Friday Focus: Rey-The Search for Identity

Here’s the second installment of my Women of Star Wars series.

Capable Rey

From the moment we meet Rey, scavenging on Jakku, we know that she’s young, strong, and capable. Her harsh environment has taught her how to handle herself and others; she very rarely needs rescuing (something that Finn, annoyingly, fails to understand).

But at the core of her is a mystery, not only to us but to herself. There is a power within her, a strength in the Force that suggests she’s special in some way. Who left her on Jakku as a child and why? Rey’s desperate need to believe they’ll come back for her is a result not only of her terrible loneliness, but of her need to know: who is she?

The old adage “Be careful what you wish for,” comes into play by the third film. But in the second, The Last Jedi, Kylo Ren tells her, “You come from nothing. You’re nothing.” And we start to believe him. Her parents were simply junk traders, selling her off for drink money. Sad, but never mind. It’s all right. She doesn’t have to be anyone “special” to be, well, special. Rey’s experience in the dark well of mirrors on Ach-To seems to confirm this. She only has herself to rely on.

StarWars.com examines how Rey's journey in the mirror cave in Star Wars: The Last Jedi echoes experiences had by both Anakin and Luke Skywalker.
Lonely Rey

But a little part of me refused to believe it. Rey had to get those amazing Force powers from somewhere, right?

When we find out in TROS that Rey is a Palpatine, I was blindsided. Honestly, I didn’t see it coming at all. Rey had always been a vessel of Light to me. I couldn’t see her coming from the most evil man in the Galaxy.

The clues, however, were there for me to see. Rey had raw strength, yes, but she also had anger that she unabashedly drew from . In her battles with Kylo, she often seemed more angry and agitated than he was, though this was probably due to her lack of control. She’d never been properly trained as a Jedi, while Kylo had spent years as Luke’s student. She yells, snarls, and growls a lot in her fight sequences, as if she’s drawing on some monster inside her.

Star Wars (Guerra nas Estrelas BRA ou Guerra das Estrelas PRT) é uma franquia do tipo space opera estadunidense criada pelo cineasta George Lucas que conta com uma série de oito filmes de fantasia científica e dois spin-offs. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, também conhecido como Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker, é uma futura space opera épica estadunidense de 2019. #starwars #RiseofSkywalker #Skywalker #darthvader #StarWarsIX #jedis
Determined Rey

On Acht-To, when Luke gave her that first lesson on the Force on the rock ledge, she went deep–deeper than he had expected, deep into both Light and Dark, which frightened him.

“You didn’t even try to stop yourself,” he said to her, eyes wide with fear. Rey had a (unbeknownst at this point) familial link to the Dark Side, almost an attraction that she couldn’t resist.

It’s ironic that Kylo, who was born to the Light, kept insisting that Rey surrender to the Dark Side, while even he hadn’t completely surrendered himself. Not really. He kept feeling the “pull to the Light”. He kept doing things that he thought would cement his commitment to the Dark. But he still felt “split to the bone,” in Snoke’s words.

Rey stubbornly refuses to surrender, even after her meeting with Dark Rey. She knows she comes from the Dark, senses the power she could have if she gave in to it; yet still plods on in the Light, determined to help her Resistance friends, and to face her grandfather, the Emperor.

Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker  releases early footage | Daily Mail Online
Dark Rey

In facing the Emperor, Rey not only hopes to defeat him and help the Resistance, but to also defeat the Darkness within herself. Or, perhaps not to defeat, but to accept and control. After all, she and Kylo are “dyads” meant to bring “balance” to the Force. Not all Light or all Dark, but to integrate the two, one needing the other.

The full import of her parents’ sacrifice comes into play here. In giving her up and putting her into hiding (and they being killed in the process), she was protected from the evil influence of her grandfather. She fully gets to choose who she wants to be, whether she follows the Light or the Dark.

This is in contrast to Kylo, who had heard the whisper of the devil in his ear from a very young age, confusing and twisting him.

The gift Rey’s parents gave her is incalculable. In being able to choose her destiny, Rey is prevented from being a victim (as in many respects Kylo can be seen); and, of course, is able to save the Galaxy!

At the end of TROS, when she names herself “Rey Skywalker”, she gives up on the idea of somebody else telling her who she is. She’s choosing her own identity. It doesn’t matter to me whether she called herself Rey Solo, Rey Skywalker, or even Rey Palpatine, if she wanted to. The point is, she chose.

That’s claiming a power almost as strong as the Force.

Rey yellow lightsaber from Rise of Skywalker
Rey Skywalker

How do you feel about Rey’s character? Did you like her story? Comment below and we’ll talk about it!

My Top 5 Fave Lightsaber Duels

Like any Star Wars fan, I love a good lightsaber duel, and there’s plenty to choose from over the course of nine films. The ones I like the best have the most emotional heft where the stakes are high, rather than flash and dazzle (though that’s fun, too). Here are my top five faves:

5. Kylo and Rey on the Death Star Wreckage (TROS)

Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and Rey battle it out with lightsabers in a stormy confrontation. Their Force-connection—what Driver calls their “maybe-bond”—will turn out to run even deeper than previously revealed.

This duel is visually stunning, with the waves of water pouring down on them as they battle it out. I like how the water may be seen to symbolize a sort of baptism for Kylo/Ben, as at the end of the battle, Kylo is washed away so Ben can emerge. The lack of score through a lot of this fight also intensifies the battle, as if any kind of music would be too distracting to the physical and psychic battle going on.

4. Throne Room battle with Kylo and Rey (TLJ)

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This battle is emotionally satisfying because we see Kylo and Rey working together against a common enemy–Snoke’s personal guards. It’s a spectacularly choreographed fight scene (it took six months to train for and shoot), and has a bit of flash and dazzle that awes the viewer. We see in this battle what Kylo and Rey could be together and are left wanting more–which makes his refusal to help the Resistance Fleet and her refusal to join him all the more painful.

3. Anakin and Obi-Wan on Mustafar (ROTS)

The Duel of Mustafar | Fact | FactRepubli.com

The prequel series has a lot of great lightsaber duels–the Jedi at the height of their powers is a sight to see. They look like dancers flitting across the battlefield, graceful and nimble and fleet. But watching them fight the bad guys isn’t particularly interesting to me on an emotional level.

The exception to this prequel prejudice is the duel between Anakin and Obi-Wan on Mustafar. This is the battle we’ve been waiting for– Anakin’s final fall into his transformation into Darth Vader. The anguish in the two men is palpable: Anakin’s rage, and Obi-Wan’s sorrow at losing his friend to the Dark Side. To see the particulars of Anakin’s physical and emotional pain is disturbing.

2. Vader and Luke on the second Death Star (ROTJ)

'Evolution of the Lightsaber Duel' will focus on the weapon's roots onscreen and off.

Luke’s confrontation with his father, in the presence of the Emperor, is harrowing. The stakes, of course, are extremely high here; not only in the fate of the Rebellion, but Luke’s life and his very soul. There is a point where he gives in to his rage and hacks away at Vader, a glint of dark in his eyes. Looking down at his beaten father, he realizes the path he is treading, and throws down his lightsaber while standing up to the Emperor. This is where the strength of Luke’s character shines through. And of course this battle leads to Vader redeeming himself by saving his son from the Emperor. It’s satisfying in every way.

1. Luke and Vader on Cloud City (TESB)

Design for wall. Lightsabers mounted.

I chose this battle as #1 for a few reasons. First, it leads to the greatest revelation in all of moviedom: Vader tells Luke he is his father. BAM what!?

Second, it’s the first time the untested Luke confronts Vader, wanting to take revenge on the man who he believes killed his father. But Luke, though capable with a lightsaber, is nowhere near ready for this battle. His innocence and naivete is quite literally chipped away until there’s nowhere left to turn: here we first get a glimpse of Luke’s commitment to the Light, as he chooses to fall to his death rather than join his father in the Dark Side. This is a critical turning point for Luke, leading to the sober, black-clad Jedi we see in Return of the Jedi. Here, Luke grows up.

Third, from a physical standpoint, this duel is a bit of cat and mouse, with Luke escaping and being found again, escaping and being found. It’s ominous, we’re on the edge of our seats on first viewing because we don’t know when the bad guy is gonna jump out at us. This is a great litmus test for battles and duels: what can surprise and startle us.

Honorable Mentions:

Kylo and Rey on Starkiller Base (TFA)

Rey Vs Kylo Ren on Starkiller Base Duel

This is the first time the two have met in battle, and Rey is just beginning to understand what she is capable of. The moment Anakin’s lightsaber flies to her instead of to Kylo is an important moment. Kylo is injured and an emotional wreck, as he just killed his father and is dealing with the reality of that, and so Rey is able to best him here.

Ben Solo against the Knights of Ren on Exegol (TROS)

Just Another Reylo Fanatic — frozenmusings: One thing I am both grateful for...

This is a fantastic short battle, with the newly emerged Ben Solo fighting off the Knights of Ren after Rey force-hands him Anakin’s lightsaber. It’s fascinating in that he fights in a completely different manner than Kylo Ren, who used brute strength and intimidation in his duels. Ben Solo seems to be lifted of a heavy burden here, and infused with Light; he fights more like a prequel Jedi Knight, with speed and agility. After demanding Anakin’s lightsaber throughout the series, here he finally earns it.

Luke and Kylo Ren on Crait (TLJ).

Will Luke Skywalker Return for Star Wars Episode IX

Though technically not a proper battle, as Luke isn’t even really there, this is an emotionally relevant confrontation between a master and his former fallen student. Luke is using it as a ruse to buy time for the Resistance to escape, but it also gives him some sort of closure on his failure of Ben Solo. It only enrages Kylo, but Luke can now fade into the Force knowing he did what he could and giving these last words of wisdom to Kylo: “See you around, kid.”

So what do you think? Do agree with my list? Or did I miss an obviously important and/or awesome duel? Post your thoughts in the comments below and we’ll talk about it!