelling decision. It’s simply a way of hammering home her most notable flaw as a character — her lack of self-worth.
Ever since she was abandoned, Rey came to the conclusion that her parents abandoning her meant she is inherently worthless, and over the next several years of her life, up until adulthood, when her parents did not return for her, this conclusion became internalized, becoming an unconscious core belief — consciously forgotten by Rey, although it still influences her conscious feelings and decisions; quite similar to in real life, where core beliefs start out during childhood as regular, conscious conclusions, and over time, up until adulthood, they become internalized, unconscious… consciously forgotten by you — you are unaware it even exists in the first place —, yet it still influences your conscious feelings and decisions.
Because she believes she is worthless, Rey has no internalized self-worth. She hates herself, but doesn’t know why. She has a constant, chronic pain within her, a hole in her heart, because she doesn’t love herself. It leeches off her feelings of happiness and fulfillment, as such, she feels unworthy of being a Jedi, of being a hero, of taking up the saber that belonged to Luke Skywalker, and his father before him — like she doesn’t even deserve that.
Rey, however, wants to live a happy, fulfilling life, instead of having to live through this hell of depression and self-loathing. To make up for this, she believes the only way to be of value is to be valued by other people. She believes that she is only worth something if other people think she is. Rey is always doing things to please others, to gain people’s love, respect, admiration and appreciation in an effort to gain the worth and value that she lacks from herself.
This is the lie Rey believes. Rey believes that her worth comes from others and comes from giving to others. While giving to others is good, it should not be the source of your own self-worth. You shouldn’t have to be of worth to others, to be of worth to yourself.
The truth is that your worth and value has to come from within. You cannot be given value by others. You have to give value, worth and love to yourself, to truly be happy, balanced and whole.
Star Wars’ most ignorant critics may argue that Rey’s self-loathing, feelings of self-worthlessness and lack of self-worth has no real evidence in any of the movies to back it up, but they’re wrong. In fact, all three movies constant reinforce this arc and drive the point home.
She rejects the lightsaber of the Skywalkers that called out to her through the literal Force and her place as a hero from Maz, afterwards running into a forest (now, you could argue that she was scared and that was why she rejected the saber, but she was calmed down by Maz immediately afterwards), and hands it over to Leia, feeling like she hasn’t even earned it yet — implies she doesn’t think she deserves that.
She repeatedly tries to get Luke and then Ben to be the hero in The Last Jedi — implies she doesn’t think she deserves to be the hero, and it’s only after the throne room scene when she is forced to be said hero.
She constantly seeks validation from others; perhaps the most famous example is when she bypasses the compressor, desperately spells it out to Han word-for-word, only for him to shrug it off without caring and this causes Rey to look disappointed — implies she seeks validation from others, which also implies she lacks any self-value.
She overcompensates by trying to show her worth, trying to prove herself to others, like when she insists: “You didn’t fail Kylo. Kylo failed you. I won’t.” This is also something Kylo Ren addresses in The Rise of Skywalker: “You wanted to prove to my mother that you were a Jedi, but you’ve proven something else.”
She has a rather hasty formation of attachments — Rey instantly attaches herself to Han Solo in The Force Awakens, seeing him as the “father [she has] never had,” as Kylo Ren puts it; she even cries when Han is murdered right in front of her eyes, despite barely ever spending time with him.
She is emotionally fragile — for example, she begins to cry when Ren rejects her offer and convinces her to join him.
She willingly spends her life as a scavenger, despite acknowledging, deep down, that her family isn’t coming back.
She consistently feels alone, lost, confused or scared — for example, Luke asks, “What are you most afraid of?”, she responds, “Myself…” Another example is when she feels alone in the cave and goes to Kylo Ren so she wouldn’t feel alone.
She blames herself for seemingly killing Chewbacca.
She has misplaced and inappropriate outbursts of anger — especially when she hits Luke from behind and when she stabs Kylo —, despite having no reason to, other than a deeper, unconscious core belief, being the only explanation.
All of this, right here, is enough evidence for Rey having no self-value and suffering from an unconscious core belief of that she is worthless.
But anyway, anyhow, anywho… her character arc in The Rise of Skywalker starts off with her receiving a vision of herself as a Sith, ruling on the Sith throne — she becomes afraid of herself falling prey to the dark side, imagining that if she turns to the dark side then the Resistance, her newfound family, and the wider galaxy would abandon her and consider her to be worthless; hence why she begins to feel unworthy of being a Jedi and using a lightsaber, convinced she would become a Sith if she remains a Jedi and continues using a lightsaber.
Of course, Rey learns of a truth even worse than that of her parents throwing her away like garbage… she is Palpatine’s granddaughter — she begins to fear of what the wider galaxy would think of her if they find out who she is, since her grandfather is the Sith lord who not only destroyed the Jedi Order but also made the galaxy suffer under the rule of the Galactic Empire and was also responsible for the destruction of Alderaan.
Upon injuring Kylo Ren during their duel, she becomes convinced that her heritage is the thing that is causing her to continually give into the dark side — since this is the first time she had given into the dark side after she learned the truth of her heritage. She, convinced she is meant to end up just like her grandfather, exiles herself as a way of distancing herself from everyone else — still afraid of falling prey to the dark side for the reasons mentioned above.
Luke Skywalker, aware of her heritage, shows up to her and dismisses what she believes, explaining to her that her value is determined by her heart and not her heritage — Leia deciding to train her despite having acknowledged who Rey was already proves this to be true — and that said heritage does not define who she is and how her future is going to turn out, urging her to face her fear, confront Palpatine and save the galaxy; this convinces her that she is able to do the right thing, regardless of her heritage.
Right at this point is the first time Rey truly acknowledges the existence of her core belief of self-worthlessness and how it has been holding her back her entire life — when Luke informed her that, “Confronting fear is the destiny of a Jedi,” she applied this to her fear, that being her feelings of self-worthlessness.
Of course, she goes to confront Palpatine on Exegol and gets her ass whopped by him, leaving her heavily weakened. Feeling unable to defeat Palpatine on her own, she turns to the Jedi of the past for support; in response, they encourage her to try her best to defeat Palpatine, regardless of how puny she is in comparison to him — now, she has enough strength to not only refuse the lie she had believed her entire life, that she is worthless, that she is only worth something if other people think she is, but also rise and stand against Palpatine.
He dismisses her as nothing, no match for the “power in [him];” instead of succumbing to his remarks, she ignores them and responds back with her own, self-made sense of self-worth and self-esteem… that “she… is all the Jedi,” and the icing on the cake is that she has pulled in the Skywalker lightsaber, the weapon she has felt unworthy of using for so long — she finally feels worthy.
No longer held back by her irrational, toxic core belief that she is worthless, having come to terms with the truth that worth and acceptance comes from within and not from other people, Rey destroys Palpatine — the embodiment of this belief — once and for all.
The ending of The Rise of Skywalker further reinforces how Rey is no longer held back by this core belief.
For one, when asked her name on Pasaana she simply responds that she is “just Rey,” when at that point she was still held back by her core belief, whereas on Tatooine, now no longer held back by her core belief, when asked her name, she responds, “Rey Skywalker,” — this implies Rey finally feels worthy of naming herself as a Skywalker.
Secondly, the sequence parallels her beginnings on Jakku, as a way of showing how much Rey has grown as a character up until this point; in the first film, Rey is held back by her core belief of self-worthlessness, spending her days on Jakku, hoping for her parents to come back so they would give her validation, helping her feel happy, thus pushing back her feelings of self-worthlessness — whereas at the end, Rey has already overcome her core belief, she is now happy and accepts herself, she no longer relies on other people for approval. On top of that, in the first film she looks at that old woman on Jakku with worry and fear, that she would end up having lived her life sad, whereas here she has matured, she looks at the old woman, this time knowing she would grow old happily, descriptive of her own self-value.