Warning: Spoilers! Do not read on if you haven’t seen Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Just remember that I warned you!
It’s no secret that Star Wars: The Last Jedi has had a split reaction from fans since its release. Some think that there are just too many characters, too many side plots, too many elements that don’t make sense, that Luke’s character was written badly, or any other form of nitpicking that they thought to be warranted. In a way, I can understand some of these concerns, although, to me, every detail that people are complaining about is an essential piece of the story. But no matter what you may think of movie, one aspect remains to be clear: Kylo Ren is a character with a lot of depth. I think its one of the movie’s greatest qualities, but also the toughest to fully comprehend. Join me in a journey through Kylo’s twisted mind.
After The Force Awakens, we saw a Kylo deeper in the pits of despair after he “murdered” his father, Han Solo. I put murdered in quotation marks because of the theory that has been going around since the movie’s release, claiming that Han was one who activated Kylo’s lightsaber so that his son wouldn’t be the one dealing the killing blow. In that way, he’d at least have a piece of his humanity intact, making it possible for him to turn to the Light Side. Fast forward to the scene in The Last Jedi where Kylo had the opportunity to destroy the ship where his mother, Leia, was commanding the Rebel forces. He hesitated and removed his hand from the trigger. Other pilots from the First Order weren’t as merciful, firing off their bombs and almost killing Leia in the process. To Kylo, though, his mother was dead. This scene showed that, considering he wasn’t able to kill his mother, maybe he wasn’t able to kill his father either, and Han actually did it himself to help save his son’s humanity (humanity we see shine through in his hesitation to kill Leia).
Kylo’s humanity was tested further when the bridge between him and Rey was opened, and they were able to openly communicate with each other via the force–like a VR FaceTime experience. It was during these exchanges that viewers got the backstory between Luke and Kylo. There were two sides of the story: Luke claimed that he sensed the untapped, raw power in Kylo and felt all of the pain he would eventually cause, so he pulled out his lightsaber to kill him, only to be stopped by his conscious. Kylo claimed that he woke up to Luke standing over him with an activated lightsaber, ready to strike him down, so he did what any natural person would do: defend one’s self. Viewers were given the two sides of the story so that they could better understand the situation. Luke wasn’t going to kill Kylo. He even said so in the movie that it was a moment of weakness. Unfortunately, that lapse of judgment was what led Kylo to the Dark Side.
When Kylo talked to Rey about the moments that shaped him, one could see the internal conflict brewing within him. His mind was in turmoil at his current situation, and the bridge between him and Rey helped him understand it on a much deeper level. Adam Driver did an excellent job in portraying these emotions, to the point where no decision he made could be questioned. Everything he did made sense. One example can be found earlier in the film, where viewers saw him destroy his helmet, the piece of the past that he considered a reminder of his dedication to the First Order. Him destroying his helmet leads to the next example, where he eventually told Rey that she must let the past die, to kill it if she must. It was in this piece of advice that viewers were able to understand the all-important moment in The Last Jedi between Kylo, Rey, and Snoke.
Readers should know which moment I speak of. After Rey and Kylo touched fingers during one of their VR FaceTimes, Rey believed that she could turn Kylo if she was with him in person. So she went to him in hopes that he’d hear her out, but was surprised to find out that he had other plans for her. He ended up taking her to Supreme Leader Snoke so that the Sith Lord could pry the location of Luke’s whereabouts out of her. After a painful series of events for Rey, Kylo was tasked with killing her because she didn’t want to join the Dark Side. Instead, Kylo killed the past, using the force to slide Rey’s lightsaber elegantly through Snoke’s body. The conflict inside of him had simmered long enough; the harsh words of Snoke didn’t help the Sith Lord’s case either.
After Kylo and Rey fought off a bunch of Snoke’s guards, the big moment of change within Kylo revealed itself. He pleaded with Rey to join him in his quest to destroy the past; the Sith, First Order, Jedi, Rebel Alliance, and whatever dominating faction should be removed from the course of history so that he and Rey could start their own reign of leadership across the galaxy. It wasn’t said whether this reign would be a peaceful or violent one, but, considering that Kylo wanted to rid the galaxy of a huge chunk of people, one can assume that his intentions were anything but benign. Rey sensed this and wanted nothing to do with it. She thought she had turned Kylo, meanwhile he thought that he had acquired a powerful ally–and friend–for his plan. Both were left with nothing but an afterthought.
Kylo’s decision to kill Snoke made sense in the grand scheme of what he had been preaching throughout The Last Jedi, so why did he join up with the First Order after Rey abandoned him? He wanted to get rid of the First Order moments earlier, did he not? Just like some other moments in The Last Jedi didn’t make sense at first glance, Kylo turning back to the First Order could’ve also been misconstrued if not looked at closely. That decision, though, derived from the rejection he felt from Rey. He pleaded with her to join him, as if he couldn’t achieve this monumental task by himself, to the point that when he joined back up with General Hux it made sense. He realized that maybe he was as evil as Luke Skywalker had once thought. If Rey, the one person he thought to have a genuine connection with at the time, didn’t agree with him, then what was the point of trying to pander around in the light side? Running from his destiny didn’t make sense anymore.
Kylo is a complicated character to analyze. His motives to go along with Rey’s attempts to turn him stem from the internal conflict that he has felt since Luke tried to kill him. Was he as evil as his old master thought? What makes Snoke any better than the Jedi, than Luke? In these questions, he formulated the idea that the past wasn’t worth indulging. Instead, the future was all that would matter for him, and he wanted so badly for Rey to feel the same way, for him to not be alone in his wild thoughts. Rejection is a tough pill to swallow, though, and Kylo has had to champion through the disappointment a lot. Luke and Rey, the two people he felt truly connected with by the Force, both shrugged him off like he was a callous child. In these dismissals, Kylo experienced the feeling that could potentially be his downfall in the next film: loneliness. What happens when a person kills the past, rejecting the memories that have shaped them into the person they are today? What kind of person emerges from the ashes of one’s own self-destruction?
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