SPOILERS ahead for Star Wars: The Force Awakens
For the new Star Wars trilogy, Rey has been carved out as the main protagonist, and Kylo as the central antagonist. However, there are a variety of reasons I’d want to see these characters trade those positions through the middle of the trilogy. Kylo Ren should be a Resistance Spy, and there are several aspects that would make Rey’s transition into evil particularly powerful:
If Rey is going to be evil, she needs to have good reasons why. While one inherent problem with understanding Rey is the fact that we have very little background on her, we can still find three things about her from The Force Awakens that could easily translate into fury and hatred:
- Loneliness: Rey was abandoned on a junkyard planet with no one but her boss to take care of her. This abandonment clearly takes a toll on her psyche, as Kylo Ren notes when he probes her mind and discovers that “[She’s] so lonely.” Though there might have been several motives for this abandonment (some of which are explained when looking at Kylo Ren’s possible transformation) this solitude on unruly Jakku still exposed her to harassment, exploitation, and abuse that she dealt with by beating her fellow desert-dwellers, like those trying to steal BB-8, into the ground. Over a decade of survival on this harsh planet would give Rey plenty of time to grow angry and resentful to her situation on Jakku. If part of the reason she seeks the people who left her on Jakku was because of a harmful rage against her abandoners, this could provide a thought-provoking internal conflict for Rey to come to terms with throughout the rest of the trilogy.
- Luke: Along with enduring utter loneliness for the majority of her life, waiting on a person that’s “never coming back,” Rey could also question something else that deepens her turn into evil—Luke’s hiding. There are a number of explanations for why Luke would hide, but at the end of the day, Luke left the galaxy for years, and he probably knew about Rey. For Rey, who just watched Han Solo die and helped take down Starkiller Base, she might perceive Luke as a useless figure wasting his time standing on a rock. Even if Luke didn’t know about Rey, she could still feel betrayed by a Jedi Master who wasn’t seeking to find and train other Force-sensitive beings like her, fueling a rage because Luke might have been “the father [she] never had” (yet another core fear Kylo Ren finds in Rey’s head). This perceived uselessness, even if Luke offers valid excuses for it, would be an interesting spark for a wide range of furies in Rey and, for a strange twist, could cause her to perceive the Jedi as hopeless or even harmful to the galaxy. Doing so would also help Rey connect to the audience—most of us also wonder why Luke would sit on a rock for years, as shown by multiple articles exploring his possible explanations here and here. If Rey were to turn evil because of any bewilderment or perceived abandonment, Episode 8 could use this confusion over Luke’s inactivity to explore just how desperately Rey desires the father she never had.
- Retaliation: Rey’s moment of retaliation comes when one of her few weaknesses are exposed (a concept that’s more thoroughly covered in the “Anakin’s Arc” section below). It arrives as Kylo Ren is preying upon Rey’s fears, searching her head and envisioning “the island.” Rey doesn’t respond defensively, but rather aggressively, to this rare feeling of weakness; instead of shielding herself, she invades Kylo Ren’s own head and states his greatest fear of failing to be as strong as Darth Vader until Kylo backs away, defeated. Writers could replicate and extrapolate on Rey’s reaction—immediately using Kylo’s own strategy against him—in later films by having her constantly utilize the same assaults used against her. She was willing to mentally invade Kylo and ultimately physically attack him with a lightsaber—it would be fascinating to see her eventually also resort to the same terror tactics used by the First Order. Rey’s abandonment and ruined view of Luke Skywalker, coupled with her retaliatory reactions, show that, if Rey were to turn evil, the audience would have plenty of interesting conflicts and characteristics to watch unfold.
Weapon of Choice:
Another aspect of The Force Awakens that showcases how Rey could turn to the dark side is the weapon she embraces in the film. This weapon, Luke’s lightsaber, is tainted with the slaughtering of dozens of Jedi younglings and the destruction of an entire camp of Tusken Raiders. It also gives Rey a frightening vision that includes the sound of Vader’s breathing, an image showing Rey’s abandonment on Jakku, an apparition of Kylo Ren, and Obi Wan’s words, “These are your first steps.” Future films could focus on this lightsaber’s ability to conjure up and project dark visions and powers to hint towards Rey’s possible shift into evil.
Even Maz hints toward the power of this lightsaber, saying, “That lightsaber was Luke’s and his father before him. And now… it calls to you.” However, Maz isn’t just pointing out that the lightsaber was used by a father and son—she’s naming the two other people who used this saber and also went from full-fledged Jedi to flawed warriors (even if that transformation was only for a moment). She’s also showing that the lightsaber has the power to call to another person—and this dark, powerful object has chosen Rey.
Most important to consider, however, is how Rey treats this tool: she only uses the lightsaber as a weapon, a means to an end, and shows that she’s more than willing to hack away at Kylo Ren. She refuses to take it when Maz tells her to, and only reaches for the weapon when she needs it to combat Kylo—a stark difference from Luke, who took the weapon as a noble artifact of his father’s and didn’t even use the weapon until Episode V. Each of these details could be used to offer intriguing explanations as to why or how Rey would turn evil—and her turn could also offer interesting implications on any future use of this weapon.
Changing the Power Struggle:
Yet another facet of The Force Awakens that would make Rey’s dark future more interesting is the power struggle over her. In the film, Rey is desired by both Supreme Leader Snoke and Kylo Ren—Snoke asks for her to be brought to him, and Kylo tells her that he can be her teacher. This desire for Rey, displayed by both of the main antagonists, isn’t a new concept in Star Wars, however; it clearly reflects a dynamic seen in the Original Trilogy.
Kylo Ren makes an offer that is similar to Darth Vader’s in Episode 5. Both of the villains tell the heroes that they can essentially join together and grow in the Force. Rey’s reaction, however, is wildly different from Luke’s—Luke instantly steps away and says, “I’ll never join you!” Rey, on the other hand, only hears Kylo’s offer, repeats the word “Force,” and then keeps her mouth shut, never verbally addressing the proposal.
After this moment of pondering, Rey suddenly combats Kylo and defeats him. This reaction only displays that, if they were to join together, she’d be the one training him. But Rey never shows any malice towards the idea of a partnership, let alone clearly rejecting it immediately like Luke. Her response, only attacking Kylo instead of his shutting down his offer, clearly isn’t as decidedly noble, and, even if she decides to decline Kylo’s offer, Rey still has yet to face the power of Snoke, much like Luke had yet to face Emperor Palpatine. If Luke, who immediately refused Vader’s offer, seemed so tempted by Palpatine’s words that he actually chopped off his father’s hand before regaining control, then it’s clear that Rey—who didn’t even clearly reject Kylo Ren—could easily fall under Snoke’s temptations and offer a captivating contrast to the power struggle Luke once overcame.
A final detail filmmakers should consider for Rey’s possibly evil future is the fact that Rey is extremely similar to Anakin: none of her struggles are external. She’s a competent scavenger, mechanic, pilot, and combatant. Not only does she repair the Millennium Falcon and destroy several TIE fighters in a ship she’s never flown, but she also defeats the Supreme Leader’s right-hand man with a weapon she’d previously refused to hold.
Because she has no external opponents, the only conflicts Rey actually faces are internal—coming to terms with her past, accepting the future, and deciding how and when to fight. Given that Rey’s struggles are internal, it would make little sense for her to remain on the Light side—in doing so, she’d have less conflict for the rest of the Trilogy, just like Anakin would if he had no qualms with the Jedi in the Prequels. Rey’s already faced the equivalent of Luke’s external conflict throughout the entire Original Trilogy by defeating the leading antagonist’s right-hand man; now she has to decide what is morally right and which side she should join.
Again, this conflict is extremely similar to Vader’s. In the Prequel Trilogy, Anakin Skywalker is an ace pilot, an overpowered Jedi, and an unstoppable warrior—the only true problems he faces involve his sense of morality. He, too, has traumatic events that he experiences flashbacks to—like his mother’s death—and they fill him with self-doubt and anger, all of which help shatter his moral façade and turn him to the dark side. After seeing the beginning of this overpowering pattern reflect in Rey, it would be incredibly fascinating to watch her complete the same arc, possibly even counseling with Vader like Kylo did in The Force Awakens in an attempt to be like him. And if this parallel was explored by Rey turning evil in Episode 8, she could, with the right training, become even more powerful (and heart-wrenching) than Darth Vader ever was.
Rey’s turn to the dark side in Episode VIII should occur for a variety of reasons. The motivations, weapon, power struggle, and reflected arcs and choices are just some of the many facets that would be intriguing to explore with Rey’s evil transformation. And the possible results from this shift—from a fight between Luke and Rey to a betrayal of Rey against Finn—would be both horrifying and incredible.