Few franchises are as popular and as divisive as Star Wars right now, and any discussion of the characters at the center of the story reveals why. Much of the criticism (and outright vitriol) targets the protagonist of the series, Rey, but somewhere along the way her antagonist Kylo Ren endeared himself to audiences. Kylo appears to be so endeared, in fact, that fans are already speculating if the next film in the series The Rise of Skywalker will redeem him. But perhaps it shouldn't.
The theory that Kylo will be redeemed roots itself in the events of the previous films and speculation based on the trailers for the next one. Each of the previous films saw attempts to appeal to Kylo's humanity and offered him chances at redemption he neglected, so thematically some fans wonder if the third time might be the charm where the broody Sith is concerned.
A redemption would also parallel the character arc of the original trilogy's main villain, Darth Vader. The director of The Force Awakens and The Rise of Skywalker, J. J. Abrams, has an unabashed love for mimicking many of the same story beats from the original trilogy, and at the conclusion of that trilogy, Darth Vader saw the redemption for his misdeeds during his climactic sacrifice against the true villain, Emperor Palpatine.
The possibility that Palpatine will return to the films in some shape or form seems likely at this point, so those hoping for Kylo's redemption believe it could set the stage for a similar climax. Especially given the indications that Rey will turn to the Dark Side, as suggested by the dark cloaks she wears and the red lightsaber she wields in the trailer. The idea that Kylo would swap to the Light Side echoes the balance of the Force the series repeatedly preaches.
Each of the indicators for Kylo's redemption arc concluding in The Rise of Skywalker comes with serious problems, however. First and foremost would be that the "third time's the charm" theory for Kylo neglecting previous opportunities to switch sides are evidence he doesn't deserve redemption more than anything. As fans will recall, at the conclusion of Force Awakens, his father Han Solo offers him respite from the guilt and torment torturing him. Kylo's response? A lightsaber through his father's chest.
Kylo's decline grew even worse in the subsequent film. After he and Rey slayed Kylo's master, the mysterious Supreme Leader Snoke, the stage was all set for Kylo to dismantle the First Order, end the conflict plaguing the Galaxy, and become a force for good. But he went the other way, and that's not something that can lightly be forgiven.
This stands in stark contrast to Darth Vader's arc from the original trilogy. In the time before the sequels, Darth Vader was a foreboding villain to be sure, but the crimes counting against his redemption were not abundantly clear. At the time Return of the Jedi came out, it made sense for Vader to see the light and restore balance to the Force. It was not until the prequels were released that Vader's sins were detailed, and people tend to forget they were not something that should easily be forgiven.
Slaying a room of defenseless children to enact a genocide of the Jedi was an abundantly evil act for Anakin Skywalker to commit, and if the original films were able to get away with redeeming him it was only because of the chronological Three-Card-Monte played with the films' events. If Vader did not deserve his redemption, then Kylo certainly doesn't.
Kylo's own crimes involve the devastation of the Hosnian system, and his debut to audiences involved him overseeing mass slaughter at the start of The Force Awakens. These are not crimes easily forgiven, and even if a redemption arc makes sense for Kylo from a big-picture perspective it's hard to see what is building toward that when looking at the nitty-gritty.
What have been his redemptive moments? At practically every turn Kylo has refused to do the right thing, stewed over the past without articulating any interpretation of them that would put him in the right, and been an active threat to the good of all. Whether his redemption is likely or not, the case seems closed that he just doesn't deserve it either way.
Directed and co-written by J.J. Abrams, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker stars Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Kelly Marie Tran, Joonas Suotamo, Billie Lourd, Keri Russell, Matt Smith, Anthony Daniels, Mark Hamill, Billy Dee Williams and Carrie Fisher, with Naomi Ackie and Richard E. Grant. The film arrives on Dec. 20.