The Rise of Skywalker: Did Ben Solo really deserve better?

Adam Driver is Kylo Ren in STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER.
Adam Driver is Kylo Ren in STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER. /

Fans who were hoping for Ben Solo’s happily ever after in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker felt disappointed, confused, and betrayed. Here’s what they’re not seeing.

This post contains Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker spoilers.

The Star Wars fandom is only at the beginning of its period of mourning for yet another fallen hero.

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Whether you had a hunch, read a leak, or didn’t see it coming at all, each and every one of us felt something deep when Ben Solo made the ultimate sacrifice to save Rey at the end of The Rise of Skywalker.

In many discussions throughout various groups and platforms, fans are, in their grief, calling Ben Solo’s death meaningless. “He didn’t deserve to die,” they cry. “Ben Solo deserved better.”

And here’s the thing: They are absolutely right. He did not deserve what he got. He deserved so much better than this.

But this does NOT mean his death did not matter. There is much deeper meaning in this tragedy. And while some may interpret this message as “people who do bad things don’t deserve the chance to right their wrongs,” there’s something major missing in that parallel.

Ben Solo DID do something to redeem himself. It just ended in absolute heartbreak. For all of us.

Let’s be clear about a few things.

One: Ben Solo’s death was tragic and heartbreaking. He did not deserve to die. There is a lot of talk about redemption and how he didn’t deserve that — or even to live — because of the awful things he did as Kylo Ren. Not true. Redemption does not mean you avoid the consequences of your actions. But one of those consequences does not have to be death.

Two: We did not get enough time to know Ben for who he truly was. We got very quick glimpses and very minimal dialogue. But this does not mean the time we spent with him was not redemptive in its own poetic way. Yes, we should have gotten to spend more time with him. But the reality is that we didn’t. And this speaks to the true, heartbreaking tragedy of his story more than anything else.

Three: Ben Solo deserved a happy ending. He absolutely did. But “happy ending” does not necessarily mean what many fans assumed it might mean, or desperately hoped it would. There were many Star Wars fans who figured a happy ending meant happily ever after — that Rey and Ben would go on to live a long and eventful life together after the credits scrolled.

But this is not the happy ending we got. We did, however, get one for him — though it’s very easy to look past it if you are too caught up in the emotional weight of his tragic death to appreciate it.

Is it OK to mourn Ben Solo’s death? Of course it is. We are supposed to — that’s the point. Just because we don’t see our characters grieving for him on screen does not mean that they didn’t, or that we shouldn’t.

But don’t mistake your grief for a fatal flaw in this film’s design (admittedly, there are many imperfections to consider). Ben Solo’s story did not end with the chance to live. This does not mean his ending was meaningless.

His happy ending is, when it comes down to it, represented completely in the wide smile we see from him in his intimate moment with Rey before his death. Adam Driver is, and there is no doubt about this, a brilliant actor even in nonverbal moments. That smile speaks volumes.

That smile is everything that Ben was deprived of for so long, and everything he finally got after so many years.

Did his life end too soon? Of course it did. But do you know what happened between the death of Kylo Ren and the tragic end of Ben Solo? He reconciled with his dad, the unresolved tragedy that caused him great pain long before Han Solo’s untimely demise. He remembered who he was again. He got to choose, for the first time in a long time, his own path. He took back control of his life. He took back control of his destiny.

He found purpose. He allowed himself to open up to those who cared for him again. And he both gave and received love, all while playing a part in taking down the enemy that had held him captive for so long and ultimately saving the one he quite literally could not live without.

All in a tragically short time. All in a matter of hours, it seemed. But at the end of it all, Ben Solo finally got to be happy and save someone from their pain.

His sacrifice does mean something. He didn’t die because he deserved it. He died because even the galaxy far, far away isn’t fair. He died because he chose to give up his life for someone else. Rey — the only person left who mattered to him most — will remember him for the rest of her life for the good that he did. So much so that she adopted his family name so that, symbolically — perhaps even literally, if we want to talk details about life force — he could live on, in her, forever.

Many will look past that symbolism. I encourage you to look for it, and hold onto it, even as you grieve.

After all this time, Ben Solo got to choose his own path.

Don’t get too caught up in the fact that he’s gone to see how much it mattered that Ben Solo lived.

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What was your favorite Ben Solo moment from The Rise of Skywalker?