(This post contains speculation about “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” that, if true, would constitute a major spoiler. You have been warned.)
One of the biggest problems with “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was, well, Rey’s (Daisy Ridley) entire arc. She somehow was able to teach herself Force powers, using a Jedi mind trick on a stormtrooper despite presumably having no knowledge of that being a thing. And then she was somehow strong enough in the Force and skilled enough with a lightsaber that she could beat Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), who had been training his whole life in both the Force and lightsaber combat.
It’s a legitimate concern — typically when a character in a movie is good at doing something it’s either after the movie already established they were good at that thing (i.e. Biggs introducing Luke [Mark Hamilll] to Red Leader in the original “Star Wars” as “the best bush pilot in the Outer Rim”) or after we saw them learn how to do the thing (i.e. Luke training to use the Force on Dagobah). But Rey doesn’t get either of those in “The Force Awakens” — her beating Kylo Ren is akin to if Luke decided to fight Darth Vader right after Vader killed Obi-Wan and somehow defeated him.
Rey’s arc in “The Force Awakens” is either very bad writing or there’s something important we don’t know about her. It’s probably the latter, considering how the movie does present us with a mystery about Rey: someone (her parents?) left her on Jakku years earlier and she doesn’t know who they are. That that bit was important enough to show us probably means it’s important enough to be a thing that will be addressed in either “The Last Jedi” or “Episode IX.” And there’s a way in which the reveal of her history could completely recontextualize her arc in “The Force Awakens” so that it actually makes sense.
This idea is one that I’ve seen pop up periodically in different forms — sometimes as a fan theory on Reddit or elsewhere; at least once as a detail in an alleged leaked draft of the script for “The Last Jedi,” which at this stage is considered “debunked”; and TheWrap’s Ross Lincoln once mentioned it to us as part of a discussion over how “The Last Jedi” could improve “The Force Awakens” by retconning it extensively. I don’t know if this idea is true, and there isn’t much in the way of what I’d call evidence to support it, but we can’t get it out of our heads as we enter the last handful of days before we get to see the movie.
Anyway, here’s the idea: Rey was actually one of Luke Skywalker’s Jedi apprentices at his school. You know the one — the school that Kylo Ren and the Knights of Ren destroyed when Kylo fell to the Dark Side, as described in “The Force Awakens.”
The idea is that Rey survived the attack by some means, either as the lone surviving student or by herself falling to the dark side and helping Kylo Ren destroy the Academy before being captured by Luke. But then Luke used the Force to wipe Rey’s memory to hide her from the First Order — implanted false memories in her mind to make her think she’d been left on Jakku as a child and lived there her whole life. Instead of being abandoned by parents she can’t remember as a small child, Luke left Rey on Jakku a much shorter time ago, and gave her false memories to make her think she’d been there all her life.
Blocked and implanted memories make a lot of sense with Rey’s character. If Luke left her with the sense that he was planning to return to her, it could explain why Rey was so convinced that she needed to wait around on Jakku for some nameless person’s return. He also could have locked her off from much of her Force sensitivity, to make her harder for the First Order to find, since as we’ve seen in other “Star Wars” films, Force-sensitives can often sense each other even across large distances.
Luke trying to keep Rey from unlocking her Force potential in order to protect he makes a lot of other little things in “The Force Awakens” make more sense as well. There’s the fact that Rey almost intuitively can use Force abilities that she seemingly has never heard of — she’s definitely on a faster track than Luke or even Anakin Skywalker were. And there’s Rey’s abilities with a lightsaber, which she would have trained with under Luke, that allow her to stand up to a much more experienced, if injured, Kylo Ren. Rey may not remember her past consciously, but perhaps her body does.
And then there’s the vision Rey has at Maz Kanata’s castle. When she discovers Luke’s old lightsaber, Rey has a Force vision that shows her a mess of stuff that happened in the past. It includes what happened to Luke’s Jedi academy and Kylo Ren killing a bunch of folks, as well as Rey’s backstory. Rey even has a serious reaction to the lightsaber, horrified by what she saw. If Luke had tried to lock all that away from Rey, seeing the memories come tumbling out and mix together when she touched a lightsaber, and thus got a dose of her own past, makes a kind of sense. It also tracks with the title of the film and Supreme Leader Snoke’s comment, “There has been an awakening.” Rey has been asleep to the Force thanks to the memory wipe, but she’s starting to wake up to it thanks to the events of the film.
Finding out that Luke zapped Rey’s brain would also give “The Last Jedi” ample room to establish any parentage Rian Johnson wants for Rey. Or no parentage at all, because it wouldn’t matter any more than the identity of Obi-Wan’s parents did. Of course, it’s been long rumored, since the earliest story leaks for “The Force Awakens,” that Rey is Luke’s daughter — which if true would also make sense in this framework because the daughter of Luke Skywalker would have Force talent and Luke would definitely train her.
The whole incident with Kylo Ren going dark and destroying Luke’s temple, by the way, occurred some time in the six years prior to when “The Force Awakens” is set — per the novel “Bloodlines,” which is canon, which establishes that Ben Solo has not yet turned when the events of the novel are happening. Rey is 19 years old in the movie, which would thus make her 13 at the earliest point at which Ben’s turn could have happened — more than old enough for her to have had years of training under Luke.
You might be inclined to think this theory doesn’t fully line up with “The Force Awakens” — we ourselves had some doubts, given that if she was an apprentice at Luke’s academy it’s likely that Han and Kylo Ren would recognize her but they never act like they do. Han is easy to explain — if Luke wiped Rey’s memory and hid her away then he would probably be aware of that fact. Kylo Ren is slightly tougher — how he greets her when they first meet outside Maz Kanata’s castle is not something that really communicates either recognition or playing coy. But the scene when Ren shows her his true face is more telling. When he takes his helmet off he looks at her without speaking for a long moment, almost like he’s waiting for her to figure it out. Rey, then, responds with an expression that is exactly the sort of look every normal person makes when they know they should remember something but can’t, with her eyes darting around and focusing on nothing.
Knowing for sure at that point that Rey doesn’t remember her past, Ren certainly would have played coy from there. And he even has a line later on that indicates he knows something about her despite not being able to probe her mind: “She’s just beginning to test her powers,” Ren tells a stormtrooper after Rey escapes from custody. “The longer it takes to find her, the more dangerous she becomes.”
It’s a bizarre line in the movie, because the context as it exists now doesn’t support it. Without being taught about the potential uses for her Force powers she wouldn’t have any idea what to do with it beyond what little she saw Kylo Ren do — like if you gave someone a nuke but they had no concept of what bombs are it wouldn’t be very useful to them and you wouldn’t consider that person a threat. But that line would make more sense if Kylo Ren knew she’d been trained previously and might be able to subconsciously draw upon that training.
If this turns out to be true it wouldn’t be a full fix for “The Force Awakens” — there are many, many other big problems with that movie, some of which are impossible to retcon or flesh out. There is no redeeming, for example, that whole thing with the rolling tentacle monsters. But it would go a long way toward helping patch up what is the central character arc of the movie, and that in itself would be huge.
79. Finn's old friends whom he murders without a thought.
As soon as Finn and Poe take off in their stolen TIE Fighter, Finn blows up a bunch of his old buddies in the stormtrooper corps. No hesitation, no remorse, just murder. Somehow missed all the signs of Finn's emotional instability. I didn't feel like counting all of them (thus the "77+") but there were a bunch!
These CGI refugees somebody at ILM found on a server are really awful and unchill.
76. The jigsaw puzzle that shows where Luke Skywalker is.
The third time I saw "The Force Awakens" in a theater, my drunk friend leaned over at this part of the movie and loudly asked, "Why is it a jigsaw puzzle?" Indeed, that's a significant character flaw, Mr. Map.
75. The first one to die in the movie.
It's not called "Star Peace," so somebody has to receive the ignominious honor of being the first person killed. In "The Force Awakens," it's this stupid stormtrooper who runs straight forward and gets blown up.
74. Nose monster.
It doesn't want to share its water with a freeloader like Finn. What an asshole.
73. Stormtrooper who gets shot by an old guy who wasn't even looking.
It doesn't get much worse than this.
That's just Teedo, some clown who spells his name funny and tries to catch droids in a net.
71. Stormtrooper who smears blood on Finn's helmet.
What's this guy's deal, honestly? He uses his dying breath to try to get Finn written up for having blood all over his face.
70. Guy who didn't already have the ventral cannons powered up.
When a prisoner escapes in one of your starfighters with a defecting stormtrooper, you probably should power up all the weapons. But this guy doesn't power up the ventral cannons until some other officer suggests it.
69. Child Rey.
She just yells a bunch because she's a child who is sad about her parents leaving her on the dirt planet with Unkar Platt for some reason. Meh.
68. Stormtrooper who doesn't care.
Finn just walked into the torture room and was like, "Hey, I'm gonna leave with this guy and we're gonna murder your friends, cool?" And dude just lets him do it.
67. Condescending Resistance medic.
She's like, "Wow, you must be so brave" to Chewie as if the Wookiiee is some child and not a 200-year-old hairy guy who shoots people a lot.
This feels like a misuse of Pegg's considering comic talents.
62-65. Terrible bar band.
I know some people are partial to Lin-Manuel Miranda's music, but this track the band is playing is absolutely horrible and I hope Disney will just George Lucas it down the line.
Honestly, screw R2 in this movie. Slept through the whole thing.
I really wanted to like this guy. But he's mostly just luggage and he disappears halfway through the movie.
A couple stormtroopers show up at Rey's village on Jakku and these clowns give up her, Finn and BB-8 like they don't even care about their rep.
55-57. Mosquitoes at the bar.
This is weird, right? Would you drink at the same bar as these guys? I wouldn't.
54. Sitcom couple.
They call the First Order on BB-8 even though that has to be some kind of violation of the rules of the bar. And they perpetuate a bad TV sitcom trope, that of an overweight and unattractive man being paired with a conventionally attractive lady.
53. Random dude who gets jacked up by those stormtroopers
These troopers are hilarious, just running around this little shantytown firing wildly and bowling over random people like whatever this guy is.
52. Woman who watches the countdown clock that says when Starkiller will be able to blow up planets.
It's a weird job, but I guess somebody has to do it.
51. New guy who does the Starkiller Base countdown.
Right at the end of the movie, the First Order apparently gets a new person whose job it is to watch the countdown clock that says when Starkiller will be able to blow up planets.
50. The guy who wants to bail on Starkiller base because it's about to blow up.
This guy's dark-side karma is basically zero after pulling this shit.
49. Officer who thinks the Starkiller base crew should keep working even though they're all about to die.
"GET BACK TO YOUR STATION!" he yells at a guy who wants to bail. I hope Supreme Leader Snoke gives him a big house in the afterlife.
Maybe Finn didn't care that he murdered all his friends, but this guy does. He almost gives Finn what he deserves but Han blows him up first.
47. Jojen Reed.
He died on "Game of Thrones" and then was reborn in the "Star Wars" galaxy only to get killed again after uttering his first line. Next stop: "The Maze Runner."
46. Stormtrooper who has a funny death freezeframe.
This image, at least, will live forever.
44-45. These dudes from the "The Raid."
All they do here is get eaten by the rolling toothy buttholes. That's, like, peak wasted potential, JJ.
43. Lady who watched the Starkiller laser blow up her planet.
She doesn't get to talk, because JJ cut her scene with Leia that was supposed to happen earlier in the movie.
42. Captain Phasma.
Positioned by the toy marketers as the Boba Fett of "The Force Awakens," all Captain Phasma actually does is lower Starkiller Base's shield without any kind of resistance whatsoever. She basically defects.
41. Mind-tricked stormtrooper.
He thinks he's big and bad, but Rey manages to pull an old Jedi mind trick on him despite not even know that was a thing. Basically, this dude is the worst.
38-40. Scavengers who nearly get nailed by CGI shrapnel.
Don't know if I should blame them or overly aggressive pre-viz work for these folks almost getting nailed by a crashing TIE Fighter. But they don't seem alarmed by it either way.
37. Major Something or Other.
The funniest thing about "The Force Awakens" is how they named every single character even though most of their names are never spoken. Like this guy, who serves as an audience surrogate when he's like, "It's another Death Star," so Poe will have a reason to explain that, no, actually it's worse.
36. Pilot guy.
Do I really have to rank all these anonymous pilots who don't have any distinguishing characteristics?
Grunberg pulls double duty here, playing both a reference to a Rebel pilot from the original "Star Wars" film and "Greg Grunberg in a JJ Abrams movie." He pulled it off pretty well.
30. Poor computer.
I don't know why Kylo Ren chooses to destroy valuable computer equipment instead of useless officers, but whatever. Darth Vader wouldn't have taken out that computer.
He has a red arm this time. Can't wait to buy the comic book that explains why!
28. Rey's makeshift doll.
Rey. You're an adult. Burn this.
27. Minigun stormtrooper.
Wow! Where was this guy the rest of the movie? He's only in this one shot.
26. Flamethrower stormtrooper.
This guy's even better than the minigun trooper, despite being seen in the exact same number of shots in the movie.
25. Nien Nunb.
Despite being old as hell, Nien is still suiting up to fly around in space shooting stuff.
24. Admiral Ackbar.
He asks a couple questions while the Resistance is pulling a plan out of their asses to take out Starkiller base, then quietly returns to the retirement home.
23. Supreme Leader Snoke.
George Lucas caught a lot of shit for bad character names in the prequels, but he never would have dreamed of calling his villain "Supreme Leader Snoke." It's a name that makes "General Grievous" look really well thought out.
22. Cool village defender lady.
We never actually see her fire that rifle, but I'm sure she was great at it and wasn't immediately murdered.
21. Cool mechanic droid.
I wanna be friends with this guy. J.J. Abrams' "Star Wars" legacy is this droid.
20. Old lady scavenger.
Would have been the Obi-Wan Kenobi of this movie except they forgot to talk to her.
18-19. Smart stormtroopers.
Believe it or not, they do exist, as evidenced by these two who are smart enough to not go near Kylo Ren while he's destroying stuff.
17. The God of the "Star Wars" universe.
For some reason this deity gave everyone at Maz's bar a vision of the Republic capital getting blown up by the First Order. The Lord works in mysterious ways.
16. Maz Kanata.
"Maz is a bit of an acquired taste," Han says about the nicest character in the entire movie.
15. Lor San Tekka.
They brought Max von Sydow in for one scene because they knew nobody else could as convincingly say weird cryptic lines about Kylo Ren's decidedly not secret family heritage. Great actor.
14. Random First Order dude the movie cuts to for no reason.
Is this a cameo? Who knows? Great use of the Mystery Box, J.J.
2. This guy who guessed Starkiller Base's weakness.
The Resistance had never seen any kind of weapon like the First Order's Starkiller base, which can destroy multiple planets through hyperspace with a single shot. But this guy is so smart that his wild guess about how to destroy the planet-sized weapon was actually correct.
I would say something snarky here, but I'm having a hard time conjuring anything since I chose like the saddest possible screenshot to use for Chewbacca. Whoops. I'll do better next time.
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There are a lot of characters in ”The Force Awakens,“ and we ranked many of them!
"Star Wars" fans just learned that the next "Star Wars" film, "Rogue One" will feature a character we didn't see in "The Force Awakens" -- Darth Vader.
So how did the "Force Awakens" characters measure up without him? Here's our rankings. (I wrote a whole bunch of jokes for this. Please laugh.)