So, I’ve completely immersed myself in Star Wars podcasts from the likes of The Star Wars Connection, the Knights of Rant, and Scavenger’s Hoard. And since I don’t like the word obsession, we’re going to call all this research. Research for what? I have no idea. But I do know that I’m loving all the voices I’m hearing. Literally, these are women from all over the world, talking about Star Wars, one of my very first fandoms. Actually, it’s my first, pre-dating even the mighty X-Files. Did you catch that? Women! Star Wars! For a long time, I thought I was alone, but it turns out I’m not. Lots of women like Star Wars too!
I’m sure I’ll emerge sooner or later, but in the meantime, this has been and continues to be fun. They’ve pointed me in the direction of the novelization of The Force Awakens and to the Junior novelization of such. I read them both, and I found them helpful to understand the motivations of characters. And reading both of theses sources really does help me see Kylo Ren more clearly. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I hated him coming out of The Force Awakens. And I got the coding of him as a bad guy very clearly. Something about him murdering Lor San Tekka stuck in my head, and I never revised my opinion of him. I didn’t think a thing about the differences between the interrogation scenes (how blinded I was), that Rey actually shot first (really, she did), and the look on his face after he murdered his father.
I think the murder of Han Solo was the thing I needed the most distance from. And so, a year and a half on, I’ve finally gotten there. I can look at that Kylo Ren and actually see Ben Solo. I can see a tortured soul. But I have a theory on why so many people can’t: It’s because he seems weak. Think about it – he’s Leia and Han’s son, their only child, trained by Luke Skywalker. How can he be so weak as to fall to the Dark side? And if he’s going to fall, then he needs to be the biggest bad out there. So when he does the (seemingly) unforgivable (but is it really?), he should be full of power. But instead, as Adam Driver shows us, and as the books tell us, he’s weakened by it. So, he’s fallen to the Dark, but he hasn’t been successful. And I think that’s why many people don’t like him. They want him to be stronger than Vader if he’s going to have killed Han Solo, one of our heroes. Kylo Ren literally ends the movie on his back bleeding out in the snow. Beaten by – gasp – a girl. A petite, slim girl. How weak.
But y’all, he’s not weak. He’s incredibly strong, and our heroes from the original trilogy have clay feet. Leia wasn’t a very good mom, Han wasn’t a very good dad, and Luke was, well, Luke. And Rey, well, she’s strong, no matter how you slice it. But I’d postulate she’s even stronger when she’s around Kylo Ren thanks to a Force bond.
Why do I say he’s strong? Well, he stopped a blaster bolt in mid-air and froze Poe. He then released Poe and shifted the trajectory of the blaster bolt to blow up a structure. And that was in the first five minutes of the movie. We see a man that has a temper problem and a functioning conscience that he buries most of the time. But do temper problems and a conscience make him weak? I don’t think they do. Not anymore.
So, that brings us to Reylo. The Star Wars databank tells us they share a strange connection (hello there, Force bond), and that makes the line from Kylo to Rey “Don’t be afraid; I feel it too” make sense. I had no idea what that meant, so I ignored it the first dozen times I saw the movie. I also ignored the fact that Kylo carried her in his arms through a battlefield, leaving himself defenseless while two perfectly healthy stormtroopers stalked behind him. Then I ignored the veritable mountain of differences between his interrogation of Poe and the other with Rey. Then I ignored that she was the aggressor the next time he saw her. Then I ignored that he didn’t kill her when he could have and instead offered (albeit demandingly) to be her teacher. This is not a man that wants to hurt her. And that’s even clearer in the books. And I cheered her on with she accessed the Dark side of the Force and turned the tables on him. I wanted her to end him because he had killed Han Solo. And I perceived him as weak. It’s not like he was fighting wounded from a hit in the side from Chewie’s crossbow or anything.
Back to the novelizations for just a moment – those stormtroopers who should have rightly been dragging Rey to a troop transport (if he was going to treat her as he did normal enemy combatants) found his behavior odd. But they certainly weren’t going to mention it for obvious reasons. Instead, they follow him back to his command shuttle as he carries her over the threshold as one might do with his bride. I heard one skeptic say, about that scene, “Oh, that’s nothing. It was just directorial discretion rather than having this awkward moment of letting her hit the ground, and then having to jostle her around, blah, blah, blah.” In a word, bullshit. Letting my English major, find symbolism everywhere inner child out to play, these two looked like a bride (in white) and groom (in black) entering their home. I don’t even think I need to the symbolism nerd come out to play to see that. It’s right there. And it’s not like it’s a flash. J.J. Abrams lets us see that – what – four times?
Also in the novelizations – In the junior version Kylo has an internal dialogue where he thinks, before interrogating Poe, that he enjoys hurting enemies. And when he gets to Rey, he says to her “I’ll take no pleasure in this.” Naturally, the latter example is from the adult novelization. Also in the junior novelization: Han forgives Ben and hopes that Ben can one day forgive him. But you saw that when Han touched Ben’s cheek in the movie, didn’t you? And I have to say these podcasts have drawn my attention to all the things I ignored before. I don’t remember any of them mentioning the bit about Kylo enjoying hurting enemies, but I know they’ve mentioned the last two examples.
Let’s be clear: I don’t like Kylo Ren. But Kylo Ren is the Skywalker in this trilogy. We need to accept that. After the second viewing of TFA, I told a friend of mine that Kylo couldn’t come back from murdering his father or if he did, it’d be one hell of a redemption arc. I’m going out on a limb here, but I think he’s going to get his redemption arc. And Ben Solo? I think I’ll like Ben Solo a lot.