Yadda yadda yadda, something mean about Wymore, probably involving puppies. Yadda yadda yadda.
I've been talking about star wars for four weeks now. You might have guessed from the Part 4 in the title. I have great faith in you on that account. So, what are we talking about for week four?
Let's get down to it. Kylo Ren. In my past analyses, I've been able to present much of my conclusions as fact, but there is a crucial difference: we know what motivates Finn and Rey. We have very little idea what motivates Kylo Ren.
They did a good job of obfuscating it. It wasn't until recently I realized we don't know his motivation. We know he wants to finish what Vader started, but for all we know Vader took up embroidery, and what he intends to finish is a cross stitch saying "Home is where you hang your mask" and a little picture of Vader suffocating to death without his breathing gear.
So I'm going to start with the basics of what we know about this guy, and then we'll get down to supposition. We're going to be looking ahead in the series on this one, so this is your final warning. If your acceptable spoilers are only ones for the existing movie, and no speculation is permitted, stop now! We're gonna get theoretical all up in this movie.
Let's start with what we see in the film. Just events and situations involving Kylo. The facts on film, as we know it. (Someone sent me the post production shooting script, so let's step through.)
Kylo Ren leads the assault on Jakku. There he kills Lor San Tekka and captures Poe Dameron. Finally he orders the killing of the villagers and leaves.
Kylo interrogates and mind rips Poe.
Kylo learns of Finn's help in the escape, and after a cut-away, orders them to retrieve the map. For the first time, we get the hint that Kylo's agenda doesn't match up exactly with the First Order. They are happy to destroy the map. Kylo only wants it retrieved.
Kylo learns Finn and BB-8 escaped. He has his temper tantrum on a bunch of innocent equipment, but when he learns a girl was involved, he seem to almost kill the messenger for the first time.
We see the first meeting with Snoke. Snoke orders them to change their plans and attack the Republic, leaving the Resistance vulnerable to attack. We learn that Han Solo is Ren's father and this is the test he's never faced.
Kylo's scene, talking to Vader's mask, showing his weakness, asking for strength.
During Rey's vision, we see Kylo Ren killing a warrior that's about to attack, while standing over Rey. Then we see the knights of Ren in a group among the bodies of their victims.
Kylo watches the Starkiller firing.
Kylo assault's Moz's castle. He captures Rey in a really creepy scene and orders the troops to pull out. At this point he's notably gone against First Order wishes. He has access to the map via Rey, who's seen it. But BB-8 is still out there, for the Resistance to use.
Kylo interrogates Rey in an even creepier scene.
In a scene right after, Snoke discovers Ren's betrayal. He orders the destruction of the Resistance base, while Ren insists they get the map from Rey. Snoke orders Ren to bring the girl to him.
Ren throws another tantrum when he finds Rey missing.
Kylo confronts Han. Kills him.
All right. So let's try to think about how to interpret all of that.
Good Kylo Ren:
I really tried to make this interpretation work. There's evidence that Kylo's mission is to destroy the First Order. He even asks Han for permission before killing him. I tried hard to come up with an theory where he's actually still good. The problem is that first scene. In it, he almost certainly kills Lor San Tekka, and definitely orders the slaughter of the village. And the interrogations scene have way too much of a sexual assault vibe. So no. I can't make this work.
So let's take it the other way.
Evil Kylo Ren:
Evil Kylo Ren begins quite naturally. He kills an old man. He orders the slaughter of innocents. Bad, bad stuff. Then he mind-rips Poe. Again, obviously evil stuff. Things become less clear right after. In his conversation with Hux, we discover that Hux's motivation is to keep the map out of the hands of the Resistance, while Kylo wants it for himself.
In this version, something must have happened to bring Rey to his attention, because he has no reason to think anything strange when he hears news of a girl on the planet, and he freaks out. The only answer I have here is that he's been having visions of Rey, just as she's been having visions of Luke (or at least his island.)
This discord grows when we learn that he's called by the lightside (a new concept in the cinematic Star Wars). And when he abandons the map to bring in Rey, things become really confused.
The rest of the movie, his killing of his father, his driven need to hunt down Finn and Rey, even horribly wounded, his terrible outbursts of temper. That all fits the evil Kylo.
So what is his motivation? Why does Kylo Ren want the map, even if it means that the Resistance has it as well.
I think the only explanation here that he feels he needs to personally kill his uncle. The obvious answer is that he wants to prove himself to Snoke and the ghost of Vader, that only be beating the galaxy's only general can he properly claim his position in the dark side. This Kylo Ren doesn't believe ridiculous stories about his grandfather's final acts. He thinks of Vader in his cyborg.
The call of the light side supports this theory. In this version he feels his connection to his Uncle, just as he detects his father later in the film. Only by murdering both the father figures in his life can he burn the light out of his soul. Our family has power over us, after all.
The other possible cause of this is a need for revenge. Perhaps there was a falling out between Luke and himself. In this version there's no consideration of Snoke or the First Order, Kylo wants to murder Luke out of personal vengeance. Luke survived his destruction of the Jedi school. They have unfinished business.
The Machiavellian Kylo Ren:
In this version, Kylo Ren sees himself as the hero of the Galaxy, and he doesn't realize how far he's fallen. This combines the good version of Kylo Ren with a fall to darkness and a lack of self awareness. Let's start with his speech to Vader:
"Forgive me. I feel it again. The pull to the light. Supreme Leader senses it. Show me again, the power of the darkness, and I will let nothing stand in our way. Show me, Grandfather, and I will finish what you started."
He feels the light. He doesn't want the Supreme Leader to know. He's asking to see the power of darkness, presumably to hide the light. Finally he wants to finish what Vader started.
What, exactly didn't Vader start? Wipe out the Jedi? He's already pretty much did that, but even if that's why he wants to find Luke, that wasn't really Vader's mission. Restore balance to the force? Maybe, but right now the balance is tilted to the dark side, so that isn't exactly an evil job. Vader's most notable action, on his own, was killing the Emperor and starting the downfall of the Empire. The thing that Kylo must have been told over and over, throughout his childhood, was that his Grandfather died redeemed.
And let's take a look at Rey's vision again. She sees herself in Bespin, in Luke's place, then everything shift and she falls to the ground during what is presumably the destruction of the Jedi School. She sees Luke and then she watches Kylo Ren kill a man.
It's actually Paul Genesse who pointed this out. The person who Kylo Ren kills is trying to kill Rey in the vision. The man is wearing a helmet that could be either soldier or villain and he's swinging a metal club. Why is he swinging a club?
Paul's theory is that this isn't a vision, it's part memory, and that Rey was there. The man is trying to kill five-year-old Rey, either by beating her to death with a metal rod or a deactivated lightsaber (and the movie makers didn't want us to see the color of the blade.)
Did Kylo Ren save Rey's life? It flashes immediately to someone dropping her off on Jakku.
And in this theory, his actions involving the map make much more sense. He desperately wants to find Luke, and doesn't care whether the resistance finds him too. The Resistance might pull Luke back into the fold, but Kylo would still get to see him first. Possibly to explain everything he's done in Anakin Skywalker's name.
This is the interpretation I favor the most, I think.
Kylo Ren found himself wrapped up in the destruction of the Jedi. Either he saw the Jedi as ideologically flawed or he just didn't understand what he was getting into, but somewhere in the middle of the destruction, Kylo Ren forms his plan. He kills the Knight of Ren who's trying to slaughter Rey and he rescues her, maybe because they are cousins. He then drops her off on Jakku where she'll be safe. She probably was a youngling in training. He might not be worried about her plight.
Assuming Kylo is about the same age as Driver, he's probably 29 (Diver is 32, but the movie takes place about 30 years after Jedi. That would put him about 16 when Rey was 5. Young, but not too young to be powerful and really, really stupid.
This Kylo obsesses about his Grandfather and is either now or soon to be connected to the First Order. He sees the First Order as the recovered Empire, and he must finish what his grandfather started, and take it down from the inside.
Is it surprising that he murders when necessary? Vader is his idle, and all his killing was forgiven in the end, but note that Kylo only kills two people in the movie, Lor San Tekka in the beginning and his father at the end. Even Finn, who should have been murdered by that lightsaber, actually survives. This Kylo is trying to minimize death. He can't avoid killing Lor San Tekka (or doesn't kill him and the old man survives somehow--Max Von Sidow made statements about us being surprised by his character, and yet there was nothing surprising in this movie). Kylo orders the destruction of the village, but there was likely no way to stop that, so why not give the order?
Note this Kylo uses his mind-rip, but he doesn't torture. He might think this is the more humane interrogation. He's willing to ruin the First Order's plans as long has he gets to Luke Skywalker first. He is visibly upset when Hux convinces Snoke to use Starkiller to destroy the Resistance (after destroying the Republic Senate in the Hosnian System.) He just wants to get into Rey's head. The script even says:
"Kylo Ren is stunned by the moment -- that isn't what he meant at all --"
Why would he not care about the destruction of the senate, but he reacts to the destruction of the Resistance? Because the Republic means nothing to him, but he and the Resistance have the same goal.
Then that moment on the bridge. Our Kylo has fallen a long way, but he hasn't gone this far. Still, if he could kill his father, that would prove Snoke can trust him, once and for all. So he talks to Han on the bridge. He even asks his permission to kill him. Look at Han's face when he does it. Han is happy. This could be because he's been freed of all burdens and just spending his last moments with his son, or it could be that he's seen the good in his son, somehow in the last moment, and he's found peace.
Han's reaction doesn't quite feel right to me yet. I don't quite have it. There's something there I'm missing, I'm sure of it.
But the rest works. Kylo doesn't kill Finn because he doesn't want to kill Finn. He's beaten by Rey not just because he got gutshot by a gun that kills stormtroopers five feet from its point of impact, but because he doesn't want to hurt Rey at all. He burns Finn with that lightsaber, but when he has Rey in the same clinch, he doesn't really seem to try. Heck, he leads her right to the force and then lets her close her eyes and meditate so she can marshal her focus. Not the act of a guy who's trying to kill someone. It's the act of a guy who's trying to lead someone to a realization.
All in all, this is the version of Kylo that seems the most likely to me. The man with a mission who's allowed his obsession to warp his view of right and wrong. A man who's willing to let attrocities happen for the greater good. A man who cares about a little girl he saved long ago, but is just too twisted to relate to her in a healthy way. A man who kills his own father in an attempt to do something he thinks his mother and grandfather would want him to do. It's broken, and it only barely makes sense, and it's filled with emotion and contradiction and self delusion, and that's what makes it feel real to me.
Or maybe I'm just overthinking things for the sake of a blog post.
Whatever the truth, I can't wait to find out.