On the heels of the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker release, fans have been on fire speculating how the Skywalker Saga will conclude. One of the most popular topics surrounding the movie is the fate of the last Skywalker, Kylo Ren (a.k.a. Ben Solo, the fallen Jedi, son of the war heroes Han Solo and Leia Organa, and the legendary Luke Skywalker’s nephew). His story starts in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, where he attacks a village and eventually kills his father, leading him to a confrontation with the young scavenger girl, Rey.
In Star Wars: The Last Jedi, we see how those actions have affected him, giving us a deeper look into who Kylo Ren truly is. Even though his actions at the end of The Last Jedi lead us to believe he’s gone further down the path of the Dark Side, in my opinion, in order to wrap-up the Skywalker Saga (in a satisfying way), Kylo Ren needs to be redeemed. Redeemed and alive.His family didn’t understand the tremendous power he possessed, nor the darkness that whispered in his ear throughout his life.
Emperor Palpatine is returning in The Rise of Skywalker, making him the ultimate evil that must be stopped. Therefore leaving space for Kylo Ren to become someone the audience can root for redemption-wise, even with all of the horrible things he has done. At the end of The Last Jedi, we see him as conflicted as ever, still being torn between the Light and the Dark. He’s on a rampage trying to destroy the last of the Resistance. But once they have escaped, Kylo takes a knee, head bowed in defeat as he clutches his father’s dice and, once Rey cuts off their Force Bond, the dice disappear from his hand. In a 2017 interview, Larry King asked Adam Driver (who plays Kylo Ren) if he lives at the end of the film. Driver responded, “Depends on what your idea of ‘living’ is.”
Ben Solo’s turn from Light to Dark isn’t too far reaching. His family didn’t understand the tremendous power he possessed, nor the darkness that whispered in his ear throughout his life. His parents constantly left him alone with droids while they focused on their careers. He spent a lifetime being constantly hurt by the people he loved—misunderstood and alone.
Abandoned by Snoke, a father figure, albeit a twisted relationship because of the abuse and manipulation Kylo suffered by his hand. And abandoned by Rey, the only person who ever understood him and who didn’t try to use him for his power or legacy (though her reason for leaving him is totally justified). I read a fantastic essay written by a licensed psychologist on the psyche of Kylo Ren, titled Understanding Ben Solo, that explains these choices and feelings in greater detail.
Let me make one thing perfectly clear: I do not condone the choices Kylo Ren has made or agree with them in any way, shape, or form. He needs to face the consequences of his actions, and to spend the rest of his life atoning by healing the galaxy and the Force of the sickness the Skywalker family has inflicted. It won’t be easy. It shouldn’t be. But Kylo needs to do what his grandfather could not. Do I believe he deserves redemption? No, I don’t. But that’s the thing about redemption: none of us deserve it.Kylo Ren receiving redemption shows that we can receive redemption, as well.
Star Wars is a monomyth that explores themes of hope, redemption, and love. George Lucas describes Star Wars as a fairy tale, which J.J. Abrams echoed in The Force Awakens commentary. As Christians, we believe that Jesus died on the cross for our sins because of His great love for us. There is nothing that we have done or can do for us to ever deserve His sacrifice. He has redeemed us for Himself and therefore saved us from our sins, and we did nothing to deserve it. If we confess our sins before the Father, we are forgiven and are purified from unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
Loving someone is both a powerful and compassionate gift. I see love as being what possibly enacts Kylo’s redemption in The Rise of Skywalker. There have been several intelligent theories posited by fans that pose Kylo and Rey as the reverse relationship of Anakin Skywalker and Padmé Amidala, based upon the visual and symbolic illustrations shown within the movies. Instead of their love story ending in tragedy, maybe this time it will end happily with the two bringing balance to the Force and peace to the galaxy.
Where Anakin’s possessive love gave into fear leading to Padmé’s death, there is hope that Kylo’s love for Rey could motivate him to take steps towards redemption. For that to happen, Kylo will have to learn to love selflessly lest he be fully consumed by the same possessive tendencies of his grandfather. Director Rian Johnson stated that they are “two halves of a whole”, which The Rise of Skywalker director, J.J. Abrams, recently reiterated. The Vanity Fair cover story for The Rise of Skywalker teased how important their relationship to each other is. Johnson admits to drawing heavily from the prequels as inspiration for his film. Kylo’s proposal to Rey in the throne room is strikingly similar to Padmé’s plea to Anakin on Mustafar in Revenge of the Sith.
As I make this case for Kylo’s redemption, I acknowledge that some fans will not agree with me. He massacred a village, killed his father, and carried out the will of an evil ruler for years. But in the beginning of The Last Jedi, Snoke says that “the deed split [his] spirit to the bone,” and “[He] has too much of [his] father’s heart within him.” In The Force Awakens movie novelization, when Han touches Ben’s cheek after he is stabbed, it says that Han had forgiven him, and that one day he hoped that Ben would forgive him, too.After over forty years and a tragic ending matched with a bittersweet one, it’s time the Skywalkers received their happily ever after.
So, why should we want redemption for someone like Kylo Ren, who has done horrible things and has been horribly misguided for most of his young adult life? Because he is a reflection of ourselves. We, as humans, make mistakes all the time. We are misguided, lied to, and manipulated-but all the while we make poor choices and have to live with the consequences. Kylo Ren receiving redemption shows that we can receive redemption, as well.
We can make the right choices, we can turn our lives around, and we can become the person we were always meant to be, no matter what we’ve done. We need to pay the consequences of the choices we make, just like Kylo. But it is possible. Through his love for his mother and Rey, Kylo Ren will find redemption if he accepts it, just as we can through Jesus if we accept His love for us. And, yeah, not everyone will forgive us right away (and maybe some people never will), but that doesn’t mean we can’t try, everyday, to be a better person and choose love over hate.
After over forty years and a tragic ending matched with a bittersweet one, it’s time the Skywalkers received their happily ever after. Han and Luke’s sacrifice for the galaxy and, most importantly, for Ben, should not be in vain. Leia deserves to have the opportunity to pass down Padmé’s gowns to her granddaughter (like we see in the Poe Dameron #21 comic), and it’s time for the prodigal son to return home after being astray for so long. To return to the loving arms of his mother and to Rey, his other half.
During the Battle of Crait in The Last Jedi, Rose Tico sums up the point of this trilogy and, I would argue, the entire saga, in this one line: “That’s how we’re gonna win. Not fighting what we hate, but saving what we love.”
“So now, faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13 ESV