NOTE: The following post contains MAJOR SPOILERS for Star Wars 7
Ever since Adam Driver was confirmed as the new Star Wars villain, Kylo Ren, for The Force Awakens, his character has been surrounded by rumor and speculation. Previous to Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm, the next generation of Star Wars children were a major part of Expanded Universe mythology – as the Skywalker and Solo kids became powerful Force users in several post-Return of the Jedi stories. As a result, it didn’t take long for fans to presume familial connections between original series heroes and the new cast of characters.
While debate continues to rage over the exact identity of Rey (a mysterious Force user who was abandoned on Jakku as a child) and Finn (a First Order stormtrooper-turned-Resistance fighter that was stolen from his family as a baby), The Force Awakens is much more explicit about the malevolent Kylo Ren. The film makes Ren’s parentage apparent, as well as his original name, and spells-out the charater’s backstory in broad strokes; however, for those who can’t see The Force Awakens yet or missed key details along the way, or just want to chat about the film, we’ve put together this brief breakdown of Kylo Ren’s origins.
Who is Kylo Ren?
As suspected by many fans, Kylo Ren is the son of Han Solo and Leia Organa – and was originally named Ben. While J.J. Abrams and Kathleen Kennedy have been clear that they would not be using specific details from the Star Wars Expanded Universe, longtime fans will definitely notice parallels between the story of Kylo Ren and Jacen Solo aka Darth Caedus. (Those fans likely also recall that in the old Star Wars EU, Ben was the name that Luke Skywalker and the character Mara Jade gave to their own son.)
Like Jacen, Ben Solo was a student of Luke Skywalker – following the destruction of the Empire and defeat of Darth Vader. As the Rebels worked to establish the New Republic, Luke endeavored to train a new generation of Jedi padawans – taking his nephew as a Jedi in training. Under Luke’s guidance, Ben Solo learned to become a powerful Force user – until he became seduced by the Dark Side.
How Was Ben Solo Corrupted?
Details of Ben Solo’s turn to the Dark Side are not spelled out very clearly in The Force Awakens. Though, Abrams does offer hints. In the aftermath of Episode 6, a new threat to freedom was born in the Empire’s destruction: the First Order. Built on the same principles as its predecessor, the First Order was formed out of the Dark Side – with the goal of imposing order (and tyranny) around the galaxy. Lead by the malevolent Supreme Leader Snoke, whose backstory remains a mystery (for now), the First Order continued to expand its control.
To aid in his conquest, Snoke seduced Ben Solo to the Dark Side – turning the Jedi trainee against Luke Skywalker and his fellow padawan learners. Currently, the events between Solo’s training under Skywalker and corruption by Snoke remain a Lucasfilm secret. While the exact circumstances are unclear, Luke, Leia, and Han all harbor deep self-blame for Ben’s transformation into Ren and, as a result, Han Solo fled his wife in shame, Leia directed her grief into building the Resistance, and Luke sent himself into self-imposed exile.
NEXT PAGE: What Is Kylo Ren’s Plan?
What Is Kylo Ren’s Plan?
Following his turn to the Dark Side, Kylo Ren continued to train under Supreme Leader Snoke – and helped enforce First Order interests around the galaxy. In addition to commanding First Order troops, Ren is also leader to the Knights of Ren. At this point, it is unclear whether the Knights of Ren existed before Ben Solo’s downfall or formed under Kylo Ren as he became a powerful First Order ally; nevertheless, considering Snoke calls Ren the group’s “master” and Finn refers to Kylo Ren as “Ren” (not Kylo), the latter seems more likely. Despite mentions of the group, and a brief glimpse within Rey’s vision, the Knights do not appear in The Force Awakens; though, fans should expect to learn a lot more about them in coming episodes.
Regardless, Kylo Ren’s mission is clear: hunt, find, and kill any remaining Jedi – especially Luke Skywalker. Ren is a devout believer in Darth Vader’s efforts to bring the galaxy to heel – believing that free people sow chaos. To that end, The Force Awakens opens with Kylo Ren on a mission to locate Skywalker – a mission that brings him into contact with Ben Solo’s father.
Why Does Kylo Ren Kill Han Solo?
It might be obvious to most moviegoers but the tragic death of Han Solo is a key moment in Ben Solo’s transformation into Kylo Ren. Earlier in the film, Supreme Leader Snoke indicates that facing Han Solo would be Ren’s greatest test. Snoke senses hesitation and doubt within his apprentice, unsure who Kylo Ren would side with – should he come face to face with his former family.
Emboldened by Leia’s belief that there is still good in Ben, Han Solo confronts his son at Starkiller Base – begging Ben to return home with him. Torn between his family and his thirst for power, Kylo Ren confides in his father, asking for Han Solo to help him. Solo comforts his son as Kylo Ren appears to turn away from the Dark Side, only to impale Han with his lightsaber instead – making it clear the Dark Side wielder had no intention of turning back and, conversely, needed his father’s help in pushing him deeper into the dark. To some, Han’s death might seem tragic but with his dying breath, he lovingly touches Ben’s face. It’s a small moment that could appear futile, but may also be a point that Ben revisits within his mind in the coming years – and a source of continued turmoil, should Leia be right that there is still good inside Kylo Ren.
What Is Next for Kylo Ren?
Following the murder of Han Solo, Kylo Ren faces Rey in battle – eventually losing to the former Jakku scavenger when she fully embraces her Force powers in the Starkiller Base forest. In the process, Ren is maimed, his body punctured by a bolt from Chewbacca’s bow and repeated lightsaber strikes; in addition, Rey also appears (though unconfirmed) to sever his left hand and scars his face before Kylo Ren is rescued by General Huxx at Supreme Leader Snoke’s command. For that reason, it’s safe to assume that when Ren returns in Episode 8, he’ll be augmented with cybernetic parts.
As for his mission, he’ll likely still be on the hunt for his former master, Luke Skywalker, as well as the new Jedi, Rey – begging the question: is Kylo Ren, like his grandfather before him, redeemable or will he succeed where Darth Vader failed, eradicating all the Jedi?
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens is now in theaters, followed by Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on December 16th, 2016, Star Wars: Episode VIII on May 26th, 2017, and the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25th, 2018. Star Wars: Episode IX is expected to reach theaters in 2019, followed by the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.