The overarching themes of the sequel trilogy is legacy, legend, and how the stories that come before us affect who we are to become. This is clearly encapsulated in Kylo Ren, the son of Han and Leia, the apprentice of Luke Skywalker, and the “heir apparent” to Darth Vader. It is further explored with Luke’s character in The Last Jedi, Poe’s role in the Resistance, and even Finn’s lack of familial background/connections.
Then there is Rey, descendant of a clone of Sheev Palpatine. It is not only Rey’s past that creates who she will become, it is the galaxy’s. Rey must wrestle with the dark nature of her bloodline, the history of the Jedi, and the impact of the Galactic Civil War. Nonetheless, the most important thing she does, and the thing that makes her the one to wrap up the saga, is unite the qualities of Han, Luke, and Leia into her personage to become a hero in her own right.
Han and Rey: Orphans with a Heart of Gold
Rey grew up in a very similar situation to Han, having been abandoned and left to struggle for scraps. She has a fight first, ask questions later mentality. It is easier to assume that everyone is against you, because then you don’t get hurt. Still, like Han, Rey has heart. She is inherently a good person, but has had to adapt to her situations in order to survive.
When Han is presented with someone that really cares for him, he goes to any length to do right by them (even though he’d never admit it). He’s always looking out for Chewbacca as much as Chewie looks out for him. He takes Luke under his wing, even offering him a spot on his crew. Most nobly, he does right by Leia in agreeing to step aside if she really loves Luke. While it is an extremely meme-worthy moment because of Luke and Leia being twins, it really says something about the man that Han has become through the course of the three (and even four if you include Solo) films.
Rey never had anyone who cared about her until she met Finn. They connect almost instantly on a very deep level, likely due to the trust built in trying to survive dire situations paired with their similar lack of heritage. From the moment they escape in the Millenium Falcon on through the end of Episode IX, Rey has Finn on her heart and mind. Before mailing herself to Kylo, she asks Chewie to tell Finn … well, to “tell him that.” He knows. She knows. That’s enough.
Luke and Rey: What a Jedi Should Be
Rey, like Luke, inherently wants to do what she believes is right even when it may not be what’s best for her. She stays on Jakku waiting for her family because she believes in them, just as Luke sees staying on Tatooine to help Uncle Owen. Neither really likes the circumstance, but they adapt to it. When Rey meets BB8, she lets him stick around even knowing that having him could cause her some serious grief. Luke’s loyalty to R2 and 3PO rings with the same energy.
Most importantly, both Rey and Luke adapt to new definitions of what it means to be a hero without ever losing the core of who they are. Throughout A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back, Luke has an air of the knight in shining armor. He wants to be a hero because his father was, he wants to be a hero so that people won’t see him as just a farm boy. So he blows up the Death Star, leads troops into the Battle of Hoth, and goes to Dagobah “looking for a great warrior.” All of that leads him to Cloud City, where his entire definition of who he is is shattered. So when he goes to confront Darth Vader and the Emperor in Return of the Jedi, he has to find a different way to “fight,” for “wars not make one great.” In redefining his herodom, he figures out what it truly means to be a Jedi in embracing the compassion and love for his father, Anakin, that was lost with the death of Qui-Gon.
Through the course of The Force Awakens, Rey finds the family she was always looking for when Finn comes back for her. Her definition of a hero transitions from sacrificing her dreams to wait for her family to being the one to protect her found family in Finn and the Resistance. But knowing what you need to do and knowing how to do it are two very different things.Rey begins to show the arrogance of Luke in expecting that she could simply show up to Ach-To to have Luke train her, not thinking about the context of why he was there; she rushes off to “save” Ben Solo but doesn’t consider the context of why he became Kylo Ren. Show up, fix things, leave. That’s what she expects to do, just as Luke did on Cloud City. Rey has to learn that being a hero isn’t about winning battles or saving the day. It’s about compassion and love, which is what truly brings change. Despite her dark side nature presented in Rise of Skywalker, that core of the girl who fixed BB8’s antenna is still there. When she gives her life Force to Kylo Ren after she essentially kills him, then she is able to save him. The Ben Solo that lives deep inside the tortured mask sees her compassion, as Rae Carson beautifully explains in The Rise of Skywalker novelization. Although that moment is not the end of her journey, it is the most heroic part of who she becomes.
Leia and Rey: Master and Apprentice, But So Much More
One of the best moments in Episode IX is Rey turning to Leia and saying, “Yes…Master.” Leia as Rey’s master makes absolute sense. Where Luke has Padme’s compassion, Leia has Anakin’s fight first mentality. One of the first things we see with Rey, and a consistent idea throughout the trilogy, is that Rey has some form of martial experience. Leia fought to protect the galaxy and Rey fought to protect her life, but much as people with different traumas are able to see themselves in others, Rey and Leia recognize that fighter spirit.
But becoming a Jedi is far more than standing up for what’s right. It is about being the model of what is right. That’s what makes characters such as Qui-Gon, Ahsoka, and Luke such important characters. They are beacons of hope. If anyone encapsulates hope, it’s Leia. She always believes that the Rebellion or the Resistance will find a way. As Finn says, “People believe in Leia.” Well, people believe in Rey too. Her natural character, with the humility and grace that also defines Leia, draws people toward her. Some, like Poe, cling to the fighter side and some, like Finn, look to her as a role model, but everyone follows her because she leads by example. Knowing that the Resistance needs to get to Exegol, she plots them a course. Not only do the Resistance fighters follow her path, the entire galaxy does. Their faith is not found wanting.
With the loyalty of Han, the compassion of Luke, and the spirit of Leia, Rey becomes the Skywalker that brings the galaxy to peace once and for all.