Tortured villain. Petulant child. Kylo Ren. A figure who strives for the dark side. Can he come back? Should he?
I have a love/hate relationship with Kylo Ren, and I need to talk about it.
Kylo Ren is an immensely interesting character, and even before we knew who he was, he was intriguing to say the least. His character was (and still is) shrouded in mystery, literally and figuratively. His costume is, to say the least, downright cool. It harkens back to Darth Vader (black clothes, cape, intimidating helmet). His lightsaber is something we had not seen in the Star Wars universe before. There are so many things to love about the character; he’s so captivating in the sense that we don’t know his full story, how he came to be, and what’s next for Kylo Ren.
But I hate him.
After seeing The Force Awakens I was emotionally distraught. It’s still hard for me to say Han is dead. Honestly, it is really is hard to reconcile. I was so mad at Kylo Ren (a.k.a. Ben Solo) for what he did; so mad the first thing I wanted to do was throw my Kylo Ren Funko bobble head against the wall. I restrained myself. How could anyone kill Han Solo?! His own father?!
So, after taking a step back and really reflecting on the new film, I found myself wanting to question Ren’s character and reasoning. The main thing I keep thinking about is this: Is Kylo Ren redeemable? Has he progressed too far into the dark side? Can he be saved and brought back to the light side?
In the film Ren is obviously struggling with his dark/light persona. He mentions to Supreme Leader Snoke that he feels the pull of the light side still. To me this seems that some part of him, deep down, still believes in the good of the Force, in that maybe he isn’t lost yet. I think this is a main theme throughout the movie. Just look at the way he rages and destroys things (like prison chambers) when he gets bad news or information. (And to this point, I think his lightsaber was meant to be crackling, not quite steady in appearance as to portray his rage and instability). This is something we never saw from Darth Vader. Vader always seemed cool and collected, and knew what he was doing. Yes, he brought out the Force choke hold many times, but he didn’t rage about and destroy things with his lightsaber. Kylo Ren seems to have no such hold on his emotions; he embodies anger. Vader embodied hate (I think), and perhaps that is a main differentiation between the two characters. As a young Anakin Skywalker the audience did get to see Vader’s anger portrayed (think Revenge of the Sith), but it seemed he was able to control it as an adult. Kylo Ren’s age in The Force Awakens is around 29 or 30 years old. That’s still a relatively young age, and we don’t know exactly when he turned against Luke with the Knights of Ren. Or, more importantly, why he turned to the dark side.
It seems the new era of Star Wars films are going to take a similar path to that of the original trilogy and the prequels. Darth Vader’s background was a mystery in the OT. The prequels filled in that blank, and perhaps the next films in the franchise will do the same for Kylo Ren. I feel it’s obvious he’s being manipulated by Snoke (just like the Vader/Palpatine relationship). But why? How did he meet Snoke? Perhaps answers will be forthcoming in the future films.
Through all of his actions in the movie, the real question is can Kylo Ren be redeemed? Leia thought so; and so did Han. Han tried to reach out to his son Ben, not the monster behind the mask. They never gave up on him. Could Leia still feel the good in him, just like Luke did with Vader? Is killing one’s own father too far down the path to the dark side that one can’t come back from it? Vader was redeemed in the end, even after he killed younglings (and many others). Which is worse? Are they equal in evil? If Kylo Ren can be redeemed, I think there may only be a few choices as to who could do it. Leia would be one, although he really seems to hate his parents. I don’t think Luke could do it; Kylo obviously hated the new Jedi order (and probably Luke) for some unknown reason. He hated it so much he destroyed it. I think the only other option for a person to be able to reach him would be Rey. The film is certainly trying to point to Rey as a Skywalker heir, but I think there will end up being more to her lineage than that. If there’s a connection between Kylo Ren and Rey, she would be the one to try to reach out to him and bring him back to the light.
So what would it take for Kylo Ren to come back from the dark side? Patricide is an unforgivable offense. I’m not entirely sure there is anything he could do to redeem himself. The one possibility is that he will have to sacrifice himself for a greater good. And, I think, it would have to be a HUGE greater good – saving many people or worlds even. In the end, Kylo Ren will have to die, whether or not he sacrifices himself, or someone has to kill him. Historically Star Wars has always been about the struggle of good vs. evil, and ultimately good always wins. But will this new era of Star Wars films take a different approach? Will the evil in Kylo Ren triumph, will he be forever lost to the dark side?
For now there is only speculation about Kylo Ren’s past and future. And there are many paths to explore. But for me, I’m just going to reflect on the film, and try not to cry every time he kills Han. I can’t even write that sentence without tearing up. Goodbye Han, the Star Wars community will always love you. And as for you, Kylo Ren, only time will tell if we’ll love you, or hate you forever.
Courtney Martin is a graduate of Indiana University and works in publishing. She’s an avid Star Wars fan and wrote the recipe blog Courtney Cooks Star Wars on suvudu.com. When not enveloped a science fiction or fantasy novel, she is watching television with her husband and son, doing crossword puzzles, or playing with her Shih Tzu, Burt.