Kylo Ren is not a man to be trifled with, but is he a worthy successor to his forbear, Darth Vader? This is a question I have been pondering in my head recently. As far as villains go, Darth Vader was as big and evil as they come. A direct descendant or not, Vader is a tough act to follow, and even Ren himself professed doubt that he was up for the task. He was not the only one to question his commitment to the dark side of the Force. From the highest levels of the First Order to his family, to people he’d only just met, his authority was continually challenged throughout Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens.
General Leia Organa, leader of the Resistance against the First Order, and Kylo Ren’s mother believed in him. At the Resistance base she says to Han, “There’s still light in him, I know it.” Granted, she is his mother, and she wouldn’t be much of a mother if she didn’t love her son unconditionally. Still, you have to admire that fact that she has the fortitude to put her family aside and do what it takes to wipe out the organization her son is leading.
Poe Dameron stood defiant while strapped into Kylo Ren’s torture device. Finn held his ground and dared Ren to come after him to claim his lightsaber. Rey was not even remotely afraid to pit her nascent abilities against the seasoned dark side warrior.
The most damning admission that Kylo Ren was not yet the ultimate bad guy came from Ren himself. Aboard his flagship, Kylo Ren consulted the charred remains of Vader’s helmet and confessed that he feels “the pull to the light.”
Like his grandfather, Kylo Ren was conflicted with the Force. He desperately wanted to be a pure disciple of the dark side, but had not reached that point. This was confirmed by Kylo Ren’s own master, Supreme Leader Snoke. When the First Order learned that Han Solo was the custodian of the map to Skywalker, he tells Ren, “that even you, master of the Knights of Ren have never faced such a test.” Ren replies, “By the grace of your training, I will not be seduced.” Snoke coldly retorts, “We shall see. We shall see.” Not exactly a vote of confidence.
As events unfolded and the location of Skywalker slipped through Kylo Ren’s fingers, and the assault on the Starkiller Base began, the opportunity for Kylo Ren to face his greatest test arrived. Could he forsake the light and kill his own father?
As the light faded from Starkiller’s sun, Kylo Ren plunged his lightsaber into his father’s torso extinguishing his life and exorcising the light from within himself. So it is to be believed anyway. Certainly Supreme Leader Snoke believed his apprentice had passed the test and was now ready to complete his training.
Kylo Ren’s fate remains a mystery. Was the light fully expunged from him and did he become a true disciple of the Dark Side? Did he become unredeemable? It’s a tough question to answer because it is not clear what drove Kylo Ren to the Dark Side in the first place.
Fear is the path to the dark side. It is what drove Anakin down that path, but Anakin also turned to the dark side out of love.
When Kylo is interrogating Rey, she discovers that Kylo is afraid that he will never be as strong as Darth Vader. Fear was likely a factor in Kylo’s descent into darkness, but is that what he’s afraid of?
Anakin was afraid of losing his family. There was nothing he loved more, and nothing he wouldn’t do to protect and save them. His motivations were very much like Michael Corleone’s from the Godfather, and like Corleone, he lost his family while trying to save them.
Anakin was redeemed because in those final moments he was able to remember what it was that led him down the path of the Dark Side. When he saw Luke on the verge of death, he remembered why he had chosen the dark side. It was to save and protect his family and he wasn’t going to lose them again.
Kylo Ren did what Darth Vader could not do, reject his family. Vader could not kill his son, but Kylo found it within himself to kill his father. For the moment, Kylo Ren does not share the love of family that his grandfather had, and that makes him dangerous. If he is beyond love and family, what could possibly turn him to the light?
I can’t help but feel that underneath that brooding exterior, now lies the heart of a homicidal madman. Star Wars: Episode VIII could very well be subtitled, Kylo Ren Unleashed.
The Cantina Cast
The wretched hive your Jedi Master warned you about!