This post contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
Probably the most consistent thing about Star Wars is how the narrative is held together with spit and bubblegum. Like a precarious yet beloved Jenga tower, Star Wars is constantly pulling out pieces and adding in others, with wildly varying results. And what can look like a questionable move at the time can eventually become an accepted piece of the galactic tapestry. For example, after The Return of the Jedi, fans were just as upset about the casual reveal that Leia Organa was secretly Leia Skywalker as they were about Rey’s parentage in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. The death of Darth Vader in 1983 infuriated people as much as Kylo Ren’s demise in 2019. Time is a flat circle, etc. etc.
But part of the fun of Star Wars — at least for me — is looking sideways at the dangling pieces of plot and trying to deduce where Lucasfilm might take them in the future. One of the biggest threads left hanging by the end of The Rise of Skywalker was the story of Rey’s origin. Oh yes, we know she is the granddaughter of Sheev Palpatine, better known as The Emperor. We know her father was the son of said Emperor. We know her parents died…probably. We know Rey was left on Jakku and never retrieved. We know a Sith loyalist assassin named Ochi of Bestoon was involved somehow. But there’s a lot of space in between those plot points, just waiting to be filled in.
This Timeline is as Clear as Mud
Before I get into who I believe Rey’s parents were – specifically her mom – it’s important to grasp how muddy the timeline is at the moment. For this article, I will by using ABY (After the Battle of Yavin) instead of the new ASI (After Starkiller Incident) because if I refuse to learn the metric system, I also refuse to also rewire my brain for Lucasfilm.
Let’s start with the known quantities. Rey is 19 at the start of The Force Awakens. That movie takes place 30 years after Return of the Jedi, so 34 ABY. That would have Rey being born in 15 ABY. Ben Solo was born in 5 ABY, the same day the peace treaty was signed after the Battle of Jakku. Ben Solo joined Jedi Master Luke Skywalker for training when he was ten; so the same year Rey was born. In 21 ABY, Luke Skywalker sensed the presence of Emperor Palpatine. He and Lando Calrissian tracked the darkness to Pasaana, where Ochi’s ship was. Allegedly, Ochi had already vanished aka was dead. The cascade of events that sent Ben Solo into the arms of Snoke and Palpatine wouldn’t occur until at least 29 ABY as Leia still thought of him as Ben during the events of the Bloodline novel, which was set in 28 ABY.
Breaking it down looks like this:
- 05 ABY – Ben Solo born
- 15 ABY – Rey born/Ben Solo begins Padawan training
- 20-ish ABY – Rey left on Jakku
- 21 ABY – Luke and Lando go to Pasaana
- 29 ABY – Ben Solo becomes Kylo Ren
- 30-ish ABY – Luke Skywalker goes to Ahch-To
- 34 ABY – THE FORCE AWAKENS begins
Somewhere in the spaces between those dates, Palpatine’s son fell in love with a woman, Palpatine learned about both Rey and Ben Solo, Luke and Leia discovered Palpatine had a grandchild and figured out it was Rey. Also in the spaces between lay Ochi of Bestoon tracking down Rey’s parents with the Sith dagger that would later lead Rey to the Wayfinder on the Death Star, as well as the ultimate fate of said parents.
The Trouble With Visions
To paraphrase the great Tyrion Lannister, visions are like a half-trained mule. They look like they’re useful, but the moment you trust them, they kick you in the head. When Rey touches Anakin’s lightsaber in The Force Awakens, she gets a jumble of visuals that are not entirely reliable. There’s no reason to think anything different about the images she sees in The Rise of Skywalker after she touches the Sith dagger. There’s one moment in particular that stands out. A woman — assumedly Rey’s mother — declares “She’s not on Jakku. She’s gone!” just as Ochi delivers a killing blow.
That line delivery has left a lot of fans, myself included, scratching their heads. Why would Rey’s mom say that to Ochi when it would then, of course, be the first place he went to look? Why would Rey’s parents leave her with a monster like Unkar Plutt? Upon another viewing, I’m now convinced the audience is witnessing things out of order. Remember, it was Ochi’s ship that left Rey on Jakku in the first place. And it is definitely Ochi’s ship, as it is registered to him and bore the name Bestoon Legacy; so that knocks out the theory that Ochi’s ship originally belonged to Rey’s parents.
The audience sees Rey and her parents on a desert planet before Ochi arrives, telling her to be brave. There’s nothing to indicate the planet is Jakku. It could be Pasaana, or Tatooine, or any number of desert planets as the galaxy is apparently riddled with them. The flashback then cuts to Ochi stabbing Rey’s parents with the Sith dagger. Except he doesn’t. He only stabs Palpatine’s son, who throws himself in front of his partner. We never see Rey’s mom die. Only her dad. And we all know that if you don’t die on-camera (and sometimes even when you do), you aren’t really dead. The action for the death is also at night, and perhaps not even on the same planet as the previous scene.
Untangling the Narrative Threads
Obviously this is all conjecture, but based on the knowledge currently available, this is the most logical series of events. We know from the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Visual Dictionary that Ochi of Bestoon worked for Yupe Tashu. Yupe Tashu was a fanatical human Sith cultist in charge of the project on Jakku. He was one of Palpatine’s closest advisors. He was such a True Believer™ that he loaded himself down with Sith artifacts and threw himself into the center of Jakku during the final battle in an attempt to blow up the planet and stop the New Republic from winning. He failed, clearly. But prior to his death, he did form a solid relationship with Niima, the lady Hutt cartel leader for whom Niima Outpost is named. Niima’s deal with Yupe Tashu had her kidnapping kids for the First Order. So Ochi definitely knew about Jakku. So while it makes no sense at all that Rey’s parents would leave her on Jakku, it makes all the sense in the world that Ochi of Bestoon left her there.
But why would Ochi leave Rey there? Best guess is because the Emperor told him to. Jakku was a crucial piece of the Emperor’s plan, the extent of which is still unknown. I suggest that Ochi succeeded in his mission: he was able to kidnap Rey from her parents and secret her away to First Order allies on Jakku, leaving her to grow up isolated and desperate for a family, any family, even evil family. During the struggle, Palpatine’s son was killed. But Rey’s mom survived, albeit gravely wounded and left for dead. I further suggest Rey’s mom then spent the remainder of her days hunting down Ochi of Bestoon until she caught up with on Pasaana, where she ended his life in the desert sands. As to the lines “She’s not on Jakku. She’s gone!” I suggest Rey’s mom is saying that not to poorly lie about her daughter’s location, but in grief that she cannot find her child. If Niima was successfully trafficking kids to the First Order, she could definitely hide Rey.
But what kind of woman would be strong enough to withstand an attack from a Sith assassin? What kind of woman could hunt one down and kill him in vengeance? Only one woman, in my opinion: Mara Jade.
Let Mara Jade be Rey’s Mom, So Help Me Force
For those who don’t know, a quick refresher on who Mara Jade is. First created by Timothy Zahn for the novel Heir to the Empire, Mara Jade was known as the Emperor’s Hand. A powerful Force user, Mara Jade was raised by Palpatine and, as a result, was exceedingly loyal…until she wasn’t. In the Legends tale, it was her burgeoning romantic relationship with Luke Skywalker that helped her shed the dark side and use her compassion and loyalty for the Light.
With the reemergence of Thawn — another Timothy Zahn character — into the Star Wars canon, it stands to reason that Mara Jade could make her way back as well. Having her revealed as Rey’s mother would be a wonderful nod to the character, without forcing Lucasfilm to retrofit a romantic relationship between Jade and Luke Skywalker. She could still be the Emperor’s Hand, perhaps tasked with keeping Palpatine’s son under control as the man clearly was not following in his father’s footsteps. From there it’s only a hop, skip, and a jump to them falling in love and fleeing the First Order for the safety of their unborn child. It would also explain why Palpatine would send a Sith assassin after the couple; it’s not overkill at all if the son is being guarded by the most powerful Force-user this side of Darth Vader.
Plus, should Mara Jade have survived her encounter with Ochi on Pasaana, even temporarily, it’s entirely possible it was she who passed along the information about Rey to Luke Skywalker, neatly tying up every possible loose narrative end.
As for the son of Palpatine himself, I am completely convinced he was created rather than born. Sheev Palpatine does not strike me as the kind of man who has time for crude recreation much less romantic entanglements. For those upset about Rey taking the Skywalker name at the end of The Rise of Skywalker, I also suggest that name may be more than honorary. After all, Palpatine did have a lot of Skywalker DNA just laying around. And a cloning facility. Combining his own genetic code with that of Anakin Skywalker would create a powerful Jedi indeed…and go along way to explaining Rey’s dyadic connection with Kylo Ren. After all, “dyad” is not a synonym for “soulmate” but simply a description of a relationship between two people, be it romantic, friendship, colleagues…or family.
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