Kylo Ren will be redeemed in Star Wars: Episode IX, and we saw the path of that redemption through Darth Vader.
In Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Ben Solo grimly states, “I’m being torn apart. I want to be free of this pain. I know what I have to do, but I don’t know if I have the strength to do it.”
These words are spoken moments before he is consumed by Kylo Ren. However, these are not Ben’s final words as he will find redemption in The Rise of Skywalker.
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When Ben plunged his lightsaber into his father’s heart, casting a piece of himself into the pits of Starkiller Base, Kylo Ren took over. It was a moment framed brilliantly by J.J. Abrams and director of photography Dan Mindel. One half of Ben’s face is lit blue and the other is red, signifying the conflict within—the internal battle between light and dark; between Ben and Kylo.
Ben wants to come home to his family and no longer feel that constant emotional tug of war, but Kylo yearns to fulfill his grandfather’s vision of ruling the galaxy unhindered. He has also had enough of the living in the past and shadow of his parents (war heroes of the Rebellion) and his uncle (the stuff of myths and legends).
So yes, Kylo destroyed one of the most iconic characters of the Star Wars franchise and refused to align with Rey in The Last Jedi (overtaking Ben Solo in the process), but Ben is still in there and is no less redeemable than Anakin was when he was consumed by Darth Vader.
The circumstance of Anakin and Ben are not entirely unalike. Anakin’s fall to the dark side was driven by forbidden attachment and the fear of loss, whereas Ben’s was by a sense of isolation and fear of failure—two different fears but fear nonetheless. Attachment and isolation are truly the splitting point between grandfather and grandson, making them the inverse of each other.
Anakin always had someone. As a latecomer to the Jedi Order, the attachment to his mother was considered dangerous baggage by the Jedi’s standards—most younglings were taken at birth before knowing their family. His mother dies, he wipes out the sand people, and darkness lets itself in. Strike one for anger.
Then comes Ahsoka Tano. Anakin pleas for his longtime apprentice and wartime partner to stay at the Jedi Temple after she is falsely accused for a crime and nearly executed, but he loses “Snips” to his own oversight. She leaves the Jedi Order, cementing Anakin’s failure as a Master. Strike two for pain.
Finally, there’s Padmé: his forbidden love. His pursuit to prevent Padmé’s death, combined with his lustful obsession for the Naboo senator, drives Anakin to actually be the one who causes her demise. He’s overcome with rage and a false sense of betrayal, and he loses the last thing he loves. Strike three for suffering.
Akin to Anakin’s three instances of loss, Ben Solo faces three instances of isolation: Han Solo, who never quite grasped the responsibilities of fatherhood; Leia Organa, who put service above all else in helping to build the galaxy in a post-Empire world; and Luke Skywalker, the mighty Jedi that saved the galaxy and doubted the good in his new apprentice who had that mighty Skywalker blood.
I like to think of this as the rule of three—the formula for the fall to the dark side.
Anakin Skywalker was good-hearted, but Palpatine fed on that as a weakness. Vader then committed war crimes and drowned out nearly every remnant of Anakin. He became a ruthless killing machine with no moral compass, but we don’t bat an eyelash when he is redeemed.
If Vader, the man who instilled fear in the galaxy as Palpatine’s own Frankenstein, could still have some shred of good in him, so can Kylo Ren.
With Palpatine’s confirmed appearance in The Rise of Skywalker, it begs the question of if he also orchestrated Ben’s turn, with Snoke serving as a façade this entire time. Kylo might just been the product of Ben’s insecurities being preyed on by an evil man, twisting his mind through the dark side.
Photo credit: LucasFilm
Star Wars: The Reverse Rule of Two
So how did Anakin return to the light and what does that spell for Kylo? This is what I call the reverse rule of two: the turn back to the light.
For Anakin, it started with Padmé, who unwaveringly declared, “there’s good in him” in her dying moments. Luke, unable to kill his father, then carried on his mother’s dying belief and brought back Anakin in Return of the Jedi.
Fast forward 30 years into The Force Awakens, and General Leia Organa pleads these same words nearly verbatim to Han about their son: “There is still light in him… I know it.” Rey says much of the same to Kylo before confronting Snoke —“You’ll turn. I’ll help you. I saw it.”
It seems Padmé is to Leia as Luke is to Rey, which makes me even more convinced Ben Solo will be redeemed in Episode IX.
On Monday, June 3, the Star Wars UK twitter account went as far as to tweet the aforementioned quotes from Padmé, Luke, and Leia with the caption “Light vs. dark – the eternal struggle.” This screamed of “Bendemption,” as the Star Wars community has coined it. The tweet was pulled shortly after posting.
This will also mean that Kylo and Rey need to reconnect through the force once they realize the true evil they have always been up against in Palpatine, who will once again drive dark and light together.
In some respect, this could retread the story of Return of the Jedi, but I trust J.J. Abrams would do so to pay an ode to the prequel and original trilogy while still giving us a fresh and inspiring story of redemption. It would properly cap off what has been the theme of both this sequel trilogy and the Skywalkers in general: our past shouldn’t define who we are; we can’t forget it and it doesn’t do any good to “kill it,” but we can change the story moving forward.
Herein lies the rise of Skywalker—the rise of Ben Solo, who finally breaks the wheel in his family’s long history.
Is Ben Solo gone? Was Anakin gone? No. As we’ve started to learn in Star Wars, no one is ever really gone, and don’t be surprised if that’s the case when Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters on December 20.