Kylo Ren with his lightsaber.

Does Kylo Ren Deserve Our Forgiveness In 2020?

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If there’s a series with a troublesome fanbase that is known for hating characters and movies left and right, it’s the Star Wars fandom. If you’ve ever been a part of Star Wars Twitter, you’ve probably seen the worst of the fandom: gatekeeping, ship trashing, and pretty much general hatred for the SW fandom. Being a part of the Star Wars fandom, especially as a new fan, is no easy feat. However, for almost everyone, they have one character that they absolutely cannot stand. For me, that character is Kylo Ren.

Kylo Ren in The Last Jedi.
The Last Jedi – Disney (2017)

It’s not that I truly hate him, or think he’s a bad character. To put it the simplest, he gets on my every last nerve. Hear me out, I’m a huge Star Wars fan. There aren’t many characters or movies that I really hate. In general, I’m pretty happy to consume any new content, and usually, do it without much complaint. The Last Jedi? Loved it. The Rise of Skywalker? Loved it. When it comes to Star Wars, I’m easy to please. Also, this article contains spoilers for The Rise of Skywalker. I encourage you to stop reading now if you haven’t already seen the movie.

Who Is Kylo Ren & Why Do I Hate Him?

Okay, so maybe hate is a really strong word. Out of all the characters in Star Wars, he just happens to be a character that I have some issues with. I mean, come on, after Darth Vader, how can he really compare? Anyways, if you aren’t well versed in the world of Star Wars, or if you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, Kylo Ren is the villain of the newest trilogy. He’s the son of Leia Organa and Han Solo, two characters that are very dear to my heart.

Which is why it’s almost annoying that he’s not amazing; birthed from two of the Star Wars legends? He should be borderline perfection. Kylo Ren was trained in the ways of the force by none other than Luke Skywalker. However, he was easily coerced over to the dark side by Supreme Leader Snoke. He then proceeded to destroy Master Skywalker’s new Jedi academy before becoming Commander of the First Order. A pretty typical becoming evil story if you ask me.

Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi.
The Last Jedi – Disney (2017)

My main issue with Kylo Ren is that he’s not exactly believable as a bad guy. He’s pretty whiny and seems more like a complaining child than an eventual Supreme Leader. In The Force Awakens, it’s simply hard to believe that someone like Kylo could be following in the footsteps of Darth Vader. Like, this is the villain we got this time around? He’s not even scary and to be honest, he looks like he could cry at the drop of a hat.

The Road To The Rise Of Skywalker

Let’s talk about Kylo Ren and his journey from the very beginning. What exactly did he do that made me, and so many others, hate him so much. Maybe by the end of the journey, we can find some way to forgive him and his inability to be a good Star Wars villain.

The Force Awakens

Our first introduction to Kylo Ren and his strange t-bladed lightsaber. In the first scene of the movie, we see him land on the planet Jakku. He quickly murders San Tekka and captures Poe Dameron when he finds out that the map to Luke Skywalker has been found. Shortly after, we also see him torturing Poe, trying to get information out of him. Don’t get me wrong, these scenes are great. They’re borderline terrifying. It makes for a great set up and makes us fear Kylo Ren right away. I remember sitting in the theater, excited about this new villain and his potential in the trilogy. Something you should know about me is that I don’t watch movie trailers, so I went into The Force Awakens knowing absolutely nothing about this new villain.

Rey and Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens.
The Force Awakens – Disney (2015)

Halfway through the film, we finally saw him de-masked and it was anti-climatic, to say the least. He’s not some scary overlord villain, he’s just a kid with a pouty face and dreams of being something bigger. Even if that’s not something that we want to see, it’s part of his greater story arc. He is just a kid who fell into something darker. Just a kid who wanted to be something more, something evil. He’s just a kid who’s struggling to accomplish that dream. For that alone, I can forgive him a little. He’s in way over his head even if he doesn’t know it yet.

The Last Jedi

I have to admit, The Last Jedi is where I started to like Kylo Ren. I didn’t love him at this point, and I definitely still felt a little impartial. But looking back, this was the turning point for me. I started to see him as a character who could actually be evil. Not only that, but I saw the struggle inside of him that Rian Johnson painted on screen. It brought depth to a character that we hadn’t gotten in The Force Awakens. Part of this is because of his relationship with Rey. Just to be clear, I absolutely do not ship Rey and Kylo. I never have and I likely never will. To me, this relationship was toxic, not love. That’s what made it so incredibly intriguing. That relationship started to show Kylo in his true light. A villain, and finally a good one.

Kylo Ren in The Last Jedi.
The Last Jedi – Disney (2017)

Maybe it was his desperation to get Rey over to the dark side or his search for more power, but he was starting to read villain to me. He still wasn’t at the level of Darth Vader or Emperor Palpatine, but he wasn’t just some whiny kid anymore. However, while all of that helped, the scene that sealed the deal was the throne room scene. I had no interest in his redemption until he fought alongside Rey. Seeing the two of them working together almost broke a seal for me. I wanted to see more of their partnership, more of Kylo’s humanity. That’s why Rey is so important to his characterization. He brings out the humanity in him while he brings out the dark side in her. Two sides of a coin, both trying to flip the other.

The Rise Of Skywalker

If The Last Jedi was the tipping point, The Rise of Skywalker sealed the deal. Watching Kylo Ren fight his way into Exogol to come face to face with the Emperor was truly exciting. There’s one moment in particular when he’s face to face with Palpatine, that really made me start to like him. He says something along the lines of, “I killed Snoke, I’ll kill you too.” If he had said something like this in The Force Awakens, I probably would have been annoyed with the line. Like, yeah okay, Kylo, sure you will. But in The Rise of Skywalker, it feels more real. It feels like an actual threat from an actual villain.

Rey and Kylo Ren fight in The Rise of Skywalker.
The Rise of Skywalker – Disney (2019)

Maybe that’s what makes him so interesting in this movie, not only his desire for more power, to the extent of killing Palpatine, but also his internal struggle. We can see that he wants to be on the dark side, he wants to be evil. But there’s something behind his eyes that says otherwise, and that’s what’s interesting. It’s Darth Vader in Empire Strikes Back. He’s the real villain. So maybe I liked Kylo Ren all along, or maybe it’s the layer right below Kylo Ren that I like the most. The parts of Ben Solo trying to creep out unnoticed.

Did Kylo Ren Deserve His Redemption?

The internal struggle that made me want to see more of Kylo Ren ended in a big way at the end of The Rise of Skywalker. During a fight with Rey, he was called upon by Leia. He stopped in his tracks just long enough for Rey to kill him with his own saber. Poetic, right? The flash in Ren’s eyes is enough to see that he wants to be good again. Shortly after Rey heals him, she states, “I did want to take your hand. Ben’s hand.” She then takes off. For that short second, I could see the chemistry between them. Definitely not love, but something more broken and damaged. A possible friendship that would never get an exploration.

Kylo Ren in The Rise of Skywalker.
The Rise of Skywalker – Disney (2019)

The Rise Of Ben Solo

We are then graced by the return of Han Solo, who talks to Ben and helps him with his next movie. It mirrors the scene where Ren kills Han almost exactly, but this time ends with Kylo throwing his lightsaber into the sea. The return of Ben Solo. But does that erase all the bad he’s done so far? All the people he’s killed? The planet’s he’s destroyed? Of course not. Nothing could ever wipe that away. For the rest of The Rise of Skywalker, we get to witness Ben Solo, really Ben Solo.

He goes to Exogol to fight alongside Rey. He even gets to wield Luke’s lightsaber. However, none of that will ever really erase all the bad things he’s done. But as fans, is that really what we wanted from him? For all to be forgiven? I think not. I think it’s good enough to see that he’s trying, to see that he’s not doing anymore bad. And sure, he’ll never be fully redeemed, but at least he’s not destroying planets anymore.

Kylo Ren: Redemption Versus Death

All of that being said, did he deserve to die? A lot of fans said that his death was the easy way out. It would have been a risk to keep him alive, and that wasn’t a risk they were willing to take. Was the end of this journey, from Kylo Ren to Ben Solo, from villain to Rey’s literal lifesaver, thoughtfully resolved in his death? I have always been a firm believer in the fact that even bad people do not deserve death. However, in the Star Wars universe, we’re used to seeing redemption and death go hand in hand. Look at Darth Vader. His death followed shortly after his own redemption.

Rey and Kylo Ren fight in The Rise of Skywalker.
The Rise of Skywalker – Disney (2019)

At least Anakin got to show up as a force ghost; Ben Solo gets no such fate. Maybe it’s because The Rise of Skywalker finally got me invested in Kylo/Ben as a character, that seeing him die right after I learned to like him felt very unsatisfying. However, where would he have gone, and what would he have done if he hadn’t died? Surely the rebellion wouldn’t have let him walk out of Exogol a free man. He would be imprisoned for his actions, and that’s not a much better ending.

Rey Skywalker & Ben Solo

Like I stated before, I’ve never been much of a Reylo shipper. I always thought their relationship was toxic. However, I wasn’t one of the fans that booed during the kiss before Ben’s death. I really enjoyed it. Seeing Ben Solo smile was the icing on the cake for me. The fact that Rey was happy to see him, really see him, felt special.

Rey in The Rise of Skywalker, 2019.
The Rise of Skywalker – Disney (2019)

If you don’t look at is as romantic, but more an act of impulse and excitement, it feels more like the perfect end for the two of them. It’s not Reylo, and it’s not love. Rey is incredibly happy that she finally had the chance to see Ben Solo in the flesh. It’s Ben saving Rey’s life at the cost of his own.

Ben Solo Versus Kylo Ren

It’s safe to say that I probably will never forgive Kylo Ren. I wasn’t a fan of him from the beginning. He never seemed scary, and when he finally reached villain status in my mind, all I wanted was his redemption. So maybe I’ll never be a fan of Kylo Ren, but instead a fan of Ben Solo. My love for Ren is drawn from the fact that I just want him to find his redemption, from the fact that I just want to see Ben Solo. In a way, that is Kylo’s forgiveness. I forgive him because eventually, he’ll be Ben Solo, and my love for Ben Solo’s ten minutes of screen time and one line, “Ow” will outweigh my dislike for Kylo Ren.

Forgive A Character You Hate In 2020

Is there a character you absolutely can’t stand? Or maybe a character that you really hated from the beginning but you find yourself starting to like? Let us know in the comments how you plan to forgive them in 2020. Start the new year off on a clean slate and forgive a character you hated in 2019.

Fandom Intern
  1. I relate to your thoughts about Kylo/Ben! In The Force Awakens, I didn’t like him. It was jarring to see the son of two characters I adore so much turn out that way. I couldn’t understand his anger and temper tantrums. I became more interested in his character in The Last Jedi as well because I saw more depth from him. The Rise of Skywalker also really sealed the deal for me on enjoying his arc and character. While I am not a fan of Kylo Ren, I wanted to see him redeemed. I loved coming to know Ben Solo in this movie. I also saw the moment between Rey and Ben as one of celebration, that they both turned away from the dark side and defeated it. I don’t think his actions at the end excuses all the bad Kylo has done either, but I felt a sense of resolution when he became Ben again. It helped me forgive Ben Solo for losing his way, and I was so happy that he found his way back. Great article!

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