One of the greatest things about The Last Jedi was the characters’ developments. The middle chapter of a trilogy is usually designed to challenge the heroes and make them better by the end of the movie going into the final entry of the trilogy and that definitely is the case, at least for most of the characters, but for Kylo Ren his arc throughout The Last Jedi is an emotional ride that when observed closely is kind of heartbreaking in retrospect. I discovered the deeper meaning to Kylo Ren’s story the last time I watched The Last Jedi a couple of days ago and I just had to share my thoughts with all of you. Enjoy!
So, to understand his story arc in The Last Jedi you have to go back to his story in The Force Awakens. Now in Episode VII he was treated, from a creator’s standpoint, as more of a villain type than he was in Episode VIII. When he appeared in the movie he was this scary guy behind this mask who emitted a nostalgic modern Darth Vader vibe that I liked and disliked. Kylo Ren was a cool character but the fact that he felt too much like Darth Vader made me feel that he wasn’t original enough for my liking. Now, to find out that his character was trying to be like Vader made Kylo Ren’s imitation of the dark lord palpable but what really made this new villain of a generation stand out was his, of course, relations to Han Solo and Leia as their son. That’s when he became interesting and a character who wasn’t just a one-note villain who could be easily discarded like a Marvel villain.
Kylo Ren’s involvement in The Force Awakens solidified how evil he was throughout the film but as he killed his father that was the moment that I really took the hollering antagonist seriously. The fact that he eliminated such an iconic character in Star Wars proved that the writers weren’t afraid to make him the real deal and I truly despised Kylo Ren through the rest of the movie. It’s why when Rey defeated him it was such a powerful moment. No one was able to stop him except for her and that was just (I’m getting chills just thinking about it) incredible. Okay, now fast forward to The Last Jedi.
When we see Kylo Ren again it’s a couple of days since his near-death encounter with Rey in the forests of StarKiller Base and Snoke is truly disappointed with him. He thought Kylo Ren was going to be the next bane for the galaxy but instead he was this young man who couldn’t handle his own evilness. Kylo Ren doesn’t come into the movie heralded for his killing of Han Solo, his “obstacle,” but is berated for it. Snoke knocks him down several pegs as he spits in his face about his insecurities and basically tells him that he is weak. Kylo can’t believe it. He’s done everything Snoke told him to do. He turned to the dark side, he worshiped Vader and his evil past, he killed Han Solo, and yet he still wasn’t complete? He was utterly furious! So, to prove himself he went to ambush the Resistance. Long story short, he didn’t kill Leia because once again his good “Solo” heart got in the way. Let’s fast forward a little bit.
So, Kylo Ren and Rey experience their first Force connection and the hostility between them is still very much alive. The only thing is this time around they can’t fight so Kylo resorts to talking with her to figure out what’s going on and she just shoots lasers at him with her eyes. It’s a realistic first meeting and it sets the ground for some more fascinating interactions between the two Force wielders.
The second Force connection is a lot more intimate. Rey still continues to spat in his face but Kylo just wants to talk. Now that he knows she’s with Luke he wants to know if Luke is lying to her like he lied to him and when he sees her reaction he knows she doesn’t know the real truth. So he just looks at her and tries to understand why she hates him so much. When she spits in his face that he’s a monster and he replies that yes, he is a monster that’s the moment in their relationship where something changes. He didn’t lie to her, he didn’t try to make himself an angel, he told her that he was the monster that she believed him to be but he wasn’t exactly happy about it. It was just the path that he had chosen because everyone else had failed him and the dark side, Snoke, was all he had. At that moment he becomes vulnerable and truthful to her and I no longer see him as evil Kylo but rather a man who has been through a lot and just needs help. Jump forward to the next Force connection.
Okay, this connection gets even more intimate, physically and story wise as Kylo literally places himself bare before Rey, laying out his vulnerability in full form. She wants to finally have a conversation with him and so she asks him why did he kill Han Solo? She’s longed for parents and so she can’t fathom why any child would want to kill their parent but Kylo doesn’t exactly answer her question. He deflects and tells her about her weakness, her intense longing for parentage and that’s why she can’t become something more, a new Force entity more powerful than anything seen before.
Once again he asks her if Luke told her what happened the night he destroyed his temple and as Rey spats in his face that he did he knows that Luke didn’t tell the truth. So he does instead, telling her how Luke tried to kill him that night…in his sleep! Rey can’t believe it. She wants to believe he’s lying, that he’s trying to seduce her or something, but he isn’t and she knows it.
Kylo Ren doesn’t see her as an enemy anymore but as another potential victim of Luke’s evil ways and he just wants to help her before it’s too late.
When he sees her again in their next Force connection she’s a distraught mess. She went to the Mirror Cave, expecting to be given the identity of her parents only to be slapped in the face again with the hard truth that she would have to face life alone like she always has. Only this time she has Kylo Ren to console her. He’s there by her side, listening to her at her most vulnerable, and he’s actually there to help her. When she holds her hand out to him he’s legitimately shocked. For so long she had treated him like he was the worst person ever and now here she was looking to him for true, physical comfort. When their hands touch it’s as a firework show springs forth. Sparks are flying, emotions are roiling, and the Force is basically bouncing off of the walls with the strength of their passion and shock. He has opened himself up to Rey unlike any other person and something incredible happens, he feels like he’s found a true ally, a person who will stand by him even in the darkest times.
When they speak to each other in the elevator before she experiences her audience with Snoke there is no animosity between them. Kylo knows what he’s about to try to attempt (killing Snoke) and as Rey talks to him there’s no doubt that now he truly cares for her. In his mind he knows what he saw when their hands touched and when he tells Rey the “truth” about her parents he figures she will undoubtedly join him because he’s just delusional like that.
Fast forward a few scenes and the moment of truth comes. He’s killed Snoke, his tormentor, he survived the scuffle with the Praetorian Guards, and now his last obstacle is getting Rey to join him. This is such a powerful moment in the film for both of them for different reasons. For Rey it’s the last hammering of the fact that her parents aren’t ever coming back and she can’t hide from that truth no matter how hard she tries and for him he finally feels that he can have a friend, a companion who he can talk to and care about and who will always have his back. He tries to convey that he’s the only who cares about her, which is a lie considering that she’s already friends who have proven how much they care for her (Finn, Han Solo, Chewbacca, etc,) and as he sees her contemplating his offer to join him he knows she’s slipping away. When he says to her, “Please” in such a vulnerable, pleading fashion it’s kind of heartbreaking. Never has Kylo Ren shown so much emotion towards anyone, except for his father, that’s how much he cares for Rey and the thought of losing her is almost unbearable for him. Long story short she didn’t join him and he was same old, same old mad Kylo Ren again.
Kylo Ren ended up facing Luke Skywalker, which is such a fabulous scene and perfect arc for his character. Throughout the movie he’s gone from evil and mean to vulnerable and almost heroic and then back around to mad and angry. He finally, after nearly two movies’ length, was going to face Luke and it was almost a traumatic experience for him seeing Luke again in the same way he saw him that horrific night when everything changed for him. He might as well have been seeing a ghost. He fought Luke, the sheer anger and hatred distorting his face into an ugly mask of evil. This is one of the best acted scenes in the film as Luke tells him that whether Kylo should strike him down or not he always be with him…just like his father. Kylo can’t handle that truth and his face literally quivers with emotion. When he tries to kill Luke and he discovers that Luke is just a mirage toying with him he knows he has been a fool and it’s just the worst moment for him.
He had had the chance to end the Resistance once and for all and yet he let his weakness, his past, get to him yet again.
When he sees Rey for the last time in that final Force connection it’s one of the quietest moments in the film and yet it speaks so much to the arc of these character’s journeys in this movie. He stares at her, waiting to see what her response will be, and as she literally shuts the door on his mind he feels the jolt of that cut off and is just silent. For so long he just wanted love and acceptance. His parents didn’t provide that to him, Luke definitely didn’t give him that, Snoke promised him power over everything that had once hurt him and then belittled him, and then there was Rey. He had opened his heart, his full emotions to her, and yet she was another person who took that valuable information and stomped on it like as if he was nothing.
Kylo Ren, throughout his life, has only experienced loss and isolation. Everyone has looked at him like he was a monster and so he decided to own that facade and pretend to be the bad guy everyone, even his parents, seemed to believe he was.
Now that Rey has joined the list of people who treat him like he doesn’t matter there’s no doubt that the next time he sees her there will be no more vulnerability. In his mind, she’s his mortal enemy now just like everyone else, and he will want to eliminate her from the equation of his life.
Kylo Ren’s story is truly one of tragedy and loss and it’s why he’s one of my favorite villains of all time. I could never write a post this long about Darth Vader or even Palpatine for that matter because they are one dimension; evil. Yes, Vader was Anakin Skywalker once but he still doesn’t have as much depth and complexity as Kylo Ren has. I am beyond excited to see the final leg of Kylo’s journey and what J.J Abrams has in store for the incredible character.
But the question is, can he find redemption? Can he still find peace with himself and the galaxy by the end of Episode IX? I would hope so because he’s already had such a tragic life that it would be nice to give him a happy ending of some sort. Like maybe he doesn’t have to exactly go good, but maybe he can live and go into peaceful exile or something like that. Whatever the case, I can’t wait to see the final installment of this trilogy. It’s going to be AWESOME (I hope.) 🙂
I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it and I thank you for reading. Have a magical day and May the Force be with you.