In addition to a new poster for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker in which Palpatine looms large, Lucasfilm debuted new footage at the D23 Expo that, according to descriptions, depicts Rey dressed in a dark, hooded cloak, and wielding a double-bladed red lightsaber. That's a shocking turn, given that the attire and the lightsaber color are traditionally associated with the Sith, while the dual blade was, of course, Darth Maul's weapon of choice. What, then, does that mean for Rey, viewed as Luke Skywalker's successor?
Other characters in canon have carried a similar weapon, including Savage Opress, the Inquisitors and Assaj Ventress, and in Legends lore, its best-known owner was Bastila Shan, whom we’ll get to in a moment. Still, though, Darth Maul is certainly the most famous.
First, let’s look at the shape of the weapon: Rey didn’t learn how to fight with a lightsaber, but rather with a quarterstaff she uses more or less like a heavier double-bladed lightsaber. It’s only at the end of The Force Awakens that she picks up Anakin’s blue lightsaber to duel Kylo Ren, and it is only in The Last Jedi (which picks up one week after the duel) that she starts to practice in Ach-To – and even for her practice she reaches first for her quarterstaff. From a purely technical point of view, it makes sense she would end up wielding a double-bladed weapon.
Then, let’s look at the color of the lightsaber: The red tint, characteristic of Sith lightsabers, is obtained by bleeding a regular kyber crystal, by killing the previous owner (usually a Jedi), by pushing a massive amount of personal negative emotions into the crystal, or by a combination of both. That breaks the crystal’s natural connection to the Force and attunes it to the will of the lightsaber’s wielder.
Would Rey have the capacity to “bleed” a kyber crystal (or two) to obtain a couple of red blades? Well, yes. Not only does she already possess a lightsaber whose owner died a traumatic first death (Anakin) at the hands of his former master, a Jedi… but that lightsaber and its kyber crystal were already broken into two pieces at the end of The Last Jedi. Rey’s life has been one long trauma, to the point that she’s had to repress memories of her parents to hold on to hope. She has enough negative feelings stored up to bleed a dozen kyber crystals, never mind just two. The question is, why would she want to do that?
The answer is that there's no logical reason for Rey to go through the traumatic, time-consuming process of bleeding two kyber crystals. The only possible way that could happen is if Rey learns how to forge a lightsaber from a Sith Lord. However, Marvel's Poe Dameron comic heavily hinted that the Sacred Jedi Volumes she took from Ach-To contain a tutorial of sorts, and C-3P0 was already helping her with the translations. Besides, in the teaser trailer released in April, we see Rey wielding Anakin’s blue lightsaber, in perfect working order.
That leaves us with three possibilities that could explain the double-bladed red lightsaber.
The first is that she found the lightsaber, and that what we see is Rey reaching for the closest available weapon – just like she reached for Kylo Ren’s in the throne room scene of The Last Jedi. The second option is she’s experiencing a vision that takes her back in time to The Phantom Menace, putting her into the shoes of Darth Maul or one of the other Sith wielders.
Finally, she could be going further back in time, and channeling Old Republic Jedi Bastila Shan, who was relegated to Legends. Bastila had many characteristics in common with Rey: She was exceptionally skilled at battle meditation (which Rey uses instinctively in The Force Awakens), and she Force-bonded with a Sith, just like Rey Force-bonded with Kylo Ren. Interestingly enough, Bastila went from Jedi to Sith and back again, and in the process fell in love with Revan, who went from Sith to Jedi.
Finally, Rey wielding a double-bladed lightsaber already appeared in the concept art of The Force Awakens – with blades of different colors, nonetheless, to signal the duality of the Force – which means that whatever happens in that scene of The Rise of Skywalker, it will surely be a pivotal moment.
Directed and co-written by J.J. Abrams, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker stars Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Kelly Marie Tran, Joonas Suotamo, Billie Lourd, Keri Russell, Anthony Daniels, Mark Hamill, Billy Dee Williams, and Carrie Fisher, with Naomi Ackie and Richard E. Grant. The film arrives on Dec. 20.