Uncovering the Hidden Spoilers in Vanity Fair’s ‘Rise of Skywalker’ Cover Art
If you’ve been keeping up with the Star Wars rumor mills then you may have heard that there’s a clever hidden meaning behind the dual Kylo Ren and Rey Vanity Fair covers, presented by noteworthy photographer Annie Leibovitz and writer Lev Grossman, and originally hinted at by senior writer Joanna Robinson.
Released in the summer of 2019, and carrying on the tradition of Leibovitz visiting these eccentric sets in order to give eager fans a preview of the upcoming Star Wars film (she’s been shooting these covers since 1999), the covers sparked a multitude of theories from fans across the annals of the internet. For example, there are two specific clues regarding staging and costume speckled in plain sight that provide a decent amount of credibility to a popular theory about Rey’s familial lineage: That she’s the granddaughter of Obi-Wan Kenobi.
…the covers sparked a multitude of theories from fans across the annals of the internet.
Reminiscent of Obi-Wan and Anakin’s climactic battle in Episode III: Revenge of the Sith , the “rivaling” covers depict Rey having “the high ground” – a quote Obi-Wan uses in the aforementioned battle – possibly implying that she is the descendant of Obi-Wan (she would be too young to be his daughter). And so, history repeats itself. Rey, a Kenobi and Obi-Wan’s granddaughter, battles Kylo Ren, a Skywalker and Anakin’s grandson; the third and final round of their families’ notorious historical rivalry in The Rise of Skywalker.
This would explain both why Rey is initially drawn to Anakin’s lightsaber (she has since been granted official custody of the lightsaber in story canon by Lucasfilm), and also why we hear Obi-Wan’s voice in her Force Vision in Episode VII: The Force Awakens. “You will be tempted…but you cannot control it.” A line spoken by the character from Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back and rearranged for the scene, along with a new line spoken by Ewan McGregor’s Obi-Wan: “Rey, these are your first steps.” (It’s worth noting that Obi-Wan was in possession of the lightsaber the longest.)
Many fans would balk at this theory, simply because of the notion that Obi-Wan, a man of principle, would ever break the Jedi Code of celibacy. This is a bit like one naively assuming Catholic priests don’t get down (a theory Phoebe Waller-Bridge so effectively debunked through her research for Fleabeag), and two, predicated on the idea that sex is somehow wrong or synonymous with impurity. Obi-Wan wasn’t, in fact, celibate; he had a romantic relationship with Duchess Satine during the Clone Wars. The Clone Wars, a popular animated series, is one of the few creative works across all mediums that is still considered canon after the Disney-Lucasfilm buyout. That isn’t to say that Duchess Satine is Rey’s grandmother, but it proves that Obi-Wan was human like the rest of us. This also doesn’t completely rule out that Rey is somehow a Skywalker.
And so, history repeats itself. Rey, a Kenobi and Obi-Wan’s granddaughter, battles Kylo Ren, a Skywalker and Anakin’s grandson…
We don’t know who her mother (or father, if Obi-Wan had a son), is. This could potentially be explained in the upcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi series on Disney+, which takes place during the events between Revenge of the Sith and Episode IV: A New Hope. Having Kenobi and Skywalker blood coursing through one’s veins is quite the recipe for creating the strongest being in the Force since…what…Darth Vader? Strong enough to scare Luke Skywalker.
Viewers may remember Obi-Wan’s final words to Anakin (or Darth Vader, depending on who one considered him to be at that point) before his death: “If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.” Assuming he didn’t mean this literally, the Jedi Master may have been referring to his future kin. Perhaps he had a Force Vision of his own. As we’ve learned from the subsequent trilogies after the original, there are a lot of aspects about the Force that fans didn’t know, including Midi-chlorians, or hyper-intelligent symbiotic life forms that lived inside the cells of all living beings (a high Midi-chlorian count meant greater harmony with the Force). We may even learn that the old tale Darth Sidious told Anakin in Revenge of the Sith about Darth Plagueis’ conquering of death is true through Darth Sidious’ apparent return in the final trailer (as we’ve learned from prior Star Wars marketing campaigns, fans should take the trailer reveals from Disney and Abrams with a grain of salt).
Kylo Ren’s physical resemblance to his grandfather is obvious: The black suit and mask, guised, ominous voice. What fans may also notice, particularly in this cover, is that Rey is sporting garments very similar to those of her potential grandfather’s, particularly those which he wears during the fateful battle that hammered the nail in the coffin of Anakin’s fate as Darth Vader in Revenge of the Sith: The white robes, brown belt, brown, knee-high boots (the basis for Obi-Wan’s casual Jedi attire). Whether or not Rey and Kylo Ren are going to fight or join forces against a larger enemy (perhaps Darth Sidious, as they briefly did against Supreme Leader Snoke in The Last Jedi) remains to be seen.
In James Luceno’s novel, Star Wars: Darth Plagueis, (which is not canon) he depicts Plagueis the Wise as not only conquering death, but realizing the ability to mold the universe, and thus, reality itself, to his own liking. If one assumes that the popular theory that Snoke was Plagueis the Wise, reincarnated, is true, then it would be logical to infer that Darth Sidious, ever-the-vengeaful “servant“ of his former Sith Lord, would have orchestrated not only the specific event of Snoke’s death in the The Last Jedi, but every event leading up to The Rise of Skywalker since his “death” in Episode VI: Return of the Jedi…if one assumes Abrams and Johnson are strictly basing Snoke off of Luceno’s Plagueis the Wise. Not only do we hear Luke say, “No one’s ever really gone,” in the final trailer for The Rise of Skywalker, but we hear Sidious boasting, “Long have I waited, and now your coming together is your undoing…Your journey nears its end.”
It sounds substantially like Sidious saw this one coming from, dare I say, a galaxy far, far away. And that he may have had something to do with them coming together. Again. Disney. Abrams. Grain of salt. And again. They wouldn’t expound upon an entire character briefly mentioned in Revenge of the Sith based on something that isn’t canon. However, there have been enough similarities between the novels and the post-Disney era films to assume that if Plagueis the Wise is Snoke, and Darth Sidious did learn a way to overcome death, then perhaps Abrams took some inspiration from Luceno and gave the “unnatural” Sith knowledge of the Dark Side of the Force a tad bit more power. If one can cheat mortality, what else are they capable of altering across time and space?
This generation around, Rey, a Kenobi, has “the high ground” in terms of seeming moral clarity and raw and harnessed power. It’s more than likely that the moralistic clash between Kylo Ren and Rey will morph into either Kylo Ren having to form an allegiance with Rey against Darth Sidious, or whoever the true threat to the natural order of the Force and life in the universe is, or one of the two sacrificing themselves to curb said threat and preserve order.
Abrams might subvert audience expectations as Rian Johnson did with Luke’s character arc in The Last Jedi and have Rey be manipulated by Sidious, who might be stronger than Rey yet after having all of this idle time to study the ancient Mystic texts, and, you know, being immortal (and potentially something greater) and all that jazz. Especially if Rey is also part-Skywalker, a gene that is susceptible to succumbing to the Dark Side, and especially if she’s desperately seeking a place in this universe. “I need someone to show me my place in all of this.” Rey pleas with Luke in The Last Jedi to no avail. Perhaps Darth Sidious plays to her weakness and offers the allure of joining something greater. A family (sound familiar, Anakin?). A new cause. Providing her with a purpose. After all, Rey is bearing Anakin’s old lightsaber, an object with a dark past once used to slaughter helpless Jedi children, which could symbolize her demise. One thing seems certain though: Darth Sidious’s confidence is eerily reminiscent of Plagueis the Wise’s ironic downfall: “Plagueis never saw it coming. It’s ironic he could save others from death, but not himself.” Right. We shall see who’s talking after this more-than-40-year-long story arc comes to a close, Sidious.
Fans will have to wait until December 20 to find out just how wrong I am. However, if, on the off chance, I’m not wrong – Disney, if you’re reading this, a trip to the premiere would be kind of cool.