The D23 sizzle reel for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker teased the potential of Rey making a sharp turn to the Dark Side. In the final scene of the footage, we see her dressed in a dark hood (although her co-star John Boyega described her attire as “a red jacket” in interviews) and wielding a red, double-bladed lightsaber she flicks open like a switchblade.
Does this mean Rey will be falling into the Dark Side? And given how excitedly all the members of the cast were about the scene in question -- could this be a good thing? For the sake of the argument, let’s assume what was shown in the trailer is Rey actually turning to the Dark Side of her own free will. That isn't to say there aren't other viable options, of course. The Rey we see in the teaser could simply be a cave vision, or possibly even a clone of Rey, or even a premonition of the future. However, If Rey is acting on her own free will, why would brave, earnest Rey turn to the Dark Side?
First of all, there are many canon and Legends precedents of Jedi going Dark, with the obvious one being Anakin Skywalker -- a skilled, innocent kid raised in bondage on a desert planet that had to repress his attachment to his mother in order to survive, and that resented his Jedi masters because they were not teaching him what he needed to thrive. Everything in this phrase could also describe Rey’s life and her relationship with Luke.
We also have Dooku, a Jedi so disgusted with the Jedi rules and the corruption of the Republic Senate that he renounced the Order even before Palpatine approached him and turned him into his second apprentice. Another high-profile case from Legends and Knights of the Old Republic is Bastila Shan, who shared many characteristics 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. Although Bastila Shan, rather than “falling” into the Dark Side, ping-ponged back and forth, usually in Darth Revan’s opposite direction -- which showcased the fluidity of the Force and its grey areas quite well.
Notable precedents established, the next question should be whether or not Rey can adapt the Dark Side of the Force. So far her choice to sticking to the Light Side has been as clear as Luke’s in the original trilogy. However, as we saw with Anakin and Dooku, Palpatine only needs a Jedi to fall once to taint their souls. In the novelization of The Last Jedi, Snoke muses to himself that Rey’s spitfire passion would have made her a wonderful apprentice – but, that unfortunately, he wasn’t shopping for one and there were no other Dark Lords nearby.
In the same movie, Luke is also scared of how easily she embraces the darker side of Ahch-To, and how strongly the Force manifests around her. Even Kylo Ren seems to have seen a darker version of Rey joining him when they touched fingers in the Ahch-To hut, and up until she tries to flee with Anakin's lightsaber, he remains convinced it's the way she will go – which means that three out of three active Force users that Rey met felt that Dark potential inside of her.
Rey’s life has also been traumatic enough to check all the Jedi Lost boxes: her parents were drunks that sold her to Ungar Plutt, who not only delighted in short-changing every Jakku scavenger but, as revealed in The Force Awakens novelization, also harbored less than paternal feelings for Rey. The only time she made friends on Jakku she was crossed by them; and both her father figure and her mentor died facing Kylo Ren, and she failed miserably (and probably felt used) in bringing the same Kylo Ren, with whom she Force-bonded, back to the Light.
And Rey has kind of (briefly) gone Dark already – she almost killed Kylo Ren, an unarmed, impaired opponent at the end of The Force Awakens, and was only prevented from doing so by the ground literally splitting in between them. She also attacked Luke Skywalker, an old unarmed man, from the back, in the middle of a thunderstorm. Her battle cries are spine chilling, and the way she savagely attacks her enemies is also very reminiscent of Anakin in Revenge of the Sith.
From a narrative point of view, Rey’s turn to the Dark Side would be a stunning twist, if well handled. The expectation is Rey will stay the straight and narrow, but Star Wars has featured some pretty crazy plot twists before -- such as Darth Vader revealing himself to be Luke's father in Empire Strikes Back, the shocking slaughter of the Jedi Temple younglings by Anakin, and by Kylo Ren's express disposal of Snoke, who up to that point everyone had assumed to be as untouchable as the Emperor.
Finally, Rey is not scared of the Dark – as Luke said, on Ahch-To she went straight for it and with no weapon. The sequel trilogy has highlighted many times the theme of balance, exemplified by the Prime Jedi in the Ahch-To cave so it would make sense that by the end of the saga, Rey embraces her darker self, maybe to balance the very much foreshadowed rise to the Light of a Darksider.
Directed and co-written by J.J. Abrams, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalkerstars Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Kelly Marie Tran, Joonas Suotamo, Billie Lourd, Keri Russell, Matt Smith, Anthony Daniels, Mark Hamill, Billy Dee Williams and Carrie Fisher, with Naomi Ackie and Richard E. Grant. The film arrives on Dec. 20.