With scarcely more than a distinctive lightsaber and a middling mask to go on, Star Wars fans everywhere were introduced to the mercurial Kylo Ren in December 2015. In the immediate aftermath of the movie, reception was polarizing, ranging from rabid fanatical love to disdain at how "emo" the new Star Wars villain was shown to be.
One could argue that Kylo was introduced in many ways as an attempt at the second coming of Darth Vader. However, over the course of two films, Kylo Ren has slowly but surely proven himself to be a far more nuanced and enigmatic character than the iconic doomed villain of the original trilogy.
Where Anakin Skywalker came from nothing, Ben Solo was born to greatness. As Anakin turned to the dark side for love, Ben fled into the darkness to escape fear, betrayal, and emotional neglect. From the very beginning of his divisive story, Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader was pure archetype-- a hero's journey gone horribly wrong.
However, for better or for worse, in Kylo Ren/Ben Solo, Star Wars has offered its first truly human antagonist-- vulnerable, flawed, and damn near close to real.
Here are the 15 Things You Didn't Know About Kylo Ren.
Warning: there will be The Last Jedi spoilers.
15 He was originally known as the Jedi Killer
Character designs and names can change quite a lot in the development phase, especially for projects that are as high concept and internationally beloved as the Star Wars saga has been.
Early in the design and conceptualization of his character, Kylo Ren was once known as the "Jedi Killer," a villain so fearsome that he was rumored to feed off the matter of stars within the galaxy. (What?!)
Beyond that shockingly different concept, his appearance was also a hell of a lot different, recalling samurai style armor in a series of designs that would ultimately be better reflected in some of the armor worn by Supreme Leader Snoke's Praetorian guards.
14 He grew up without knowing that Vader was his grandfather
In Bloodline by Claudia Gray, readers are primarily given a closer look at what Senator Leia Organa was doing in the years leading up to the creation of the Resistance and the events of The Force Awakens. However, along the way, certain shocking truths are revealed that pertain quite strongly to Ben Solo's development.
Over the course of the novel's winding plot, it's confirmed that Han and Leia have never informed Ben of the fact that Darth Vader was his grandfather. Further than that, the fact has been kept from the public at large that Luke and Leia both descended from Vader himself.
So when it suddenly becomes public knowledge through a political smear campaign, it suffices to say that a real problem is posed when Leia is unable to get in touch with either Luke or Ben.
Since Ben would go on to become the Vader-worshiping Kylo Ren, well... that really says it all.
13 Supreme Leader Snoke targeted him from the womb
In The Last Jedi, the predatory Supreme Leader Snoke informs Kylo Ren that he chose him to be his new apprentice because he saw the potential of a new Darth Vader in him due to his genetics. As if this statement weren't already creepy and manipulative enough, the novelization of The Force Awakens gives things a much darker turn.
According to the novel, Snoke had, in fact, been preying upon and grooming Ben Solo since he was in the womb: "Leia bit her lower lip, refusing to concede. 'No. It was Snoke.' Han drew back slightly. 'Snoke?'
"She nodded. 'He knew our child would be strong with the Force. That he was born with equal potential for good or evil.' 'You knew this from the beginning? Why didn’t you tell me?' She sighed. 'Many reasons. I was hoping that I was wrong, that it wasn’t true. I hoped I could sway him, turn him away from the dark side, without having to involve you.'"
12 His upbringing made him quite the elitist
As the child of galactic legends and royalty, it's not hard at all to imagine how Ben Solo grew up with a bit of an ego and a whole lot of arrogance embedded within him.
In The Force Awakens, this shows itself quite clearly in his disbelief that a scavenger of all people could be a real threat to his pursuit of Luke Skywalker. His indignation at a Stormtrooper possessing the Skywalker lightsaber also highlights his ingrained classism.
Even in The Last Jedi, Snoke adds further salt to Kylo Ren's numerous wounds, reminding him again and again that he had been bested by a girl from nothing and with no experience, while he has come from everything and has more experience than many could ever dream of having.
11 As the child of galactic legends, he felt abandoned
Han Solo and Leia Organa are quite literally the stuff of legends, both within the world of Star Wars and within our own world of pop culture. However, as The Last Jedi deconstructs so well, legends and larger than life figures are, at the end of the day, entirely fallible people who make countless mistakes.
And as much as we might like to think that Han and Leia would have been the best married couple and the galaxy's most skilled parents ever, the reality of the matter appears to be quite the contrary.
As Driver himself explained, the neglect of his parents factored quite prominently in Kylo's fall: "He's lost in the world that he was raised in, and feels that he was kind of abandoned by the people that he's closest with. He's angry because of that, I think, and he has a huge grudge on his shoulders."
10 Adam Driver occasionally stayed in character between takes
Adam Driver is pretty renowned for going method acting to the extreme when he needs to. It's no real surprise, then, that he's made quite the name for himself via reports of staying in character as the brooding and tortured Kylo Ren between takes.
Earlier this year, reports even surfaced that he had avoided having lunch or dinner with costar Mark Hamill in order to prevent any potential familiarity between the actors seeping through in his portrayal. As we now know all too well, there is no real love lost between nephew and uncle after all.
Recently, Driver has insisted such reports were over exaggerated, and maintained that staying in character between takes was on an episode to episode basis. Nevertheless, the point still stands that Driver takes his work pretty damn seriously-- and it sure shows.
9 He may have been inspired by Darth Revan
With the introduction of the sequel trilogy and its many expanded universe components, the previous expanded universe has essentially been archived.
Now considered part of a canon known as the Legends, these stories are still within Disney and Lucasfilm's purview, however, so it's only natural that certain elements may find themselves popping up within new characters and narratives.
In the case of Kylo Ren, the clearest parallel that can be drawn is to Darth Revan of the Knights of the Old Republic franchise. Revan was a charismatic and deeply powerful Sith and former Jedi who had a voracious hunger for knowledge and power.
He also had a deeply complex and romantic relationship with light sider Bastila Shan, which many fans have speculated could be an inspiration for the fraught relationship between Kylo and Rey.
8 He was born the day the Galactic Civil War ended
It can be pretty difficult to fit a lot of character background building within a movie without it coming off as entirely exposition-y and clunky. Thankfully, for franchises like Star Wars, there is a seemingly endless stream of new expanded universe comics, novels, and multimedia pieces.
According to Aftermath: Empire's End by Chuck Wendig, Ben Solo was born in 5 ABY on Chandrila, the home planet of Mon Mothma and location of the revived Galactic Senate. His birth occurred essentially a year after Han and Leia's official union as a couple following the Battle of Endor.
Even more important, he was born on the day that the Galactic Civil War officially ended, which perhaps offered an early sign of Ben's future galactic importance.
7 Adam Driver didn't have to audition for the role
Once an actor has really made a character their own through an enthusiastic portrayal, it can be pretty hard to imagine any other contender in the role.
In the case of Kylo Ren, that apparently held true for J. J. Abrams even in the development stage. All Abrams required was a meeting with Driver to be sure that he was the actor he wanted for the part - but for Driver, it took a little bit longer.
As Driver explained, "I went out to meet J.J. and we did a meet and greet thing and then there was thinking about it for a little bit. He couldn't tell me, really, anything about the part either. At that point, it was just to look at me. I wanted to think about it for a bit."
6 He may have been 23 years old when he fell
Another surprising reveal provided by Claudia Gray's novel Bloodline concerns the timing of Ben Solo's fall to the dark side. The events in this novel take place roughly six years before The Force Awakens, which would make Ben Solo around 23 years old during the main events.
While Leia is never able to get in touch with him, he and her brother remain constantly in her mind. Ben is still believed to be training with Luke at this point, and presumably unreachable due to his training.
Yet, if he is indeed in his early 20s around this time, this suggests that he was in fact much older than the brash rebelling teenager often speculated by fan theory.
Although we get a glimpse of Ben's fall in The Last Jedi, the moments are so fleeting and ambiguous that we can neither confirm nor deny what Bloodline suggests.
5 He's an expert pilot, like his father before him
No one would dare scoff at Han Solo's pilot credentials. After all, who could complete the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs? The Millennium Falcon's name and history is also just as famed as its former pilot, and the sight of it alone seems to instill dread and aggravation in the minds of any opposition.
It comes as no real surprise, then, that Ben Solo would go on to follow in Han Solo's piloting footsteps. As we briefly see in The Last Jedi, Kylo Ren is quite the proficient pilot, even as he engages in some of the showmanship and tricks more typical of his grandfather's adolescent flying style.
He comes from a long line of expert pilots. Even if he hasn't lived up to his grandfather or father in certain respects just yet, there's no way to claim he hasn't followed in their footsteps in this regard.
4 Driver doesn't consider him a villain
In order to portray a character as fully and compellingly as possible, actors are often forced to get to know the way that their characters' minds work, sometimes on an unsettling and intimate level.
For example, Adam Driver has been consistently questioned about how it feels to be playing the new villain of the Star Wars franchise, only to provide a pretty standard, diplomatic response: he has never thought of Kylo Ren as a villain.
Rather, Driven often posits, Kylo Ren thinks of himself as a man who is right-- who is doing what he believes to be right for the betterment of the world around him.
There is no clear good or bad in Kylo Ren's mind, but rather increasingly gray degrees of right and wrong. As The Last Jedi showed, that type of thinking may be something that the Star Wars franchise is beginning to embrace.
3 Despite his adolescent behavior, Kylo is confirmed to be 29-30
There's no denying that Kylo Ren has more than a little bit of a temper. As shown by his self-destructive and self-punishing tantrums in both The Force Awakens as well as The Last Jedi, Kylo is going through a lot of issues faced by people within their adolescent years.
However, as confirmed by Lucasfilm Story Group member Pablo Hidalgo in a (since deleted) tweet in January 2016, Kylo is anything but an adolescent. In fact, he's pretty much a full fleged adult.
According to Hidalgo, in The Force Awakens, Kylo Ren is "around 29 to 30" years old, which puts his actions-- and, admittedly, his trauma-- in a whole new light. Instead of seeing him as a misunderstood child, it's safe to say that he is probably a confused, yet disturbed, man.
2 Killing Han Solo only made him weaker
Patricide is quite the way to introduce a character in a franchise. Patricide of a character as iconic and beloved as Han Solo is something else entirely. From the moment Kylo Ren stabbed his own father to death with his jagged red lightsaber, many fans were convinced that this was officially the end for any hope of Ben returning to the light.
However, The Last Jedi stresses time and again that there is still light within Ben Solo, and that he merely needs to be led back to embrace it on his own time and terms.
Long before this, however, the novelization of The Force Awakens by Alan Dean Foster revealed something quite crucial. Rather than strengthening his villainous resolve, killing his own father left Kylo Ren even more torn: "Stunned by his own action, Kylo Ren fell to his knees. Following through on the act ought to have made him stronger, a part of him believed. Instead, he found himself weakened."
1 He may still be redeemed in the end
At its core, Star Wars is a fairy tale set in space. Evil will be defeated in all its forms and hope and happiness reign supreme, while redemption is offered to almost all, no matter the magnitude of their crimes.
Whether an unwilling part of the Stormtrooper machine, an engineer for the Empire, or a mass-murdering dictator like Vader himself, Star Wars offers acts of heroism and redemption for all.
It goes without saying, then, that the odds are in favor of Ben Solo's return to the light as we head into episode IX. Rey herself even notes that Ben very well may be the Resistance's only hope, echoing the iconic line about Ben's own namesake that got the entire Star Wars saga started 40 years ago.
Kylo Ren has made mistakes, and many of them. However, if Star Wars has shown us anything, it's that all mistakes can be forgiven-- it's only a matter of time.
What other facts about Star Wars' Kylo Ren do you know? Let us know in the comments!