The second trailer for The Last Jedi dropped on Monday, October 9, and successfully set in motion a thousand blogs and think pieces on the clues or misdirections it had gleefully shared to a franchise’s awaiting fans. Two of the biggest in that category had to do with Kylo Ren seemingly extending his hand to Rey, after our heroine had asked for someone to show her her destiny and an opening voiceover by Supreme Leader Snoke. In the voiceover, Snoke describes how he had originally found the person he was addressing, attracted by their raw power with the Force. In the trailer, visually, it cuts to Kylo Ren, but many are theorizing that he might have been speaking to Rey. These two swirling, bedeviling clues or fake outs have also encouraged others to throw out their own ideas of who Rey is, her background, and what will happen to the scavenger from Jakku. Some of these are wrong.
In fandom, everyone is welcome to theorize, imagine, and try and figure out the pasts and futures of their favorite characters. It’s one of the reasons we are fans (it’s fun dang it), but there is some important information that a lot of fans simply don’t have due to constraints of time, money, or simply interest. That’s fine, none of those things are requisite for being a fan of Star Wars. Nonetheless, we thought we would bring some of that pertinent information to our fellow dreamers when trying to puzzle out what will happen or be revealed in The Last Jedi. It all goes back to Rey and timing.
There is a bit of misunderstanding, and understandingly so, if one has not dived into the expanded universe that followed The Force Awakens. Significantly, the timing of the attack on the Jedi Temple by Kylo Ren and his Knights of Ren and Rey’s place in all of it. It doesn’t help that the Force vision in that film cut across different times and moments, momentarily addressing Rey’s abandonment on Jakku and then mostly touching upon events that she did not personally witness. To understand this confusion, we need to talk briefly about that Force vision which struck Rey when she picked up Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber in the dungeons of Maz Kanata’s castle. It begins with a hint to Cloud City and the confrontation between Luke and Darth Vader, perhaps because it was the moment when that lightsaber was separated from Luke. It eventually cuts to a hooded Luke resting his mechanical hand on R2-D2’s dome, appearing to mourn the destruction of the temple, then to a battlefield where a warrior is cut down by a red lightsaber. The scene pulls away to reveal Kylo Ren and his warriors, then cuts again to Rey, back on Jakku, seeing herself as a child screaming as she watches a space ship fly away into the blue sky. The sequence of events definitely lend themselves to being interpreted that Rey as a child might be a survivor of the attack on the temple and had been sent away for her protection. This is simply not the case. But wait, there’s more.
In The Force Awakens, Kylo Ren seems to have a familiarity with Rey or at least a girl when he is told that the First Order’s wayward FN-2187, our beloved Finn, was seen with Poe Dameron’s droid and a girl. One could even argue that he hunted her down on Takodana (Maz’s planet) and captured her. The familiarity ends there, however, as the future interactions between the characters reveal nothing in the way of any past relationship, at least openly. However, what was established, along with the vision, could definitely lead anyone to make an assumption that again, perhaps Kylo knew Rey much earlier in life, and again, perhaps at the Jedi Temple. Now to untangle this Force Awakens web from the information that we do know about Rey and about the attack on the Jedi Temple. Most of this would not be known to the casual filmgoer or any fan who has not dived into the additional information of the resource books or the expanded universe, and that’s entirely okay. Nonetheless, here we go!
One of the pivotal moments in our sequel trilogy era is the destruction of the Jedi Temple by Kylo and his Knights of Ren. It ended the Luke Skywalker’s new Jedi Order, sent the Jedi Master onto an existential journey and self imposed exile, and helped clear the way for the First Order to begin its menacing return to the galaxy that culminated with the destruction of Hosnian Prime. Given the importance of such an event, we need to know when it happened and surprisingly, from what we know, and by know, we refer to the canon. As a quick aside, canon does not and should not exist for one fan to use as a weapon against other fans. Canon is simply a guide that the powers that be have established to help themselves, as well fans, to understand what has happened and maybe assist and predicting what might happen. One’s knowledge of canon does not dictate the level of one’s fandom. In this case, it is helpful in trying to decipher what to expect from The Last Jedi. Returning to the destruction of the temple, the short answer is shockingly recent within the timeline of The Force Awakens,
Here is what we know. The temple was destroyed prior to The Force Awakens. At the time of the movie, when we meet Rey, she is approximately 19 years old. That piece of information comes from Star Wars: The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary, a resource book written by Pablo Hidalgo, one of the members of Lucasfilm’s story group. An additional piece of information from that book is the X-wing pilot doll’s origin, a doll we see in the background of Rey’s AT-AT home. The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary states, “Rey crafted the Alliance pilot doll when she was 10 years old, from debris she found in the junk fields.” So, we can safely say that Rey has been on Jakku for at least nine years, from the time she made her doll to the time she finds BB-8 just over the sand dune from her home. These nine years are important when we consider when the Jedi Temple was destroyed.
We have one bookend to the question of when it was destroyed, The Force Awakens, but now we need another, lest we be stuck with “sometime after Return of the Jedi.” That second bookend comes in the form of Claudia Gray’s magnificent Star Wars: Bloodline novel. Bloodline takes place six years before The Force Awakens, and in the novel, Ben Solo has not been seduced to the Dark Side by Snoke, Han and Leia are still happily married, and the Jedi Temple is still up and running. This means that the attack on the Jedi Temple, Luke’s departure for parts unknown, all take place within that six-year period before we meet Rey on Jakku. This means that Rey, at the youngest, would have been around 13 years old when the attack on the temple occurred (saying it happened immediately after the novel concluded). Given we know that Rey was on Jakku at age 10, she was still there whenever it was that Kylo lead his Knights of Ren on their fateful mission to destroy his uncle’s new Jedi Order. Thus, we can eliminate any and all theories that Rey is a survivor of the attack on the temple. Now what does this mean?
It means that if Kylo Ren and Rey had a past interaction, it happened when he was still Ben Solo and before she was unceremoniously dumped on Jakku with the salvage boss as her guardian. There’s little evidence that either know each other, but there is one possibility. If we accept that Force visions can connect individuals through space and time, like a Force created worm hole, then perhaps the pair did meet on the battlefield by the ruined Jedi Temple, but at different times in their lives. When we think about Force visions, we should go back to Master Yoda on Dagobah, who while instructing Luke said, “Through the Force, things you will see. Other places. The future…the past. Old friends long gone.” We know the Force serves as a way to at least see the past and the future, even if the future is not yet determined. We also know that the Force can connect two individuals, such as Luke and Darth Vader as the Millennium Falcon makes its getaway from Bespin. What if the Force, through two powerful Force users, can connect two individuals across time?
We now return to the Force vision and the moment when Rey finds herself on the rain sodden battlefield littered with presumably dead Jedi which surround Kylo Ren and his knights. In that moment in the vision, Kylo turns his head as if recognizing Rey standing before him and even steps towards her before Rey is whisked back to Jakku to see herself as a child. Perhaps, Kylo felt the connection to Rey on that battlefield sometime in the six previous years (when the temple was attacked), and remembered the girl who appeared before him for a split second. Then confusingly, on the other end of this Force vision worm hole of sorts, we experience it all with Rey in what we perceive as the present time. This would explain why Kylo was interested in a girl, ultimately, Rey.
As an aside, if Force visions can essentially astral project powerful Force users across time, then it’s also possible that Rey could find herself face to face with Snoke while meditating on Ach-to. It would allow Snoke’s voiceover in the trailer to be directed to her, and perhaps even allow him to attack her, without the pair actually meeting physically face to face (something we are not quite sure will happen for storytelling purposes). In that Force vision conference of sorts, perhaps Snoke reveals Rey’s origin and why she was sent to Jakku, away from him and the First Order. Regardless, this is all a theory, but one that has not been eliminated by what has been established by the Lucasfilm powers that be. Of course, canon as a guide is only helpful as long as those who control it choose to obey it. George Lucas was famous for dismissing characters and things said in the original trilogy in pursuit of what he was working on in terms of the prequel trilogy. In the end, we will know what we know when the The Last Jedi cuts to a black star field and written in blue font, “Directed by Rian Johnson.”