- "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."
- ―Kylo Ren, to the mask of Darth Vader
Kylo Ren, a human male, was a Force warrior and a former Jedi trainee under his uncle, Jedi Master Luke Skywalker, before Ren destroyed Skywalker's attempt to restore the Jedi Order and became an apprentice of Supreme Leader Snoke of the First Order. Given the name Ben Solo, he was born in 5 ABY, one year after the Battle of Endor, on the planet Chandrila to Princess Leia Organa and General Han Solo, whose busy lives left Ben with feelings of abandonment. This was exploited by the Supreme Leader, who tempted him to the dark side of the Force. Though Organa hoped training with Skywalker would help her son, he was seduced to the dark side, destroyed his fellow Jedi students, and became one of the Knights of Ren, earning the moniker of "Jedi Killer" amongst the First Order ranks. He idolized his grandfather, the fallen Sith Lord Darth Vader, and hoped to finish what Vader started: the elimination of the Jedi. As a member of the First Order, Ren represented its mystical side and was able to command the First Order's armies, leading to a tense competition between Ren and First Order officers, such as General Armitage Hux.
After Ren's fall, Skywalker vanished into exile to search for the first Jedi Temple. Years later, the First Order recovered part of a map to Ahch-To, where the temple was found, in the archives of the Galactic Empire. They learned that Lor San Tekka, a member of the Church of the Force on the planet Jakku, had the rest of the map fragment, so Ren commanded the First Order forces in search of the map. The map fell into the hands of the Resistance, as Organa, the leader of the small military opposition to the First Order, hoped to find her twin brother and bring him back into the fight against the dark side. Ren hunted the map across the galaxy and eventually learned that it and the droid who carried it, BB-8, had come into Solo's possession. He tracked them to Takodana, where Ren discovered Rey, a Force-sensitive who had seen the map and was helping BB-8. Ren brought Rey to Starkiller Base, a First Order-controlled planet with a built-in superweapon, and attempted to probe her mind for the map's information, but she resisted and eventually managed to escape. Shortly after, the Resistance attacked Starkiller Base in the hopes of destroying it, and Ren encountered Solo once again. After a brief confrontation, he killed his father, hoping to eliminate the light that Ren struggled with inside himself. Ren then pursued Rey and the fugitive stormtrooper Finn into a forest as the battle raged on above. He engaged both in a lightsaber duel, besting Finn before being beaten and injured by Rey. As Starkiller Base began to implode from the attack, the Supreme Leader ordered General Hux to bring Ren before him so his training could be completed.
- "I know where you come from. Before you called yourself Kylo Ren."
- ―Lor San Tekka, to Kylo Ren
Ben Solo, the man who would become Kylo Ren, was born a year after the Battle of Endor, in which his parents, Princess Leia Organa and General Han Solo, led the Alliance to Restore the Republic in a decisive victory over the Galactic Empire. Their victory resulted in the deaths of the Emperor, Darth Sidious, and Organa's biological father, the Sith Lord Darth Vader. Ben Solo's namesake was that of the late Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, who went by the name of Ben Kenobi while in exile on Tatooine after the fall of the Jedi Order. In his youth, Ben's parents had active lives in their respective professions. Han Solo, a smuggler before joining the Rebellion, was unable to stay in one place for long. Organa, meanwhile, became a respected senator in the New Republic, the government that arose after the Battle of Endor and that had served the Empire a final defeat during the Battle of Jakku around the time of Ben's birth. Organa and Solo's natures clashed, and their busy lives left Ben with feelings of abandonment.
Ben proved to be Force-sensitive, taking after his mother, as well as his grandfather. Growing up, Ben was unaware of his true lineage—that he was the grandson of Darth Vader. Only his parents and Organa's twin brother, Jedi Master Luke Skywalker, knew the truth of Anakin Skywalker's past. Organa decided to keep the truth from Ben but planned on telling him when he was older, though by the age of twenty-three he still did not know his grandfather's real identity. She nonetheless hoped that she could tell her son the truth, and that Skywalker could explain that, in the end, Vader was redeemed and that the light inside of Anakin Skywalker had returned. By the same age, Ben had begun training with Skywalker as one of the students in his uncle's new generation of Jedi, which the Jedi Master was training in the hopes of restoring the Jedi Order. Organa recognized similarities between Ben and Darth Vader and hoped that Skywalker's training could help her son.
Twenty-four years after the Battle of Endor, the Inner Rim planet of Birren, settled by explorers from Alderaan and Arkanis, suffered the death of its ruling monarch, Lord Mellowyn. His closest living relative was Senator Organa, but she was not interested in its governorship—nor did she believe that Ben would be interested in succeeding her one day. The title passed to Lady Carise Sindian. Shortly thereafter, the truth about Organa's parentage was revealed by her political enemies, including Lady Sindian, in the Galactic Senate. Organa had yet to tell her son about Darth Vader, and she worried about how he would react after finding out about it in such a public way.
Against his feelings of abandonment, Ben was eventually targeted by a powerful individual named Snoke, who recognized the inherent Force potential within Ben Solo, as Ben was a member of the powerful Skywalker family through his mother. Snoke, the Supreme Leader of the First Order that arose from the ashes of the Imperial remnants that had retreated into the Unknown Regions at the end of the Galactic Civil War, saw Ben as a focal point between the light side and the dark side of the Force—an ideal embodiment of a Force warrior—and wanted to take him as an apprentice of his own.
Fall to the dark side
- "There was nothing we could've done. There was too much Vader in him."
"That's why I wanted him to train with Luke. I just never should have sent him away. That's when I lost him. That's when I lost you both."
- ―Han Solo and Leia Organa
Ben ultimately betrayed his uncle and embraced the dark side of the Force. He destroyed everything that Skywalker tried to build, leaving his Jedi Temple in ashes. Ben Solo took on the name Kylo Ren, becoming an apprentice of Supreme Leader Snoke and a member of the Knights of Ren. He was trained by the Supreme Leader, and that training helped make Ben nothing more than a distant memory in the life of Kylo Ren. In time, he was the most gifted apprentice of the Supreme Leader and the embodiment of a new generation of dark side warriors that emerged to fill the void left by the fall of the Sith.
Ren's betrayal sent shockwaves through his family. With his Jedi destroyed, Skywalker vanished into exile. Those closest to him believed that he went in search of the first Jedi Temple, which he eventually discovered on the planet Ahch-To. Organa and Solo separated, with Solo returning to smuggling with his best friend and first mate, the Wookiee warrior Chewbacca. Organa returned to a life of war, forming a band of soldiers known as the Resistance when the New Republic Senate refused to take the emerging threat of the First Order seriously. Though Solo believed there was too much of Darth Vader in Ben and that they lost their son forever, Organa never gave up hope that there was still good in him.
By decree of the Supreme Leader, Ren's true name could never be spoken. Ren sought to put his past behind him, become immune to the temptations of the light, and claim his birthright by ruling the weaker beings of the galaxy. He typically wore a helmet, patterned after the battle gear of the Knights of Ren, in order to conceal his identity and create an intimidating demeanor. Ren's actions as a Jedi earned him the nickname "Jedi Killer," a name whispered amongst the First Order ranks who knew Ren had prevented the return of the Jedi Order.
Ren's desire to put the light side behind him was a key part of how he viewed his heritage. He came to idolize Darth Vader and kept his grandfather's burned helmet as a shrine to the legacy of the Dark Lord of the Sith, hoping to destroy the last Jedi as Vader once intended to do. Though Skywalker had redeemed Vader during the Battle of Endor, Ren and Snoke both believed that Darth Vader was Anakin's true self and that his redemption was simply a single yet fatal error in an otherwise important life.
At some point, Ren built his own custom lightsaber. The crude design was an ancient one, dating back thousands of years to a battle between the Jedi and Sith on the planet Malachor. It was built with a cracked kyber crystal, one that could barely contain the weapon's power. As a result of the broken crystal, the lightsaber required vents on either side to divert the excess heat, necessitating its crossguard design. It also gave the red blade an unstable and fiery appearance.
As an apprentice to Supreme Leader Snoke, Ren became an influential member of the First Order's power structure. Though he had direct access to the Supreme Leader and could command military officers, he existed outside of the official military command structure. This led to some tension with the First Order's upper ranks, who contended with him despite being wary that his agenda trumped military objectives. This arrangement deliberately mirrored Darth Vader's in the Galactic Empire, who existed outside of the formal military hierarchy but could nonetheless command the Imperial Military in his own objectives. This tension was particularly palpable with General Armitage Hux, the commander of Starkiller Base, the First Order superweapon capable of destroying entire star systems. Ren, who was part of an unofficial Starkiller Base command triumvirate with Hux and Captain Phasma of the First Order military, had little regard for Hux as a warrior; Hux's military experience was mostly theoretical and based on simulated but nonetheless respected battlefield scenarios. Hux, likewise, was a man of science and had little understanding of Ren's mystical ways. Both vied for the attention of the Supreme Leader.
The search for Skywalker
Raid on Jakku
- "The map to Skywalker. We know you've found it, and now you're going to give it to the First Order."
"The First Order rose from the dark side. You did not."
"I'll show you the dark side."
"You may try, but you cannot deny the truth that is your family."
"You're so right."
- ―Kylo Ren and Lor San Tekka, moments before the latter's death
Both Ren and the Supreme Leader understood that if Skywalker and the Jedi were to ever return, they would be a grave threat to the future of the First Order. The First Order learned that Skywalker had gone in search of the first Jedi Temple, the location of which had been lost. A partial map was recovered from the archives of the Galactic Empire, but it was missing a key piece of the puzzle. The First Order soon discovered that the missing map fragment was in the possession of Lor San Tekka, a member of the Church of the Force on Jakku who believed that the return of the Jedi was essential for bringing balance to the Force. Ren, who knew Tekka from childhood as the explorer was once an old ally of Organa and Skywalker, brought the Resurgent-class Battlecruiser Finalizer to Jakku, where its military forces attacked the village of Tuanul where Tekka lived.
Once the First Order stormtroopers, under the command of Captain Phasma, rounded up the denizens of the village, Ren arrived on the battlefield and confronted Tekka. Ren, whose true identity was known to the old explorer, demanded that Tekka give the map to the First Order. Tekka refused to submit to the will of the dark side and reminded the one-time Jedi that Ren could not deny the truth of his heritage, at which point Ren struck him down with his lightsaber. Moments later, he was shot at from afar by Commander Poe Dameron, a starfighter pilot in the Resistance who was sent to Jakku by General Organa to find the map before the First Order. Ren used the Force to stop the blaster bolt midair, and Dameron was soon brought before him. The dark warrior realized that Tekka gave the map to Dameron and ordered that the troopers bring the pilot onto Ren's command shuttle, before giving the order to kill the rest of the villagers. One stormtrooper, FN-2187, hesitated and ultimately chose not to fire on the civilians, an act that Ren noticed as he boarded his shuttle.
- "The droid we seek is aboard the Millennium Falcon. In the hands of your father, Han Solo."
"He means nothing to me."
"Even you, master of the Knights of Ren, have never faced such a test."
"By the grace of your training, I will not be seduced."
"We shall see. We shall see."
- ―Kylo Ren and Supreme Leader Snoke
Unknown to Ren at the time was that Dameron had hidden the map fragment in his droid, BB-8, who escaped Tuanul as the First Order attack began. Dameron was brought aboard the Finalizer for interrogation, where he was placed into an interrogation chair. The device, used by the dark warrior to extract information from his prisoners, was based on similar devices once used by the Inquisitors of the Galactic Empire. First Order interrogators were unable to break Dameron, but they did learn that he was the best pilot in the Resistance, a feat that Ren noted once he began interrogating the pilot personally. Though the dark knight was impressed that Dameron had not yet been broken, Ren began to use the Force to mentally extract the information from Dameron's mind. The pilot, who resisted the Force attack, finally was forced to reveal that he had hidden the map inside his BB unit and that the droid was likely still on Jakku. Ren informed General Hux of the new development and left the recovery of the droid in the hands of the military.
Dameron was left under the guard of several stormtroopers. FN-2187, who planned to defect from the First Order after coming to believe that they were a force for evil, tricked the guards into handing Dameron over to him, under the pretense that Ren wanted the prisoner brought to him. 2187 and Dameron escaped aboard a TIE fighter, which blasted its way out of the Finalizer's hangar. Ren arrived on the bridge and was told that a stormtrooper helped Dameron escape, and he realized that it was FN-2187 after remembering how the conflicted soldier had hesitated in Tuanul. The TIE fighter was eventually shot down after a brief skirmish, and it crash-landed on Jakku.
The First Order recognized that Dameron and FN-2187 were looking for the droid, so Hux ordered a squadron to be sent to Jakku to recover it first. Hux soon spoke to the Supreme Leader, who ordered them to capture the droid if they could but destroy it if they must. Ren questioned the capability of Hux's soldiers and training methods, wondering aloud whether the Supreme Leader would be better off using an army of clones as the Galactic Republic and the early Empire had once done. Hux told him that they were more than capable, and warned Ren not to let his personal mission to find Skywalker interfere with the Supreme Leader's orders.
Later that day, FN-2187—who was given the name Finn by Dameron while escaping from the Finalizer—continued Dameron's mission on his own after incorrectly believing that Dameron died in the crash. He found BB-8 in the possession of Rey, a scavenger in the junkyards of Jakku, and the three were pursued by the First Order. They stole a ship—the Millennium Falcon, which once belonged to Han Solo before it was stolen from him—and were able to destroy the TIE fighters that pursued them. The Finalizer crew learned that the ship escaped, and Lieutenant Dopheld Mitaka informed Ren that the droid escaped with the help of FN-2187. Enraged, Ren ignited his lightsaber and destroyed the computer terminal he was standing before. Once the dark warrior calmed down, Mitaka told him that FN-2187 had help from a girl. Ren used the Force to drag Mitaka towards him, grabbed him by the neck, and demanded to know who the girl was.
With BB-8 gone, the Finalizer made its way to Starkiller Base. Once there, Ren and Hux spoke to Supreme Leader Snoke, who communicated to his subordinates via an enlarged hologram. Snoke remained concerned that Skywalker's return would be a threat to the First Order, so Hux proposed that they finally use the weapon as intended and destroy the New Republic. Without the Republic, Hux knew that the Resistance would be vulnerable and could be stopped before they found Skywalker. The Supreme Leader gave the general his permission and Hux left to oversee preparations, while Ren remained behind. Both Snoke and Ren could sense that the Force was awakening from dormancy once again, and the Supreme Leader told his apprentice that BB-8 was in the hands of Han Solo; the old smuggler found the Millennium Falcon with Rey and Finn aboard and agreed to help return the droid to the Resistance. Ren claimed Solo meant nothing to him and that he would not be seduced by the light as his grandfather once was, but the Supreme Leader warned that this would be Ren's greatest test.
Though Ren claimed he would not be seduced, he nonetheless felt the pull of the light side. In his personal quarters aboard the Finalizer, Ren spoke to the helmet of Darth Vader, searching for guidance and hoping that the legacy of the Dark Lord could remind him of the power of the dark side. He swore that if Vader could somehow show him that dark power, then Ren would finish what Vader started and destroy the last of the Jedi.
Capture of Rey
- "You still want to kill me."
"That happens when you're being hunted by a creature in a mask."
- ―Kylo Ren and Rey
The First Order soon learned that Solo, Rey, Finn, and BB-8 had landed on Takodana and were in the castle of the ancient pirate Maz Kanata, who Solo hoped would help deliver the droid to the Resistance. Before the First Order departed, General Hux unleashed the Starkiller weapon against the Republic. After giving a speech to his forces about the end of a regime that he believed could not contain galactic chaos, Hux ordered that the weapon be fired. Ren watched from the bridge of the Finalizer as the weapon's phantom energy left the surface of Starkiller Base and made their way to the Republic's capital of Hosnian Prime, where they destroyed the entire Hosnian system.
With the Republic severely damaged, Ren led his forces to Takodana, where the stormtroopers attacked Kanata's castle. Solo, Finn, and BB-8 were briefly captured by the First Order before Dameron and the Resistance Starfighter Corps arrived to recover the droid, while Rey and BB-8 tried to escape through the forest. The two split up, as Rey led stormtroopers away from the droid. Ren soon arrived on the battlefield and found Rey in the woods. She fired at him with her blaster, but he followed her and deflected the shots with his lightsaber. Finally, Ren froze her in place with a telekinetic attack. Once he realized that Rey had seen the map, he believed he no longer needed BB-8 and instead placed Rey in an unconscious state and brought her to his command shuttle. He ordered the First Order to retreat, as they had what they came for, and their forces left Takodana. BB-8 ultimately made it out of the forests and into the hands of the Resistance.
Ren brought Rey to Starkiller Base, restraining her in an interrogation chair. When she awoke, she asked where her friends were, and Ren told her he had no idea. He sensed she still wanted to kill him, and Rey said it was because she was being hunted by a creature in a mask. The dark warrior removed his mask to show his human face and asked about the droid, but Rey only gave him BB-8's technical specifications. Ren told her that he knew about the map and that the First Order had recovered the rest of it from the archives of the Empire. Knowing she was resilient, Ren warned her that he could take whatever he wanted from her mind. He touched her face and began probing her mind with the Force. At first, he felt loneliness and fear, and then he could see an ocean and an island. Then he sensed Han Solo. Ren could tell that Rey looked at the smuggler as a father figure, but he said that Solo would have only disappointed her. Finally, Rey began to become more strongly resistant to his mental attacks. She soon turned the mental probing around on him, using the Force within herself to see that Ren himself was afraid—afraid that he would never be as strong as Darth Vader was.
Snoke's new strategy
- "If what you say about this girl is true, bring her to me."
Stunned by the reversal, Ren left Rey behind in the interrogation chamber and spoke to the Supreme Leader, who reacted with incredulity that a mere scavenger resisted him. Ren told Snoke that Rey was strong with the Force, stronger than she even knew. The Supreme Leader asked what happened to the droid, and General Hux, who had just entered the chamber, told Snoke that Ren believed he only needed Rey and allowed the droid to escape. Concerned that the Resistance might have the full map to Skywalker, Snoke ordered Hux to unleash the Starkiller weapon against the Resistance base on the planet D'Qar. Ren swore that he could still find the map in Rey’s mind as long as he had his master’s guidance, so the Supreme Leader ordered Rey to be brought to him. When Ren returned to the chamber where Rey was being held, she was nowhere to be found—she used her emerging Force abilities to escape. Enraged, Ren ignited his lightsaber and destroyed the chamber.
Han Solo's last stand
- "Your son is gone. He was weak and foolish, like his father. So I destroyed him."
"That's what Snoke wants you to believe but it's not true. My son is alive."
"No. The Supreme Leader is wise."
- ―Kylo Ren and Han Solo
Ren commanded the First Order troops to be on alert for Rey as she began making her way through the base, as he knew that the longer she was able to tap into her powers while escaping, the more powerful she would become. During the search for Rey, Commander Dameron and Resistance Starfighter Corps arrived at the Starkiller and assaulted its thermal oscillator, hoping to destroy it and set off a chain reaction that would cause the planet to implode before the weapon could destroy D'Qar. Also on the base were Solo, Chewbacca, and Finn, who had arrived before the Starfighter Corps in order to find Rey and lower the shields. Ren, who entered the oscillator himself, sensed that his father was near and ordered his troops to find Solo and the other intruders.
Solo, who was reunited with Organa on D'Qar and promised to try to bring their son home after he had spotted Ren on Takodana, saw the dark warrior in the oscillator and called to him using his birth name. Ren said he had been waiting for this day for a long time, and Solo told him to remove the mask so he could see the face of his son once more. Ren removed the mask but told Solo that he had destroyed Ben, who Ren thought was weak and foolish like his father was. Solo refused to believe that; he said his son was alive and that Snoke was simply using Ren for his power, but Ren did not believe it. Solo pleaded with Ren to come home, saying that he and Organa missed having their boy with them. Ren, conflicted by the pull towards the light, told Solo that he wanted to be free of the pain that he was feeling. He knew what he had to do to end the pain, but he did not know if he had the strength to do it. So he asked for his father's help, and Solo agreed, not knowing that it was the light that Ren felt conflicted by. Ren, who was being watched from afar by Chewbacca, Rey, and Finn, took out his lightsaber and Solo grabbed hold of it. As the Starkiller finished draining the star it orbited to power the weapon, and the light on the planet died out, Ren ignited his lightsaber and impaled his own father through the chest. A mortally wounded Han Solo touched his son's face one last time before falling to his death in the bowels of the oscillator.
Enraged by the loss of his best friend, Chewbacca fired a powerful shot from his Wookiee bowcaster and hit Ren in the side, seriously injuring the dark knight. The Wookiee killed several other stormtroopers in the area as Rey and Finn, who were high above in the oscillator, began firing into the area as well. Chewbacca ignited charges that he and Solo set throughout the oscillator, causing a massive explosion that breached the oscillator and gave Dameron and the remaining Resistance pilots an opportunity to destroy it. As Ren composed himself from his injury, he made eye contact with Finn and resolved to find the former stormtrooper and Rey before they could escape.
Duel in the forest
- "We're not done yet."
"You're a monster!"
"It's just us now. Han Solo can't save you."
- ―Kylo Ren and Rey
Ren followed Rey and Finn into the forests outside of the oscillator, as they made their way back to the nearby Millennium Falcon. He confronted them, lightsaber drawn, and said that they still had unfinished business that Han Solo could not save them from. Rey tried to attack him with her blaster, but he used the Force to throw her into a tree and knock her unconscious. Left alone to confront the dark warrior, Finn ignited the lightsaber that had been given to him for safekeeping by Maz Kanata—a lightsaber that once belonged to Luke Skywalker, and to Anakin before him. Ren demanded that Finn give him the lightsaber, saying it belonged to him, but instead Finn engaged him in a lightsaber duel. It was a short but brutal contest, in which Ren kept striking his bowcaster injury in order to fuel his anger and power. In the end, Finn, who nonetheless landed one blow on Ren's arm, was no match for Ren's power. Ren overwhelmed and disarmed the former stormtrooper, ending the fight with a lightsaber blow across Finn's back that left the one-time stormtrooper comatose.
With the duel seemingly over, Ren turned his attention towards his grandfather's lightsaber and attempted to use the Force to draw it into his hand. Instead, it flew past him and landed in the hands of Rey, who used the Force to call it to her—as it was her destiny to wield the lightsaber of Anakin Skywalker. Rey ignited the weapon and engaged Ren in a tense duel. At first, Ren had the upper hand, remaining on the offensive as he pressed his attack against the retreating scavenger. Their blades became locked, and Ren told the emerging Force-sensitive that she needed a teacher. It was he, Ren said, who could show her the ways of the Force. Remembering that Kanata had not long ago told her to allow the light to guide her actions, Rey realized she could call upon the powers of the Force and began using that to her advantage. She turned the tide of the fight and pushed her own offensive against the dark warrior, who she was finally able to disarm. In doing so, she slashed her blade across his face, knocking him down and disfiguring him in the process.
Before they could engage any further, the surface of the planet began to break apart—the Resistance was victorious, and the destruction of the oscillator triggered the Starkiller's implosion. Ren and Rey were separated by a deep chasm, so Rey left the dark warrior behind, recovered Finn, and fled the planet with Chewbacca aboard the Millennium Falcon. As the planet continued to collapse, Snoke ordered General Hux to find Ren and bring the young knight before the Supreme Leader so Ren's training could be completed. Hux and several troopers tracked Ren's signal and took him aboard a shuttle, leaving before the planet exploded. Soon after the planet's destruction, the Resistance pieced together the full map and Rey found the exiled Skywalker on Ahch-To, bringing with her the old lightsaber as a symbol of the only hope the galaxy had left, the very thing that Ren had hoped to prevent: the return of the Jedi.
Personality and traits
- "I'm being torn apart. I want to be free of this pain. And I know what I have to do, but I don't know if I have the strength to do it."
- ―Kylo Ren to Han Solo
Kylo Ren was the embodiment of conflict. The dark warrior, whose blood flowed with the legacy of some of the most powerful Jedi and Sith in galactic history, represented a focal point between the dark side and the light, a balance that made him a target of Supreme Leader Snoke so Ren's powers could be used to further the ambitions of the First Order. His fall to the dark side suppressed the boy who had once been named Ben Solo, a name that the Supreme Leader decreed could never be spoken in the First Order. Ren himself strived to bury his past, though the painful experiences and emotions from his youth were nonetheless something he could channel in order to further his own power. He ultimately hoped to build an immunity to the light, and to succeed where Darth Vader failed.
Like Vader before him, Ren believed it was his destiny to rule over the weaker beings of the galaxy. He idolized his grandfather, but only the dark parts of Darth Vader—not the light of Anakin Skywalker. To Ren and the Supreme Leader, it was not poor strategy or arrogance that brought about the fall of the Galactic Empire. It was the sentimentality Vader held for his son, Luke Skywalker, which led to Vader's redemption—a foolish error in judgment and a momentary lapse in an otherwise great life. Ren believed that if Vader had not succumbed to the light, the Empire would have prevailed. Ren kept a shrine to Darth Vader in his personal chambers aboard the Finalizer, with the charred remains of the Sith Lord's helmet that had been recovered from his funeral pyre on Endor, as both a monument to the dark side's powers and its weakness. He also kept a table of ashes made from the remains of his enemies.
Though Ren feared the light and knew he had to avoid Vader's sentimentality, the Supreme Leader nonetheless encouraged him to use the heritage of both the light and the dark, which only furthered Ren's inner conflict. He studied both the skills of the Jedi and arcane dark side lore, contradictory teachings that gave him his power through discord. These teachings made the often-angry dark warrior, one whose great temper was honed to be a weapon of the First Order, the archetype of a new kind of dark side user that filled the void left behind when the Sith were destroyed during the Battle of Endor. This temper would sometimes result in destructive tantrums, such as the destruction of computer terminals as well as his interrogation chamber after receiving bad news.
Ren was a male human, but he often kept his face covered with a mask modeled off of the battle gear of the Knights of Ren. His mask projected and amplified his voice in a deeper way, and his robes were a remnant of his training with the Supreme Leader and became singed from many battles. These elements combined to make Ren an intimidating presence as he boldly stepped onto the battlefield, where he sometimes arrived after victory was secured. Yet, he had no fear of battle. He boldly strode into battle, confident in his powers and his purpose.
Powers and abilities
- "You… you're afraid… that you will never be as strong as… Darth Vader!"
- ―Rey sees Kylo Ren's thoughts
Kylo Ren was tasked with destroying any remaining remnants of the Jedi, including his own uncle, Luke Skywalker, whose attempt to restore the Jedi Order was thwarted when Ren betrayed him and the other Jedi students. Ren wanted to be as powerful as Darth Vader, who began the elimination of the Jedi at the end of the Clone Wars, but was afraid he would not be as strong as the Sith Lord once was. Though not yet at the heights of his grandfather's power, Ren's abilities still gave him powerful abilities with the Force and in combat. The dark side that flowed through him made him a nearly-unstoppable force, and he was a powerful user of telekinetic attacks and defenses. He was capable of holding a blaster bolt midair for several seconds, and he could telepathically invade the minds of his prisoners and psychologically torture them into revealing withheld information. His telekinesis was proficient enough that Kylo was known to use telekinetic halts in combat.
Ren, who pulled from the teachings of the light and the dark to hone his power, was skilled in lightsaber combat. His destruction of Skywalker's new generation of Jedi earned him the nickname of "Jedi Killer" amongst the First Order ranks, and his skills with a lightsaber were what ultimately prevented the art of lightsaber combat from returning to prominence as he eliminated the remnants of the Jedi. His own skills at constructing a lightsaber were limited, however; the design and crude components of his unstable weapon reflected a lack of experience at constructing the ancient weapon. Although severely injured from a blast by Chewbacca's bowcaster, Ren displayed a prowess in an acrobatic and offensive form of lightsaber combat in his duel against Finn, a former stormtrooper. Despite his skill with a lightsaber, he was ultimately defeated by Rey, whose own life as a scavenger on Jakku was spent honing her survival skills, and who was able to embrace the light side during her confrontation with the injured dark knight.
Behind the scenes
Creation and development
- "I've written four Star Wars movies now, and there's never been a character quite like the one that Adam [Driver] plays. I think you're going to see something that's brand new to the saga… He's full of emotion. No matter how we express ourselves in the world, whether we hide it and act very calm or whether we're very out there and demonstrative, everybody's roiling with emotion. And you want your characters to be that way, too. Then they have to deal with their emotions as best they can, with what they are."
- ―The Force Awakens co-writer Lawrence Kasdan, on Kylo Ren
On October 30, 2012, The Walt Disney Company purchased Lucasfilm from George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars, and announced that they would be making the long-awaited Star Wars sequel trilogy, beginning with Star Wars: Episode VII in 2015. In the months prior, as Lucasfilm co-chair (and eventual president) Kathleen Kennedy began the work to produce the new slate of films, it became clear to the creative team that the story could not just rely on characters from the previous films but would have to introduce new characters to carry the franchise forward.
Kylo Ren was initially conceived as the "Jedi Killer," a name that was used throughout the film's pre-production before director and co-writer J.J. Abrams and his team settled on a name for the character. The character's design went through a number of iterations before the final design was approved on March 11, 2014. One design made him look similar to Darth Vader. According to concept artist Christian Alzmann, the idea behind the similarity was that Darth Vader, as a Lord of the Sith, was not a "one off" look. Instead, "he has a specific title and a specific look that goes with that title. Even though the mask was helping him breathe, there was still a certain look to it". Concept artist Glyn Dillon, who designed the final look of the character, said that the design of the Jedi Killer was like "trying to land a helicopter on a penny. We couldn't be too Vader-ish, but we couldn't reference something else too heavily, either".
Additional design concepts showed the Jedi Killer as someone who ate matter from stars. He would be in a meditation chamber, where energies from a sun could come into the room and he would consume whatever power was within it. Another piece of art showed him with a more robotic look, holding the mask of Darth Vader; at one point, the mask of Darth Vader was a central element to the film, before becoming part of the shrine that Kylo Ren had in the final story. One rejected piece of concept art showed the Jedi Killer with a red and black mask with a circular pattern in the center. This design later inspired the appearance of the Guavian security soldiers, the cybernetically enhanced security soldiers of the Guavian Death Gang.
Other designs the crew worked on included a fortress for the Jedi Killer. Concept artist Doug Chiang took "iconic shapes that we know from Star Wars" but put "different material on them—in this case turning them into concrete instead of that slick painted metal". The crew also considered giving the Jedi Killer his own droid, such as a torture droid or something else that looked ominous. The idea of the Jedi Killer having an interrogation droid ultimately made it into the film, with Kylo Ren using interrogation droids and other torture techniques to break his prisoners.
The final design was meant to be memorable, much like Darth Vader's mask—upon which Ren's look was intentionally based. Costumer designer Michael Kaplan said that Abrams wanted the look to be memorable for kids, and that Abrams loved the final design when it was presented. In developing the character, original screenwriter Michael Arndt, whose screenwriting duties were taken over by Abrams and co-writer Lawrence Kasdan when Arndt departed the project, the character's backstory came about because the writers needed a rationale for the heroes of the original trilogy to have separated after the events of Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi. Abrams wanted Episode VII, which came to be named The Force Awakens, to tap into parental fears of a child gone wrong through Kylo Ren. He also wanted the film to tell the story of someone who was still becoming a villain, saying that the only reason why Ren had "any hope of being a worthy successor" to the iconic Darth Vader was because he kills Han Solo. "There's nothing I could think of that is more hideous than patricide", Abrams said, "especially when it comes to Han Solo".
The truth of Ren's parentage was initially written to be revealed earlier in the film, when Ren speaks to Darth Vader's helmet. Ren calling Vader his grandfather would have been the reveal, and the scene was written to take place shortly after Finn and Dameron escaped from the Finalizer. Ren would have blamed himself for not having done anything about Finn's change of heart regarding the First Order, and he would have sought the counsel of his grandfather for guidance. Eventually, the film's editors, Mary Jo Markey and Maryann Brandon, felt that the revelation came too early and it was a waste of a good moment. Instead of its original placement, they moved the scene later in the film to foreshadow Han Solo's death.
Kylo Ren shares some similarities with Jacen Solo, the son of Leia Organa Solo and Han Solo in the non-canon Star Wars Legends storyline. Jacen, the twin brother of Jaina Solo Fel, was a Jedi Knight who ultimately turned to the dark side of the Force and became the Sith Lord Darth Caedus. It was Jacen's hope to lead the Galactic Alliance in bringing order to the galaxy after the horrors of the Yuuzhan Vong War. He killed his aunt, Mara Jade Skywalker, and committed atrocities across the galaxy before he was finally killed by his sister. Ren also has a name similar to that of Kybo Ren, a space pirate from the Legends animated series Star Wars: Droids: The Adventures of R2-D2 and C-3PO.
Casting and portrayal
- "When they think of their actions as morally justified, it makes them dangerous and unpredictable. There's no level they won't go to to accomplish what they're after. I never thought of the character as an evil person."
- ―Adam Driver on Kylo Ren
Kylo Ren was portrayed by Adam Driver in The Force Awakens, a role he is reprising in the 2017 sequel Star Wars: Episode VIII The Last Jedi. Driver did not need to audition for the role, however, and instead had a meet and greet with Abrams where the director wanted to get a look at the actor. Just as Abrams had to consider whether or not to cast Driver, the actor had to decide whether he wanted to take the part at all. Abrams described Driver has having a "wonderful ferocity that was perfect for this character".
Driver does not see Ren as a villain, a stance he took in order to get into the head of the character and portray him as well as possible. Rather, Driver sees him as a religious fanatic who sees his actions as morally justified. This makes Ren more dangerous and unpredictable for the actor, as there is no level that Ren will not go to in order to accomplish his objectives. Getting into Ren's head was one part of Driver's method acting approach. On set, Driver would often stay in character, keeping his helmet on to do so. Co-star John Boyega, who plays Finn, recalled that acting with Driver was intense because Driver wanted to forget he was in Star Wars and take the role as seriously as any other role he had ever played. The process of getting into Ren's costume provided an extra motivation for the actor; Driver said that by the time he was in the costume and ready to shoot, the "cumbersome and difficult" process left him feeling "so pissed by the time we were ready to start shooting that I felt totally ready".
In previous roles, Driver did not watch his performance because he preferred to not see himself on screen. He comes from a theater background, where actors never saw their own performances, and always hated noticing mistakes that he could not correct. He made an exception for The Force Awakens, however, and watched the film in a private screening with just his co-stars Daisy Ridley and Carrie Fisher, who play Rey and Leia Organa, respectively. He felt comfortable sitting through the film and watching it with them because of how much time and effort he and his co-stars put into the film.
For the film's soundtrack, composer John Williams wrote a theme for Kylo Ren that first appears in the track "Main Title and The Attack on the Jakku Village". It is reprised throughout the film, including in "Kylo Ren Arrives at the Battle". In composing the theme, Williams approached it as an extension of Darth Vader and "The Imperial March", without it being too similar. He wanted the theme to convey Ren's great and evil power and strength, as well as the threat he posed. These elements came together to create a theme that could be instantly accessible to the audience.
In popular culture
- "Hi. I'm Matt. I'm a radar technician."
- ―Kylo Ren as "Matt" in Saturday Night Live's "Undercover Boss: Starkiller Base" sketch
Kylo Ren was well-received by critics upon the release of The Force Awakens. Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian called him "gorgeously cruel, spiteful, and capricious", remarking positively on his "petulant temper tantrums" that set him apart from Darth Vader. Terri Schwartz of IGN praised Driver's performance and said that it "adds great depth to a character who could have come off as one-dimensional". Comparing him favorably to Darth Vader, Melissa Leon of The Daily Beast said that Ren was a "living battleground between darkness and light", which made "him a far more resonant and familiar portrayal of that struggle than we've ever seen in Star Wars", making him an interesting villain. While Kyle Buchanan of Vulture.com said he was underwhelmed by Ren's true appearance under the mask, Peter Travers of Rolling Stone said that, despite the "bald-faced attempt" to draw similarities to Darth Vader, "Driver, masked and unmasked, gives [Ren] hypnotic and haunting contours". Leon also praised the fact that beneath the intimidating mask of Kylo Ren was nothing more than "a normal, vulnerable young man" with a mind "clouded by fear, hate, and anger". Driver is nominated for a Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in The Force Awakens.
On January 17, 2016, Driver hosted the popular sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live and filmed a sketch called "Undercover Boss: Starkiller Base". Parodying the show Undercover Boss, Kylo Ren disguises himself as a radar technician named Matt and mingles with the crew of Starkiller Base to learn more about what it is like to work on the base. Throughout the sketch, in which he becomes friends with a Lieutenant Colonel named Zack (Taran Killam), whose son he killed months earlier, Ren displays his fiery temper on numerous occasions, particularly when crew members criticized Ren without knowing who they were speaking to. In the end, Ren says that he feels he understands the crew of Starkiller Base better and that he is ready to show everyone a brand new Kylo Ren—as Zack's lifeless body sits in the background.
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