CAVEAT: Major spoilers abound at every turn.
IF EPISODE VII of the Star Wars saga points toward anything about the episodes to follow, it is that Kylo Ren is becoming the new Darth Vader.
Which is good news, because the new “Force Awakens” baddie has certain sublime qualities that make him an ideal fit to help drive perhaps an entire new trilogy of Star Wars films. In black mask and robes that read like sartorial tribute to Grandpa Darth, Kylo Ren (as played by Adam Driver) is strong with the Force — but also hot with the temper, with an expressively tortured face worthy of Hamlet.
So if you predicted that Kylo Ren was being presented as a Darth Vader 2.0 — with his altered voice, and eyes hidden behind black lenses (not to mention that he launches into soliloquy with a charred-out old Darth mask — alas, poor Vader), then congrats: You were on the money. Not only is Kylo Ren poised to be the big bad guy at the center of this next-gen wave of Star Wars movies, but it also turns out that Han is his father. It doesn’t get much more Vader than that.
Han Solo himself has one of the best lines in “Force Awakens,” in fact, when he tells his ex, General (Leia) Organa, that Kylo Ren “has too much Vader in him.”
So yes, Han and Leia conceived this petulant next villain. But once you absorb this mind-blowing reveal, it really does make all the sense in the galaxy, doesn’t it? Of course it’s the guy who looked a beautiful princess in the eye — after she told him that she loved him — and said, “I know.” Of course it’s a guy whom many consider to be the epitome of old-school Star Wars cool, who sires a new character with swagger (though we must remember that the Force abilities obviously come from Mama Organa’s side of the family).
Like Darth Vader, Kylo Ren is a villain who has a certain flair. But can he keep his cool? And will he still have rogue supporters after his actions in Episode VII?
And well, Isn’t part of the reason Darth Vader is fascinating so many years later because we know he redeemed himself? We can forgive the world destroyer and Force choker because he let the light back in. His son was going to die and he just couldn’t let it happen. In his last moment, he came out of the shadows of the Dark Side.
Kylo Ren has a light inside him, too. He struggles to suppress it, and extinguish it. And what he did to make the darkness take over — well, maybe it’s something we can’t forgive.
When Han Solo sneaks up toward Kylo Ren, then shouts out to him (“Ben”!), refusing to call him by his Vader-inspired name, he is trying to reach out to the manboy behind the mask. And as much as you didn’t want to accept it in the moment, you likely knew then that the legendary Han was a goner.
Ah, “Ben.” So he’s named after Obi-Wan, the Jedi Knight who trained Vader. But Kylo Ren crosses a line that even Darth Vader himself couldn’t bring himself to. Kylo took down blood.
When Leia nearly faints at the same moment that Kylo makes his killing strike against the man she loved, she felt it, and we felt it, too. Vader made amends. But how do you amend this? And how the heck are we supposed to watch the original Star Wars trilogy now without getting (even more) emotional.
Kylo Ren felt that killing his father was the way to put out his own light. But can we can ever redeem himself if he realizes the error of his ways?
Kylo’s unmasked face — his every twitch and brow furrow — reflects a man deeply conflicted. Kylo Ren has given us arguably the most heartbreaking Star Wars moment . Now, as he continues his training, he looms as a Shakespearean adversary for the future of Star Wars on film.