Why Kylo Ren is Pretty Neat


I know what you're thinking. "She's really going to talk about the emo man-child of the Star Wars universe?" Indeed, she is.

Source: Giphy

Ever since I watched The Last Jedi in December, I have been taken aback by how much the character Kylo Ren makes me think. In The Force Awakens, we were introduced to this villain of the First Order, who happens to be the son of original trilogy legends Han and Leia. At the end of Episode VII, it is impossible to want to root for Kylo. He's just killed his father, he hurt Rey many a time, and he worships the living heck out of a character that is known bad news. Skywalker blood proves once again to be either an ultimate good or an ultimate bad in the end.

Then, we see him in The Last Jedi.

With a new director and a narrative circled around a balance of light and dark, hence the working title name "Space Bear," which involved a logo of a panda, we expected to see Rey question her faith to the Jedi Order and potentially be pulled towards the dark side. Our expectations were proven accurate when Rey is ultimately pulled towards the darkness when it offers her answers to the festering question of who her parents are, but we become perplexed as an audience when we discover that Kylo Ren feels a similar pull to the opposite side.

This is what makes him neat. With Darth Vader, his redemption came at the last moment possible. He lived out three films in an expressionless mask, making it easy to accept his choices of evil because there was no human face to associate with them. Every death is tragic, but reads almost like natural disaster rather than a murder.

With Kylo, we see his face and emotions, and we see the torment that comes with some decisions. The Last Jedi begins with him removing his mask as Supreme Leader Snoke condemns him for allowing the death of Han Solo tear him apart. Actor Adam Driver excels at making it appear as though Kylo is quite literally sick with indecisiveness.

On one hand, he is very much the token "fan boy" of the dark side, but on the other hand there is still a pull towards the light within him that we see through his grief over Han and his last-minute decision to pull his finger off of the trigger aimed directly at his mother's ship. He's a villain with a question mark at the end of every command.

We begin to understand what created this monster in very brief glimpses into his mind through his "force bonds" with Rey. We learn of where Luke Skywalker failed him and we see an intense version of loneliness that he has been sentenced after isolating himself from his family and being a mere cog in the First Order.

Rey reminding him that he's not alone and then extending a hand, which he accepts, gets many viewers to the point of believing that the two force wielders will hold hands and walk into a sunset (twin suns, of course). The moment that makes us believe in him the most is when he defies the dark side in order to fight with Rey in Snoke's throne room. An arc of redemption is built up from his first appearance in Episode VIII, but it's only to let us down in the end.

Scenes like this make us root for the character that killed our beloved Han and tortured our precious Rey. Then, Kylo snaps.

Immediately, after being rejected by Rey when he requested that they essentially run away together, Kylo shoots into a fit of anguish and violence, taking control of the First Order and going on a mission to end the Resistance once and for all. In a moment, a character that we began to love and root for has regressed into what he was in the movie before.

The reason that Kylo Ren is so neat is that you really don't know what you are going to get. Since he has a festering conflict within him between light and dark, we see moments of humanity that are then torched by a desire for power. Kylo Ren is an amazing villain to watch because he could easily murder an entire fleet of Resistance ships or he could spare their hero and fight by her side.

Kylo Ren's character development lets us see what actually makes a villain, and it does it without three extra prequels that involve Jar Jar Binks. It is not just a desire for power; it's human accumulation of betrayal, loneliness, and being manipulated that drive him to evil. He goes where he thinks he can gain. After believing that his own uncle was going to murder him, he found his value in the dark side. After speaking with Rey one-on-one, he finds his value with her. Quite literally, this man is just desperate for someone to say that he's enough, and he'll probably go wherever that answer can be found.

While some argue that Kylo Ren is irredeemable and doesn't deserve to be pulled back to the light as a resolve for the sequel trilogy, I can't help but entertain that it would be an incredibly satisfying plot to see almost an anti-Anakin, who was pulled from the light to the dark, and see Kylo get pulled away from the darkness and back to being Ben Solo.

Cover image source: Pixabay