Since The Force Awakens released in 2015, and we learned about Kylo Ren’s family background, many fans have debated on whether or not this trilogy’s new villain would see a similar redemption arc as Darth Vader had before him. The harsh truth, however, is Kylo doesn’t deserve the redemption story…more importantly, it’s not something he wants either.
I’ve held on to this opinion for quite some time now, regarding Kylo and the potential to turn him to the “light,” but seeing The Last Jedi has cemented the idea in my head. Star Wars has always been about the battle between good and evil, but it’s also evolved to encompass the notion that the conflict isn’t always about galactic spanning conflicts, but internally as well. Luke Skywalker saw this conflict within Darth Vader, ultimately using it to bring the villain around.
It’s a pivotal moment that has colored the entire saga from the Prequels to the Sequels (and definitely the books/comics). With Kylo being so enamored with the Dark Lord of the Sith, and his grandson no less, it’s not surprising that fans have been speculating about whether or not he’ll follow a similar path to the light side. With the launch of The Last Jedi, the speculation on that front continues, but I’m telling you…he shouldn’t get the same treatment as Vader.
I know the arguments being made, “Darth Vader did FAR worse things over a couple of decades, but he still received redemption.” I get that, and understand where people are coming from in that line of reasoning. Patricide is a pretty big thing, and I’m not saying it’s worse than anything Vader’s done (he’s slaughtered entire families without hesitation). It’s not about the acts these bad guys have committed, it’s about the reasoning behind everything. Vader’s fall to the dark side and subsequent redemption stem from an entirely different place than where Kylo came from.
Anakin was seduced to the Dark Side through his efforts to do something GOOD. He wanted to save people (slaves, his mother, Padme), all of which came from a place of deep love. This all-consuming love for those in his life, including Obi-Wan if you think about it, is what gave Palpatine the leverage he needed to twist Anakin into his servant.
Even as he does things he knows are wrong, or at least painful, Anakin genuinely believes he’s doing the right thing. The destruction of the Jedi Temple and slaughter of the Separatists on Mustafar came from a desire to do good. It’s why we see how emotional he gets about the acts he’s committed. He knows the actions are wrong, but he’s willing to do them because it’s for the greater good and to the benefit of his loved ones (in his mind).
Vader’s ultimate failure and inability to protect those he loves festers and traps him within the Dark Side. By the end of Revenge of the Sith, he doesn’t think he has anything/one left to lose. This anguish gives rise to a deep self-hatred that continually fuels his rage, making it impossible to get off the dark path. We see more evidence of this in Rogue One and where he choose to keep his castle. The right hand man to the Emperor of the galaxy could obviously choose any planet he wanted to call home, but instead, he returns to the location of his greatest failure. Here he can ‘recharge’ on his own self-loathing. Thus, the pull of the Dark Side is much stronger here for him.
In the end, Luke saved Vader by helping his father realize it was OKAY to be forgiven. Anakin/Vader spent over two decades hating himself for his failure and believe he’s unworthy of redemption. Remember how he tells Luke on Endor, “It’s too late for me, son.” Luke’s faith allowed Vader to accept his previous failings and see the opportunity to do what he always wanted: the right thing for the greater good and someone he loved. Because of this, his redemption comes about through forgiving himself and understanding his failure was only complete if he let Luke die.
Kylo Ren, on the other hand, has an entirely different line of reasoning/motivations that make him legitimately undeserving of redemption. Where Vader fell to the Dark Side out of love, Kylo took a conscious leap into it, embracing it vehemently. Kylo has made the willful decision to do evil things, fully knowing the consequences of his actions, and disregarding them.
He’s romanticized his grandfather as Vader, believing his betrayal of the Emperor was nothing more than a momentary lapse of judgement. When Kylo kills his father, the sole motivation was to empower himself. It was something he felt was necessary in order to kill the light still tugging at him, so that he could more fully embrace the Dark Side without feeling held back. Sure, he was manipulated by Snoke, but his actions ultimately stem from a selfish need/desire; the idea that he’s better & deserves more. Essentially, he’s a spoiled child whose sense of entitlement causes him to continually choose the Dark Side.
Herein, is the crux of the issue regarding redemption…Kylo doesn’t want it. Without delving into spoilers, there are multiple points in The Last Jedi where Kylo had the means and opportunity to turn away from his path and walk the road to redemption. Instead of taking those steps, however, he doubles-down on his own selfish desires, consciously pushing aside his “doubts” (the tug of the Light Side). Rey gives him an out, but Kylo instead twists it to serve his own purposes.
By the end of the film it’s clear Kylo cannot see passed his own selfish desires. He will continue to commit heinous acts not out of some misplaced sense of doing the right thing (like Vader), but because he wants to continually prove he’s embraced the Dark Side. You can’t redeem someone who doesn’t want it. He’s shot down multiple chances at this point and, because of it, doesn’t deserve the redemption rewarded to his predecessor.
In the right circumstances, I’m sure Episode IX could change my mind on the matter, if that’s the route they choose to go. As it stands, however, Kylo has no desire to be redeemed. There’s a stark difference between “falling” into darkness versus welcoming it with open arms.
Guest Blog By Jordan Maison
Jordan is Editor-in-Chief of Cinelinx, a website for movie buffs, gamers, and filmmakers. Cinelinx was founded by Gabriel Barboza and Jordan in early 2010 as they set out to create a hub for people who saw film the way they did. Since then the site has grown to include news, reviews, event coverage, and discussions about movies, games, tv, toys, and much more. In 2014, the team launched what would become a successful Kickstarter campaign for a movie-themed card game called Cinelinx: A Card Game For People Who Love Movies.