Since the Star Wars Celebration premiere of “The Last Jedi” trailer, many have been focused, and rightfully so, on Luke Skywalker’s cryptic words at the end. However, despite all the talk, there were a couple of characters who have been missing from the limelight despite all of the “Last Jedi buzz: Kylo Ren and his master, Supreme Leader Snoke.
Adam Driver, who plays the destined-to-be-iconic villain in the new trilogy, did not have a seat at Star Wars Celebration’s “The Last Jedi” presentation as the teaser was released. As such, not much was discussed regarding his role in the film; in fact, the only prominent shot of him in the trailer is a quick look of him holding his lightsaber with what appears to fire burning behind him, boasting the scar he received near the end of “The Force Awakens.” Based on that moment, it looks as though he’ll be back with a vengeance, but what, exactly, will be his and Snoke’s role?
While Rey is learning to breathe with the Force on Ahch-To, we have to go back to Kylo’s situation at the end of “The Force Awakens” in order to piece together where he may be when “The Last Jedi” opens. The Empire’s massive Starkiller Base having been successfully destroyed by the Resistance, Snoke commands General Husk and Kylo to return to his side, stating it is time for his young apprentice to resume and complete his training. Based on that, it’s safe to assume that he will be back and better (or badder) than ever, which is saying a lot given that he froze a laser blaster within minutes of his introduction on Jakku. Whether we see some Force lightning for the first time in the new trilogy remains to be seen, but regardless, viewers can expect a much more skilled Kylo this time around.
Hopefully, we’ll also see less tantrum-throwing and machine destroying than in “Force Awakens.” It was strongly implied, by Snoke and others, that the Kylo we saw was still a work in progress. His struggles between the Light and Dark Sides of the Force illustrated this conflict, as did his immature behavior of destroying machines and consoles in anger. However, perhaps the most important shot of the trailer wasn’t the look at him briefly wielding his lightsaber amid a burning background, but rather the shot of his crushed helmet. The destruction of the helmet may be representative of Kylo finally coming into his own; after all, as she’s held hostage, Rey calls him out for cowering behind a mask and imitating his grandfather, for trying to become someone else.
With shots of both the smashed helmet shown alongside an unmasked Kylo later, it appears that he is fully ready to blossom and come into his own, following a path different from his grandfather’s that he tried so hard to imitate. Kylo is still young with the potential to go in a variety of different directions, though additional Dark side training coupled with the killing of his father Han Solo appear to have been the push he needed to become his own man. “The Last Jedi” should further delve into the maturation process of Kylo, as well as his motivations for aligning himself with Snoke and the First Order while betraying his former master and uncle. After all, it is mostly due to his actions that Luke is likely in the current mindset he appears to be in right now.
Kylo’s role in “The Last Jedi” goes beyond his combat skill and personal development, as it could also have bigger implications on one of the newer aspects of the Star Wars canon yet to be explained: The Knights of Ren.
The group that Snoke named dropped in “Force Awakens,” more information could be learned about them, as they appeared briefly in Rey’s Force vision alongside Kylo in a torrential downpour in an unknown location. Their nature and purpose are unknown, though it is possible they only operate directly under the orders of Snoke, which could explain the friction between General Hux and Kylo, as the latter may have solely operated away from the main operations of the First Order up until a very recent point.
Now, it’s possible that the Knights of Ren are simply an elite squadron in the form of bounty hunters like Jango and Boba Fetts or Cad Bane, who specialize in fighting Jedi or other force-sensitive users. However, there is speculation abound that they are a group of Dark Side fanatics eager to obtain Sith artifacts by any means necessary, which could explain how Kylo obtained Darth Vader’s burned mask. Further peculation has also included some stating that they might more of Luke’s other force-sensitive apprentices who joined Kylo in his betrayal. The fact that they don’t operate in the open with the First Order likely speaks to the importance of the group later on down the line, as is their lack of appearances or mentions in any Star Wars canon, which likely means they were created at some point prior to “Force Awakens,” possibly by Snoke himself. Whoever they are, they are deeply tied into Kylo’s backstory, as his new name is based on the organization he would soon lead.
As for Snoke, he has as much mystery about him, if not more so, than the Knights of Ren. Outside of his humanoid alien appearance and imposing figure, we know little about him, but it’s a relatively safe bet that we’ll see him take a more active role in hunting down Rey and Luke now that the former is being actively trained by the latter. The fact that Han and Leia knew of Snoke’s existence means that there is some sort of history involving the villain. Snoke stated that he was old enough to witness the previous Galactic Empire rise and fall, meaning that he was alive during the Clone Wars and was working his evil around the same time as Palpatine. He was also stated to have had several apprentices prior to Kylo, who drew his interest because of the unique balance of light and dark sides within him.
If speculation of a “Gray Jedi” storyline turns out to be accurate, there’s a good chance Snoke would be among this group who adheres neither completely to the light or the darkness, thus explaining his interest in Kylo’s particular relationship to the Force. While Snoke is clearly strong in the Dark Side of the Force, he doesn’t necessarily shun the Light in the manner past Sith like Emperor Palpatine or Count Dooku did. He also doesn’t abide by the Rule of Two, as Kylo Ren isn’t considered to be a Sith, nor does Snoke appear to play by traditional rules, particularly when it comes to training apprentices.
“The Last Jedi” stands to be as big a film for Kylo and Snoke as it is for Rey and Luke. For Kylo, it will be about fully discovering his purpose and beginning to separate himself from the shadow of Vader, while Snoke utilizes his student’s growing skills to take down Luke Skywalker, the one man he didn’t want the Resistance to find. As the Force becomes a central part of the Star Wars trilogy yet again, Kylo and Snoke will remain instrumental pieces in Rey’s own journey and the decisions she must make as she contends with the Luke and his cryptic message of ending Jedi and the grander schemes within the Force itself.