This Fan Theory Redeems Kylo Ren
Just before his death, Darth Vader briefly found the light. Enough light, at least, to save his son Luke, who would go on to rescue the galaxy from the clutches of the corrupt Empire and to raise a new generation of Jedi successors. In The Force Awakens, all that remains of Vader is a charred helmet and a generation of First Order knights of the dark side of the Force, under the command of Vader's grandson Kylo Ren. Kylo Ren — born Ben Solo — occasionally notes that he feels the pull of the light when he most needs to commit to the darkness in order to carry on Vader's legacy. He's like Vader in reverse. But what if Kylo Ren isn't really the bad guy in all of this? One compelling Force Awakens theory places Kylo Ren as the double agent aiming to take down the Sith, and here's why it could really work.
First, here's how the theory goes: Kylo Ren joined the dark side in order to take down its Supreme Leader Snoke, who may also be Darth Plagueis if other fan theories hold true. He consults with Vader's helmet because he tries to carry out the mission that Anakin failed to before he was taken over by the darkness. He continues to feel the pull of the light because his mission is inherently good — and when he sacrifices his father to the cause, it's only because he must kill someone he loves in order to become one of the Sith. (It's important to remember that Kylo Ren is not a Sith, but he could be.) The theory loads subtext into Han Solo's conversation with his son immediately before Solo's death. Ren tells his father he must do something he doesn't want to do, and asks Han to help him, to die for him so that they can eventually take down the Sith. The theory comes from Tumblr user murphcooper, who gives us the rundown in all caps (appropriate excitement for a theory that just makes sense).
The most exciting part of this theory is that it's a total divergence from the course taken by the first six movies. The new trilogy still faces the near-impossible challenge of balancing fan expectations based on the original two trilogies and charting a new route that will still surprise even the most die-hard fans. The theory works because it means that all the parallels between Episode IV and Episode VII are likely just intended to throw off viewers, or to set up the divergent routes that the good guys and baddies alike will take in Episode VIII and IX.
But this theory only redeems Kylo Ren, and it means that Han Solo really is dead, much as some fans would like to believe he'll return for the future movies. The only way for Kylo Ren to truly turn to the dark side is to renounce his family entirely. This fan theory also sets up The Force Awakens and the following movies as a continuation of, rather than a divergence from, the original movies. This isn't a universe apart from the one George Lucas set up; it's just that Lucas's solution to the corrupt Empire, concluding with Vader's death, only chopped off one arm of the evil menacing the galaxy. Rey, Finn, Poe, and the rest of The Force Awakens cast now have an inside man to help finish the task.
Is there any way that this theory doesn't work? It doesn't quite account for the flashbacks to the Jedi massacre (did he really kill all of his Jedi-in-training cohort?), and if Luke Skywalker is in on the secret, it doesn't explain why he fled to a far corner of the galaxy, leaving Leia, Han, Poe, and the rest of the Resistance behind to figure out the plot. And even further, the theory doesn't mean Kylo Ren will stick to the plan — it's not clear how he'll continue to carry out a mission that's inherently light when he has committed his very soul to the dark. As J.J. Abrams explained in a panel immediately after the movie's release, the screenwriters wanted to depict "not a villain who was the finished, ready-made villain, but someone who was in process." So maybe Kylo Ren was not a villain at the start, but with the death of his father, he could be a villain now. Perhaps the origin story/spinoff Rogue One may shed a bit more light on both Kylo Ren and Rey's beginnings in the galaxy far, far away.
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