WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for Star Wars: The Last Jedi
It seems that the identity of the Knights of Ren has been revealed, thanks to Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The group deserves the distinction of embodying the mystery and, arguably, fan frustration of The Force Awakens' expansion of the franchise mythology. Introduced in the previous film through unexplained images and vague dialogue, they seemed important... but their place in the larger story was never even suggested. Thankfully, Luke Skywalker seems to have explained their origins and broad identities, even if their purpose to Kylo Ren, Snoke, or the First Order remains ambiguous.
Fans would do wise to start tempering their expectations now, if the secret history of Supreme Leader Snoke is anything to go by (spoiler: he's just some person). Not to mention that given how The Last Jedi ends, their role in the story seems to have passed already. That being said... anything is possible in the final chapter of this movie trilogy.
And even if the origin and eventual purpose of the Knights of Ren turns out to be as divisive as The Last Jedi's reviews, at least we now KNOW the truth at the center of the mystery. Starting with the person who trained the Knights of Ren before Kylo took command.
How The Knights of Ren Were Introduced
Fans can be forgiven for not remembering just how much was revealed about the Knights of Ren in The Force Awakens, since it's almost certainly less than you would think. The first hint that Kylo Ren is anything more than a solo Force User serving Supreme Leader Snoke comes from said "master," in a single line of dialogue. Seeking to motivate his apprentice through doubt in his abilities, Snoke explains that the challenge before Kylo is one he may not be prepared for. "Even you, master of the Knights of Ren, have never faced such a test."
And just like that, a new order of trained First Order warriors was introduced to Star Wars canon... with no other details. It wasn't even clear if the "Knights of Ren" were named for Ben Solo's new moniker, or vice versa. It would have been all fans got of the knights, as well, if not for Rey's vision upon touching the Skywalker lightsaber. The flurry of scenes is still difficult to decipher, but one in particular saw her splashed into the mud during a furious rainstorm. Dead bodies lay all around her, with the one responsible for slaying them presumably standing before her: Kylo Ren, lightsaber drawn, and masked warriors surrounding him.
These were the Knights of Ren, logic stated. But who they were, where they came from, and whether they had ties to some larger Star Wars Sith legacy was never known. Until now.
The Last Jedi Confirms The Knights Were Luke's Students
It isn't easy, but The Last Jedi sees Rey finally get both Luke and Kylo to open up about the night that saw their relationship destroyed, saw Han and Leia's son corrupted, and ended the Skywalker legacy in flames. According to Kylo Ren's version of his origin story, it was the evil of Luke Skywalker that forced him to turn on his teacher in self-defense. Waking up to see his master preparing a lightsaber strike, Ren destroyed the entire Jedi training temple with The Force, and succumbed to the Dark Side (justifiably, in his eyes). But Luke gives a different account.
He begins by explaining for Rey (and the audience) what Luke Skywalker did after Return of the Jedi, after many years of balance and relative peace in the galaxy. Never fancying himself a Jedi Master, Luke was ultimately convinced by his sister Leia that only he could train her and Han Solo's son, Ben. So he set up a temple for training Jedi, and took Ben and a "dozen" other Force-sensitive individuals to begin a fledgling academy. When the darkness he sensed in Ben terrified him and led to the momentary reaction that saw Ben lash out, the academy was doomed.
When Luke recovered and extracted himself from the wreckage, he saw the Ben had taken "a handful" of the other students and slaughtered the rest of them. Presumably, the young Force Users who Ben either convinced or coerced joined him... and those who did not were not allowed to continue their tutelage at Luke's side. And so, a handful of Force sensitives fled with Ben to take a new name and mission - almost certainly the Knights of Ren.
It's still completely unclear what role the Knights of Ren fulfill in the movie universe. Kylo Ren previously existed outside of the normal military command chain, reporting to Snoke directly - but is the same true of his Knights? And where have they been all this time? Whether the characters have been forgotten, or are being held for the future (when Rey's vision could come true) isn't clear. But at least now we know Luke Skywalker's momentary lapse created both Kylo Ren and his followers. Although, it seems it was bound to happen once Snoke got his hooks into Luke's academy.
- Star Wars 8/Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) release date: Dec 15, 2017