One of the central motifs of Star Wars is that the hero is a poor nobody from the middle of nowhere who discovers they’re meant for bigger things. Rey’s life as an abandoned child left to fend for herself as a scavenger is the midpoint between Anakin’s miserable childhood as a slave and Luke’s dull life working on his uncle’s moisture farm. Jakku may not be Tatooine, but it’s the same look and conceit. (And besides, at this point in time, space hipsters have probably gentrified Tatooine.)
2. Rey’s natural aptitude for technology and flying ships is a callback to Anakin and Luke’s talents.
There’s a strong suggestion in the Star Wars films that Anakin and Luke’s intuitive talents are directly connected to their Force sensitivity, and this is also the case for Rey. Rey’s arc in The Force Awakens is really about her finding the connection between her intuition and a much greater power in the Force. Some fans may complain that she should not have been able to defeat the more experienced Kylo Ren without training, but that ignores this central theme. Kylo Ren is portrayed as reckless and petulantly entitled throughout the movie, while Rey is focused and devoid of ego. She lacks his destructive personality flaws, and thus has a deeper connection to the Force without ever needing to be trained.
3. Rey’s belief that Luke Skywalker is just a myth is dramatic irony.
This is pretty basic foreshadowing, and her excitement about the very idea of Luke Skywalker is setting up her inevitable disappointment in him. It’s pretty likely that Rey will urge Luke into action after years of exile by confronting him with his mythic status as the greatest hero of the Rebellion.
4. Luke’s lightsaber calls out to Rey specifically.
Rey is drawn to find the lightsaber in Maz Kanata’s castle, and just by her touching it, it sparks psychometric visions from its past – Vader and Luke’s duel on Cloud City – and her own past and future, with images of her being abandoned on Jakku and facing Kylo Ren later in the film. The other visions in this sequence involve Kylo Ren and his Knights of Ren killing Luke’s young Jedi apprentices. This – along with Kylo seeming vaguely aware of who Rey is throughout the movie – suggests that a young Rey was present at this event, and was the reason she had to be hidden on Jakku.
5. There is an allusion to Excalibur in Rey and Kylo Ren’s duel at the end of the movie.
In many versions of Arthurian legend, the young orphan Arthur acquires his sword Excalibur by pulling it out of a stone, an act that can only be done by the true heir to King Uther Pendragon. The most exciting moment of The Force Awakens visually references this – the lightsaber is tossed out of Finn’s hands into a snowbank, making it appear very much like the Sword in the Stone. Kylo and Rey both reach out for it with the Force, but Rey is the one it goes to, suggesting that she is the true heir of Skywalker. It’s unlikely that this is meant to be entirely literal, but the allusion is in keeping with Star Wars’ long tradition of referencing mythologies.
It’s also worth noting that this scene in the film echoes imagery from Lord Tennyson’s poem “The Passing of Arthur,” from Idylls of the King:
There drew he forth the brand Excalibur,
And o’er him, drawing it, the winter moon,
Brightening the skirts of a long cloud, ran forth
And sparkled keen with frost against the hilt:
For all the haft twinkled with diamond sparks,
Myriads of topaz-lights, and jacinth-work
Of subtlest jewellery.
6. Rey being the daughter of Luke and Kylo Ren being the son of Leia makes the trilogy a story about the legacy of the Skywalker family.
Lucasfilm has been emphasizing that the key difference between the main Star Wars episodes and the forthcoming anthology films is that the saga pictures are the story of the Skywalker family. This trilogy is the third part of a cycle – we’ve had the tragedy of Anakin, and the heroic tale of Luke.
This new story is essentially a generational referendum on whether the future of the Skywalker family belongs to the light or dark side of the Force, or maybe something else entirely.
On a structural level, this new trilogy is built so one of the three original protagonists is featured in each of the films – Han Solo in The Force Awakens, Luke Skywalker in the next movie, and Leia in the third, as she will inevitably need to confront her son. This sets up the third movie in this series – and potentially the last of the saga films – to be a pronounced shift away from the patriarchal history of the Jedi towards a matriarchal order built around Rey, Leia, and perhaps also Maz Kanata and whoever Rey’s mother could be. The original trilogy was very much about fathers and sons, and that’s echoed in the drama between Han Solo and Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens. But maybe this is all driving towards a conclusion where the future of the Skywalker clan belongs to the daughters and mothers.
7. The filmmakers are intentionally mirroring beats from the original trilogy and will not be able to resist echoing the most famous moment of The Empire Strikes Back.
You may be thinking “That’s not true…that’s impossible!,” but search your feelings – you know this to be true. One way or another, it’s obvious that we’re going to get either “Rey, I am your father” or “Luke, I am your daughter” in Episode VIII. Also, Luke’s expression upon seeing Rey at the end of The Force Awakens indicates some degree of guilt and fear – he may have been anticipating that moment for years.