Rey's Dark Side

This should be super apparent as I assume you're searching Star Wars: The Force Awakens on the internet but before I go any further I'd like to give the obligatory...

Major Freaking Spoilers Ahead!

Now, that you've been warned let's get the bias out of the way.

I loved The Force Awakens.

The tone, the characterization, the flat out rejection of tropes, all of it. Awesome.

Sure it was a bit derivative (yes, I feel douchy saying that) but there was a purpose to all the borrowing. If you run around innovating with creative abandon you leave yourself open to coming off as just another science fiction film. This is people's childhoods. This is embedded in the film reel of a generation, a quantification of their hopes, their dreams. This isn't just another sci-fi flick. This is fucking Star Wars.

But I'm not here to fanboy all over J.J and the new direction. There's a very specific aspect of The Force Awakens I want to talk about.


Out of all the new characters in The Force Awakens Rey stands out.

Don't get me wrong, Finn had his moments but he played pretty straight and predictable. Pao was not there for long enough to really have any kind of recognizable growth and the rest were established characters like Han and Leia.

But David, Rey was just a girl Luke Skywalker.

That was my first thought as well. They both started in the desert, they both had absent parents, they both were genius pilots, they both were force sensitive.

But there is one very important difference.


Luke is a naive kid who had big dreams. Someone who walks into a bar and damn near gets put down by a couple of outlaws for a lack of basic common sense. He grows up in a hurry but in the beginning, he's a whiny little shit.

A boy.

Rey on the other hand is tough. She's had to scrape by, clawing for everything she got. Unlike Luke's dreams which have a romantic quality, Rey has only one. To see her family again. She's spent fifteen or so years being forged by this hope, being shaped by it. But it's a false hope as Maz points out. Her family is never coming home.

It's this inevitable reality that gives Rey a harsher flavor. She doesn't have Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru. She doesn't have the stability of the moisture farm. All she has ever had was herself and a dream that she's Stockholmed into a full blown delusion.

Rey isn't a template. She's not coming of age. She's been grown up since the day her family left her on Jakku. That makes her something harder than Luke.

Something much more vulnerable to the dark side.

Rewatching the original trilogy it dawned on me that the struggle that Lucas was trying to drive home never felt real. Luke was supposed to be struggling, he was supposed to be on the fence between light and dark but it never felt that way. He was light through and through. He never cut down the innocent, he never had a fit of rage except at the end, and most importantly there was no hatred.

The only dark side tendency that Luke had was fear. He was afraid of his father, of becoming his father, of losing his friends. But fear alone isn't as powerful as hate. Fear can drive you to anger and finally to hate but Luke never felt like he was capable of the kind of hate that was needed to drive you full dark.

Anakin didn't slaughter children simply because he was afraid of losing Padme. It was the withholding of appreciation for his talents, his sacrifices. It was the refusal to even acknowledge his struggles...his love.

It wasn't the fear that brought his blade down on those children... It was the hate.

This is where Rey deviates from Luke, this is where she shows her true danger. Hate comes much easier to her than it ever did to Luke.

Let me say one more thing before I go on. Rey is possibly my favorite character of the Star Wars series. She's strong, smart, talented with the force, and complex. She's interesting in a way that only Darth Vader was in the original trilogy.

And like Vader she's dark.

Rey is what Anakin should have been in the original series. Well meaning but flawed. Capable of heroic and horrific deeds alike. They both love easily, they both hurt easily, and most importantly they both hate easily.

I left the theater thinking as you probably do currently. Rey was an amazing hero. She saved Finn, Han, and Chewie on multiple occasions. She even saved herself before Finn could. And at the end she's the one that brought Kylo Ren low. She's to be a Jedi, the greatest there ever was. She's destined to bring balance to the force.

So was Anakin.

The more I thought on it the more I saw Rey's hatred. Hatred for herself for believing the lie that her family was coming back for her. Hatred for anyone who hurts her newfound friends. And most importantly, hatred for Kylo Ren after he kills Han Solo right before her eyes.

This brings us to the most important scene in the move. The climax. Finn is KO'ed, lightsaber in the snow. Kylo tries to force acquire (yeah, that's the best I could come up with) it but it flies to Rey. She then proceeds to do battle with him, losing due to her complete lack of training.

But then something happens. She says the words the force and closes her eyes. Then she proceeds to beat Ren like a rented mule. She stands triumphant over him, her lightsaber at her side. She's won. There's only one problem...

She wasn't using the light side.

Think about it. She got exponentially stronger in a short period of time. She was full of vengeance for Han and Finn. She was raining blows, not with a calculated calm, but with fury. She was ready to kill Ren.

She had gone to the dark side.

That's how it starts. The seduction of the dark side isn't come use me for evil, it's use me to save your friends, use me to set things right.

Use me to get your revenge.

Rey, whether she knew it or not, had tapped into the dark side.

The ending scene of the movie tells it all. It's not triumphant or relieving. It's sad. Rey climbs the stairs to find Luke atop a cliff, waiting for her. She extends the lightsaber pleadingly. Not because she wants training. She's scared. Scared of what she has been feeling, what she has tapped into and from the tired look in Luke's eyes he can feel it too.

When Yoda was training Luke he was wary of the fear in him. The fear of losing her friends, the fear that he wouldn't be able to beat Vader, the fear he would become Vader. There was so much fear.

Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.

Rey posseses as much, if not more fear than Luke but it's centered on one thing. Fear her family will never come back. Unlike Luke's fear, this one is already realized. She knows they aren't coming back for her. That's why she's so quick to love Finn, to love Han. She's been waiting so long for this.

And the moment she gets it, Kylo Ren strikes Han down before her eyes. He then puts her other friend into a coma. This makes her angry. This makes her hate.

Rey unlike Luke is already on to the deeper levels of the dark side. I venture to say she's even used it.

That's why Luke gives her such a forlorn look. He has to know that she is his last chance, the galaxy's last chance at reviving the Jedi. He also knows she is dangerous, in a way that Kylo Ren never was.

Throughout the film Kylo was a petulant child with powers he didn't fully comprehend. The temper tantrums, the fake mask, all of it feels like playing dress up. There's no true hatred emanating from Kylo. He want's desperately to be Vader but Vader was cast in a mold of hatred, one that Sideous carefully crafted.

Snoke seems to know this. He seems to have withheld training from Kylo until he was sure of his loyalty but also his hatred. I think he pushed Kylo to kill Han so that Kylo would hate himself because that's what Kylo was missing. Hate.

That's what Rey has in spades.

That's what Luke fears.

Rey may be the galaxy's best hope against Snoke and the first order but she could be its downfall. Luke knows this. He failed last time. Rey is his last shot to prove he is a Jedi Master and if he screws up the entire galaxy will pay the price.