The Rise of Skywalker: Did Kylo Ren deserve his ending?

Adam Driver is Kylo Ren in STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER /

The latest Star Wars trilogy has come to an end. Did Kylo Ren deserve the ending he gained in The Rise of Skywalker?

Warning: This post contains huge spoilers for Kylo Ren’s fate in The Rise of Skywalker along with other plot spoilers. Read on at your own risk!

Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker is, as The Hollywood Reporter put it, “the last installment of the Star Wars Saga that began in 1977 with George Lucas’ Star Wars, now better known as A New Hope.” Just like Return of the Jedi was an end to Darth Vader’s reign of evil, we saw the end of Kylo Ren’s rule as Supreme Leader of the First Order.

A lot can be said about how both films ended their respective trilogies. In each case, the biggest Big Bad was Emperor Palpatine, who had been pulling the strings, greedy for power all along.

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Another similarity between The Rise of Skywalker and Return of the Jedi was the inclusion of a redemptive arc for our trilogy-spanning villains. For Darth Vader, it was saving his son’s life. But for Kylo Ren, the story was a lot muddier.

At one point in The Rise of Skywalker, General Leia Organa used her remaining energy to reach her son. Somehow, that…made him the good guy again?

Far be it for me to ever, under any circumstances, claim that the Leia Organa wasn’t powerful enough to bring someone back from the Dark Side. Especially her only son! But hadn’t she already tried and failed more than once? What was so special about this attempt to bring back Ben Solo, other than that it was convenient?

In what felt like the blink of an eye, The Rise of Skywalker was able to write out the late Carrie Fisher. Unfortunately, it was also a way to weakly redeem Kylo Ren and provide fan service in the form of some sort of Kylo-Rey power pairing.

Did Kylo Ren deserve redemption—much less to effectively become a hero alongside Rey? To be her hero, even? I would argue no. He didn’t earn it in The Rise of Skywalker, not at all.

Maybe, looking back, there were cracks in Kylo Ren’s armor. He did show some reluctance in attacking his mother’s ship in The Last Jedi. But this is also the guy who killed his own father in The Force Awakens.

Nothing significant happened in The Rise of Skywalker to give “Ben” a change of heart, other than the previously-mentioned magical moment with Leia draining herself.

Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) in STAR WARS: EPISODE IX The Rise of Skywalker
Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) in STAR WARS: EPISODE IX /

There was also Rey’s talk of wanting to take Ben’s hand (not Kylo’s), but that opens up a whole other can of worms. A particularly nasty one, at that.

Kylo Ren always had a weird obsession with Rey. So, in some sense, his final-fight action of standing with her against the Emperor makes a sick kind of sense. But that’s the problem: It’s sick.

In redeeming Kylo/Ben by having him save Rey’s life, The Rise of Skywalker takes one of the series’ worst moments and sets it up as some kind of heroic ideal. The “you’re nothing. But not to me” quote from The Last Jedi is suddenly a supporting moment for why Kylo Ren, otherwise far-too-suddenly, has a change of heart.

But as many people have noted of the big, so-called “Reylo” relationship hinted at in that scene, it’s a dangerous road to go down and a bad message to send. Michael Walsh of Nerdist put it pretty well:

"He told Rey, his Force-equal and the one person trying to save his soul, that she was “nothing,” except to him. She only had value to him. You don’t need to be a psychologist to recognize those are the words of an abusive man trying to coerce a vulnerable person into an unhealthy, toxic relationship. It’s one of the most despicable personal moments in Star Wars history, but it didn’t work on Rey because she’s better than Kylo is bad."

Sadly, much of The Rise of Skywalker’s weird talk of Rey and Kylo having a strong bond seems to indicate that the toxicity did work on Rey. If nothing else, Kylo Ren’s last-minute return to heal Rey with the Force, thus sacrificing himself, worked on her.

I guess “I tried to kill you a bunch of times, called you nothing, and also killed a lot of good people; but I like you and am here to be your knight with shining lightsaber” is totally romantic enough to receive the would-be heroine’s kiss these days.

Of course, that’s the other problem with Kylo Ren’s redemption: It takes the promise of the Star Wars universe’s decision to center a trilogy around a female hero and destroys it in The Rise of Skywalker. Rey is, apparently, unable to stand up to the Emperor—her grandfather, just like Darth Vader is Kylo’s!—without her former (male) enemy’s help.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Why Rey’s power had to be combined with Kylo Ren’s to end the Emperor makes just about as little sense as anything else about the Sith-wannabe formerly known as Ben Solo’s story.

At this point, one needs to find some sort of hidden message in the Star Wars prequels about Anakin Skywalker’s bond with Palpatine to make that resonate. As long as we’re retconning here, we may as well.

But what gets lost in this strange need to parallel Darth Vader’s journey, no matter how you slice it, is the chance for Star Wars to say something new. Kylo Ren will forever be Darth Vader Lite; and the sequel trilogy’s bold attempt at making a “nothing” girl into a hero will have come up woefully short.

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Regardless, Kylo Ren is now the Good Guy and the Big Hero of the Star Wars sequels. As difficult to stomach as the prequels were, with Darth Vader’s backstory being explained in a weirdly sympathetic way, I’ll take their conclusion over The Rise of Skywalker‘s any day.

Were you on board with Kylo Ren’s redemption in The Rise of Skywalker? Let us know!