– written by Han Spinel (it’s a satire, guys)
First off, I love the character Kylo Ren. Wait, but aren’t you an anti? Sure am. But I’ve personally Saved Ben Solo, and I’ve probably saved him better than you have, so there. I’ve even frankensteined together what hope there is left into a video character study on Ben through the eyes of his family and Rey. Don’t get it twisted, my Bendemption will not be denied, folks.
And Adam Driver? He’s been good to us, truly. Although the UwU may be strong with this one, he is not a “narrative hero” yet. Fear not, however, your soft boi is likely to be redeemed, but even in redemption, he’s still a tragedy…. a really big beautiful refrigerator-sized tragedy. And I love that trash energy because why wouldn’t I? More importantly, why don’t you? Here’s why you should stop UwU-ing and just love the bomb….
The Fall of UwU Solo
The Force Awakens reintroduced Star Wars fans to the state of the galaxy, and also the Skywalker family, some 30 years following the Rebel victory in Return of the Jedi. Unfortunately for the Sequel Trilogy era (ST), darkness has spread across the galaxy and now looms over everything, and hope for the Skywalker family appears all but lost. The ST was written to specifically depict the moment when no Skywalker by name or blood seems poised to defend, much less pick up and carry, the Skywalker legacy forward in the Sequel Trilogy. Luke Skywalker has vanished, Han and Leia have split, and the catalyst to it all appears to have been the fall of UwU Solo.
If all hope is lost for the Skywalkers, who then is supposed to defend and honor the Skywalker name, or fight for what they stand for by the conclusion of Episode IX?
One faces great narrative difficulties in positing Ben Solo as the answer to healing the broken bonds: the man who literally and metaphorically severs the sacred bond between father and son by committing patricide, and as he goes on to do in The Last Jedi, severs the bond between he and the rest of the Skywalker family. Kylo Ren even doubles down on his desire to “Let the past die” during a private admission between he and his hated uncle, Luke:
“I’ll destroy her [Rey]. And you [Luke]. And all of it.” – Kylo Ren, The Last Jedi
Some may argue that Ben Solo then is just the man for the job, to finally undo the hurt, death, and slaughtering he is responsible for (Yes “slaughtering.” Seriously, like he “slaughtered” Luke’s students. Anakin approves, so why don’t you?).
But is this even narratively possible?
Did Darth Vader undo all the pain and suffering, death and destruction that he caused by finally walking through the door of redemption? Short answer: No. See also Claudia Gray’s Bloodline, which makes it painfully obvious this was not the case – Leia and the Skywalker family were unable to escape the shadow of Anakin’s dark past.
In other words, we are still, 30 years later, paying for the “sins of the father.” Indeed, Vader was redeemed through the eyes of his son, not the Galaxy. Consider also this from our longform series “The Definitive The Last Jedi Case for Rey Skywalker:”
“So what happens when, in the penultimate chapter of the story, the only remaining person who can carry on that family’s lineage has near-singlehandedly undone everything that the previous two generations of his family had achieved? Even if Kylo truly did redeem himself at the end, this renders the entire 9-film arc nearly moot–Anakin causes destruction, Luke fixes it. Kylo causes destruction, and then fixes it (or at least stops causing it). We’ve ended right where we started, and the only conclusion to draw is that the galaxy would be just the same whether or not the Skywalkers had ever existed at all.”
A narrative net-failure, or even a net-neutrality is anything but a satisfying conclusion to this 40+ year Skywalker family drama. So then, is Kylo Ren truly the Skywalker family’s last hope? In fact, The Last Jedi tells us quite emphatically, “WHAT?! YOU GUYS, NO!!”
First, the Skywalker Legacy calls out to Rey, and Rey alone, but she initially rejects it (Hero’s journey, anyone? Anyone??). Then in the snowy forests of Starkiller Base, Rey pulls the sword(saber) from the stone(snow) over the only other “Skywalker” that we are aware of (*cough* *cough* this is kind of an important trope).
Then in The Last Jedi, Rey asks Luke to reclaim the light of the Skywalker legacy for her; she believes he is the answer to winning the war. The audience sees that he is not the answer, and this is symbolically depicted by Luke literally rejecting the saber. Next, Rey believes she can turn Kylo Ren back to the good side, and that he is the one to reclaim the light of the Skywalker legacy for her. As we demonstrated above, Kylo Ren has other, and much darker, plans.
And those plans are? To convince Rey that she’s not important, that her desires for family aren’t important, and that she should turn to the dark side because they have cookies (Projecting, anyone? anyone?). And when Rey refuses:
Kylo doesn’t just break down and reveal his true colors, he erupts into a porcelain unicorn, spitting rainbows of hatred that would bury any Disney Prince alive.
You guys, it’s almost as if, now hear me out here – it’s almost as if Rey is searching for heroes…. in literally every other Skywalker…. like each Skywalker that we know about…. one by one…. but herself…. …. …. ….
“No. There is another.” – Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back
The other Yoda spoke of was Luke’s sister, Leia. So is Leia the Skywalker to “Rise” in The Rise of Skywalker? It appears that Rey will stop at nothing in order to Force the issue that she is, in fact, the unknown Skywalker waiting to be revealed because she does it. She literally goes to Leia for help. Dear child….
But to really try and dupe Leia into accepting her hero’s journey for her (hey, at least she’s learning from her mistakes), Rey presents to Leia the literal…. and metaphorical…. and symbolic…. broken pieces of the Skywalker legacy like a cat looking for praise after it dragged a dead rabbit into the house. “How do we build a rebellion from this?” she asks and envisions this….
Take it…. Leia, you’re the Skywalker…. please just take it…. OMG She’s not taking it….
Dear child…. (Leia simply can’t bear to embarrass her in front of Finn like this) “we have everything we need.”
IT’S YOU, YOU STUPID SKYWALKER!
Wait…. did you guys hear that? I sense something, something I’ve not felt since….
Taken aback, he whirled-to see the weapon land in the hand of a girl standing by a tree. Rey appeared equally shocked that her reach for the device had exceeded his. She gazed down at the weapon now resting in her grip.
“It is you,” Ren murmured.
His words unsettled her: Not for the first time, he seemed to know more about her than she did about herself. – The Force Awakens Official Novelization
How does literally everyone else but Rey see that she’s it – she’s the one?
Kylo being a Skywalker by blood certainly doesn’t save him, nor does it make him a narrative savior or hero. The only actual thing in a story of heroes vs. villains that can make a character a narrative hero are their choices, particularly during the climax of each story. This is also extremely different than a villain like Vader finally choosing to stop being evil for the right reasons. You or I can call Vader a “hero” all we want, but narratively speaking he was not the “hero” in Return of the Jedi. A “hero” consistently chooses to do the right thing because it is the right thing to do when it matters most. Anakin clearly violates this fundamental aspect of storytelling.
So let’s review our “heroes” in the Sequel Trilogy shall we?
Finn/Rey in TFA: Risk their lives defending each other against Kylo Ren (honestly this should kind of be a big clue already).
Kylo Ren in TFA: Rejects his father’s offer for redemption. Kills father. Throws Rey into a Tree. Attempts to kill Finn. Tempts Rey to the dark side.
Finn in TLJ: Risks his life to save the Resistance. Defeats the evil Capt. Phasma.
Rey in TLJ: Risks her life to offer redemption to Kylo Ren. Races back to the resistance to help Finn and her friends escape certain death at the hands of Kylo Ren (honestly this should kind of be a big clue already).
Kylo Ren in TLJ: Assumes the role of Supreme Leader of the evil First Order by killing his own master. Rejects Rey’s offer for redemption (2nd time now, but who’s counting?). Tries to turn Rey to the dark side (2nd time now, but who’s counting?). Tries to Kill another family member face-to-face (2nd time now, but who’s counting?). Orders the First Order to kill everyone in the Resistance Base, including his mother.
Again, I’m not saying Kylo Ren can’t be redeemed (but it won’t be from Rey, she’s already offered, it has to now be from his mother if anyone at all still believes in him), but that can’t undo slaughtering his uncle’s students, killing a family friend in cold blood, ordering the massacre of innocent villagers, standing by to admire the destruction of the entire Hosnian System, murdering his own father and flesh and blood, standing to admire Snoke’s slain body on the floor, attempted murder of his own uncle, and assuming the highest position of the most heinous military faction the galaxy may have ever seen. I’m-
Admiring UwU Solo for what he is: A Tragedy, A Bomb, A Refrigerator
Suggesting Kylo Ren is, or even can be, a “hero” is not narratively possible. Kylo Ren is a “tragedy” even in the most glorious of redemptions. He can’t narratively rise to become the hero, just as Anakin didn’t rise to become the hero of the Original Trilogy – Anakin finally “stopped being evil,” and there is a HUGE difference between that and the hero’s journey, which places a character in dire circumstances only for them to make the right decision despite the worst imaginable consequences to themselves – you know, sorta like like this guy, you guys remember Luke Skywalker right? Right?
Again, it’s going to be OK, guys, we can still redeem UwU, but let’s take a moment to appreciate what Kylo Ren is by definition of his “fall” from grace – a tragedy. You know who else was a great tragedy? Hamlet!
Ya dang right, Karen, and as guest blogger Willzgirl (Twitter: @notafoolishwit) points out, Kylo Ren follows the story of Macbeth beautifully! We are getting Shakespearean-level tragedy here, and people are wasting their time by passing it all up for some UwU hero fanfic? BORINGGGGG. It’s not like they’re even trying to be subtle about this, either (Yorick’s skull, anyone? Anyone?):
Further, if a central thesis to the ST is “we’re going to win this war not by fighting what we hate, but saving what we love,” and we know canonically that Kylo Ren DID NOT hate his father (yeah shoot, he actually said that didn’t he?) Kylo Ren…. literally AND narratively…. KILLS WHAT WE LOVE.
This not only makes him an obvious villain of the story, but a literal antithesis of the ST, and a giant refrigerator….
….that doesn’t shower.
But maybe UwU is Different?
Nope, not even UwU 😦
The Last Jedi was a long lesson about fearing of our failures….
“The greatest teacher, failure is.” – Yoda
Luke learns that he should not hide from his failures, but pass them on for his daughter to learn from. Rey fears that she really is a nobody, and searches for the hero in everyone but herself. And Kylo Ren obviously fears that he’ll never be as strong as Darth Vader. Ren equates Vader’s atonement to failure, “Kylo Ren aspires to build immunity to the light side… to succeed where Darth Vader and his sentimentalism once failed.”
And when Kylo Ren does succeed Vader’s darkness by rejecting the redemption that his father offers him (whereas in RotJ, the father accepts the redemption the son offers him), he feels weakened by the deed. In his mind, he’s failed yet again, and smashes the mask that hides his father’s heart in him as Snoke points out.
Thus, it is entirely significant to the narrative that UwU is reforging that broken helmet.
This is symbolically identical to the Japanese art of Kintsugi, which teaches not to hide broken objects, but to display them with pride! In other words, embrace your failures.
My dearest Kylo stans, Ben may yet be redeemed in the eyes of his mother, but his bed is narratively made. And it appears that Kylo Ren’s darkness will be stronger than ever in The Rise of Skywalker.
And while I love the character of Anakin Skywalker, it rips me up knowing that he ultimately choked his beloved wife while she was pregnant with their children, murdered innocent children himself, and ultimately kills his best friend and father figure – all because of falling to his own temptations and fears.
My personal favorite Star Wars movie is RoTJ BECAUSE of the relationship dynamics on display between Luke and Anakin, and then Luke and Leia, and Vader tempting his own son to the dark side with the threat of turning his sister. Stop for a minute, and remember everything that Vader has done through the dark side, and remember that despite his suffering through it all, the dark side was so great a temptation that he would tempt his own son to follow the same path. What’s more, he would still threaten his daughter with the same path — it’s probably the most heartbreaking thing I could ever imagine, and it continues to happen up until the very last second because the dark side is that infectious.
“Forever will it dominate your destiny. Consume you it will. Like your father.” – Yoda
But this is what makes Anakin’s redemption so incredibly powerful, not because Vader had UwU eyes, or UwU cries, but BECAUSE he used to be a good person once, but turned into “a monster” – a villain. And so, this is why Anakin’s redemption isn’t anything remotely close to being narratively “heroic” because it wasn’t about heroism in this moment, it was about being saved from the absolute worst black hole of darkness that’s possible in this story of Star Wars.
And the only way it worked was because Anakin himself chose to accept the hand of redemption that his son offered him. The hero, the heroic deed, is 100% earned by Luke Skywalker. Sure, Anakin WAS on a hero’s journey, but during his temptations period in AotC, he did not fall to become rebuilt as the hero does, he fell spectacularly from grace, deviating himself from the hero’s journey and cementing himself into the “tragedy.”
Kylo Ren has rejected redemption twice now (but who’s counting) and indeed, herein lies the tea for UwU Solo….
In order to fully appreciate what his redemption means to the Sequel Trilogy, the Skywalker Saga, and his family, IF he finally chooses to walk through whatever door his mother leaves open for him, we should simply accept the teachings of Kintsugi and….
embrace the broken and flawed….
or: How I learned to Stop UwU-ing and Love the Bomb.