Warning: Spoilers for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker ahead.

Some fans are upset that Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker seems to undo the biggest reveal and a central plot point of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. However, while The Rise of Skywalker changes our understanding of Rey’s heritage, the film builds on, rather than ignores, The Last Jedi. Given the context and amount of information about Rey’s parents in The Last Jedi, it was relatively easy for director J. J. Abrams to adapt the story of Rey’s family in The Rise of Skywalker.

Fans may disagree with Abrams’ choice to make Rey a Palpatine. Arguably, it isn’t a good choice and detracts from the film and Rey’s character arc. However, given that the events of Star Wars: The Last Jedi leave a great deal of openness about the possibilities of Rey’s family, Abrams did not erase The Last Jedi in his decision to explore Rey’s heritage.

Additionally, even if the double reveal about Rey’s parents seems to be contradictory, the final scene of The Rise of Skywalker resonates with a message that unites the sequel trilogy: ultimately, you choose your family and your destiny. Regardless of who Rey’s parents are, her family is the people who shaped her and the people that she loves.

Rey’s Parents in The Last Jedi 

The reveal of who Rey’s parents are in The Last Jedi set up a second reveal in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, in large part because Kylo Ren delivers the news to Rey. Kylo Ren taunts Rey about her parentage, asking, “Do you know the truth about your parents? Or have you always known? You’ve just hidden it away. Say it.” Rey responds, through tears, “They were nobody.” Kylo Ren elaborates on Rey’s answer in great detail: “They were filthy junk traders. Sold you off for drinking money. They’re dead in a pauper’s grave in the Jakku desert. You come from nothing. You’re nothing… but not to me.”

Like many scenes in the sequel trilogy, Kylo Ren’s actions parallel Darth Vader’s, including his infamous reveal to Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back. However, instead of exposing a troubling lineage, Kylo Ren attempts to turn Rey to the dark side by playing into her worst fears: her parents abandoned her, she is all alone, and she, too, will amount to nothing. However, both Rey and the audience might be skeptical about listening to Kylo Ren, because of his clear motive. He demands that Rey “say it” out loud, so he is clearly trying to manipulate her own fears to bring her down the path of the dark side. While Darth Vader used the truth to try to convince Luke to join him, it’s still possible that Kylo Ren could have lied to Rey in order to manipulate her. At the very least, Kylo Ren doesn’t care if it is the truth or not as long as he can use it to manipulate Rey in this moment.

Additionally, there is no clear reason why Kylo Ren would have this information. It’s easier to understand how Darth Vader might know that Luke is his son, even if the audience doesn’t know the particulars of how Vader knew or sensed Luke’s relationship to him. But it is far easier to prove someone’s parentage than the absence of their parentage, which is to say “nobody.” Presumably, given Kylo and Rey’s connection, his understanding of her parents matches her own. Rey believes that they are nobody, and so, Kylo Ren believes this as well.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi offers an answer about Rey’s parents, but at the same time, it opens up many more questions: could Kylo Ren have lied? How does he have this information? Because the film opts out of telling the story of Rey’s parents, much less showing their faces, there was always the possibility that her family could still have ramifications for the story down the line.

Rey’s Parents in The Rise of Skywalker

In The Rise of Skywalker, J. J. Abrams chose to make Rey the granddaughter of Emperor Palpatine, so while her parents were “nobodies,” she still comes from a legendary heritage. Kylo Ren journeys to Exegol, where Emperor Palpatine reveals to him the truth about Rey’s origins: Palpatine’s son is Rey’s father.

Once again, Kylo Ren uses this information to his advantage to upset and manipulate Rey, telling her, “I know the rest of your story. They were no one. They chose to be to keep you safe. They sold you to protect you.” Rey experiences flashbacks of her parents leaving her on Jakku as he speaks, showing her parents faces for the first time. These flashbacks support Kylo Ren’s second rendition of events. Kylo Ren explains: “It was Palpatine who had your parents taken. He was looking for you.” When Rey asks why, he responds, “You’re his granddaughter. You don’t just have power, you have his power. You are a Palpatine.” Fans might find this revelation frustrating since it feels like a technicality; technically, Rey’s parents are “nobodies,” which is to say, they are characters that haven’t appeared in Star Wars before, but their lack of importance are clearly overshadowed by her incredibly powerful and infamous grandfather.

Kylo Ren says he was not lying to Rey before, clarifying that he simply had limited information. He claims he was being as honest as he could be. Most of the details that Kylo Ren shared in The Last Jedi, then, are still true. Since Rey’s parents were killed by Ochi of Bestoon, one of Palpatine’s loyalists, shortly after they left her on Jakku, they could be “dead in a pauper’s grave in the Jakku desert” as Kylo Ren described. However, there are still some minor discrepancies between Kylo’s speeches in The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker, namely, that Rey’s parents sold her “for drinking money.” But if that detail is understood as Kylo Ren’s embellishment, then it only speaks to his own cruelty.

The Force Awakens is the Key to Understanding Rey’s Family

Star Wars: The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker seem to disagree over whether or not Rey’s parentage should play a role in her journey. But ultimately, Star Wars: The Force Awakens offers the most cohesive message about Rey’s family, which remains true throughout The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker. In The Force Awakens, Maz Kanata tells Rey: “The belonging you seek is not behind you. It is ahead.” In the final scene of The Rise of Skywalker, Rey takes Maz Kanata’s words to heart. When she is asked for her name, she sees Luke and Leia smiling at her in the distance and chooses to identify herself as Rey Skywalker for the first time. Whether her parents are “nobody” or her lineage makes her a Palpatine, Rey alone gets to choose her family.

Next: Maz Kanata Sets Up Rey Twist In The Force Awakens