I actually sketched this before I saw the movie. LOL @ me.
For at least a week now I’ve had friends telling me, “You’re going to be the worst Kylo Ren trash.” “Oh, man, Kylo is really gonna do you in.” “You need to see Kylo, okay.” “Seriously, it’s like Kylo was designed for you.” “Yes, you do need that Kylo Funko Pop.”
Needless to say, I was predisposed to feel something for Kylo – with people who know me this well telling me constantly how much he was going to wreck me, it would have been a bizarre anomaly if I felt nothing at all.
Kylo is intriguing right off the bat. Obviously powerful – he stops a blaster shot in mid-air and keeps it there – he’s made doubly mysterious by the fact we can’t see his face. He’s keenly observant, noticing Finn’s struggle on the battlefield – one storm trooper out of dozens. He’s extremely strong, but also surprisingly uncontrolled. As opposed to Darth Vader, who never let emotion get in his way until the end of Return of the Jedi, Kylo is an absolute drama queen. He wears a helmet because #DRAMA. He throws temper tantrums. Even the storm troopers are used to this by now, and they know it’s better to just walk away and let the Drama Queen have his moment.
Then we get the most interesting fact about him – it’s remarked more than once that he struggles with the light. The big, scary Sith, the First Order mascot, is not completely dark. Not even after all this time spent with the dark side, spent as an apprentice under Master Snoke. Kylo’s ability to function as an actual villain is constantly questioned by the other, worse villains.
‘I can handle this.’ ‘Dude, are you sure?’ ‘Yeah, totally.’ ‘Because you can, like, take a break or something. Like, you don’t have to do this. We can cover for you.’ [insert temper tantrum here]
Then we have the moment after he has captured Rey (and carried her bridal-style into his ship as per Villainy 101 regulations) when she wakes up and he’s simply crouched on the other side of the room, watching her. “Don’t be afraid,” he says.
(Because that’s also straight out of Villainy 101.)
Rey calls him a monster, and then asks him to take off his mask, which he does – because he doesn’t want her to see him as a monster. He takes it off as if to say see me. I’m not a monster. This is my real face. He And while many people were probably expecting someone older, or someone scarred, underneath the helmet is just…a human. A very young and strangely innocent-looking human; soft-spoken and with the galaxy’s best hair.
He enters Rey’s mind, and out of everything he finds there, he chooses to tell her not to bother thinking of Han Solo as a surrogate father figure, because he will only disappoint her. The feelings behind this remark are very much a driving force for Kylo, as we find out that he’s Han Solo and Leia Organa’s son. There was ‘too much Vader in him,’ and so Leia ‘sent him away,’ and consequently ‘lost him.’ Kylo was abandoned by his parents, and those who feel abandoned or unwanted are very susceptible to seduction by the Dark Side. His parents literally sent him away because they were scared of him, and if you think a kid isn’t going to know this, you’re wrong.
Kylo wants to be powerful. He wants to be strong, as strong as his grandfather (because Kylo is the world’s biggest Darth Vader fanboy) – but there’s more to this. There is a reason we don’t know. We understand that he was seduced toward the Dark Side by Snoke, and we know that whatever happened during his training went so terribly wrong that Luke went into exile over the guilt. This is open for many theories – what happened? How did someone as light-filled as Kylo get seduced to the Dark Side? How did Snoke get ahold of him? Was it under Luke’s nose? What went wrong?
The novelization provides more insight.
He had trouble believing what he was hearing. “So Snoke was watching our son.”
“Always,” she told him. “From the shadows, in the beginning, even before I realized what was happening, he was manipulating everything, pulling our son toward the dark side.”
Ben’s transformation into Kylo was not a sudden overnight change of heart. It was a planned manipulation from the beginning. The Jedi order is very rarely compatible with extremely emotional people – Jedi are supposed to be passive, and Kylo is an extremely passionate, emotional person. Passivity would not sit well, it would be a bad fit. Even now, in present-day, Kylo is basically a tiny ball of light who really, really wants to be bad and is honestly so unconvincing that even his Master gives him the side-eye. A lot.
Kylo’s outbursts are also interestingly timed – the first being after Finn escapes, and the second being after Rey escapes. Both times, he was at fault. Unlike Vader, who destroyed others when they failed, Kylo’s anger is directed inwardly, toward himself and his own failures.
Han Solo’s death was hardly surprising to anyone, but the scene was emotionally painful. You can see the tragedy on Han’s face as he looks at his son and the person he has become, and in that moment Han makes the decision to try and win his son back one last time. This scene was the best scene in the movie visually, emotionally, and symbolically. The sun is fading, the energy from it shooting toward the destruction of another planet, but the light is still shining onto Kylo’s face as he speaks with his father for the first time in years.
Han urges his son to come home. He offers him another chance, and in that moment, we see Kylo’s struggle. He wants to come home. “I’m being torn apart,” he whispers. “I just want to be free of this pain.” ‘This pain,’ of course, being the struggle between light and dark; the thing ripping him in two. He says he knows what needs to be done, and he hands Han Solo his lightsaber.
This was an interesting gesture, because I truly believe that Kylo was about to change his mind. That the light inside him was going to win, that he was going to turn his back on the name Kylo Ren and perhaps become Ben again, because the parent who had abandoned him was offering to take him back. But ‘can you help me,’ as he hands his father a weapon, indicates that he didn’t believe he truly could come back, and if that’s true, then there is only one reason why he would be handing his father the saber. I think there is a good chance he wanted his father to kill him. Because what Kylo has been afraid of the whole movie isn’t death – it’s been his own weakness.
But then, in the most powerfully symbolic scene in the movie, the light fades as the sun goes dark and in that moment, so does Kylo. He transforms, and in the darkness, he finds the supposed ‘strength’ to do the one thing every Sith must – kill someone they love. And he does. But even as his father is dying, his last gesture is to reach out and touch not Kylo’s face, but Ben’s face. The face of his son.
Killing someone you love is supposed to symbolize your fearlessness. It’s supposed to be proof that you are truly transformed, that you are now in control, and no doubt that’s what Snoke wanted – but unlike what happens with other Sith, it has the opposite effect on Kylo. He doesn’t gain more control, he loses it. He doesn’t become fearless, he becomes more afraid. In his fight with Finn and Rey, his skill and power are obvious, but so is his desperation.
A brief note on Kylo’s actual strength: We’ve seen storm troopers get shot with the crossbow-blaster before, and upon being shot, they were thrown fifty feet in the other direction. Kylo, also a human, is shot with the same weapon and it barely phases him. He shakes it off and keeps fighting, and this itself shows enormous physical strength and strength of will, even in his uncontrolled state. His training has not yet been completed, and yet he is this powerful already. It’s interesting to consider how powerful he could be once his training is completed – if it ever is.
Kylo Ren has so much light still left in him that he has to physically cause himself pain in order to keep fighting, because the Dark Side feeds off pain. He is the antagonist, the protagonist, and the battleground of his own story. One thing about true Sith is the fact they are ruthless when harming others to further their own ends. They don’t care if they’re hurting someone else, and this is obviously not Kylo’s case. Kylo isn’t fighting Rey with mere anger or a heartless, stoic demeanor – Kylo is on the verge of breaking down, he’s holding back tears, he is fighting with himself as much as he is with Rey, if not more.
I find it hard to believe that the franchise would present us with such an emotional, sympathetic character if they weren’t planning to give him a redemption arc or, at the very least, giving us an even larger conflict to follow in the coming movies. There’s much about Kylo that we as viewers don’t know and can only theorize about, but they have given us the most emotionally conflicted Sith in cinema history. There is more potential for light and goodness, for redemption, than ever before and that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I am so invested in Ben Solo.
also look at the newest addition to the family