WARNING: SPOILERS ABOUND!
BUT IF YOU INSIST ON READING AHEAD WITHOUT WATCHING “STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER” FIRST, EVEN THE FORCE CAN’T STOP YOU.
I’ve always been a huge fan of the dark side.
My home and office table is stacked with Sith Lords and other darksiders, to give you an idea. And beyond exclusively collecting figures from the dark side of the Force, you’ll also find me on The Empire Did Nothing Wrong subreddit.
So yeah, I really like the “bad guys”, and as I’ve followed the story arc of one of the most compelling villains in Star Wars, I’ve come to learn a few things about Kylo Ren, who has been the main antagonist of the recent episodes.
Kylo Ren has had quite a journey, to say the least. So for those of us who are less familiar, I’ll
try do my best to get us up to speed in a few paragraphs.
Ben Solo was born to Han Solo and Leia Organa. Leia sensed early on that Ben was Force-sensitive, and had potential for both the light and dark side of the Force. To keep him from falling to the dark side, she asked Luke Skywalker, her brother, to take Ben away and train him as his apprentice.
However, following a misunderstanding in the Jedi Temple, Ben ends up killing the rest of his fellow students and fleeing to join the First Order – the dark side, where he takes on the dark side identity of Kylo Ren, the right-hand man to Supreme Leader and villain Snoke.
Much of the trilogy goes on to explore Kylo’s continuing war within himself, the dark and light inside of him. His corruption towards the dark side seems to reach a tipping and irrevocable point when he murders his father Han in Episode VII.
From that point on, Kylo strives to win Rey, a girl equally strong in the Force who mysteriously appears, over to the dark side in hopes of ruling the galaxy with the increasingly powerful heroine.
THE OPPOSING FORCES WITHIN
My story begins at Rey and Kylo’s iconic duel amidst the crashing waves of Endor, one of the moons in the galaxy.
With the help of General Leia’s Force use, Rey mortally wounds a distracted Kylo in the duel, driving her lightsaber through his chest. However, she immediately heals him with the Force before taking off to Exegol, the location of the final battle, in his ship.
Here, in the ashes of defeat, Kylo has a final encounter with his father, Han Solo, who appears to him as a Force ghost. In gentle tones, Han urges Kylo – despite his son’s protests that the Ben he knows is dead – to “come home” and encourages him that his son is still “alive”.
Kylo then says the very same words he did in his first encounter with Han before he murdered him. But this time, the trembling words are tinged with regret and even hope: “I know what I have to do, but I don’t know if I have the strength to do it.”
Han touches his son’s face before telling him that Ben does indeed have the strength to make the right choice and empathises with him. This gives Ben all he needs to hurl his crossguard red lightsaber into Endor’s oceans, finally choosing the light.
Even as a fan of the dark side, I couldn’t help but be profoundly moved by this scene (the best in this whole trilogy IMO).
Maybe I’m naive, but for a long time, I didn’t actually think Kylo would turn. But as I watched Ben return to the light, it started to dawn on me that no matter how far down you go in the dark side, you’re never actually too far gone – not even after killing your own father!
I thought back to how Darth Vader redeemed himself at the end of Return of the Jedi, saving his son Luke Skywalker by picking the evil Emperor Palpatine up and yeeting him like a rag-doll into the reactor of the Death Star.
Despite the darkness of Darth Vader’s deeds (he’s Anakin Skywalker gone bad) – this one stands out – that moment of clarity redeemed him and earned him a place as a Force ghost alongside other Jedi greats like Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi.
That’s the sort of thing that intrigues me about the Star Wars universe: the recurring theme of how the galaxy’s greatest villains can turn in a moment and return to the right path towards redemption.
Everyone gets a choice. And I believe it’s the same in our own galaxy – but more on that later.
TURNING FROM DARKNESS TO LIGHT
While we’re comparing trilogies, consider also how Darth Vader and Kylo Ren share the similar goal of stamping out all Jedi, the good guys. Both of them carried out persecutions of the highest order.
In that light, these two darksiders share some similarities with another well-known character in another galaxy – the Apostle Paul. Before this absolute legend wound up writing 13 books in the New Testament, he was an intense persecutor of the church of God, a zealot who sought to destroy what was good (Galatians 1:13-14).
Same principle here: no one is ever too far gone.
As I watched Ben and Han Solo’s second reunion play out, I realised that if you are a son to good parents, you never really lose that identity as their child. Han never gave up on Ben, even when Ben became Kylo Ren – even after Ben killed him! Likewise, General Leia gave all she had in a mother’s final attempt to reach her son, and willingly died for it.
Christ does a greater thing in His love for us. He never gives up on us and was even willing to die on the Cross, so that by believing in Him we could be cleansed and turn away from our sins, redeemed in the Father’s light. It doesn’t matter how far away we are (Isaiah 59:1), all we have to do is choose.
So Ben’s entire story arc can be viewed as a kind of prodigal son story, as if to say you will always be God’s son no matter what you have done. God never gave up on us, even when saving us from our sin meant having to experience death.
We have a Father who will never give up on us, and makes a way against all odds for us to come back from the brink – back into the light.
We get to choose, just as Darth Vader did at the end of Episode VI.
Think back to the conversation between Vader and Luke Skywalker before the final Death Star encounter.
Luke Skywalker: “I know there is good in you, the Emperor hasn’t driven it from you fully.”
Darth Vader: It is too late for me, my son … You don’t know the power of the dark side. I must obey my master.”
The pain and regret in Vader’s voice always gets to me.
I was someone who had been far away from God before, having thrown my faith away when I told God I wanted nothing more to do with Him.
And I know what it’s like to feel helpless in the face of sin, being so susceptible to the “dark side” (sin) as fallen humans. It’s easy to believe that darkness is a master we cannot escape. After all, the Word tells us that the nature of sin is that it crouches at our door (Genesis 4:7), waiting for a chance to turn us away from God – just like how Palpatine had been influencing Ben all along.
Sin is something that tends to feel inevitable, and God can seem to be lightyears away, but we can make a choice for the light.
WE ALWAYS HAVE A CHOICE
With the Star Wars saga brought to a satisfying and meaningful close, I praise God for His mercy that I was never too far gone in my own journey. God’s mighty arm is long enough to save even the worst sinner.
At some point in life, we’re bound to feel the same way Kylo did – divided and torn. We will face choices between what is right, and what is wrong.
Remember this: deep inside our hearts, we already know what we must do and we know what we have to do to. God has put eternity in the hearts of man (Ecclesiastes 3:11). There is this innate longing within each of us for something greater and good, and it all points to Jesus. Just as Finn and Jannah found the Force, I know you can feel this too.
No matter how far we stray, God the Father can give us the strength needed to choose the right thing. Even after we fail, even after we end up hurting those we love, even when we feel powerless and too far from Him – He has the strength we need to do what we need to do. It all boils down to what you will choose.
May the Force be with you – and the love and power of the Most High God.