Star Wars Episode IX will end the Skywalker Saga, and through Kylo Ren can show what Darth Vader would’ve done next had Luke not been able to save him. Anakin Skywalker was redeemed by the end of the Original Trilogy, but the story and legacy of Vader lives on through Kylo.
J.J. Abrams needs to do something a bit different in Episode IX, having already delivered a relatively safe Star Wars movie with Episode VII. And with it closing out both the Saga as a whole and the Sequel Trilogy, he also needs to drastically up the ante in terms of threat. Some of that may well be a new danger from “The Beyond,” but it should also come through Kylo Ren, now the Supreme Leader of the First Order.
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With Anakin redeemed by his son, we didn’t get to see what he was truly capable of. Disney has gone even further than that, with a rebranding exercise painting Vader as something more akin to an antihero. Episode IX, then, can go the other way, and give us a great idea of what would’ve happened had Darth Vader still killed Emperor Palpatine, but for all the wrong reasons.
- This Page: The Last Jedi Was A Reverse Of Return of the Jedi
- Page 2 of 2: Will Star Wars 9 Give Kylo Ren Redemption Or Punishment?
While The Force Awakens echoed many of the themes and events of A New Hope, The Last Jedi didn’t quite follow the same rhyming structure. Sure, it borrowed some elements from The Empire Strikes Back, but it also looked closely at Return of the Jedi – and then flipped it on its head. Episode VI ended with Luke managing to resist the temptation of the Dark Side, and help redeem his father, Anakin. Darth Vader turned against his master, reverting back to the Light Side in his final moments.
The Last Jedi has a similar sequence of events aboard the Supremacy. Supreme Leader Snoke takes on the part of Palpatine, Kylo Ren is the Vader figure, and Rey the Light Side hero a la Luke. Kylo Ren turns against his master and strikes him down after his torture of Rey, mirroring Vader’s turn after the Emperor’s torture of Luke. And that’s where the key difference comes in.
In Return of the Jedi, that brought Anakin back to the Light. In Episode VIII, it only serves to highlight how conflicted Kylo is, and ultimately push him further into the darkness. He doesn’t go with Rey to the Resistance or reclaim the name Ben Solo; he asks her to join him in ruling the galaxy, now that the person above them is out of the way. This isn’t a grand moment of redemption, it’s one of realization: that he doesn’t need a master, and can control his own destiny. Snoke was, if anything, holding him back and keeping him down. Free of that, he can be whatever he wants. It’s a canny subversion of the Vader/Palpatine dynamic and leaves Kylo in a fascinating position heading into Episode IX.
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Ever since we first met him, Kylo Ren has been obsessed with his grandfather. It’s even apparent in the trailers for The Force Awakens. He’s gone as far as retrieving the twisted remains of Vader’s helmet, worshipping it like a shrine and promising to finish what he started. And that’s the path he’s now firmly chosen.
To Kylo Ren, Darth Vader is not a hero who turned to the Light at the very end and helped save the day. He’s an extremely powerful Sith, who’d let nothing and nobody stand in his way, and was responsible for years of Imperial rule across the galaxy. By killing Snoke, wanting Rey to rule with him, and installing himself as Supreme Leader of the First Order, that’s now what Kylo can see himself as too. He mimics Vader’s dress sense, fashioned himself a red lightsaber, and has slain his master.
He is, for all intents and purposes, the second coming of Vader, or like an extension of him. The spirit of Vader – the villainous Sith, not the fallen Jedi – lives on through Kylo Ren. He may say “let the past die”, but more than ever he’s looked to continue his grandfather’s legacy. That goes into what we know of Episode IX. Kylo will have fashioned himself a new helmet, but he’ll also have Vader’s helmet again too, and he’s not only going to finish what he started; he’s going to do what Vader couldn’t.
Page 2 of 2: Will Star Wars 9 Give Kylo Ren Redemption Or Punishment?
Going into Star Wars Episode IX, we’re faced with a question that wasn’t really asked before Return of the Jedi: Can the bad guy be redeemed? Back then, Luke fought (or rather, didn’t) for the good that remained in his father. But we’ve already seen that play out in the Sequel Trilogy: Rey went to Kylo sensing the good in him, and instead witnessed him commit murder and then ask her to join him in ruling the galaxy.
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If Vader can be redeemed then anyone can. But will it happen to Kylo? Should it? Only J.J. Abrams and Adam Driver know for sure, but here they do have another, extremely viable option, and that’s to kill off Kylo Ren as the bad guy. And not just any bad guy, but the biggest of the lot. Kylo would, on the face of it, need to die for the Skywalker Saga to end; he is the last of that line, after all. But to simply repeat what happened with Anakin would be disingenuous and, frankly, a little boring. He killed Han Solo. And we’ve seen it before.
Instead, they can go the other way. If not for Luke, Vader would’ve still killed the Emperor eventually. It’s what Sith do with their masters. And he’d have taken his place, with no one to stop him given his peerless power level. He could’ve been fully unleashed, until he had to be killed in order to be stopped. That’s what they can do with Kylo.
Kylo Ren is going to be a huge part of Episode IX. He’s now the main Skywalker (even if he doesn’t have the name) in the final movie of the eponymous saga. Rey is the new hero, but it’s interested in telling Kylo’s story almost just as much. To that end, there’s a good chance a lot of Episode IX will be spent exploring Kylo’s decisions: the murders he’s committed, the people he’s turned away, the dark path he’s chosen to walk down, and whether or not he’ll come back.
But it can also lean heavier into those Dark Side elements. He can fully become what Vader didn’t: an uber-powerful Dark Side Force-user without anyone to control him, which is something we haven’t seen fully explored through such a main character before. It is, as far as Star Wars is concerned, without precedent, and that’s a thrilling place for the franchise to be in its ninth episode and eleventh movie overall. Had Vader not been redeemed, he would’ve tried to conquer the galaxy as the head of the Empire. In Episode IX, Kylo Ren is going to attempt to rule the galaxy as the leader of the First Order.
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Kylo Ren doesn’t suddenly lose the complexity that makes him so interesting. He’s still a product of the same upbringing, the same inner conflict and turmoil. But to face up to that, and then choose to be the “monster” is a decision that does something completely different, and gives the hero a unique challenge to face down and overcome. J.J. Abrams can’t just play it safe here. He cannot repeat Episode VI in the same way The Force Awakens repeated Episode IV. Having Kylo Ren grow beyond what Vader was is a way of doing that, and also would put Rey in a position where she then has to be a different kind of hero to Luke. That makes for a different ending that has shades of what we’ve seen before – a bit of Return of the Jedi, a little Revenge of the Sith – meaning it can help link everything together while forging its own path as well.
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