Such are the ways of the fandom: one can even fall for the anti-hero who’s just killed their favourite character. It is Kylo Ren and Han Solo we are talking about.
Strange as it may be, it is not exactly a pathological case to be positively intrigued by Kylo while still siding with the Resistance – because, after all, they’re doing the right thing. This made some of us look deeper into the matters. At the same time, the Star Wars fandom has seen a few short attention span cases: those who chose to see only Ren’s weaknesses.
The Force Awakens actually gets to build a strong and intimidating character. Kylo Ren is quick to exterminate an entire innocent village, he stands arrogantly against everyone and uses the Force to stop a blaster bolt mid-air (remember Poe looking behind in shock, when we’d rather expect him to be more concerned with looking ahead, as he was being dragged by stormtroopers?). The latter is simply a trick we’ve never seen before and it’s meant to show the level of his skill, albeit insufficiently trained.
As the official description states, Kylo is a product of both the Jedi and the Sith sides. There is much to take in about him. He appears as completely devoted to Darth Vader and his legacy. In the famous scene where he talks to Vader’s helmet, Kylo begs to receive a sign, to be shown the power of the dark side, as he feels the pull to the light. His prayers are heard. However, Vader made the turn to light right before his death, something which Kylo somehow dismisses. Vader himself could then be the source of this “pull” to the light: it is only normal that he now calls his idolising grandson to the light, too, even if Kylo could never suspect that.
What makes Kylo an appealing villain is that he is unpredictable. We’ve been used to the calm, cool, collected type, in the likes of Darth Vader, but this would get boring at some point. There is a big surprise when Kylo takes his helmet off. We are used to see old and excessively wrinkled villains in Star Wars, consumed by the influence of the dark side of the force. Kylo stands in stark contrast. He may not be the usual pretty face to catch the eye, but he is young and attractive in a strange and most unexpected way. Suddenly we realise we could be dealing with a fresh apprentice, a villain who isn’t fully trained yet, who still has much to learn. By all means, it is unusual to have a young villain who isn’t yet affected that way by the Force.
Kylo Ren is nothing close to weak. His father Han Solo had high hopes of taking him back home. Even with all his life experience with the dark side, he could not see the danger. He walked up to him in hope, onlyto be killed by him. In spite of being conflicted and “torn apart”, Kylo only needed a few seconds to kill his own father. It’s a weighty decision, yet one that’s taken very quickly. That should be scary, too.
Kylo’s haste to get this done is something that proves his determination. After all, he was a character whose attraction to the light was still strong, as he confessed it himself. This young, insufficiently trained, ‘whiny’ lad has no problem doing what others were so hesitating to do. He killed a member of his own family in the blink of an eye, as soon as he got the chance. His cold blood and ambition are pivotal to the character development. Let us remember how Vader himself was not so quick to try to kill his own son, Luke.
The lightsaber fight has also sparked intense debate. No weakness there, either. Kylo Ren was already emotionally unstable when he met Han Solo on the bridge. Killing his father only pushed him further down that road. Also, the most important aspect here is that he gets shot with one of the most powerful guns ever seen in the Star Wars universe. A single shot like that kills and blows away stormtroopers. Not only Ren was still standing, but he could walk through the forest and fight two healthy opponents. Besides, he had orders to spare Rey’s life. The outcome was nothing to shame him.
There is one more essential detail in the forest scene: Ren punches his wound. As it bleeds, Rey sees the blood on the ground (the camera insists on that) and that is when she realises he must be very weak already and easy to take down. Until then, she was frightened. From that moment on, fury takes over and she is determined to fight him. Judging by her facial expressions, she would have strongly hesitated to do that, hadn’t it been for the wound.
Kylo’s own lightsaber is a great indicator of his strength. Its design is an ancient and presumably dangerous one, at the same time being in tune with the owner’s temper. The two lateral vents help the extra power dissipate. A weapon like this by no means could belong to a weak character. It is more fierce than any lightsaber we’ve seen before.
Finally, we hear Supreme Master Snoke’s words: “It is time to complete his training.” The character development is to continue and we might get to see the toughest villain yet. There is more to his story, however. It feels that Episode VII is meant to shows us how easy it is to go from the light to the dark and vice versa, how flexible the boundary really is. It is a scary thought.
Alina H. is a freelance writer who earned a MA in Comparative Literature and Anthropology, took mythological study seriously, at the same time developing a long lasting passion for J.R.R. Tolkien’s writings. She does go to conventions at times and has a blast.