- "Let the past die. Kill it, if you have to. It's the only way to become what you were meant to be."
- ―Kylo Ren, to Rey
Kylo Ren, a Force-sensitive human male, was the master of the Knights of Ren and Supreme Leader of the First Order. He was born as Ben Solo 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. As a scion of the Skywalker bloodline on his mother's side, Solo inherited his family's raw strength in the Force which ultimately attracted the attention of Supreme Leader Snoke. At Organa's request, Solo was sent away to be trained as a Jedi by his uncle, Jedi Master Luke Skywalker. However, Solo's inner turmoil was exploited by Snoke, who sought to turn the young Jedi hopeful to the dark side of the Force. Everything changed for Solo when he awoke to see Skywalker with his lightsaber drawn. Believing his master intended to murder him in his sleep, Solo slaughtered his fellow Jedi students and became Snoke's apprentice as well as a Knight of Ren, and was given the moniker of "Jedi Killer" among the First Order ranks. Ren idolized his grandfather, the fallen Sith Lord Darth Vader, and hoped to finish what Vader started: the elimination of the Jedi. As a leading member of the First Order, he represented its mystical side and had authority to command its armies, leading to tense competition between Ren and First Order officers, particularly General Armitage Hux.
After Ren's fall, Skywalker vanished into exile to search for the first Jedi Temple. Ren commanded First Order forces in search of a critical fragment of a map leading to Skywalker, tracing it to Lor San Tekka on Jakku in 34 ABY. While Ren arrived too late to secure the map, he interrogated Poe Dameron and learned that the map and the droid who carried it, BB-8, had come into Han Solo's possession. He tracked them to Takodana, where Ren discovered Rey assisting BB-8. Ren brought her to Starkiller Base and attempted to probe her mind for the map's information, but she resisted and escaped. While pursuing Rey, Ren encountered Solo during the Resistance attack on Starkiller Base. 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 and engaged both in a lightsaber duel, besting Finn before being defeated and wounded by Rey.
In the aftermath of Starkiller Base's destruction, Ren was summoned to Snoke's flagship, the Supremacy, where the Supreme Leader berated him for his recent failures. Doubting that Ren would live up to the legacy of his grandfather, Snoke sidelined his apprentice during the First Order's pursuit of the Resistance fleet. At the same time, Ren and Rey discovered that they possessed a powerful Force-bond with each other. As a result, they were able to see, hear and even touch across the light-years. The bond grew stronger over time, allowing Rey to gain new insights into Ren's conflicted nature as well as his pain and misery. She ultimately set out to confront Ren in the hope that he would join her against Snoke. Ren killed his master, who ordered him to execute Rey, but instead of turning to the light as Rey had hoped, the former apprentice intended to succeed Snoke. He invited Rey to join him, insisting that they could rule together as leaders of a new galactic order, but she rejected his offer and fled to rejoin the Resistance.
Resolving to rule the galaxy alone, Supreme Leader Kylo Ren ordered General Hux to deploy the First Order's forces to Crait in order to end the war by annihilating the remnants of the Resistance. During the battle, Ren confronted Luke Skywalker in single combat. However, Skywalker was not physically present, having projected himself from Ahch-To, and Ren was unable to defeat him. The duel bought time for the Resistance survivors to escape and Skywalker vanished, denying Ren his victory over both the Jedi and the Resistance.
- "I know where you come from. Before you called yourself Kylo Ren."
- ―Lor San Tekka, to Kylo Ren
The voice of Kylo Ren was heard by the Jedi Ezra Bridger, who visited the world between worlds—a mystical plane that existed between time and space—in 1 BBY, several years before Ren's birth. He was born as Ben Solo in Hanna City, Chandrila on the day that the Galactic Concordance was signed between the New Republic and the Galactic Empire, formally ending the Galactic Civil War. This day was roughly one 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 Empire. Their victory resulted in the deaths of the Emperor, Darth Sidious, and Organa's biological father, the Sith Lord Darth Vader.
While he was still in his mother's womb, Organa could feel him through the Force. She likened him to a living band of light that sometimes dimmed and was sometimes thrust through with a vein of darkness. Following his birth, there were contradictory rumors that Ben's birth took three days. Another tale claimed that it was a fast and painless birth. There were also rumors that Ben was born with a shock of black hair and a full set of teeth. Though Han lacked the same Force bond that Organa had with her son, he comforted himself with the fact that he had a fatherly bond with Ben. As a toddler, Ben enjoyed playing with the gold dice that belonged to his father and would often follow him around.
The namesake of Ben's first name 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. Ben's surname, that of his father, was originally coined by chief recruitment officer Drawd Munbrin in 13 BBY on Corellia for Han. As an infant, Ben had difficulty falling asleep. His father would hold him close in an effort to help Ben sleep. He also introduced his son to a children's holoshow cartoon called Moray and Faz. One night, two years after the fall of the Empire, Chancellor Mon Mothma contacted the Solo house in an attempt to speak with Organa. The household droid, T-2LC, informed Han and activated a holo-projection of the chancellor. In doing so, the droid awoke both father and son, much to the former's annoyance as it had been the first time Ben had slept in days, or so it seemed to Han. The disturbance caused Ben to wake up crying, to which his father responded sympathetically by holding his son close to his chest. After a few moments, Ben drifted back to sleep, his chin resting on his father's shoulder.
In his youth, Ben's parents had active lives in their respective professions. Han, a smuggler before joining the Rebellion, was unable to stay in one place for long. Ben, who aspired to become a pilot like his father since childhood, inherited amazing piloting skills from him. 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.
- "I've seen this raw strength only once before, with Ben Solo. It didn't scare me enough then. It does now."
- ―Luke Skywalker, to Rey
Ben proved to be Force-sensitive, taking after his mother, as well as his uncle and 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 to tell 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.
In his late teens, Ben was eventually targeted by a powerful individual named 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—who recognized the inherent Force potential within Ben Solo, as Ben was a member of the powerful Skywalker family through his mother, and used Ben's feelings of abandonment as a tool to seduce him. It was through Ben that Snoke also targeted Skywalker in a calculated effort to break him by destroying the Jedi Order, which he indirectly convinced Skywalker to restore. Snoke 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.
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, who 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.
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
Skywalker eventually became aware of the darkness which threatened his nephew's soul. He felt a dark movement in the Force, which eventually brought him to his nephew's bedroom one evening. Standing over his sleeping student, Skywalker reached out and sensed an evil, corrupting influence within Ben. The immediacy and severity of the threat caused the Jedi Master to instinctively draw his lightsaber, intending even for a brief moment to kill his apprentice. Although Skywalker's fear naturally faded away, Ben awoke, panicked, and drew his own saber at the sight of the attempt on his life. Believing Skywalker had failed him, Ben met the blade in a quick parry and, through an impressive display of the Force, pulled the entirety of the building onto his former master.
With Skywalker incapacitated, Ben proceeded to destroy everything that Skywalker had created, massacring the remaining students and leaving the Jedi Temple in ashes. The fledgling dark warrior then departed the planet with a select group of his fellow students, believing the old Jedi Master dead. He took on the name Kylo Ren, becoming an apprentice of Supreme Leader Snoke and master 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. Unbeknownst to Ren, Skywalker survived the tragedy, but he was forever changed upon witnessing the corpses of his Jedi apprentices.
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 combat helmet, patterned after the battle gear of the Knights of Ren, in order to conceal his identity and give him a more intimidating presence. This helmet also contained a vocal modifier, which lowered the pitch of Ren's voice considerably. 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 had once intended. 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 had simply been a single yet fatal error in an otherwise important life. Interestingly, Ren had either been contacted at some point by Anakin or believed that he had, as he once beseeched of Vader's helmet to "show [him] again, the power of the darkness."
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.
- "Kylo Ren himself has taken an interest in your missteps."
"Ah, yes, very intimidating. I met Vader once, Phasma. Now there was a terrifying magical strongman for you."
- ―Terex expresses a gross contempt for Ren
Ren took an interest in Agent Terex and his missteps after Terex failed to report to First Order following his failure to obtain information from Grakkus the Hutt that was crucial to the First Order's war efforts. Phasma reported to Terex about Ren's interests in him, Terex disregarded the threat adding that he had once met Darth Vader and that he was actually a terrifying magical strongman compared to Ren.
The search for Skywalker
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 people who were closest to Skywalker believed he 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 Star Destroyer Finalizer in his search for the map.
Mission to Pillio
- "Tell me where Lor San Tekka took the map."
"…Bayora. He took it to Bayora."
- ―Kylo Ren and Del Meeko
During his search, Ren received information from an old Imperial contact, Gleb, that her forces had captured an acquaintance of Skywalker’s, Del Meeko on the planet Pillio where the two originally met. In seeking information regarding the map to Skywalker, Ren tortured Meeko until the latter revealed Bayora as its location. Upon getting the information he needed, Ren left Meeko at the mercy of First Order officer Gideon Hask, who soon executed him.
- "General Hux… I know where we must go…and I know this is the key. We are so close."
- ―Kylo Ren
Later, Ren, Hux and two First Order admirals gathered in a conference room aboard the Finalizer over the planet GUHL-JO387O. They were discussing travel to a planet in the Western Reaches. While in the conference, the creature that FN-2187 was chasing turned off the lights, interrupting the conference. After the conference, Ren told Phasma to take a squad of trainees to investigate the planet for any Resistance activity.
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
Ren’s search later brought him to Jakku, where its military attacked the village of Tuanul, where Tekka lived. Once the First Order stormtroopers, under the command of Phasma, rounded up the denizens of the village, Ren arrived on the battlefield and confronted Tekka. Ren, whose former 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 while sarcastically agreeing with him.
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... stole a freighter?"
- ―Kylo Ren, to Dopheld Mitaka
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, BB-8, who 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.
Shortly after leaving Dameron under the guard of several stormtroopers, Ren arrived on the Finalizer's bridge upon hearing that the Resistance pilot escaped aboard a TIE fighter. Hux confirmed this with the additional information of Dameron having had help from someone within the First Order's ranks. Ren realized that it could only have been FN-2187 after remembering how the conflicted soldier had hesitated in Tuanul, and he said as much to Hux. 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, a nervous Lieutenant Dopheld Mitaka informed Ren that the astromech droid escaped aboard a YT-1300 light freighter. At first, Ren found it unlikely for a single droid to be capable of stealing a ship, but allowed Mitaka to continue. Further intelligence suggested the probability of FN-2187 abetting the droid's evacuation from Jakku. Enraged that the traitor had robbed him of the means to find Skywalker, Ren ignited his lightsaber and destroyed the computer terminal in front of him. The dark warrior calmed down, asking if there was "anything else." Mitaka replied that FN-2187 and the droid 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.
Return of the past
- "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
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 his ship, the Millennium Falcon, with Rey and FN-2187 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, not while he had Snoke's training. Even so, 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, the girl, FN-2187, 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, FN-2187, and BB-8 were briefly captured by the First Order before Dameron and the Resistance Starfighter Corps arrived to recover the droid, while the girl and BB-8 tried to escape through the forest. The two split up, as the girl led stormtroopers away from the droid. Ren soon arrived on the battlefield and found the girl 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.
He peered into the girl's mind, learning of her life as a scavenger in the junkyards of Jakku. Going further, he saw that Rey had seen the map. The First Order wouldn't be needing BB-8, he believed, and so he placed the girl in an unconscious state with the Force and carried 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 the girl 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 the girl 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 the girl 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 got a hold of the her name: Rey. Next, he could feel loneliness and fear within her, followed by the sight of 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, having used her emerging Force abilities to escape. Enraged, Ren ignited his lightsaber and destroyed the chamber, causing two passing stormtroopers to quickly back away.
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. A trooper reported sensor readings in Hangar 718, which meant Rey could be there. But investigations turned up nothing. Nonetheless, Ren wanted every hangar on lockdown to prevent Rey from commandeering a ship. Right in the middle of that order, he was interrupted by a familiar presence: Han Solo. His father was on Starkiller Base.
Ren ordered for a search of the Millennium Falcon, for the ship had shortly been sighted at the edge of a cliff. By the time he arrived on the scene, everything checked clear and not a single hidden trap could be found. He boarded the Falcon and sat on the pilot's seat, looking for anything that may lead him to Solo's whereabouts. Just then, he spotted Resistance X-wings flying past and assaulting the 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. Ren rushed to the oscillator, commanding his troops to find the intruders. He knew Solo had to be nearby, as well as the fact that he did not come alone.
As Ren advanced on the walkway, he stopped upon hearing the voice of his father, calling out to him from behind, using his birth name. He turned about face and said he had been waiting for this eventuality. 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. Ren, while neither denying nor confirming what Solo said about Snoke to be true, stated that it was too late for him. 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 FN-2187, 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 father through the torso. A mortally wounded Han Solo touched his son's face one last time before falling to his death in the bowels of the oscillator.
The act of killing his father had an unsettling effect on Ren. Rather than make him stronger in the dark side, as he had thought, it had weakened his spirit. He was rendered unbalanced. The shock had been so profound, he did not register the anguished cry of a Wookiee above him.
Enraged by the loss of his best friend, Chewbacca fired a powerful shot from his Wookiee bowcaster and hit Ren in the left side, seriously injuring the dark knight. The Wookiee killed several other stormtroopers in the area as Rey and FN-2187, 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 FN-2187 and Rey. Anger swelling with anger, he was resolved to find them 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 FN-2187 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. Now it was just Ren and the traitor who had earned his ire.
FN-2187 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 FN-2187 give him the lightsaber, claiming it belonged to him, but instead FN-2187 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, FN-2187, who nonetheless landed one blow on Ren's right shoulder, was no match for Ren's power. Ren overwhelmed and disarmed the former stormtrooper, ending the fight with a punch and a lightsaber blow across FN-2187'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 FN-2187, 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.
Facing his failure
- "Alas, you're no Vader. You're just a child in a mask."
- ―Snoke, to Kylo Ren
Following the Resistance's evacuation of the base on D'Qar, Ren was summoned to Supreme Leader Snoke's throne room, located in the Mega-class Star Dreadnought Supremacy. Kneeling before his master, Ren listened as Snoke loudly recalled the raw, untamed power that Ren possessed, abilities which had originally brought him to the dark sider's attention. Knowing the potential of the powerful Skywalker bloodline, Snoke revealed his belief that Ren could fulfill his grandfather's dark legacy. But in light of his apprentice's defeat at the hands of an untrained scavenger, who had never before wielded a lightsaber, Snoke retracted his faith in Ren's power and chastised him, calling him weak and sentimental.
Enraged, Ren rose to meet his master, but Snoke quickly suppressed the attack with a surge of lightning. As long as Luke Skywalker lived, Snoke seethed—as long as the Jedi remained—so did hope across the galaxy. Ren would never be able to destroy it because he was a mere child hiding in a mask; nothing like the feared Darth Vader. Leaving the throne room, Ren smashed his helmet against the surrounding metal. He then ordered his ship to be readied, resuming his quest to eradicate the Resistance.
A new purpose
Chasing the Resistance
As Hux had anticipated through new tracking technology, the First Order armada emerged out of hyperspace to find the Resistance fleet unprepared and defenseless. The warship Supremacy led the charge, its powerful turbolasers showering the fleet with unyielding blasts. To complement the barrage, the Supremacy scrambled its short-distance fighters, with Ren spearheading the assault in his personal TIE Silencer. Covered by three wingmen, until the third pilot was quickly destroyed, the dark apprentice intercepted the Resistance's MC85 Star Cruiser Raddus, capital ship of the fleet. Before the rebel pilots could launch a counterattack, however, Ren destroyed the Raddus hangar, leaving them unable to resist Ren's fighter wing.
With the Resistance flagship crippled, Ren turned his fighter to face the bridge of the craft, readying his rockets. At this moment he sensed his mother's presence aboard the Raddus, and Ren, hesitating, held his thumb over the trigger in a moment of intense doubt. After a moment, he surrendered to his second thoughts and abandoned the trigger control. His wingmen, however, had no such qualms—ever loyal to the First Order, they launched their rockets in Ren's place and destroyed the bridge. The detonation killed Admiral Ackbar and other acclaimed figures of the Resistance hierarchy, but Ren's mother survived, though barely, using the Force. Following this last offensive, Hux ordered the fighters back to the Supremacy, as the Resistance fleet had pulled out of the Supremacy's protective radius in the intervening time.
An unexpected connection
- "I've never felt so alone."
"You're not alone."
"Neither are you. It isn't too late…"
- ―Rey and Kylo Ren
As the First Order's pursuit of the Resistance fleet, Ren was being treated for the injury he had taken to his face, a medical droid removing the microsutures that had been attached to it, when he sensed a disturbance. Before he new it, a vision of Rey appeared before him. Taken aback by surprise, Ren could only watch as Rey reached for her blaster and shot him. However, no shot injured him. he realized that they weren't actually in the same location and that Rey had not projected her appearance to him as the effort would also kill her in the process. At first, the aspiring Jedi regarded their connection as an inconvenience, one which she hid from Luke Skywalker out of fear of losing his trust. Ren, on the other hand, was intrigued by his bond with the former scavenger and sought to better understand it.
The bond between Ren and Rey was unprecedented in its strength and raw power. It also had an effect on Ren's churning emotions and as it grew stronger in the Force, Rey started gaining new insights into Ren who, to Rey's surprise, no longer tried to hide his feelings of pain and misery from her. It was because of the bond and her new understanding of Ren's pain that Rey came to suspect that their destinies were intertwined. At the same time, her failed efforts to discover the fate of her parents led Rey to seek out Ren through their bond, given their shared sense of solitude and loss. They comforted each other, insisting that neither was alone, and in that moment they touched hands—an act which caused Rey to see a vision of the Ren's future.
As a result of what she saw, Rey became convinced that her adversary could be turned from the dark side of the Force. She left Skywalker on Ahch-To and traveled to the Supremacy to see Ren, her actions guided by the belief that Ben Solo could be redeemed with her help. By touching hands, however, Ren experienced a vision of his own and thereby discerned the truth of Rey's father and mother: they were no one, merely a pair of junk traders who sold their daughter for drinking money before ultimately dying and being buried in a pauper's grave in the Jakku desert. This discovery convinced Ren that Rey would turn to the dark side and stand with him as they moved to confront his master together.
Betraying his former master
- "My worthy apprentice, son of darkness, heir apparent to Lord Vader. Where there was conflict I now sense resolve, where there was weakness, strength. Complete your training and fulfill your destiny."
- ―Snoke's final words to Kylo Ren
On the way to Snoke's throne room, Rey reminded Ren that there was still a chance to return to the light. Sure enough, as Snoke tortured her for Skywalker's whereabouts, Kylo killed his master by moving Rey's lightsaber with the Force to bisect him, tricking the Supreme Leader into believing he would strike Rey down. Snoke's Praetorian Guards immediately attacked Rey and Ren, who quickly fought them off. With the guards dead, Ren once again asked Rey to join him, revealing the truth about her parents in the process. As on Starkiller Base, however, Rey refused and attempted to pull her lightsaber from him using the Force, causing Kylo to pull the saber back towards himself. As the weapon floated between them in a stalemate, the saber split in half, and the resulting Force shockwave knocked both of them unconscious as the Raddus split the Supremacy in half with a suicide hyperspace jump.
Rey had escaped the damaged flagship and Ren was still unconscious by the time Hux reached the throne room. Hux sensed an opportunity to rid himself of his longtime rival, but Ren awoke before the general could unholster his sidearm. Realizing that Rey had awoken first, Ren wondered if she had spared his life because she cared about him—a move which he regarded as a sentimental, foolish decision that would lead to her destruction. He falsely told Hux that Rey had murdered Snoke and his guards before claiming his former master's mantle. Hux firmly refused to let Ren command his troops, prompting the Jedi killer to Force choke him into acknowledging Ren as Supreme Leader. With his supremacy assured, Ren ordered all forces to Crait to annihilate the remnants of the Resistance.
New Supreme Leader
Battle of Crait
- "Get all our forces down to that Resistance base. Let's finish this."
- ―Kylo Ren to General Armitage Hux
Looming overhead in his command shuttle, Ren oversaw the deployment of AT-ATs, AT-M6s, and AT-STs to the salty surface of Crait, gathered from what remained of the Supremacy. Marching forward, Ren positioned his troops opposite an abandoned rebel base which the Resistance had appropriated for its defense.
When the First Order discovered a massive shield door impeding their advance into the enclosure, Ren further deployed a superlaser siege cannon—a sort of battering ram using miniaturized Death Star technology—to his advantage. In response, the Resistance launched a number of old ski speeders, an ultimately futile attempt to stop the cannon. While the Resistance attempted to halt the First Order's progress, Chewbacca and Rey joined the fray in the Millennium Falcon, and Kylo furiously sent every TIE fighter present to destroy his father's old ship.
Confrontation with Luke Skywalker
- "I've failed you, Ben. I'm sorry."
"I'm sure you are! The Resistance is dead! The war is over, and when I kill you, I will have killed the last Jedi!"
"Amazing. Every word of what you just said was wrong. The rebellion is reborn today. The war is just beginning, and I will not be the last Jedi."
- ―Luke Skywalker and Kylo Ren
Shortly after the First Order breached the base, Luke Skywalker appeared and Ren, in a futile attempt to eliminate his uncle, ordered all of his forces to fire at him. After Skywalker shrugged off the attack virtually unharmed, Ren ordered his command shuttle to be set down and confronted Skywalker personally.
Kylo engaged his uncle in single combat, until he slashed through him with no effect. Confused, Ren pointed his lightsaber in Skywalker's direction and moved forward until the blade harmlessly passed through his uncle again, revealing that Skywalker was not actually present for the battle and that he had been projecting himself through the Force from Ahch-To.
Angered by the deception, Ren and his forces scoured the now-empty base, but finding only a projection of Han's golden hanging dice, all Ren could do was bow in defeat as they vanished from his hand. As the Resistance evacuated, Ren saw Rey once more as she boarded the Millennium Falcon; no words were said as she closed the door on him, although Ren sensed that Rey felt neither hatred or compassion for him.
Personality and traits
- "Yes. There it is. You have too much of your father's heart in you, young Solo."
"I killed Han Solo. When the moment came I didn't hesitate."
"And look at you. The deed split your spirit to the bone."
- ―Snoke and Kylo Ren
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.
Even prior to his descent, however, Solo nonetheless had deep-seated insecurities rooted from Han Solo and Leia Organa's neglect in raising him. He also believed that his parents thought he was disturbed, having overheard their conversations about him and his perceived lack of control over his innate Force abilities when he was still a child. Ultimately, he interpreted his mother's decision to send him away for Jedi training as her way of abandoning him.
As Kylo Ren, he strove 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. Although he intended to adhere fully to the dark side's teachings, he did ultimately have reservations to what he deemed to be unnecessary casualties, as evidenced by his speaking out against Hux's planned demonstration of the Starkiller Base's power at Hosnian Prime before being outvoted by Snoke. After the Battle of Starkiller Base, Ren reflected on his duel with Rey and how she regarded him as a "monster." By then, he too saw himself as a monster.
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.
Similar to his father, Han, Ren had a sarcastic sense of humor, which was especially evident during the attack on Tuanul, where he told Tekka that the latter was "so right" just before decapitating him, in reference to the old man's claim that Ren could not escape the truth about his heritage, as well as remarking in reply to Hux's claim about his troops capabilities that they were capable of treason in regards to FN-2187's defection and asking a captive Dameron if he was "comfortable."
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 sometimes resulted in destructive tantrums, such as the destruction of computer terminals as well as his interrogation chamber after receiving bad news, with the tantrums being common enough that any patrolling stormtroopers hearing one often avoided the area he was currently destroying. Another instance of his violent temper was demonstrated shortly after being reprimanded by Snoke for his failure in dealing with Rey and the Resistance. Scolded by his Master, who called Ren "a child in a mask," Ren proceeded to violently smash his helmet into the lift repeatedly, destroying the helmet and damaging the lift in the process.
Ren was a male human, but he often kept his face covered with a mask modeled on 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. As a child, Ben Solo's eyes appeared ancient to his father. From Han's perspective, it was as though his son had been waiting for a millennium just to be born.
Ultimately, due to his father informing Ren that Snoke would dispose of Ren after he was no longer of any use to the Supreme Leader, Ren ended up desiring to kill Snoke to ensure his own survival. Despite being told that killing Han Solo would have ensured that he remained in the dark side and cut him off from the light permanently, Ren ended up having the call to the light grow even greater. In addition, he ultimately decided to "let go" of the past and reach his full potential by completely destroying anything tied to his past.
Powers and abilities
- "The mighty Kylo Ren. When I found you, I saw what all masters live to see: raw, untamed power. And beyond that, something truly special—The potential of your bloodline. A new Vader."
- ―Snoke, to Kylo Ren
Kylo Ren was tasked with destroying any 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 notably used this to send Rey flying against a tree and to pull Dopheld Mitaka by the neck to his hand, as well as to hold him up with one hand while still pulling them with the Force. When defending himself from Luke the night his master came close to murdering him, Ren was able to telekinetically collapse an entire hut on Luke while keeping it from harming him and clashing blades with Luke at the same time. He was proficient enough to use telekinetic halts in combat, which notably allowed him to freeze the motion of a target, allowing him to immobilize and restrain people and even to hold a blaster bolt midair for over a minute. He was also able to manipulate the movements of living beings, which allowed him to force Rey to point her blaster at the floor as he simultaneously froze her in place.
Ren also excelled in interrogation, as he could telepathically invade the minds of his prisoners and psychologically torture them into revealing withheld information. His abilities also allowed him to render opponents unconscious without harming them, as he did to Rey on Takodana, causing her to fall asleep with a wave of his hand so he could capture her without resistance.
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.
Ren could also easily survive being severely injured from a long ranged blast by Chewbacca's bowcaster, the power of which was only enough to cause him to briefly double over in pain, despite the weapon being able to kill armored stormtroopers instantly on impact. He could also cut ahead of Rey and FN-2187 in this state, demonstrating remarkable speed. Shortly after being injured, Ren still displayed a prowess in an acrobatic and offensive form of lightsaber combat in his duel against FN-2187, a former stormtrooper with specialized training. He even utilized his wound to further hone his power in the dark side by punching himself directly on the wound, hard enough to spurt out blood. Despite his skill with a lightsaber, the imbalance caused by Han Solo's murder caused him to be 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.
Although Snoke was capable of probing his apprentice's mind, Ren used this to his advantage by tricking his master into believing that he intended to kill Rey when, in fact, his actual target was Snoke himself. Afterward, Ren defeated the Elite Praetorian Guard—warriors trained to kill Force-sensitives—through a combination of his lightsaber skills, Force abilities and unarmed combat, as well as with the help of Rey. Although they were separated from each other during the duel, Ren successfully defended himself against four guards while Rey held off the remaining two. Despite being outnumbered and surrounded, he killed three guards on his own and the last with Rey's assistance. During the fight, he made use of an improvised form of Jar'Kai by wielding a dead guard's vibro-voulge in conjunction with his lightsaber.
Aside from his Force abilities, Ren was also a skilled pilot, as demonstrated during the First Order's ambush on the Resistance fleet, where he piloted his own TIE/vn space superiority fighter and attacked various portions of the Raddus and other Resistance ships. He had inherited his piloting abilities from his grandfather Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader and his father, Han Solo.
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." At Rian Johnson's request, the position of the character's facial scar was moved slightly for The Last Jedi.
Ren's parentage was initially to have been revealed earlier in The Force Awakens, 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 now non-canonical 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 an incredibly similar name to that of Kybo Ren, a space pirate from the Legends animated series Star Wars: Droids: The Adventures of R2-D2 and C-3PO. Additionally, Kylo Ren's helmet resembles Revan's mask.
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 reprised 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 often stayed 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.
Besides his standard actor Adam Driver, he also had two voice actors in Star Wars: Battlefront II, one for while he wore the mask, and the other for when he had the mask removed. The former was voiced by Matthew Wood, who previously voiced General Grievous in various Star Wars media, while the latter was voiced by Roger Craig Smith.
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 was 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.
In the skit, "Matt" comments to a group of stormtroopers that a friend told him that he saw Kylo Ren in the shower and that Ren "had an eight-pack" and was "shredded." These lines proved a source of retroactive amusement when The Last Jedi featured a scene in which Ren appears to Rey shirtless and sporting a heavily muscled chest. However, director Rian Johnson stated that the scene was not merely gratuitous, but was intended to establish that through their Force bond, Rey could actually see his body and not simply hear his voice or see just his face and eyes.
Kylo Ren was confirmed to appear in the upcoming attraction Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge in one of several promotional trading cards for the ride that were handed out during the December 16, 2017 "Galactic Nights" event. The card in question, called "RESISTANCE RECRUITS FACE KYLO REN'S INTERROGATION", showed a Resistance soldier being lifted telekinetically by the Knight of Ren.
- Disney Infinity 3.0
- Jedi Training - Trials of the Temple
- Star Tours: The Adventures Continue
- Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes
- LEGO Star Wars: The Resistance Rises – "Poe to the Rescue"
- LEGO Star Wars: The Resistance Rises – "Attack of the Conscience"
- LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Notes and references
Kylo Ren on Wikipedia