From Kylo Ren to Ben Solo: A Journey of Redemption in the Star Wars Saga

09 October 2023

The Star Wars sequel trilogy, consisting of "The Force Awakens," "The Last Jedi," and "The Rise of Skywalker," serves as both a continuation and a reimagining of the epic space opera saga that has captivated audiences for decades. One of the most compelling aspects of these films is the character of Ben Solo, also known as Kylo Ren. As the conflicted villain-turned-hero, Ben Solo's journey is a complex tapestry woven from threads of legacy, choice, and redemption.

This discussion aims to provide an in-depth analysis of Ben Solo's redemption arc, examining how it resonates with the classic themes of Star Wars. Particularly, we will explore how this arc parallels, contrasts, and is influenced by the redemption arc of his grandfather, Anakin Skywalker, also known as Darth Vader.

By the end of this discussion, we aim to offer a nuanced understanding of Ben Solo's own redemption arc, its alignment and divergence from classic Star Wars themes, and its intricate relationship with the redemption of Anakin Skywalker.

kylo ren redemption arc

Background Context of Ben and Anakin

Ben Solo, born to Leia Organa and Han Solo, comes from a lineage steeped in the Force. His mother, Leia, is the daughter of Anakin Skywalker, making Ben the grandson of the infamous Darth Vader. Trained by his uncle, Jedi Master Luke Skywalker, Ben showed immense promise but also a troubling affinity for the dark side of the Force.

Fall to the Dark Side and Transformation into Kylo Ren

Ben's fall is a complex interplay of internal and external factors. Feeling the weight of his legacy and the expectations that come with it, he becomes susceptible to the dark side, caught somehow under the influence of Snoke. His transformation into Kylo Ren is catalyzed by a moment of betrayal: Luke Skywalker's brief consideration of killing him to prevent the rise of another Sith Lord. This act shatters Ben's trust and pushes him further into the dark side, eventually leading him to become Kylo Ren, a leader of the First Order. In The Last Jedi film, this is done by way of the Rashomon technique of storytelling in which both sides of the story are shared.

Brief History of Anakin Skywalker

Anakin Skywalker, a slave on the desert planet of Tatooine, is discovered by Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn, who believes Anakin to be the Chosen One prophesized to bring balance to the Force. Anakin's training under Obi-Wan Kenobi reveals his exceptional skills but also his emotional vulnerabilities.

Transformation into Darth Vader

Anakin's fall to the dark side is precipitated by a mix of personal insecurities, fear of loss, and the manipulations of Emperor Palpatine. His transformation into Darth Vader is complete when he succumbs to Palpatine's temptations, believing that the dark side offers him the power to save his loved pregnant wife Padme, the former queen of Naboo. He becomes a Sith Lord and a key enforcer of the Galactic Empire, starting with his efforts in securing Order 66 against the Jedi.

Importance of Anakin's Redemption Arc in the Original Trilogy

Anakin's redemption comes at the hands of his son, Luke Skywalker, who believes that there is still good in him. In a final act of sacrifice, Anakin kills Emperor Palpatine to save Luke, thus fulfilling his destiny as the Chosen One and redeeming himself.

With this background context, we have a foundational understanding of who Ben Solo and Anakin Skywalker are, and the complex factors that contribute to their falls and subsequent redemptions. This sets the stage for us to delve into the classic themes of Star Wars and how these characters' arcs interact with those themes.

star wars redemption themes

Classic Themes of Star Wars

The Battle Between Good and Evil

Ben Solo's Arc: The struggle between the light and dark sides of the Force is a central theme in Star Wars, and Ben Solo's character embodies this struggle in a deeply personal way. As Kylo Ren, he tries to extinguish the light within him, but it remains a constant pull, especially when he interacts with Rey. His internal battle reflects the larger cosmic struggle between good and evil, making his eventual choice for redemption a pivotal moment in this ongoing battle.

The Importance of Family and Lineage

Ben Solo's Arc: Family is a recurring motif in Star Wars, and Ben Solo's lineage is fraught with both privilege and burden. Being the son of Leia Organa and Han Solo, and the grandson of Anakin Skywalker, places immense expectations on him. His family ties are both his strength and his weakness, influencing his fall and eventual redemption. His mother Leia's final act to reach out to him through the Force (in The last Jedi) is a testament to the power of familial love and its role in his redemption.

Redemption and the Possibility of Change

Redemption is a cornerstone of the Star Wars saga, most notably exemplified by Anakin Skywalker. Ben Solo's arc is a modern reiteration of this theme. Despite his actions as Kylo Ren, he is given the space to change and make amends, most notably through his interactions with Rey and the sacrifices of Leia and Han. His redemption is not just a personal journey but also a reaffirmation of the Star Wars theme that change is possible for anyone.

The Force as a Moral and Spiritual Compass

The Force is more than just a source of power in Star Wars; it's a moral and spiritual compass. Ben Solo's fluctuating alignment with the Force mirrors his internal moral struggle. His eventual return to the light side is not merely a plot point but a spiritual awakening, echoing the series' theme of the Force as a guide toward the path of righteousness.

The Fall and Rise of Ben Solo

The Fall

Ben Solo's emotional vulnerabilities are a significant factor in his fall. He feels isolated and misunderstood, emotions that are exacerbated by the weight of his lineage. His struggle with identity makes him susceptible to external influences, notably Supreme Leader Snoke (your theories still suck, dear reader), who manipulates these vulnerabilities to draw him to the dark side.

The role of Supreme Leader Snoke cannot be overstated. Snoke preys on Ben's insecurities and feelings of inadequacy, offering him a sense of purpose and power as Kylo Ren. This relationship is a dark mirror to the mentor-student relationship he once had with Luke, highlighting how influential figures can shape one's path for better or worse.

The Rise of Ben Solo

Several key moments hint at Ben Solo's potential for redemption. His hesitance to kill his mother, Leia, in "The Last Jedi" and his conflicted feelings during his interactions with Rey are early indicators. However, it's his in The Rise of Skywalker where his conversations with the memory of his father, Han Solo, and his mother's final act of reaching out to him through the Force that serve as the true catalysts for his change.

Catalysts for Change

  • Rey's Influence: Rey serves as a mirror to Ben Solo, reflecting both his darkness and his potential for good. Their Force connection allows them to understand and challenge each other in ways that others cannot. Rey's belief in his capacity for good plays a crucial role in his redemption.
  • Leia's Sacrifice: Leia Organa's final act is to reach out to her son through the Force, expending her remaining energy to bring him back to the light. This maternal act is a powerful catalyst, reminding him of his true self and the love that still exists for him.
  • Confrontation with Han Solo's Memory: The memory of his father Han Solo serves as a moment of reckoning for Ben. It's a revisitation of his past sins and a chance for closure. His decision to throw away Kylo Ren's lightsaber symbolizes his rejection of the dark path he had been walking.

Comparative Analysis: Ben Solo and Anakin Skywalker

The weight of legacy is a significant factor in Ben Solo's journey. He grapples with the expectations that come with being the grandson of Darth Vader and the son of legendary figures like Leia Organa and Han Solo. This pressure contributes to his emotional vulnerabilities and his susceptibility to the dark side.
Anakin, too, feels the weight of expectation, albeit in a different form. He is believed to be the Chosen One, prophesized to bring balance to the Force. This expectation places a burden on him, making his fall all the more tragic.

Emotional turmoil is a constant in Ben Solo's life. His struggle with identity and belonging makes him susceptible to the allure of the dark side, which promises power and a sense of purpose.

Anakin's Arc: Anakin's emotional vulnerabilities, particularly his fear of loss and feelings of powerlessness, make him an easy target for Emperor Palpatine's manipulations. Like Ben Solo, he is drawn to the dark side as a means to gain control over his life.

The Role of Agency: Was Redemption a Choice or a Destiny?

  • Ben Solo's redemption feels like a choice, a conscious decision to turn away from the dark side. His agency in this transformation is emphasized, particularly in his interactions with Rey and his decision to reject Kylo Ren's identity.

  • Anakin's redemption, on the other hand, is tied to the prophecy of the Chosen One. While he does make the choice to save Luke, his redemption also feels like a fulfillment of destiny, adding a layer of complexity to his agency in the matter.

The Impact of Their Actions Post-Redemption

  • Ben Solo's redemption leads to immediate action; he heals Rey and helps defeat Emperor Palpatine. However, his life is cut short, limiting the impact of his redemption on the broader galaxy, other than Palpatine is finally stopped.

  • Anakin's redemption has far-reaching consequences. By killing Emperor Palpatine, he not only saves his son but also brings down the Galactic Empire, fulfilling his destiny as the Chosen One and impacting the galaxy on a larger scale.

The Force as a Guiding Factor

The Force is not merely a mystical energy field in the Star Wars universe; it serves as a moral and spiritual compass that guides characters in their journeys. For both Ben Solo and Anakin Skywalker, the Force is a constant presence that reflects their internal struggles and moral choices.

Ben Solo's fluctuating alignment with the Force is emblematic of his internal moral dilemma. His eventual return to the light side is not just a plot development but a spiritual awakening, a reconnection with the Force's guiding principles of balance and harmony.

This mirrors Anakin Skywalker's own journey, where his fall to the dark side represents a spiritual disconnection, and his redemption is a return to spiritual equilibrium. Anakin's final act of destroying Emperor Palpatine is as much a moral choice as it is a fulfillment of the Force's prophetic balance.

The Love Story Between Rey and Ben Solo

The relationship between Rey and Ben Solo is a multifaceted one, fraught with tension, conflict, and ultimately, a deep emotional and spiritual connection. It's a relationship that evolves over the course of the trilogy, serving as both a mirror and a catalyst for each character's development.

From their first encounter, it's evident that Rey and Ben share a unique bond. Their Force connection allows them to peer into each other's souls, offering glimpses of vulnerability, fear, and the potential for good in Ben. This connection is not just physical but deeply emotional and spiritual, tying into the Star Wars theme of the Force as a binding energy field.

Their relationship is a constant push and pull, reflecting the broader conflict between the light and dark sides of the Force. Rey is both repelled by and attracted to Ben Solo. She sees the conflict within him and believes in his potential for good, even when he is fully immersed in his Kylo Ren persona. This duality adds tension to their interactions, making their relationship one of the most compelling aspects of the trilogy.

Rey serves as a significant catalyst for Ben Solo's redemption. Her belief in him challenges his self-perception as irredeemable. The pivotal moment in their relationship comes in "The Rise of Skywalker," when Rey heals Ben after their duel. This act of compassion and love is transformative, triggering a moment of introspection that leads him to confront the memory of his father, Han Solo, and ultimately discard the Kylo Ren identity.

Something, something, Force diad...

The culmination of their love story is both tragic and redemptive. After Ben Solo's return to the light side, he and Rey face Emperor Palpatine together. Ben's final act is to revive Rey at the cost of his own life, a sacrifice that symbolizes his complete redemption. Their shared kiss before his death is a poignant moment, sealing their love story as one that is deeply tied to themes of redemption, sacrifice, and the enduring struggle between light and dark.

ben solo ray kiss rise skywalker

All I know is people, in the theatre watching The Rise of Skywalker where I was, laughed at this moment.


The redemption arc of Ben Solo in the Star Wars sequel trilogy is a complex and nuanced journey that resonates deeply with the saga's enduring themes. From his initial fall to the dark side as Kylo Ren to his ultimate redemption and sacrifice, Ben Solo's character arc serves as a modern reiteration of the timeless struggle between light and dark, good and evil. His journey is enriched by his relationships, most notably the emotional and spiritual bond he shares with Rey, which serves as both a mirror and a catalyst for his transformation.

Moreover, Ben Solo's arc gains additional depth when viewed in parallel with the redemption journey of his grandfather, Anakin Skywalker. Both characters grapple with the weight of legacy, the allure of the dark side, and the possibility of redemption. However, they also diverge in meaningful ways, particularly in the agency they exhibit in their paths to redemption and the impact of their actions post-redemption.

The Force, as a moral and spiritual compass, plays a pivotal role in guiding both characters back to the light, making their redemptions not just personal triumphs but also cosmic restorations of balance and harmony.

In sum, Ben Solo's redemption arc is a compelling narrative that encapsulates the essence of Star Wars' most enduring themes. It serves as both a tribute to and an evolution of the saga's rich lore, offering new insights into the complexities of redemption, the transformative power of relationships, and the eternal battle between light and dark.


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About the author Jimmy Jangles

My name is Jimmy Jangles, the founder of The Astromech. I have always been fascinated by the world of science fiction, especially the Star Wars universe, and I created this website to share my love for it with fellow fans.

At The Astromech, you can expect to find a variety of articles, reviews, and analysis related to science fiction, including books, movies, TV, and games.
From exploring the latest news and theories to discussing the classics, I aim to provide entertaining and informative content for all fans of the genre.

Whether you are a die-hard Star Trek fan or simply curious about the world of science fiction, The Astromech has something for everyone. So, sit back, relax, and join me on this journey through the stars!
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