Then the climactic moment: Kylo ignites the lightsaber, sending the blade right through his father’s chest. Kylo Ren killed Han Solo. One of the most iconic characters of the past 40 years in pop culture, the role that made Ford’s career, was dead. And just in case there was a part of you hoping that this wasn’t the fatal end for Han, he reaches out to touch his son’s face one last time before falling off that bridge toward the core of a planet that’s about to blow up.
Has any Star Wars villain done anything as evil before? Yes, both the Empire and First Order blew up entire planets. Earlier in the movie, Stormtroopers massacre a village of innocent people. But those were largely nameless, faceless characters to us. This was Han Solo. And his son killed him, impaling him right through the chest. OK, Darth Vader killed Obi-Wan Kenobi, but Obi-Wan wasn’t Anakin’s father. And you could certainly argue that Anakin was motivated by revenge, having been maimed and left for dead on the molten lava world of Mustafar. What compelled Kylo Ren to murder his father, other than the desire to fully embrace evil and live up to the legacy of Vader?
Many will point out that Kylo can’t be that fearsome of a villain since he was subsequently bested in a lightsaber duel by the neophyte Rey. But he was gravely injured, taking a laser shot to the torso from Chewbacca and bleeding all over the snow around him. In addition, Kylo was also carrying the psychological burden of having just killed his father. Presumably, that fully pushed him over to the Dark Side.
But what if that decision didn’t have its desired effect? What if Ben Solo was consumed by guilt following his father’s death and was questioning his purpose? What if the clarity he sought from that decision didn’t come? It’s possible the dude was distracted. Meanwhile, we have no idea just how powerful Rey is and maybe Kylo unlocked something when he was poking around in her mind with the Force. She found her purpose while Kylo was doubting his. That’s a losing combination for a bad guy.
The Force Awakens left us with plenty of questions to be answered in subsequent episodes of the Star Wars saga. But Kylo Ren’s storyline is implicitly tied to this story’s resolution. Is redemption still possible for this character, as it was for Darth Vader at the end of Return of the Jedi? Or does he have to answer for his actions?
There can’t possibly be a happy ending for the man who killed Han Solo, is there? Even if we’re talking about Han Solo and Princess Leia’s son? That’s also assuming that Kylo wants redemption or a happy ending. Maybe guilt over killing his father and turning to the Dark Side will be his ultimate downfall. Or perhaps he’ll just find himself on the business end of a blue or green lightsaber wielded by Rey or Luke Skywalker.
Darth Vader became a legendary villain in the original Star Wars trilogy. The three prequels were entirely devoted to his origin story. George Lucas and the Star Wars fanbase was fascinated by the path that took him to the black suit of armor that had to keep him alive. Nearly 40 years later, Vader is shorthand for darkness and evil. But Kylo Ren is set up to be a far more fascinating character, one that could end up even more compelling. Abrams and co-writer Lawrence Kasdan laid the foundation. It’s up to Driver and Episode VIII director and writer Rian Johnson to help Kylo fulfill his destiny as Star Wars‘ greatest villain.