Did the Big Bad of the Sequel Trilogy Deserve to Be Good?
The New Big Bad
Kylo Ren (Ben Solo) is the new face of the Sith from the sequel series of the ever-popular Star Wars franchise. Apprenticed to Supreme Leader Snoke of the First Order, Ren hopes to establish rule over the galaxy and continue the legacy of his late grandfather, Darth Vader (Anakin Skywalker). Throughout the films, it is clear that Ren struggles to solidify his loyalty to the dark side and eventually turns back to the light in The Rise of Skywalker. But were his actions against the resistance truly reversible? Was he worthy of his noble sacrifice? A look back into his past might give an answer.
A Ruthless Killer
It is no secret that the Jedi Order and the Sith have been at odds for thousands of years. Wherever the Jedi went, the Sith would follow, bringing destruction and chaos in their determination to vanquish their foe once and for all. Kylo Ren is no different, having massacred entire villages and destroying five planets with Starkiller Base in just The Force Awakens. Not only that, but he killed his fellow students who trained under Luke, burned a Jedi temple, invaded Poe Dameron and Rey’s minds with the force, murdered his father in cold blood, and heavily injured Finn in lightsaber combat.
After all of these events, it is certainly questionable how Rey could still hold hope in bringing Ben back. She shared no connection with him other than through the force and witnessed him hurting those she loved. Ren also attempts to manipulate her to join his side, claiming that she “needs a teacher” and that he can “show [her] the ways of the force.” Ultimately, it is pretty safe to say that Ren does not shed an ounce of guilt for the millions of lives he’s taken or the people he’s used to accomplish his own ends.
Obsessed With Power
Like his grandfather before him, Kylo Ren has had plenty of opportunities to turn back to the light. In The Force Awakens, his father, Han Solo, assured him it was still not too late to return home and forget about the Sith. In The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker, Rey senses good in him and calls out to Ben on multiple accounts. Luke Skywalker even tells Ren during their battle on Crait, “Strike me down, and I will always be with you, just like your father,” implying he senses Ren’s conflict in choosing sides.
However, Kylo Ren rejects their pleas and stays committed to the dark side. In The Last Jedi, Ren murders and overthrows Supreme Leader Snoke, then helps Rey defeat the Elite Praetorian Guard. But instead of joining Rey after the battle, Ren attempts to win her over by using her childhood trauma against her. When she escapes, he assumes the title of Supreme Leader and tells Luke that he will “destroy her (Rey), and you, and all of it.”
To make matters worse, he pledges to a malformed Darth Vader mask that he will “finish what you started,” thereby confirming his commitment to the dark side. But perhaps most shocking of all is he even goes so far as to locate a Sith Wayfinder to challenge the late Emperor Palpatine to assert his rule. In all of these scenarios, it is clear that Kylo Ren would stop at nothing to become the most powerful tyrant in the Star Wars universe.
A New Vader?
Some fans may argue that the reasons for Kylo Ren’s heinous acts are not too different than that of Vader’s. However, something to remember is that, unlike Anakin, Ben Solo’s fall to the dark side was less warranted. Having been raised under the war’s greatest heroes: Han Solo, Leia Organa, and Luke Skywalker, Ben Solo was privileged. Because of these factors, there was nothing that Supreme Leader Snoke could have offered him that he did not already have. But when Luke saw visions of Ben’s destructive nature, Luke attempted to eliminate Ben, who awakened in fear and turned to Snoke for training instead.
Anakin, however, had a much more tragic fate. Tusken Raiders murdered his mother, he was part of the Jedi council but was not a master, and his relationship with Senator Padme had to be kept secret due to the Jedi code. Moreover, when he had visions of Padme’s death, he sought the wisest member of the Jedi council, Yoda, to find a way to prevent it. But Yoda told him death was the way of life and that there was nothing he could do to save her. But perhaps worst of all was that he was manipulated by Emperor Palpatine, who promised Anakin he could save Padme using the dark side of the force, only to still lose her in the end.
What sets these two Sith apart is that when Anakin fell to the dark side and became Vader, he feared losing everything he loved. Even after he became Vader, he still hoped to save his son, Luke, from falling into the same trap and overthrew Palpatine to ensure it would never happen. Meanwhile, Ren still had everyone he loved and only turned to the dark side because of his fear of Luke. The only reason he turned against Palpatine in The Rise of Skywalker is because his mother (Leia) reached out to him (the only person he truly cared about) through the force. While Han came back to speak to Ren as a force ghost, it was his mother’s call that initially sparked his return to the light. Although, it is not exactly explained why Ben seemed to love her more than his father.
A Noble Death or Unworthy Sacrifice?
After many battles, disputes, and deaths, Kylo Ren’s story finally comes to a close in The Rise of Skywalker. Leia’s call brings Ben back, and he ultimately joins forces with Rey to defeat Emperor Palpatine. However, in doing so, he gives up his life to save Rey. But was his fate well deserved? Should he have died a hero and been redeemed after everything he has done?
Considering his past, it is not too surprising that many of the characters view him as irredeemable. He is responsible for the murder of billions of people and is a war criminal. Therefore, death seems to be the only option he has for redemption. However, a death as a sacrifice is unsatisfying for Ren. A better alternative would have been him realizing he was an irredeemable villain and had lost everything as a result. He lost his father, mother, master, and never had good relations with Rey. With that realization, he should have let Rey kill him like she did with Palpatine. But if not, then at the very least, he could have been redeemed by living a life of exile and living with the crimes he has committed.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) Official Final Trailer