Rey and Kylo Ren, AKA Ben Solo, were clearly set up to be rivals in The Force Awakens. But going forward, will Rey’s goal be to destroy Kylo or save him?
In their lightsaber battle on Starkiller Base in The Force Awakens, it is clear Rey and Kylo Ren, AKA Ben Solo, are being set up to be each other’s nemesis in future Star Wars films. But past rivals in Star Wars have had complex relationships. For example, in the prequel trilogy Anakin Skywalker and Obi Wan Kenobi became dire enemies, but Obi Wan couldn’t bring himself to kill his former best friend even to prevent him from becoming the greatest Sith lord in a thousand years. And in the original trilogy, Luke Skywalker refused to kill Anakin, now Darth Vader, because Vader was his father and he believed there was good in him still.
So what kind of relationship will Rey and Kylo have? Will Rey’s goal be to save Kylo or destroy him? And will Kylo attempt to turn Rey to the dark side, like Vader tried to turn Luke, or will he be hellbent on killing her, as Anakin was hellbent on killing Obi Wan?
Let’s look at what we know about the two of them from The Force Awakens.
Rey is a kind person, who always sticks up for the little guy. When BB-8 was being hauled off to be dismantled by Teedo, Rey left her AT-AT home to save him. She also insisted on seeing him safely into the hands of the New Republic when she discovered he was carrying a map to Luke Skywalker and was being pursued by First Order forces.
She is also loyal. Almost ridiculously so. I say “ridiculously,” because she keeps insisting on returning to Jakku to wait on a family that, as Maz Kanata told her, is never coming back. More importantly, though, she is a steadfast friend to Finn and is traumatized by Han Solo’s death, even though she hasn’t known either Finn or Han for more than a day or two. She has a loving, friendly heart, which makes her endearing, and, incidentally, similar to Luke. Whether that openness and quickness to love will be a detriment to her, as it was at times for both Luke and Anakin, and even Obi Wan, remains to be seen.
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But Rey also has a dark side to her. It was anger which fueled her fight against Kylo Ren and which ultimately guaranteed her victory. Perhaps it was righteous anger, but it’s undeniable there was a part of her which wanted to kill Kylo purely out of hatred. In The Force Awakens novelization, there is a passage during their battle on Starkiller Base which describes her struggle against a voice inside her telling her to just kill Kylo. Then the ground opens up between them and separates them, so we don’t know if she would have ultimately given in and obeyed that voice or not. Fortunately, she wasn’t given the chance.
But she will be given the chance again, probably several times. And what will she do then? Luke will probably share his story of how he helped Darth Vader redeem himself and urge Rey to show similar compassion for Kylo. But with the memory of Kylo stabbing Han Solo and beating up Finn fresh on her mind, compassionate is probably the last thing Rey wants to be. Luke had the benefit of being related to Anakin, and therefore was compelled by familial love as well as his awareness of his Vader’s true goodness to help Anakin turn back to the light instead of kill him. Rey and Ben, on the other hand, may not be related, meaning Rey would have to muster every bit of the light inside herself to not hate his guts and stab right through them at the first opportunity. For Kylo’s sake, it might be best if they are related, because that may be the only way Rey feels any true pity for him.
I would like to think ultimately, Rey will do what’s right. But anger is a powerful stimulant for dark thoughts and feelings, and I don’t think we’ve yet seen the true scope of hers. It’s a wild card that makes it difficult to predict what she will do.
We can talk about whether Rey will really kill Kylo or not all day, but whether she does or not also depends on what Kylo himself does.
Kylo, or Ben, is a hard character to unpack. He’s conflicted, “torn apart,” as he told his father before he murdered him. He constantly feels the pull to the light side of the Force. Yet he does a pretty good job of resisting that pull as he murders and tortures people right and left. But Vader did the same thing, and Vader also killed his equivalent of a father, Obi Wan. It’s safe to say both he and Kylo are on the same level, as far as hope for redemption is concerned. If Vader can be redeemed, so can Kylo.
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But will he allow himself to be? And who or what will be the instrument of that redemption? Luke brought Anakin back to the light; could he bring Ben back, as well? Somehow, I doubt it. I have a feeling Kylo is just as angry at Luke as he was at Han and consequently won’t listen to his uncle. But Rey might could help him, if not completely convince him to mend his ways. He has no reason to hate her, other than the fact she kicked his butt in their first lightsaber battle and defeated his attempts to invade her mind. If they are related, he may even come to feel some sort of compassion for her. She was abandoned by her parents, whoever they were, and he may sympathize with her on the subject of bad parenting. She feels out-of-place and directionless after leaving Jakku, and he probably did, too, as a youth, struggling with the legacy of his powerful parents and uncle and his own pull to the dark side. She also has a strong connection to the Force, without really knowing the full potential of it, and I imagine Ben was much the same until he met Snoke. But whether that sympathy will make him want to turn to the light side to be with her or tempt her to turn to the dark side to be with him is, like the debate between Rey killing or saving Kylo, hard to decide guess at.
In the end, Rey has to want to feel compassion for Kylo, however much he doesn’t deserve it, and Kylo has to be willing to let the light back in his heart. Rey could help him do that by showing him kindness, but she has to get to that point in her personal growth as a person. If she doesn’t, she could become her own worst enemy as well as Kylo’s. In fact, Snoke may decide he wants to recruit her over Kylo, if she proves more powerful and angry than the latter.
If it comes down to Rey being tempted to the dark side, it may be Kylo, or Ben, who has to save Rey instead of the other way around.
There is so much potential for both characters to be both light and dark, there really is no surefire method of predicting what either one of them will do. My only hope is to be surprised and not disappointed in the outcome of their conflict.