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.
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.
What This Means For Star Wars' Ending
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.
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.