Vanity Fair's cover story on Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is chock-full of new details, from the names of new characters to how much time has elapsed since the events of The Last Jedi. However, among the most intriguing is confirmation that the mysterious Knights of Ren, only glimpsed in 2015's The Force Awakens, have a role to play in the saga's finale. What's more, they very well may be at odds with Adam Driver's Kylo Ren.
Although they joined Kylo when he broke with Luke Skywalker's New Jedi Order, the Knight of Ren hav Bute had no impact on the plot of the current trilogy. They weren't even in 2017's The Last Jedi, because writer/director Rian Johnson "just didn’t see a place for them in the movie." But they're back with a vengeance in The Rise of Skywalker. It turns out we already saw them last month in the trailer, in which Kylo is shown cutting down one of their number.
The Knights of Ren Are Kylo's Enemy?
Vanity Fair questions whether the trailer scene is "a flashback to a previous falling-out," "evidence of new dissent," or proof that Kylo has -- as some fans predicted -- turned away from his old life to join Rey and the light side of the Force. The article quickly proposes the Knights either came into conflict with Kylo in the past or are at odds with him in the present.
A set photo by Annie Leibovitz depict director J.J. Abrams in Jordan, used for filming scenes on the desert planet Pasaana, surrounded by the Knights of Ren. Considering the red-tinged trailer sequence takes place in a forest, we can infer the Knights' role in The Rise of Skywalker isn't limited to flashback or Force vision. What conclusion can we draw from that?
Did Kylo and the Knights Fight in the Past?
The trailer depicts Kylo, without his mask, slicing through what we now know to be a Knight of Ren. If this scene is a flashback, it takes place either before he began wearing the mask, or else after he smashed it in The Last Jedi (about a year has passed since the events of the 2017 film, so the latter is a possibility).
The first option suggests Kylo and the Knights of Ren had an intense falling out sometime before The Force Awakens. If that's the case, it makes sense why they haven't appeared elsewhere in the trilogy. The second raises the possibility that a confrontation occurred after Kylo killed Snoke and seized control of the First Order. If that's the case, why?
However, that wouldn't make much sense. After all, the Knights of Ren are spoken of as belonging to Kylo. Luke Skywalker, when recounting the night Kylo turned against the New Jedi Order, never once mentions Kylo killing the students he lured to the dark side. Additionally, in Rey's initial vision of Kylo Ren's destruction of the New Jedi Order, he's shown wearing his mask. So if Kylo isn't wearing his mask, then it had to either be before this potential vision or after the events of The Last Jedi.
Power Struggle or a Turn to the Light?
If this conflict occurred after The Last Jedi, then what caused it? There are two distinct possibilities: The first is that Kylo and the Knights are fighting for control of the First Order. As Kylo stole command, the Knights might not recognize his authority, or his mission. Perhaps the Knights have launched a coup. If so, how would this civil war affect the Resistance?
However, the Vanity Fair article also proposes a more optimistic possibility: that Kylo clashes with the Knights of Ren in the present because he's turning from the dark to the light.
Many fans would hope to see Kylo redeem himself, especially given the moments when it appears he can be saved by Rey. However, following The Last Jedi, it's apparent Rey has lost all hope of reaching Ben Solo's heart. Audiences would be advised to follow her example on this one.
After everything we've seen of Kylo and his purging of all light from his heart, this seems very unlikely. Kylo's arc has shown him deliberately delving into the dark side, despite the pull of the light. It's far more likely that Kylo and the Knights of Ren are fighting for selfish goals, which, ultimately, may prove their undoing.
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 Dec. 20.