The 2015 release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens to DVD/Blu-ray came paired with a collection of canonical novels, many of which gave us intriguing hints into our primary villain, Kylo Ren. Included in the film’s DVD is a 40-plus minute documentary about the making of The Force Awakens, replete with talking head interviews with director J.J. Abrams and various cast members.
We even have a small taste in the form of a minute-long clip released by the studio, going in-depth into the origin of Kylo Ren (above).
While we have a general idea of who Kylo is (and was), what we don’t know is how he fell from grace to follow in Darth Vader’s footsteps. Abrams and Adam Driver provide a fair amount of insight in the Blu-ray documentary, while the Bloodline and Aftermath novels help fill in the timeline. When you pair that with what we already know, you start to see the full picture of Kylo Ren’s character.
So as look forward to learning more about the character in The Last Jedi, here’s what we know so far.
1. The offspring of Han and Leia
This has, of course, been common knowledge since the cinematic release of The Force Awakens, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t at least mention it. Before he was Kylo Ren, he was Ben Solo, the son of Han Solo and Leia Organa, conceived right after the Battle of Endor.
The situation he was born into though wasn’t like the happy ending we saw at the end of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. Leia found herself in charge of building the New Republic’s Senate, while Han was never one for settling down and raising kids. The end result was Ben feeling vulnerable and alone, with little to no guidance from his family to put him on the right path.
2. Supreme Leader Snoke targeted Ben from a young age
Here we have our first bit of new information, told to us in the clip from the special features documentary. It makes sense when you think about it too: Ben Solo is a descendant of the most powerful line of Jedi that ever existed, and that line has a spotted history of changing sides with the right push in the wrong direction.
Snoke was probably all too aware of this when he learned of Ben’s birth, and with Han and Leia distracted by their own issues, it left the door wide open for their son’s turn to the Dark Side.
3. Sending Ben to train under Luke was a last-ditch effort to save him from Snoke
Hinted at in both the documentary and The Force Awakens, Ben wasn’t always destined to train with Luke and the rest of the new Jedi Order. But when Leia and Han discovered Snoke’s agenda, they felt the best way to protect their son was to give him to Luke to be taught the ways of the Force.
Unfortunately, all they did was exacerbate the situation. Leia even points this out to Han in TFA, admitting, “I just never should have sent him away. That’s when I lost him.”
Ben’s abandonment issues figure heavily into his turn to the Dark Side, and that probably wasn’t helped when his parents put him in the care of his wacky bearded uncle. As Driver puts it in the documentary, “He’s lost in the world that he was raised in, and feels that he was abandoned by the people he’s closest with.”
4. Kylo Ren turned on Luke, destroying the fledging Jedi Order in the process
There’s still a lot of story to be told when it comes to the destruction of the new Jedi Order. We see flashes of it in Rey’s Force vision after touching Anakin’s lightsaber, where Kylo and the presumed Knights of Ren preside over a field of dead bodies that we can only assume are fallen pupils of Luke’s.
Whatever the circumstances for Ben Solo’s transformation into Kylo Ren, it was heartbreaking enough to send Luke into a self-imposed exile akin to that of his own teacher, Obi-Wan Kenobi. Because of this, a Vader/Anakin-esque moment of redemption seems unlikely knowing what we do about Ben/Kylo’s crimes, as well as his motivation for committing them.
5. Kylo Ren is a student of both the Light and Dark Side of the Force
There’s a reason that the new generation of Dark Force users dispel the use of the “Darth” honorific: Kylo Ren and Supreme Leader Snoke, strictly speaking, aren’t Sith. Ren’s Wookieepedia article sheds some additional light on this, noting how “the Supreme Leader encouraged him to use the heritage of both the light and the dark,” studying “both the skills of the Jedi and arcane dark side lore.”
This division between the Dark and Light exists in Ben Solo’s very DNA. On one hand, we have the unshakable morals of his uncle Luke. On the other, there exists the anger and hatred of his grandfather, Darth Vader. This dichotomy could very well explain his rare set of abilities that include stopping blaster bolts, holding people paralyzed, and literally reading minds.
6. Aftermath: Empire’s End foreshadowed Ben Solo’s fall to the Dark Side
Here’s where we turn to alternative sources to figure more out about the man who later becomes Kylo Ren. In the final installment in Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath trilogy, Leia is still pregnant with her son, and can sense him through her connection to the Force. As it turns out, Kylo Ren’s constant battle between the light and dark began before he was ever born, with Leia noting how she could feel her unborn son’s “light that sometimes dims, that sometimes is thrust through with a vein of darkness.”
7. The circumstances surrounding his birth
Up until Empire’s End, we didn’t have a whole lot of insight into the birth of Ben Solo. Wendig’s novel though prominently featured just that as a major plot point, albeit with some frustratingly vague details. As the book tells it, rumors were abound across the galaxy concerning Ben’s birth. Some claimed Luke was present, while others say the child was born with “a shock of black hair.” The most telling rumor though was the one that hinted at his future volatility, saying he was “sweet one moment, screaming the next.”
8. He didn’t turn to the Dark Side until at least six years before The Force Awakens
It hasn’t been easy cobbling together a pre-Force Awakens timeline in the Star Wars universe, but the recent slew of new books have gone a long way toward fixing that, especially Claudia Gray’s Bloodline. The novel mostly follows Leia just six years before the events of The Force Awakens, as she wrestles with the infighting and corruption that’s run rampant in the New Republic Senate.
What’s also clear in the book, is that Ben Solo was recently sent off to train with Luke, and as far as we know, has yet to fully turn to the Dark Side. That means that by the time we see him in TFA, he’s been working for the First Order for less than the requisite six years Bloodline leads into.
9. Ben Solo didn’t always know Darth Vader was his grandfather
The Force Awakens makes it seem as though Kylo Ren has known about his dark lineage his whole life, going so far as to pray to the charred helmet of his grandfather, Darth Vader. Bloodline pulls the curtain back on that secret, revealing that Leia has kept that a secret from him for the better part of his life, only telling him via a recorded message after her own relation to Vader was leaked to the Senate.
Odds seem good that finding out was a catalyzing moment for young Ben Solo on his journey to the Dark Side, and now we know exactly how that happened.
10. The early days of the Knights of Ren
Ben Solo may go on to lead the Knights of Ren, but the mysterious group dates back before he was ever even born. In a series of brief interlude chapters, the Aftermath trilogy charts the rise of the Acolytes of the Beyond, a group of Vader-worshipping Dark Side devotees led by a former advisor to Emperor Palpatine, Yupe Tashu.
The Acolytes have a propensity for collecting Sith artifacts, and “earn” the right to wear Vader-esque masks by committing all manner of atrocities. If we’re looking for the origin story behind the Knights of Ren, the smart money is on the Acolytes of the Beyond.
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