****This article contains major spoilers for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker****
In The Rise of Skywalker, director J.J. Abrams decided to give further backstory to Rey’s family.
This led to the major reveal that Rey is actually a Palpatine, the granddaughter of the feared Emperor. When Rey and Luke Skywalker talk on Ahch-To, it is revealed that he knew her history: “Because you’re a Palpatine? Leia knew it too.” This revelation is shocking: both Luke and Leia knew that Rey was a Palpatine all along!
Rey asks the appropriate follow-up question: why did they (in particular, Leia) never say anything? Luke responds that it’s because Leia saw Rey’s heart and spirit, and that seems to be enough to satisfy the purposes of the movie. The film’s goal wasn’t to explain the entire motivations behind Luke and Leia declining to tell Rey about her lineage, as it simply wanted to establish that Luke and Leia knew – and didn’t care. As Luke says, some things are stronger than blood.
But as someone who tries to pay super close attention to the whole of canon material, this raises a very interesting possibility: are Luke and Leia repeating the mistakes they previously made with Ben Solo?
In Return of the Jedi, we learned that Leia Organa was actually Luke Skywalker’s sister – which also meant that she was the daughter of Darth Vader! But while Luke was present to witness Anakin Skywalker’s redemption and to see that Vader truly was redeemed before he died, Leia wasn’t there. So she believed Luke, but she had a much harder time dealing with the whole idea of Vader/Anakin being her father. It was a secret as closely guarded as any; the novel Bloodline by Claudia Gray reveals that only Luke and Han Solo (Leia’s husband) knew the secret, though she wasn’t sure if Han had told Chewbacca or not (and it seems Mon Mothma suspected it but didn’t know for sure).
Very importantly, however, was the fact that Leia had never told Ben Solo, her son.
But then six years before the events of The Force Awakens, Leia’s secret was publicly revealed in front of the whole galaxy in a nefarious political move by Ransolm Casterfo in an attempt to keep Leia from winning the election of First Senator (basically the replacement to Chancellor). This revelation ruined Leia’s political career. But it also created a very awkward family dynamic.
In Bloodline, Leia tells Casterfo:
“I hadn’t even told my son. Now he has to find out in the most horrible, public way imaginable, all because of you. … What I kept from Ben, I did for his own good – or what I hoped was his own good. Now we’ll never know.”
In the recent reference book Ultimate Star Wars: New Edition (written by Adam Bray, Cole Horton, Patricia Barr, Daniel Wallace, Ryder Windham, and Matt Jones), we read this about Kylo Ren:
“Leia does not tell him that his grandfather, Anakin Skywalker, became Darth Vader. She intends to address the painful truth when Ben is much older. Regrettably, Ben learns the truth, and is confronted with the reality that his whole family has deceived him about their lineage and connection to the dark side of the Force.”
What we don’t know is when Ben learned this, and whether or not that played a pivotal role in his descent to the dark side. It is said in Bloodline that Leia hasn’t heard from Ben or Luke in a while, and some have taken that to imply that perhaps Ben had recently rebelled. I kinda think that Leia would have felt something when it happened, but who knows? What we do know is that Ben completed his descent to the darkness six years before The Force Awakens (confirmed in The Rise of Skywalker Visual Dictionary by Pablo Hidalgo), which was the same year Leia’s secret was revealed.
And it is also made clear that Ben felt his family had deceived him all along. We know that he felt loneliness because he saw his family prioritizing other things over him, and I have to imagine that finding out that your family kept such a major secret from you for so long (he would have been around 23 years old when it was made public) only served to exacerbate those feelings… feelings that a certain dark voice could manipulate.
In other words, whether or not this revelation played a major role in Ben Solo’s descent to darkness, it sounds like it didn’t help things for him to realize he was deceived for so long. It probably wasn’t handled the best by Leia Organa, Luke Skywalker, or Han Solo. They probably should have told Ben sooner.
Yet here in The Rise of Skywalker, Luke and Leia are revealed to have basically done the exact same thing with Rey. Obviously it’s not quite to the same level since Rey wasn’t physically descended from them, but you’d think they would have learned from the previous example. “Lost Ben Solo, you did,” Yoda tells Luke, “Lose Rey, we must not.”
So what happened? Maybe J.J. Abrams didn’t even realize everything that went into Ben Solo’s fall and thus didn’t really even realize that this secret was kept for so long. In-universe, this seems like another example of good-hearted people acting out of good intentions, yet maybe not doing it perfectly. Luke and Leia truly want to see Rey succeed and thrive, and they desperately want to see Rey avoid the same fate that befell Ben Solo. Perhaps even they see Ben’s obsession with Vader and think that it caused his fall, wanting to keep Rey from finding out the same and potentially becoming obsessed with Palpatine. Besides, Leia sees Rey’s spirit and sees something far deeper than blood.
However, it’s also possible that there was a more noble motivation in all of this. We know that Leia struggled coming to grips with the horrors committed by her father and that it was devastating to her for the news to be shared with the galaxy. Leia possibly thought that she was shielding Rey from these same feelings by keeping this from her.
In the end, it works out well for Luke and Leia, as Rey does resist the temptation and defeats Palpatine. But I find it very interesting that the brother and sister basically repeated the same mistake they had made with Ben Solo with Rey.
What do you think? Was it a mistake for Luke and Leia to keep the revelation secret from Ben? From Rey?