Warning: This article contains spoilers of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Ben Solo is the son of Leia Organa and Han Solo, grandson of the infamous Anakin Skywalker and Padmé Amidala. Ben is raised up by his parents until he is sent to train in the force with his uncle Luke Skywalker. Ben is trained amongst other force-sensitive students, unaware of the fact that he is the grandson of Darth Vader and possesses the same warring sides of the force within him. However Supreme Leader Snoke senses this and begins to secretly communicate with young Ben through the force, slowly seducing him to the dark side of the force. It is actually his uncle and mentor that provides the catalyst that sends Ben to Snoke. Luke senses the dark side in his nephew, the same one that destroyed his father and in a moment of panic and quick judgement raised his lightsaber over his sleeping nephew’s form. Ben woke up to see his mentor apparently preparing to kill him and destroyed the Jedi temple and left everything in ruins, ending the life of Ben Solo.
In the first installment of the newest Star Wars trilogy, “The Force Awakens” Ben is introduced to us as his dark side counterpart, Kylo Ren, commander of the First Order. Kylo Ren upon first impression is an unstable and reckless commander, often letting his emotions get the better of him. Although he idolizes his late grandfather, Darth Vader, there is something more complex to Kylo. Kylo’s transition to the dark side came from a place of chaos, neglect and betrayal as a child while Anakin transitioned due to hatred of the Jedi council and Jedi ways. Ignorance and his parents and uncle’s predisposition to fear the dark side had unfavorably tipped the scales against Kylo from the beginning. They failed him and as such the dark side became the only foundation he could build himself on. Still the light side of the force called to him, forcing him to prove himself in several ways throughout this trilogy, sometimes giving way to both the dark and the light inside of him.
From the beginning I’ve been among those who were a fan of the Kylo Ren story, I enjoyed his complexity and the Anakin parallels that came with it. When he killed his father at the end of “The Force Awakens” I knew I would not be disappointed if he didn’t get a redemption arc. Lately in Star Wars everything has to be so black and white, in reality that isn’t the case. Was Kylo an evil Sith Lord like Darth Maul or Darth Sidious, no. Was Kylo meant to be a beloved hero like Leia or Yoda, also no. With this trilogy I hoped they would bring old lore like grey jedi into the fold, Kylo would’ve been the perfect candidate. Anyone who’s seen the Star Wars animated series “The Clone Wars” would liken Kylo to Ashoka Tano, not in all of their ways but they are both characters brought up in jedi teachings who have been betrayed and outcast by those closest to them. Having Kylo chose neither light nor dark at the end of this installment would’ve brought in a new era of characterization to the future Star Wars films.
In “The Last Jedi” we see more of the internal conflict Kylo deals with, from the regret of what happened with his father, to the hatred he feels for Luke. Still lost in his ways Kylo puts his focus on Rey and getting her to sympathize with his journey and open her understanding to both sides of the force. At the end of the film Kylo’s presented with another choice, Snoke or Rey, this time he goes against the pull to the dark side and kills Snoke and defeats his guard alongside Rey. Rey misunderstands this decision as redemption, in reality he just wants Rey to help him create a new order, one without old jedi teachings or old sith laws, something entirely different. Rey refuses and once again the only choice Kylo has left is the First Order, continuing him on his villainous path.
“The Rise of Skywalker” the ending to this trilogy and hopefully the movie that makes everything come together. From the first looks and trailer this movie looked to fill in holes left by the first two films. My most anticipated was getting to see the Knights of Ren, a seemingly important storyline for Kylo Ren (given the name they share) but something that was lost in the first two films. If you didn’t do any research on the knights all you would know is that they’re bad and they have cool weapons specific to each of them. Seeing them in that first trailer I was ready for all of the questions to be answered: were they jedi students along Ben who joined them, were they just loyal sith followers who Kylo fought alongside, were they created specifically for Kylo? None of these questions were answered and their deaths were quick and anticlimactic, very disappointing for the build-up they got before the trilogy started. This film marks the end of Kylo and the new beginning for Ben. Leia sacrifices herself to reach her son in his darkest hour and we get a touching moment with a vision of Han reintroducing Kylo as Ben. Although a redemption arc wasn’t necessary it made sense. Since the beginning Kylo has claimed to be following in his grandfather’s footsteps, although he meant Vader, it would really be a cycle of Anakin defeating the sith and the Empire in “The Return of the Jedi”, continuing the true Skywalker destiny, becoming the chosen one once more. Instead we got a few scenes to actually see Ben Solo and it included him killing his knights and brining Rey back from the dead only to die a few seconds later. End of Ben, end of Kylo, as the true last Skywalker he deserved better.
Star Wars was built and branded around the Skywalker name, a legacy of the righteous Queen of Naboo and the Chosen One, princess and best pilot in the galaxy and all passed down to the little prince. I have no problem with Rey taking the Skywalker name at the end of the film, if it wasn’t for how the life and legacy of Ben was handled. No mention of him after his death, no recognition that the infamous Kylo Ren had come home like his mother always thought he would, nothing but a few seconds in Rey’s arms until he disappeared. He didn’t get a funeral like his grandmother and grandfather before him, no homage to his sacrifice was mentioned. He didn’t even appear as a force ghost in his family’s home as a final goodbye and to give closure to the Skywalker legacy. Disney had so much potential for this trilogy, for Ben Solo, and instead they gave it to Rey without even honoring the Skywalker lineage. It was a pathetic end for a story line that’s been going on since 1977.