Over the next year and a half, we’ll be theorizing about how the lead characters in the latest Star Wars trilogy might end up once J.J. Abrams brings this exciting new story to a close. Let’s start with likely the most complicated of the bunch, Ben Solo aka Kylo Ren.
The antagonists in stories historically don’t fare well in the end and Star Wars is no different. They either remain steadfast to the end and die for their cause (Arihnda Pryce) or seek and sometimes receive redemption or acquittal (Anakin Skywalker).
In our current trilogy, after killing his master Supreme Leader Snoke, Kylo Ren has emerged as the military and philosophical leader (snuffing our Hux) of the First Order. All eyes will be on him in the final episode due out next year and how J.J. Abrams plans to wrap up his story remains a mystery. But which way will it go? Will Kylo’s rage consume him beyond recognition and fall on his laser sword or will Rey convince him of the errors of his ways and offer a way out? Would the Resistance even entertain that idea after all the crimes he’s committed?
With no indication we’ll see any of these characters again on screen we must assume Abrams will tidy up any story threads left outstanding, Ren included. In a galaxy where redemption is a strong theme we could argue all day about whether even Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker deserved any type of redemption or even forgiveness. I think we all agree, had he survived, he would and should have spent the rest of his life in prison, but Lucas wrapped us his story in likely the only way he could have, with his death. Besides, redemption and atonement are two different things after all.
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Darth Vader would be proud of his grandson. Ben Solo’s list of crimes and misdemeanours compiles a rap sheet few have attained and whose life for the past few years has featured an incredible amount of murder and destruction. You must remember his mantra is basically completeness through violence…
“Let the past die; kill it if you have to. It’s the only way to become what you’re meant to be.”
~Kylo Ren to Rey
When your idol is Darth Vader and your master is Snoke, its no wonder his mind is damaged. He felt betrayed by those closest to him (father/mother) and the one person who was supposed to understand him, good old Uncle Luke, entertained the idea of killing him in his sleep. Kylo’s now most important relationship is with Rey, whether you view it as platonic, romantic or otherwise. They both share a common gift, an access to shared power, and that has brought them perilously close to each other. She glimpsed his future when their minds were connected, and she believed, and maybe still does, he’s not a lost cause. It didn’t appear that way at the end of The Last Jedi, but we’ve got a long way to go and with a rumored time jump kicking things off in Episode IX, Abrams can cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time.
If a face turn is indeed coming, then what about the issue of Kylo’s violent past? Redemption is attainable but only from a certain point of view, just like murder. If you kill and you’re on the “good” side (Luke/Death Star I) then its acceptable. But If you kill and you’re a bad guy, well, that’s different right? There’s a certain righteousness we attach to murder when its committed against a perceived evil presence and Star Wars hasn’t strayed away from that. If all the ancillary materials have done anything for us, its provided a face to countless Imperial officers, staff and average Joe’s and Jill’s all who have been killed by the Resistance and the Rebellion before them. But that’s okay, right? So why should Kylo Ren or anyone be judged for doing the same thing? Because that’s storytelling I suppose.
Redemption is the action of saving or being saved from sin, error or evil. So, let’s take quick look at some of Kyo’s sins, errors and evil deeds and decide if they are worthy of redemption in the first place. In our very first look at Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens we see him invade a village of passive people on Jakku and he brutally murders Lor San Tekka, a peaceful and wise (and unarmed) old man who is a member of the Church of the Force. Before he leaves the planet, he orders the execution of dozens of people who are living in the village of Tuanul.
This would set the tone as we see him later lead an attack on Takodana, destroying Maz Kanata’s castle which housed again, dozens of beings, before being interrupted by Poe Dameron and the Resistance. In the same episode he would be party to the murder of millions of lives at the hands of the Starkiller Base, torture both Poe and Rey and top it all off with the murder of his father Han Solo. And while it’s clear that last one had an adverse affect on his psyche going forward, the act was committed nonetheless.
The death toll continued in The Last Jedi as we watch the Resistance slowly lose members, a handful of which were at the hands of Kylo Ren when he attacks their fleet in his Tie Silencer. And in perhaps the greatest scene in the film, Kylo turns on his master, slicing Snoke in half and with Rey’s help kills his share of the Praetorian Guards. In his last act of Episode VIII, he orders the death of the remaining Resistance members held up on Crait before being thwarted by Luke Skywalker, who’s trickery allowed them to escape.
None of this even includes the handful of Jedi students he murdered at Luke’s Jedi Temple or the many failed attempts throughout the two episodes and ancillary materials. The man has blood on his hands and it seems to have taken its toll as he is most assuredly going madder and madder by the second. In fact, perhaps as a nod to Frankenstein or King Kong, the only person who causes any resemblance of calm and levity in Kylo is Rey. Is this the beauty and the best scenario so many want to see form this duo? We’ll have to wait and see.
So, did the events in The Last Jedi cement your feelings on Kylo’s eventuality or did it muddy the waters a bit for you? My feeling is I don’t much care for redemptive arcs for the villains unless there’s something or someone to take their place, after all without conflict there’s no drama right? And if his whole life’s pursuit has been spent trying to live up to his grandfather’s image, then perhaps that’s all the foreshadowing we’ll need?
What does everyone think? Will Kylo live or die by the laser sword? Will he end the series on the light or dark side? Or perhaps its more complicated than that.
Till next time…MTFBWY.
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