There is something that occurred to me ever since seeing The Force Awakens for the first time. It’s a theory based firmly in the mysticism and esoteric nature of the Star Wars mythology that has always been there.
And I want to lay it out here.
I don’t know if anyone else has thought of any of this stuff already – I apologise if they have; but as far as I know, these are my own thoughts.
You will need to rewatch The Force Awakens after reading through this – in order to test the argument out. And, even if you reject the theory, it also provides an alternative or additional lens through which to watch these films: where there is, in effect, a hidden narrative beneath the surface story.
An alternate title for this could be ‘ANAKIN SKYWALKER WAS IN THE FORCE AWAKENS AND WE DIDN’T NOTICE’.
It starts with this.
The impression i always got from The Force Awakens was of Rey and Kylo Ren being somehow deeply linked. Now, to some people, this could indicate a simple blood connection – maybe they’re cousins or maybe even brother and sister.
But my idea doesn’t depend on Rey and Kylo being related or on Rey being a Skywalker or a solo.
What seemed vividly to be the case is that Rey and Kylo are connected. They seem almost to be two sides of a coin – literally, human manifestations of ying and yang; the two sides of the Force, the Dark Side and the Light.
It’s clear in the script how thematically significant this duality is, with Snoke literally talking about the “awakening” and the “dark side and the light”.
I am going to argue here exactly how I think this theme is something more complex and mystical than simply just the light side and dark side of the Force.
Now consider the prominence of a certain artifact in The Force Awakens – the blue lightsaber.
This isn’t just Luke’s lightsaber – but Anakin‘s lightsaber. Most people, when talking about this, focus on the Luke ownership of that weapon – but I wonder if it’s Anakin‘s ownership that’s more important here.
The lightsaber is literally “calling to” Rey in the film – as if it somehow belongs to her.
But later, in the duel between Rey and Kylo, we see clearly that Kylo feels that this weapon belongs to him. He literally says “that lightsaber belongs to me”...
So, here’s my thought.
What if this isn’t just a duality between Dark and Light, nor even a duality between two (possibly) descendants of the Skywalker line?
What if both Rey and Kylo are actual manifestations of Anakin Skywalker? What if what we’re seeing here is a new development in the Force mythology – one in which the essence, soul, spirit or consciousness, of Anakin Skywalker has been – for want of a better word – ‘reincarnated’ in both Rey and Kylo?
Now, bear with me here, and I’ll explain why I think this is the case – and why it makes perfect sense. Once you rewatch The Force Awakens with this theory in mind, the clues are blatantly obvious.
The Star Wars trilogies have always explored and expanded these mystical notions of life-after-death and immortality.
In A New Hope, we learn that Obi-Wan Kenobi can survive death by shedding the body and transitioning into Force-Ghost form. That’s the afterlife mythology of the Original Trilogy. In the prequel trilogy, we learn that Qui-Gon has somehow survived death and is discovering the secrets of living on – secrets he passes to Yoda and Obi-Wan.
So, it stands to reason, that in this new trilogy, we may get a further evolution of this connection between the Force and the survival of death.
In Return of the Jedi, we know that Anakin Skywalker survives the death of Darth Vader – he becomes a Force-Ghost.
Coming then to The Force Awakens, we have Rey’s vision scene, in which we hear the voices of both Yoda and Obi-Wan – which may or may not indicate their continued presence, however faint. But there’s no indication of Anakin Skywalker. I highly doubt that we’ll see Anakin’s force-ghost appear in Episode 8 or even Episode 9 – even though some kind of Force-Ghost scene between Luke and Anakin would be wonderful to see.
But what if the reason for Rey’s vision scene hinting at Yoda and Obi-Wan but NOT Anakin is something very deliberate?
What if it is because Anakin no longer exists on the same plane as Yoda and Obi-Wan? What if he isn’t a Force-Ghost anymore? What if his life essence or ‘life force’ has gone somewhere else?
Here is why I think Anakin Skywalker is, literally and mystically, IN both Rey and Kylo – that they are both, through the mysterious nature of the Force, manifestations OF HIM.
Or, at the very least, unconscious mediums or channellers of his ‘essence’.
Let’s start with thinking about Anakin – or, let’s say, the ‘resurrected’ Anakin we see after Return of the Jedi. And then I’ll bring us back to Kylo, Rey and The Force Awakens.
Firstly, Anakin – we were told – was immensely powerful. His Force-connection was stronger than any other Jedi. We were told his midi-chlorian count was higher than even Yoda’s. We were told he was a “vergence in the Force” – conceived by the midi-chlorians. Anakin wasn’t just a powerful Jedi – he was something else entirely. Qui-Gon recognises this and this is why he appears so startled in Episode I – as does Yoda.
And Palpatine confirms this in Episode III, telling Yoda that he will “become more powerful than either of us”.
And Anakin, remember, was “the Chosen One”; conceived by the Force itself. Let’s say that again – conceived by the Force itself.
But here’s the thing – Darth Vader didn’t become more powerful. He was crippled by his bodily disfigurement after Obi-Wan left him to die on the lava plain.
Now, think about the psychology.
Anakin Skywalker knew he was the Chosen One. He knew he was immensely powerful, that he had a great destiny, and that he had an enormous connection to the Force. In Episode III, he was seduced to the Dark Side by the Emperor.
From that point on, Anakin lived out his life in a state of confusion and torture. Darth Vader wasn’t just a broken man being held together by machinery and the Dark Side. He was a tortured soul. When he intervenes to save Luke from Palpatine at the end of Return of the Jedi, he dies and immediately transitions to a Force-Ghost – he is Anakin Skywalker again.
However, let’s think about it more. By now, he is ‘in the Light’ again.
But now – with Vader gone and the Emperor no longer influencing him – he is freshly, painfully, aware of how badly he failed in his life. Of how many terrible things he has done. He was supposed to be the Chosen One. He had all of this immense Force power and connection – and what did he do with it? He helped destroy the Jedi. He attacked Padme, the woman he loved. He tried to kill Obi-Wan, his mentor. He served a Dark Lord of the Sith and allowed himself to be consumed by the Dark Side. He helped oppress and terrorise the galaxy for years.
The point being that all of this would’ve come rushing back to him as he rejoined the Light Side of the Force. The knowledge and guilt of everything he has done, everyone he has betrayed. The Anakin Skywalker of Episode I – the little boy who wanted to help people – and indeed the Anakin Skywalker of most of the prequel story and the Clone Wars, would be horrified.
And would want to atone for his crimes.
He would want to use his immense Force-connection – the boy who was “conceived by the midi-chlorians” – to give light back to the galaxy and the Force and to help counter all the Dark he helped to bring as Vader.
How would he do that?
What if, just as Qui-Gon discovered the way to survive death, Anakin discovered the way to return to physical life?
Through the Force – and his own massive Force-connection – he might have his living essence channeled back into the material world, where it would find expression or manifestation in a suitably Force-sensitive individual or ‘channeller’.
Now let’s come back to The Force Awakens.
That person could be Rey – and I’ll demonstrate how obvious this is in a moment.
But here’s where it gets more interesting. Anakin Skywalker was two people. He was Anakin and he was Vader. He was a Jedi and he was a Sith.
He therefore had two distinct aspects of himself.
This is alluded to in dialogue multiple times in the saga. Obi-Wan tells Luke that his father was “killed by Vader”.
Vader tells Luke that “that name no longer has any meaning to me” (the name Anakin).
When Palpatine talks to Vader in Empire Strikes Back, he refers to the “son of Skywalker” – he doesn’t say “your son”, but only the “son of Skywalker”.
They’re talking here as if Vader is very much NOT Anakin and is completely distinct from Anakin.
“He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker…” Obi-Wan tells Luke.
So here’s the crux of what I’m getting at. what if Anakin did try to come back into the material world via the Force, but the essence of Anakin Skywalker went into Rey – while the essence of Darth Vader went into Kylo Ren?
This works even better if it turns out that both Rey and Kylo are Anakin’s descendants. But even if Rey isn’t, this still works.
With this idea in mind, go back now and rewatch The Force Awakens. And look at both Rey and Kylo.
Rey is strong with the Force, but doesn’t even know it. Just like Anakin was in The Phantom Menace. Just like little Anakin could win podraces or fly a Naboo Starfighter into a battle, without even realising that the Force was guiding him, we see Rey being able to pilot the Millenium Falcon like a pro – even though this doesn’t really make sense.
Go back to Episode I – when little Anakin flies that Naboo Starfighter and wins the space battle, he has no idea what he’s doing. He’s just fumbling about – but the Force, via his immense midi-chlorian count and Force Connection – is working through him without his knowledge.
Now watch Rey piloting the Millenium Falcon. She even says she’s never piloted this thing before – yet she’s pulling off manuevers even Han doesn’t.
She flies that ship like she’s Anakin.
She’s also really good at fixing things – we see it throughout the film. Remind you of anyone?
And it’s when she touches that lightsaber – Anakin’s lightsaber, which was “calling” to her – that she really begins to “awaken” in the Force and suddenly the abilities start emerging in her, as if some part of her always knew they were there but had simply forgotten.
Another clue about this is possibly hinted at by Maz Kanata – a being over a thousand years old and who says “I know the Force”.
It is she who is holding Luke/Anakin’s lightsaber and it is she who tells Rey the saber is “calling” to her. But, crucially, Maz Kanata also says something else very interesting earlier on. She talks about “seeing the same eyes” in different people over time.
Could she be hinting here at what she sees in Rey’s eyes? Is she sensing the essence of Anakin Skywalker?
Now think about Kylo.
He is obsessed with Darth Vader, even having conversations with Vader’s burnt mask. In an inversion of the struggle that we saw with both Anakin and Luke, Kylo is trying to resist the light side of the Force and stay true to the Dark Side. We see him say this – that he can feel the pull of the light and wants to resist it.
What if the ‘essence’ of Darth Vader is in him, just as the essence of Anakin is in Rey?
“There’s too much Vader in him”, Han says to Leia. Could this be more true than we realised?
Kylo is even made to look a little like Anakin when he removes his mask – even as he is trying to make himself look like Vader (with the mask and the distorted voice, etc). The way he yells that line “Traitor!” at Finn is even an echo of how Anakin/Vader yells “Liar!” at Obi-Wan on Mustafar.
The struggle within Kylo is an echo of the struggle that was within Anakin/Vader at a crucial time.
When Rey is held by Kylo and he tries to read her mind, this potential idea becomes the most fascinating. Because – if this theory is valid – we’re not just seeing Rey struggling against Kylo, but the echo or essence of Anakin struggling against the echo or essence of Darth Vader.
When Rey says the line, “You’re afraid – that you’ll never be as strong as Darth Vader!” she also seems to be recognising this duality.
Look at Rey’s face throughout this scene. She seems to be realising something from the moment Kylo begins connecting with her mind. She senses something in him – perhaps the part of herself that is Anakin is recognising the part of Kylo that is Vader.
And look at Kylo’s face in this same scene. He could be recognising the same thing, but the reverse. As if there’s a part of him suddenly realising “You’re me and I’m you” – and a part of her is realising the precise same thing at the precise same time.
Seriously, go and watch that scene again – it’s fascinating.
And then look at the lightsaber duel between Kylo and Rey. This is where it really peaks.
It is when the lightsaber of Anakin Skywalker is trapped in the snow that is the key moment.
Who will the lightsaber come to? Who will it recognise? Kylo is calling for it through the Dark Side of the Force – through Darth Vader. But is comes to Rey – through the Light Side of the Force.
It’s as if Anakin’s lightsaber is recognising Rey – his Light Side expression – as its rightful owner, and not Kylo – his Dark Side expression.
The part of Anakin/Vader that is in Kylo is angry and confused at this. He expects it to come to him. He even says “that lightsaber belongs to me”.
But the part of Anakin that is in Rey draws the weapon into her hands – without her even knowing what she’s doing. What if that part of Anakin within her is simply taking over at this key moment and claiming back his weapon?
Look at Rey’s face when she receives the saber. She is confused by it – she had no idea it was going to come to her. She doesn’t even know what to do with it. But the essence of Anakin is strong enough in her now – she is channeling the spirit of Anakin like a medium – that she is able to wield it and stage the fight.
But her power in the Force, and her ability to overcome and resist Kylo, comes only when she is holding Anakin’s lightsaber.
Seriously, go back and watch this scene not just as a fight between Rey and Kylo – but between the two natures of Anakin Skywalker fighting each other, the Light Side and the Dark Side.
Now I know some people won’t like this theory. Some of you might think it diminishes both Rey and Kylo as characters if they’re channeling or carrying the life-essence of Anakin Skywalker with them – and they’re somehow just ‘puppets’ of another character’s essence.
But that’s not really what I’m saying.
Even in this theory, Rey is still Rey and Kylo or ‘Ben’ is still who he is. It is simply that the living essence of Anakin Skywalker has connected with each of them via the Living Force.
Well, what is Anakin when he dies and becomes a Force-Ghost – he is part of the Living Force, just as Yoda tells him in Revenge of the Sith: Yoda says “rejoice for those around you who turn into the Living Force”.
So with the ‘Force’ coming to both Rey and Kylo, it would simply be that the part of Anakin that is in the “Living Force” has concentrated itself into the two of them. You could argue that this ‘essence of Anakin’ in the Living Force acts on a subconscious level in them – he is literally, to quote Qui-Gon, like a “symbiont” within each of them.
Now, you could argue, doesn’t this ‘imposition’ by Anakin onto Rey and Kylo violate their own free will or their free agency as individuals?
Well, possibly. And possibly not. After all, you could argue that ‘The Force’ itself does that by attaching itself to any Force-sensitive individual – where does the ‘will of the Force’ end and the will or free-will of the ‘Force User’ begin?
But that’s not really how we see it. We just see it as the Force User tapping into the living energy fields of the Living Force. Well, again, Anakin Skywalker is part of the Living Force now.
So, arguably, it’s no different if the ‘Force’ that’s working through Kylo or Rey happens to be strongly connected to Anakin Skywalker.
You should keep in mind that Star Wars has always been profoundly mystical and esoteric, borrowing from religious traditions and spiritual philosophies. Reincarnation is something we haven’t seen touched on yet in Star Wars, but it is simply another mystical eastern tradition – which, bear in mind, is where Lucas’s idea of ‘The Force’ came from in the first place.
For the record, there’s also been a hint of such things before.
In one of the earlier drafts of Return of the Jedi, Lucas intended to show the vague image of Yoda’s force-ghost deflecting some of the Emperor’s Sith lightning away from Luke – thus explaining why Luke was able to survive so much of the Emperor’s lightning more or less unscathed. Granted, that’s not reincarnation – but it is an example of a deceased Jedi coming back to directly involve himself in a situation in the material world.
In fact, that notion has always been in Star Wars – from Kenobi’s ghost helping Luke blow up the Death Star to Qui-Gon’s communions with Yoda in the prequels.
The ghost of Anakin Skywalker would have every motive and reason for wanting to return in some form to the material world – to atone for so much.
But even though I’m presenting the basic theory or model here – there are plenty of different ways it could be borne out.
For example, it might be that ‘Anakin’s’ return to life wasn’t even intentional on his part – but that it simply happened organically somehow through the ‘will of the Force’.
The Will of the Force – the Force to which he is intimately connected via his conception as a “vergenge in the Force”. In other words, that his dual natures – Dark and Light – weren’t fully resolved at the point of his death and are re-manifesting again now in a different form or paradigm.
Or maybe Anakin did fully intend to channel his energies back into the material world as a conscious means of trying to atone for his wrongs. But maybe he didn’t intend to manifest in two different people – maybe he didn’t know that this would happen.
In other words, he intended only to channel the ‘Light’ – and didn’t realise that his Dark Side aspect (Vader) would also end up being channelled.
There, in fact, could be an explanation for that written into The Force Awakens. Namely, Kylo’s hero worship of Vader.
Kylo idolises Vader, even has a shrine to him, speaks to his mask and tries to model himself on Vader. Maybe that hero worship by Kylo is what drew out the Dark Aspect of Anakin/Vader’s Force Echo – causing the ‘spirit’ of Vader to come to Kylo (perhaps even at the precise time that the ‘spirit’ of Anakin was being channeled into Rey).
In that scenario, while Anakin’s Force-essence was being drawn into Rey – the Dark Aspect of it was being accidentally drawn towards Kylo BECAUSE of Kylo’s worship of Vader.
What’s clear in The Force Awakens is that this great “awakening” in the Force is something sudden and unexpected.
Watch the Snoke scenes. He seems surprised when he says “there has been an awakening”, as if this is something unforeseen. He then says “the dark side and the light” in a manner that could be construed as confused.
We also know that the “Will of the Force” is very vague and difficult to read. That’s why the prophecy of the ‘Chosen One’ who would ‘bring balance to the Force’ was apparently misinterpreted by the Jedi.
And it is possible that ‘Anakin’ – the object of that prophecy – hasn’t finished ‘fulfiling his destiny’ yet: just as Qui-Gon still had a role to play and a destiny to fulfil even after he was dead.
So let’s just recap this before we finish.
I’m saying this: Anakin Skywalker’s ‘essence’ or Force-presence sought to atone for all the mistakes he made and all the suffering he caused.
Through the Force, the most powerful Jedi who ever lived – the literal “vergence in the Force” who was “conceived by the midi-chlorians” – has channelled himself back into the material world, where he has found unconscious ‘channellers’ in both Rey and Kylo.
Rey has become the unconscious channeller or medium for Anakin Skywalker’s Light Side aspect, while Kylo has become the unconscious (or, in his case, maybe even conscious) channeller for Anakin’s Dark Side aspect.
The struggle or duality therefore of ‘The Chosen One’ – the struggle between Light and Dark that tore apart Anakin Skywalker – is being played out again, this time through the awakening of Rey and Kylo.
This works best if both of them are Skywalker descendants – but we don’t know yet if Rey is or isn’t. If she isn’t, it doesn’t matter – the theory still works.
I’ve not only become more and more convinced of this theory the more I’ve thought about it – and the more I’ve watched The Force Awakens – but I really like it.
Why? Because it links up all three trilogies much stronger. It solves some of the problems in The Force Awakens – such as why Rey can pilot the Falcon so expertly or why she develops her Force abilities so quickly.
It also continues to evolve the mythology of the Force, which is something that both previous trilogies also tried to do. And it will make the completed nine-film saga even more epic.
In fact, I may even make this my personal head-canon – even if the films don’t explicitly validate it.
And again, you may not agree with or like this theory – but please do go and watch The Force Awakens again with this theory in mind. And see if it works.