Making A Murderer: How Kylo Ren Fell To The Dark Side Before The Force Awakens


We saw Palpatine make a murderer of Anakin in the prequels. So how did Ben Solo become one?

We know from Anakin Skywalker’s experience, the way to the dark side is through the exploitation of one’s deepest fears and most charged passions. It is a combination of voices within and without, manipulating one to resort to desperate measures which, if pursued, inexorably become second nature. Thus the words of Yoda are fulfilled: “If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny. Consume you, it will, as it did Obi Wan’s apprentice.”

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We know how Anakin became Darth Vader. We know his fall stemmed from fear of losing the person he loved most in the world, and that in the end, after decades of killing and rage, he was only redeemed through the ultimate sacrifice: his own life. But how did fate make a murderer out of his grandson, Ben Solo, known in The Force Awakens as Kylo Ren? And is there any hope for him to be redeemed, or is he destined to die a death worse than Anakin’s: in darkness?

There are a few theories we can posit as to why Ben fell. Because of how little information we have about his life growing up, these theories are as conjectural as you can get. But, it’s worth discussing because how he fell is the key to how he may allow himself to be pulled into the light… or fall deeper into the dark side of the Force.

First, we must remember an important thing:

"“No, it was Snoke. He seduced our son to the dark side.”"

General Leia Organa, Ben’s mother, said this herself. There is no doubt the mysterious being in command of the First Order and the Knights of Ren is behind Ben’s turn to the dark side. But there are many unanswered questions, such as how he did it, and why.

The How

There are a couple compelling theories which come to mind. One is, Snoke was an apprentice alongside Ben at Luke Skywalker’s Jedi Academy. For why Snoke, who is obviously much older than Ben and probably Luke, as well, let’s turn to the Legends series, The Jedi Academy trilogy by Kevin J. Anderson. In that series, when Luke was searching for candidates for his academy, he didn’t care about age or occupation; a connection to the Force and a will to learn were all he cared for. It’s not a stretch to consider, then, that he would feel the same in a canon universe.

“There has been an awakening. Have you felt it?”

This would be a deception greater than even Palpatine could have managed. Luke, in his compassion, would take on Snoke as an apprentice. Snoke, already trained in the dark side of the Force, would conceal his true intentions and relationship with the dark arts. He would go into the Academy perhaps with the intention of converting Ben to the dark side, having already sensed how powerful and yet also how emotionally unstable the young Solo is.

In this, he would be just like Palpatine was with Ben’s grandfather: An exploiter of the potent emotions and fears of a boy with potential in the Force and a legendary heritage.

The Why

We learned from the prequels, one doesn’t simply become a murderer for no reason. It doesn’t have to be a good reason, but one is still required.

“If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny.”

Anakin’s first true canon murders were committed in Attack of the Clones, when he massacred a tribe of Tusken Raiders out of anger and resentment for their murder of his own mother. In Revenge of the Sith, the body count is…uncountable. Most of them are committed, at least as far as the audience can tell, mindlessly, without worry or care. They begin as desperate measures; Anakin thinks he has to join the Sith and make an enemy of the Jedi in order to have the power to save his wife Padme from death. But as he continues on, killing becomes second nature.

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We see the same pattern in Kylo Ren, only at a more advanced stage. He seems to kill without thought in The Force Awakens, at least in the beginning. He orders the deaths of the village people on Jakku, and cuts down a helpless old man without any hesitation. Only later, when he is confronted by his father on Starkiller Base, does he show any resistance to the urge to kill and destroy.

So what were the desperate measures he started with? Why did he feel he had to essentially become a murderer? In other words: Why did he fall?

Part of the clue to the answer, I think, lies in Kylo’s tenuous (a kind word) relationship with his father. He comments more than once about Han Solo’s failures, calling him “weak and helpless” and telling Rey the war hero would have disappointed her if he were her father.

He is also bent on getting to Luke Skywalker. As a friend pointed out to me on a podcast I was on recently, he seems desperate to find the map to his uncle, while Snoke simply wants to keep it out of the hands of the Resistance.

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Does Kylo have a grudge against both Han and Luke? They were most likely the father figures in his life; and given Snoke basically replaced them, much like Palpatine replaced Obi Wan Kenobi, it’s not surprising Kylo would have vendettas against them particularly. Perhaps something cataclysmic happened many years prior, something that shook young Ben’s faith in both of them.

Perhaps Han Solo was not a good father; we know from The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary he took to racing during the peacetime following the dispersion of the Empire. It’s possible he was absent for Ben’s formative years. As for Luke, it would be easy for Snoke to poison Ben against him. He could tell him his uncle is holding him back, that he doesn’t recognize Ben’s true power. It’s the same lies Palpatine used to turn Anakin against Obi Wan and the rest of the Jedi, and if it worked once, why might it not work again?

And Snoke was just as successful as Palpatine in his seduction and training of a dark acolyte. Kylo Ren was able to murder his own father, and though he showed perhaps a glint of regret, he was still able to see the act through.

Can He Be Redeeemed?

“There’s still light in him, I know it.”

You would think that, with the 180 degree turn Darth Vader made at the end of Return of the Jedi, it would be plausible Kylo Ren could make the same comeback. There’s just one obstacle: We didn’t see Vader make a murder like the one Kylo Ren did. One could argue Vader killing Obi Wan could disconnect him from the sympathy of the audience, but it’s not the same as Kylo killing Han Solo. Obi Wan let himself be killed so Luke and his friends could escape, whereas Han thought his son was actually going to give up his lightsaber and go home with him. In return for his faith, Kylo stabbed him through the gut.

SEE ALSO: Is The Shadow Of Vader Behind Rey In The Force Awakens?

The key to redeeming Kylo may lie in the same place Vader’s did: with a loved one.

As of right now, the only loved one Kylo may have left is his mother. If you watch The Force Awakens, you’ll notice he never mentions Leia. That leads me to think he still has feelings for her. Drawing back to the parallel between Ben and his grandfather, we know Anakin’s mother was a nerve for him; which, when struck, made him into a murderer. Kylo could be the same way, only in the opposite sense: his mother could be the path for him to return to the light.

Could he survive such a turn, however? Vader redeemed himself by sacrificing his life to save his son’s. If he had lived, he would have been treated with hatred, fear, disgust. Ben would surely face the same ire; death may be the only option, both for him and fans of the franchise who are still feeling the burn of Han’s death.

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Kylo Ren is a mystery that may take two more episodes to solve. He’s already been made a murderer, like his grandfather; time will tell if he’ll make himself a hero, as well.