This post contains SPOILERS for The Last Jedi
Even with Kylo Ren sinking further into the darkness during Star Wars: The Last Jedi, director Rian Johnson believes the villain is not beyond redemption. Ever since audiences learned antagonist Ben Solo is the son of Han and Princess Leia, his possible return to the light has been one of the running questions in the sequel trilogy. One of the key traits of the character is his inner-turmoil, as he's torn between the two sides of the Force and struggles to keep his emotions in check. If Darth Vader, who had fully pledged himself to Darth Sidious' teachings, could be saved, certainly his grandson wasn't hopeless.
Still, Kylo's actions in the two movies have raised serious doubts about a redemption arc. In The Force Awakens, he murdered his father on Starkiller base in an attempt to show his loyalty to Supreme Leader Snoke. The real kicker, however, came in Episode VIII, when Ren betrayed his master and appointed himself as the new ruler of the First Order. With Kylo even more unhinged and psychopathic than before, fans are convinced Ben Solo is truly gone (Leia admitted as much). That said, Johnson isn't writing him off just yet.
In an interview with IGN, the filmmaker expressed his belief that Kylo Ren could still come back to the light, but that'll all depend on what J.J. Abrams and Chris Terrio come up with for Episode IX:
"Are you kidding? Vader was worse than Kylo ever was, I think, and Vader got redeemed. Also, I should just for the record [say] that I’m not involved in the writing of the next movie. I’m an audience member in it, just like you, so when I talk about what’s going to happen next it’s in the context of, as a fan, what I’m thinking of."
One could make the argument that Kylo is now worse than Vader, seeing that he did the one thing Vader never could. In the original trilogy, the Dark Lord was subservient to Palpatine, only throwing him off the balcony when Anakin Skywalker returned. When Kylo killed Snoke, it was to eliminate his true enemy and become the ultimate evil in the galaxy. It's also worth pointing out that Kylo has no qualms about killing family members in cold blood. Not only did he stab Han Solo through the chest, he was set to wipe out Luke on Crait before realizing his uncle wasn't physically on the planet. Vader did slay younglings at the Jedi Temple, but he never wanted to destroy his son. That ray of light is what Luke hung onto during Return of the Jedi, and it made Anakin's return earned and poignant.
It's worth mentioning Johnson is not saying Kylo should or will be redeemed, just that it's possible. He won't be involved with Episode IX, developing his all-new Star Wars trilogy now. It'll be interesting to see how Abrams handles the villain's arc, but redemption may not be plausible now. As stated above, Leia (of all people) gave up on her only child, and Rey (who had developed a bond with Kylo in Last Jedi), closed the Millennium Falcon ramp and severed their connection, illustrating she too was moving on. Kylo Ren is now the sequel trilogy's big bad, and he'll have to be defeated in order for the Resistance to triumph. If Ben Solo comes back, it would ring too close to Return of the Jedi, so the safe money is on him staying evil.
- Star Wars 8/Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) release date: Dec 15, 2017
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019