Why Ben Solo/Kylo Ren Deserves Redemption in Episode IX
Updated: Apr 5
The sequel trilogy has introduced us to new planets and terrain, new governments and systems, and most importantly, new characters. Something that I'm asked quite often when speaking of new Star Wars movies is who is my favorite character? My answer has always been Ben Solo/Kylo Ren. We see that Ben Solo is indeed conflicted from the very beginning of his story arc in The Force Awakens. Following his grandfather's footsteps, Ben embraces himself to the dark side of the force and allows it to take over him after what he's been through. It only empowers him that his former leader, Snoke of the First Order, acknowledges him only by the name he had given him, Kylo Ren. As the story goes on, we see how broken, how cracked down to the core Ben Solo is. He sits in front of his grandfather's helmet, asking for forgiveness for even feeling the light side of the force pull him and asks for guidance to dive back into the dark. Once face to face with his father, Han Solo, on Starkiller Base, Ben opens up about the pain the past has brought him only moments before killing Han. In The Last Jedi, we see his master embarrass and humiliate him for losing to Rey who had never even touched a lightsaber, even shames him for feeling pulled apart after killing his father. While Ben uses his time to try and fall back into the Dark, he's conversations with Rey through the force keep in in that constant fight between the dark and the light. Upon the capture of Rey, Ben sees the pain and suffering that she's enduring with Snoke torturing her. Although he is calm and collected, we know how unbearable it is for him to watch someone he's gotten so close to going through the anguish and hurt. In the act of executing Rey, Ben uses the force to execute his master and the deadly Throne Room Fight begins on the Supremacy...
Let's dive together in the past of Ben Solo that made him the character he is today...
While Leia was still pregnant with Ben, her first and only child, she said many times in Canon novels that she felt the darkness growing inside of her, how that the child she would give birth to would be born with Vader in him. From the moment he was conceived, Ben Solo was gifted with the force. It was only natural for him to eventually become a Jedi like his legendary uncle, Luke Skywalker. In the early years of his childhood, he felt the true sense of loneliness and abandonment. His father, Han, was out of the picture mostly due to smuggling and helping free the planet of Kashyyyk and his mother, was a fierce political competitor, constantly facing new challenges every day during the era of the New Republic. Of course, during the time of his youth, Ben was conflicted even with no training of the force.
Pic From The Last Jedi Art Book
Ben's Jedi Training and Eventual Betrayal
Once Han and Leia sent him off to train with his Uncle, they both explored the galaxy looking for Sith and Jedi artifacts while teaching Ben more and more about the Jedi and the Force. Unfortunately for Luke, he didn't realize how far Ben was straying from his natural path to the light. He didn't feel that same darkness that Leia had felt before Ben was born. This was unfortunately during the time of political divide in the galaxy between Leia Organa and a politician (who eventually help take part in creating the First Order) revealed to the galaxy that Leia Organa was, in fact, the daughter of Darth Vader, a bombshell that would tear Leia's political career and would never fully recover from. It only took two or three years for Ben to realize it was the reason why he was so conflicted between the light and the dark. In a series of unfortunate events, Ben was betrayed by his Uncle, failing to kill him in his sleep over the darkness brewing inside of him. Ben did what he had to do and defended himself, but then destroyed the Jedi Temple and escaped with a handful of Luke's students.
Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens
During the opening act of The Force Awakens when Kylo Ren invades a small village on the desert planet of Jakku, we are hinted that he is more than just a villain by Lor San Tekka, that he didn't originate from the dark side but rather turned to it. We only know that he is an apprentice of the First Order Supreme Leader, Snoke and that he's on the hunt to find Luke Skywalker before the Resistance does. Throughout the journey of Episode VII, pieces to our puzzle begin to fit together with the meeting of Snoke, who reminds him not to buckle or break to his father, Han Solo. Not too long after it, we see Kylo face to face with Vader's mask, begging him for forgiveness and to show him back to the darkness. With the information portrayed in these scenes, we're able to put two and two together. Kylo Ren was the son of Han Solo and Leia Organa who eventually lost his way in his youth, and they believe that someway, he can still be saved. Snoke's manipulation as well as Kylo's addiction to the dark side, overpowering him and causing him to kill his father.
Ben Solo in The Last Jedi
Shortly after his defeat to Rey on Starkiller Base, Ben kneels before his master to reveal how badly he failed. Ben takes off his helmet to show how Rey scarred his fight during their duel and is harshly embarrassed by his master for losing to a girl who had never held a lightsaber. Ben is thrown away before he could react or lash out and is surrounded by Snoke's guards, and proceeds to destroy his helmet out of anger.
Throughout the course of the movie, more is revealed about his haunting past, how he was training under his Uncle's wing only to be betrayed. Rey is the one to tap into his true feelings, their mutual hidden pain of anger, suffering, and loneliness driving their character arcs until the end credits roll. Ben in this movie is in a much more fragile state, just like Rey, both of them desperately trying to find their place in the chaotic galaxy. While speaking to Rey through the force, he reveals that Luke was the one to turn against his own family, trying his best to turn Rey to his side and possibly even turn her. Something else that sticks out the most is when Rey tells him the journey into the cave is how he assures her that she isn't alone, that she does have someone who can guide her. In the dramatic finale on the Supremacy, Ben assassinated his leader using the force and teams up with Rey to take down the guards. Plunging back into the dark side, Ben pleads and begs Rey to join him, asking her to forget about everything that is in the past and move on to become what she was destined to be. Although some dislike the film, The Last Jedi gave Ben Solo a human-side to him from the previous episode.
Being the center of the Skywalker Saga, Darth Vader was a brutal, ruthless villain throughout the original trilogy. Known as a horrifying Sith Lord, Vader made his presence known throughout the whole galaxy. Besides killing almost anybody that came across him as a threat, he was known for stomping out Rebel forces and helping the Empire conquer the galaxy. It's not until Return of the Jedi that we realize that he is conflicted, even when he speaks of being loyal to the Emperor and a servant of the Dark Side of the Force. In his final moments, Vader overthrows his master and kills him (or did he?) to save his son and to bring a balance to the force. With the prequels, we see how Anakin was always attached to the people in his life when he was supposed to train himself to let them go. To save his love, he pledged himself to the sith lord and turned to the dark side, only to lose Padme.
Up until his final breath, we see that since he turned down the path of the dark side, we saw how terribly it ripped him apart and how the suffering never truly ended for him. Upon serving his master, he lost his wife, he lost his best friend, and he thought he lost his children. For two decades, Vader had to fight through the emotional and mental anguish to please his master. When he finally finds out that the Death Star destroyer was his son, he's determined to find him and let him join him in the dark side or prepare for death. In Return of the Jedi, Vader takes Luke to the Emperor and speaks with him along the way, and Luke becomes the catalyst to Vader's fall and Anakin's rise. While the Emperor is slowly killing Luke with force lightning, his love for his son is what conquers his confliction and turns on his master to save Luke. In the wake of his death, we look past his previous actions and acknowledge what he did for the entire galaxy. Darth Vader suffered more than any other character in the Skywalker Saga, and he redeemed himself in the end by turning back to the light and bringing a balance to the force, saving his only family as well as the galaxy.
Kylo Ren's Fall, Ben Solo's Rise...
Although Ben's character development and his story arc isn't finished, we still plenty of scenarios on where he can end up in the finale of the sequel trilogy. I believe the path Ben will decide to go down is to return to the light just like his grandfather did to save the Resistance and to defeat Palpatine once again. Ben's potential in the final story of the Skywalker Saga is critical for LucasFilm to accomplish a satisfying ending to all nine episodes. What we have to remember is how Vader was redeemed, how the most evil-murderous man that crossed the galaxy was the same man who saved his son, the rebellion, and the republic. It's hard to pinpoint who Ben's catalyst could be, is it Rey? Is it his mother, Leia? Is it another betrayal, could the Knights of Ren try to overthrow him and fight them? So many questions that will be answered in December...
Until next time,
May the force will be with you, always...