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So, is Dark Rey real, a vision, or a clone? Let's look at the latest theories

Screenshot: Star Wars: Rise Of The Skywalker (YouTube)

Does J.J. Abrams really have the stones to turn Daisy Ridley’s Rey evil? That’s what Star Wars fans have been debating in the wake of the new Rise Of The Skywalker footage, which ends with our hero igniting the kind of double-bladed red lightsaber favored by Dark Side baddies. Would Lucasfilm and Disney really want to reveal such a massive twist four months ahead of the film’s opening? Probably not. Lest we forget, a Last Jedi trailer showed us Rey wielding a red lightsaber, an ominous moment that ended up being inconsequential in the final film. Yep, trailers love to fuck with us, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun sorting through the theories they prompt. So, let’s do that. Below, you’ll find a handful of the most popular theories spawned by the new trailer, ranked, of course, from lameness to coolness.

It Was All A Dream!

Star Wars loves its visions. Luke cut off Darth Vader’s head in one in The Empire Strikes Back, Anakin had one in the Mortis arc of Clone Wars, and Rey had one in the mirror cave in The Last Jedi. Per fan theories, this vision could go a few different ways. It could be a vision of Rey’s, similar to Luke’s in Empire, wherein they confront their own susceptibility to the Dark Side. As Inverse points out, the vision could even share DNA with a season six Clone Wars episode in which Yoda battles an evil version of himself on a metaphysical plane that may or may not exist within his soul.


Comic Book Resources, on the other hand, posits that the vision belongs not to Rey, but rather to Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren. “Director and co-writer J.J. Abrams has repeatedly said Kylo and Rey are two parts of the same protagonist. With that perspective, it would be logical that if Kylo had to confront his darkest fear, similar to Luke’s cave vision in The Empire Strikes Back and Rey’s vision in The Last Jedi, this might be what he would see,” they write. “The logical progression of Rey’s growth, from Kylo’s perspective, ends with her becoming stronger in the Force than he is, repairing Anakin’s lightsaber, defeating him and and then taking his place in the Dark Side.”

Some Redditors have also noted that the StarWars.com article about the trailer originally called the glimpse a “vision of Rey,” but was then re-edited to say “the sight of Rey.”

Screenshot: Reddit

Dream sequences are always the worst option, but, ya know, they have a precedent here.


A Balanced Diet

Inverse has a theory that Rey’s dalliance with the Dark Side isn’t actually dark at all. Rather, she’s discovered a balance between the forces of light and dark. “[O]ne underlying message of nearly every single Star Wars movie is that the binary distinctions between Light and Dark might be dangerous,” they write. “So maybe we’re not seeing a Dark Side Rey. Maybe we’re seeing a version of Rey that has combined aspects of Dark and Light to become a more balanced person. This would reinforce the theory that the ‘Skywalker’ is a new kind of title, perhaps referring to a person who combines aspects of darkness and lightness in total balance.”


What does it take to achieve that kind of balance? Likely it has something to do with crystallizing the bond that exists between her and Kylo, whose relationship is far more complicated that merely good guy/bad guy.

Light Years

Okay, so let’s consider if red-sabered Rey actually does turn evil. Screen Rant admits that this is a possibility, but notes, correctly, that it’s narratively tough to have somebody embrace the Dark Side only to turn back around in one film. If that’s the case, and that Rey does break bad, a time jump would be necessary to fully earn the arc. Sounds far-fetched, but Disney did just reveal a new timeline for the Star Wars Saga that inches things forward another 13 years. Imagine what Dark Rey could get up to in 13 years with the other team.



But what if Rey didn’t turn back? Yeah, Anakin’s been there, done that, and it’s doubtful a movie primarily aimed at kids would end on such a dour note, but, hey, we love a good heel turn. As Inverse writes, “Though it doesn’t feel like the most likely possibility, Rey turning to the Dark Side at the end of the film could be the ultimate fake-out because it could indicate that Episode IX is not actually the end. Though Lucasfilm is touting The Rise of Skywalker as the end of the saga, the ultimate deflection would be that there is going to be an Episode X—and Dark Rey is the cliffhanger that gets us there.”


They also point to comments from Abrams that cite Carrie Fisher’s Leia Organa as “the heart of the movie,” which could point to her being the universe’s ultimate savior in Rise Of The Skywalker. But, considering Fisher’s footage was primarily cobbled from deleted Force Awakens scenes, that seems pretty damn unlikely. Still, imagine the power of an evil Kylo-Rey pairing. Yeah, we’re shippin’ it.

The Emperor’s New Clothes

Everybody’s curious how Emperor Palpatine will rear his ugly mug again after Luke tossed his electrified ass into oblivion at the end of The Return Of The Jedi. Well, it’ll probably be as a Force Ghost—you know, like Obi-Wan, Yoda, and Hayden Christiansen Anakin Skywalker at the Ewok party. Might Palpatine’s spirit be able to possess Rey? Has he been possessing others already, like Kylo and Snoke? As Inverse points out, Palpatine can be heard saying, “Your journey…nears its end” right before we glimpse Rey’s dark side. The face we see in the clip, after all, doesn’t embody the features we recognize in Rey—there’s a severity there that doesn’t quite feel right.



By far the coolest thing Abrams and company could do is weave in the universe’s clone lore, which runs deep in both the prequels and the extended Star Wars universe. As Screen Rant notes, Star Wars Legends weaves in several Force clones, and fans everywhere have been pointing towards Luuke Skywalker, the Luke Skywalker clone from Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy. “Luuke was a physical replica of Luke, possessing all of the same attributes when it came to dueling and using the Force, but mentally he was a mindless clone who could easily be controlled, and thus used to do the Dark Side’s bidding,” writes Screen Rant. Subsequently, they point to Dark Empire, a comic book series in which Palpatine was resurrected via clone bodies..


Redditors have also been weighing in on the theory, recalling the moment in Rey’s vision on AchTo when she sees herself multiplied over and over and over again. How many Reys could there be?


What do you all think?

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About the author

Randall Colburn

Randall Colburn is The A.V. Club's Internet Culture Editor. He lives in Chicago, occasionally writes plays, and was a talking head in Best Worst Movie, the documentary about Troll 2.