The question of whether or not Kylo Ren can ultimately be redeemed has been highly debated since the character's inception, but the evidence in the Star Wars sequel trilogy suggests Ben Solo is truly lost. Over the course of two films, Kylo has quickly ascended the ranks of all-time movie villains due to his inner turmoil and fierce emotionality. He is arguably one of the most nuanced figures the franchise has seen, with Adam Driver's compelling performances earning a lion's share of the credit there. With the way the actor plays the role, the audience believes at points he could come back to the light before Kylo breaks our hearts once again.
With one more movie left in the Skywalker saga, there's still an opportunity for Kylo to recognize the error in his ways. This would obviously draw heavy comparisons to Darth Vader's arc in Return of the Jedi, and after J.J. Abrams did that dance once before with Force Awakens, something different appears to be in order. Additionally, redeeming Kylo would go against everything that's been established in the films thus far, such as some important indicators in The Last Jedi.
Killing Han Solo Was The Point of No Return
In The Force Awakens, Kylo is continuously wrestling with his allegiances, being torn between the light and dark sides of the Force. He seeks guidance from Supreme Leader Snoke's teachings and Darth Vader's helmet, but still feels a slight tug when he learns his father, Han Solo, has re-entered the conflict to restore justice to the galaxy. Their confrontation on Starkiller base is billed as Kylo's greatest test, and for good reason. Depending on what he did, Kylo would show to Snoke he is committed to the dark side and a worthy apprentice. Of course, Ben murdered Han, and even though the deed split his spirit to the bone, he proved he could sink to evils far worse than Vader before him.
When Anakin Skywalker betrayed the Jedi Order, he admittedly led a raid on the Jedi Temple (slaughtering younglings in the process), killed all of the Sepratist leaders singlehandedly, and Force-choked Padmé while she was pregnant with his children - and he still found redemption in the end. Despite these atrocities, the one thing Vader never could bring himself to was killing his own family members. That was his positive trait as the galaxy's most feared man. As he dueled Luke Skywalker on Bespin, he pleaded with his son, "Don't make me destroy you" and expressed a desire to rule the Empire alongside Luke. Kylo has shown no qualms about family homicides. Though he struggled mightily with Han, he still went through with it, and he was downright bloodthirsty for Luke (understandably so, given the flashbacks). Leia was the only one Kylo didn't kill, hinting at some connection there, but that's likely to be lost since Leia won't be in Episode IX.
But killing Han was merely the first step in completing Ben Solo's turn. In that moment, he decided he would go full dark side, but still needed to find his path. Perhaps influenced by the berating he receives at the hands of Snoke early in Last Jedi, Kylo made the shocking decision to kill his master and announced it was time to completely let the past die. This was something else Vader could never do. The Imperial enforcer talked to those closest to him (Padmé and Luke) about overthrowing Palpatine, but he was always subservient to the Emperor. It was only when Anakin came back to the light that he fulfilled the prophecy and destroyed the Sith. If Luke had decided to turn, maybe this plays out differently. As it stands, Vader seemed content being the pupil.
Kylo saw his plan to murder Snoke through without getting any commitment from Rey about joining him. With or without his frenemy, the former Ben Solo knew what he had to do and appointed himself the new Supreme Leader. When Rey rejected his offer, Kylo only became more unhinged and dangerous. As we close Episode VIII, he's a petulant, highly-emotional man in charge of an entire army with no real goal in sight than to just destroy the blossoming Rebellion. Long ago, when Driver was asked about Kylo Ren living to see Episode IX, he remarked it depended on what your idea of living is. Kylo is still breathing and alive, but he's inhumane at this point. And worst of all (for him), the two people most likely to sway him back have given up.
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019