Kylo Ren vs. The Present: Part 1

THE EMPATH

Ben Solo felt like he never fit in. He couldn’t understand why his parents were so unlike him. When he was little, he’d look up at the stars and wonder where he came from and where his real parents were. “They’ll be back,” he told himself, “one day.” But instead, Snoke came. Snoke came to prey upon the boy’s link to the Force, the undying life-energy the alien needed to maintain his immortality and his power.

That’s what narcissists do — they prey on empaths. And without a doubt, every emperor throughout history — on Earth and in a galaxy far, far away — was a narcissist. Narcissists are energy vampires. They use false empathy to get what they want. They’re incapable of real empathy or love, and they’re very persuasive charmers who know how to seduce those who are sensitive and attentive to the feelings of others. Anything they give always comes with strings attached. And for Ben Solo, the strings Snoke has attached to him are far-reaching and unbreakable…up until now.

In this series of posts, I’ll take a closer look at what makes Ben Solo Kylo Ren, what got him into the mess he’s in. If he’s going to escape Snoke’s clutches — and he does want to; the “Supreme Leader is wise” line is false bravado — Kylo will need to face his vulnerabilities and adopt strong, enduring protection strategies. These vulnerabilities aren’t weaknesses per se. With the right training, he can use them to his advantage and to the advantage of the galaxy. But at the beginning of The Last Jedi, he’s standing at a crossroads. He’s facing the worst dilemma he’s ever faced. Does he push further into the darkness, or turn back?

A couple paragraphs ago, I suggested that Kylo Ren is an empath. Huh? How can that be? He’s killed people in cold blood! He killed his own father! All true, but — and this is what doesn’t make him a psychopath — he regrets it. He feels remorse and he feels, intensely, the emotions of others — particularly Snoke’s.

Let’s back up. What’s an empath? Empaths are highly sensitive individuals who recognize, relate to, and physically feel in their own bodies the emotions and pain of others. As an interrogator, that’s what makes Kylo Ren so effective. He can instantly tell when someone’s lying or withholding information. Kylo is extremely intuitive and can sense energy around him. Emotions are energy. And he can do this without tapping into the Force. Why? Because he has an intensely reactive neurological system and he lacks the normal filters most people have to block stimulation. He’s a human radar for any type of sensory input. To him, the world is supercharged with fascinating — and overwhelming — details. It’s like he has 50 fingers on each hand, 10 pairs of eyes, 20 pairs of ears, 8 noses, and 12 tongues. And within his brain, he has a hyperresponsive mirror neuron system.

Dr. Judith Orloff states, “Researchers have discovered a specialized group of brain cells that are responsible for compassion. These cells enable everyone to mirror another person’s pain, fear, or joy….In contrast, psychopaths, sociopaths, and narcissists are thought to have what science calls ‘empathy deficit disorders.’” (2017, p. 9-10).

What did Snoke reprimand his pupil for in regards to the girl? “You have compassion for her….I perceive the problem. It isn’t her strength that is making you fail. It’s your weakness!” (Foster, 2015, p. 207-208).

Spoken like a true psychopath. But Supreme Leader is right. Compassion for the enemy is a bit of a problem for the First Order.

And yes, Kylo has compassion for Rey — a lot of compassion. He senses her loneliness, her feelings of abandonment, her longing for family, and he deeply resonates those feelings. She’s an orphan with incredible resilience and he’s totally fascinated by and enamored with her. What’s more…he knows her from somewhere in the past, but he can’t quite put his finger on it. More about that plot possibility when I post my predictions for Reylo just prior to the release of The Last Jedi.

Kylo also displays his empathic abilities when he hones in on the distraught FN-2187 (Finn), the stormtrooper who can’t bring himself to fire on the helpless villagers. Kylo stops and slowly turns to stare at the him on the way back to his shuttle. If you look carefully at that scene, you’ll notice Kylo doesn’t actually see FN-2187 commit treason. He can’t at that angle with the range of vision his helmet provides. Trust me, I cosplay in a replica of the bloody thing. Plus, his peripheral vision is also blocked by the hood. Kylo has to actually turn his head to see the trooper just standing there — long after the villagers were gunned down. First Ren senses something’s wrong through the Force, so he stops. What makes him turn towards Finn (as opposed to somewhere else) is his ability to sense the trooper’s anguish. It gives the dark lord pause, but he doesn’t do anything about the fact that FN-2187 is disobeying orders. If the trooper had been facing Darth Vader, Vader would have Force-choked him. So, why doesn’t Kylo act as Vader would? After all, he wants to be the new Vader, right?

I think Kylo doesn’t punish FN-2187 because he feels what the trooper feels — that he doesn’t belong in the First Order and he secretly wants to leave. That’s why Lor San Tekka makes him so angry when he says, “The First Order rose from the dark side. You did not.” San Tekka is like a parent telling a teenage child, “You’re better than this. You don’t belong with this gang.” Kylo knows it’s true, but he’s in too deep. It’s too late. He’s stuck. All he can do is scream, “I’ll show you the dark side!”

Maybe Kylo reports FN-2187 to Captain Phasma later, but I can’t believe Phasma didn’t notice FN-2187’s problem herself. That’s her job. She gave the firing squad the order. She confronts the trooper not long after the execution of the villagers, but we don’t know if it’s because Phasma knew about the issue herself, or FN-2187’s unit or Kylo ratted on him. Interestingly, it’s Kylo Ren who identifies FN-2187 as the traitor who stole a TIE and helped Poe Dameron escape before General Hux and Phasma do. Ren does this because he’s an empath. He senses the turmoil in Finn…and he has a certain amount of compassion for him because he understands that turmoil. He doesn’t even kill Finn in the final skirmish. He just incapacitates him. If he wanted to ensure Finn was dead, he would have run him through or cut off his head.

So, how can Ren have compassion for Rey and Finn and not the villagers? Simple. He can’t get away with letting the villagers live. He had to make an example of them. But he can let one nonfunctioning trooper slip through his fingers. As for Rey, he’s found a kindred spirit. It’s written large all over his face — before she slashes it, that is.

But there are bacta tanks and badass bandaids for that.

 

@MyKyloRen   17 November 2017

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Foster, A. D. (2015). Star wars: The Force awakens. New York: Del Rey.

Orloff, J. (2017). The empath’s survival guide: life strategies for sensitive people. Boulder, CO: Sounds True.

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Kylo Ren vs. The Past: Part 3

“His Jedi training with Luke Skywalker ended in tragedy when, seduced by the dark side, he betrayed the other students and became responsible for their destruction.” That’s the official wording in Star Wars: Galactic Maps (p. 15). Other licensed sources day the same thing. Ben Solo “destroyed” Luke’s Jedi academy. And Kylo Ren “destroyed” Ben Solo. It does not say Ben killed his fellow students. True, he might have slain them. It doesn’t say he didn’t, but logically it doesn’t make sense. We don’t know how many students made up the academy or their ages and abilities. Statistically speaking, some students were probably older than he was, some were likely younger. With a range of ages, or if the students were all about the same age, they could have ganged up on Ben and defeated him. The only way he could have single-handedly slaughtered them all is if they were younglings — like Vader did — who didn’t stand a chance. Or if he had help, say from the Knights of Ren or Snoke. Instead, all the official wording places the students’ destruction on Ben’s shoulders. And Kylo Ren, as a fully-formed character, is never referred to as “Jedi Killer.”

LUKE SKYWALKER

And where was Luke Skywalker when this destruction went down? Until I saw the second trailer for The Last Jedi, where we catch a glimpse of Luke’s mechanical hand thrusting out of the fiery rubble, I’d always thought he was absent when Ben betrayed the students, that he returned with R2-D2 to find the temple/academy up in flames, as we see in Rey’s Force vision. Of course, the two scenes might not go together. But the cinematography fits. But after hearing Luke say in the second trailer, “I’ve seen this raw strength only once before. It didn’t scare me enough then. It does now,” I don’t think he wasn’t able to stop his young nephew, or…he was unwilling to.

So, it’s a given Ben destroyed the academy — reduced it to ashes — but I think he betrayed the students by leading them astray, turning them against Luke, and the teachings of the Jedi. He became a pied piper, turned them to the dark side, and recruited them for Snoke’s evil purposes. In this story, Ben’s discovered the writings of Darth Plagueis — the Sith who groomed Palpatine (Darth Sidious), who in turn seduced Anakin Skywalker to the dark side. There’s great knowledge in Plagueis’ journals, from heinous experiments to arcane arts — things deliberately kept from public knowledge and from Luke’s students. It’s all too tempting and Padawan Ben Solo can’t wait to share it.

But Ben and Luke weren’t always at odds. Luke was probably enthusiastic to train his nephew in the beginning. Luke, afterall, possesses a great deal of compassion and understanding. He saw tremendous potential in his nephew. But what he failed to comprehend was the depth of Ben’s powers, and the hurt that fueled them, not to mention the influence of Snoke.

Young Ben initially got along well with his uncle — someone who wasn’t his parents and who had a great interest in him and could teach him many exciting things. Luke and Ben crossed the galaxy together, looking for Jedi artifacts. But as time went on, Ben became less enamored with the Jedi tradition. It was incomplete. It wasn’t the whole story. He wanted to know more. He wanted to know how the Force worked. His hunger for knowledge is insatiable. Knowledge is power.

In the canon novel Bloodline by Claudia Gray, which follows the life of Senator Leia Organa during the year ABY 31, three years before the events of The Force Awakens, Luke and Ben are on a journey and out of comm range. Perhaps they’re seeking the first Jedi temple together. Ben was born in ABY 5, so his betrayal of Luke didn’t occur before Ben was 26 (before ABY 31). With Snoke’s prodding from the shadows, Ben was skilled at keeping dark side knowledge he’d gained a secret and, with it, his true motives hidden from Luke. Now that we’ve heard Luke’s astonishing declaration, “It’s time for the Jedi to end,” it makes sense that Luke wanted to return to the original teachings of the Jedi. Perhaps he felt Jedi teachings and practices had been corrupted by galactic politics.

Luke’s had the wind knocked out of him while trying to reign in and guide his volatile nephew. Has the Jedi Master turned to the dark side? Hell no. He already faced and survived the biggest showdown with the dark side, so he’s not going to be tempted now. According to Disney Rewards Insider, Mark Hamill revealed, “In Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Luke has lost confidence in his ability to make good choices. It haunts him to the core. But he hasn’t gone to the dark side. This isn’t an evil version of him. But it’s still an incarnation of the character I never expected. It has pulled me out of my comfort zone. It’s a real challenge.” (www.syfy.com)

So, does Luke mean it’s time for the Jedi — as we know them — to end? That’s the most likely interpretation, but I think it’s bigger than that. I’ll get into my theory about the upcoming drama in my post on the Force — what it is, and what shocking things might be revealed to our heroes and villains who tinker with it. After all, what you don’t know might hurt you!

In one my stories, I imagined Luke wanting to destroy the Jedi teachings he felt were dangerous, misleading, or misguided. Kylo Ren, on the other hand, wants to devour that knowledge — right or wrong. He believes it contains secret power, and while he was a Padawan, he went with his uncle to secretly collect and preserve it. All this time, Ben has been acting as an agent and spy for Snoke, whether he realizes it or not.

In the end, things come to a head between Ben — now taking the name Kylo Ren — and the Jedi Master. They argue over ideals, morals, and personal convictions, as in this story. But interestingly, there’s been no suggestion from official sources that there was a showdown between them. No dramatic duel that sent Luke into hiding. Instead, Luke’s retreat into the hermit life seems to be self-inflicted. Current speculation is that he’s taken the Barash Vow, which is “an oath taken by Jedi who completely refrained from all activities related to their order as a form of penitence, disengaging from anything but the Force itself,” according to Wookieepedia. In the Darth Vader Marvel comics series, Vader is hunting down Jedi who escaped execution during Order 66, like those who had taken the Barash Vow and were in seclusion. The idea that Luke went into seclusion over his perceived failure in starting the New Jedi Order makes complete sense. And when Rey arrives on the scene, hoping to bring him back into the fight between good and evil, he does not give her a warm welcome. He does not want that responsibility again.

Does Luke recognize Rey? Watching Mark Hamill’s facial expressions during that scene, I believe he does. The look he give her isn’t, “Who the hell are you, kid?” rather it’s simply, “Oh, shit.” He starts to shake his head as if he’s about to say, “Oh, no. You’re not going to lay that burden on me again, Rey.” So, is she his lost daughter? Absolutely not. First of all, Luke — as a devout Jedi — would have been too busy starting the new Order, teaching, and traveling the galaxy to start a family. The Expanded Universe (EU) stories where he does have one have been dropped, although not completely abandoned. Secondly, if he did have a daughter, he wouldn’t abandon her. That’s not in his character. And, most important of all, Leia would have recognized Rey through the Force as her niece, even if she’d never met her before. That didn’t happen in The Force Awakens.

Ok, so Rey isn’t Luke’s daughter, but he recognizes her. Who is she? I’m still thinking she was an orphaned youngling under his care and instruction at the academy. He might have been responsible for killing her parents. They could have been dark-side users. Whoever Rey’s parents were, she obviously is very strong in the Force and probably displayed incredible Force-abilities at an early age, like Ben Solo. “I’ve seen this raw strength only once before….” It’s entirely possible he’s talking about Rey as a lost little girl. She may have survived the destruction of the academy. I still think he’s responsible for abandoning Rey on Jakku — partly out of fear that she’ll develop incredible powers, and partly as a means to hide her from Project Harvester. He never meant for her to wind up in the hands of Unkar Plutt but left her instead in the care of Lor San Tekka. Luke had lost his way. He needed time, he needed guidance, and he sought it on Ahch-to.

There’s a lot of fan speculation about how the upcoming showdown between Kylo and Luke will end. It has to happen. There’s no avoiding it. Will Kylo kill Luke? Will Luke kill Kylo? No, not in The Last Jedi. Both characters are too important to the plot. I think Luke, Kylo, and Rey are going to have to join forces to defeat Snoke in Episode IX.

One thing’s certain when it comes to Kylo hunting Luke: Luke has something Kylo wants — a shard of red kyber crystal.

 

Oh, and Rey.

We’re not done yet.

 

@MyKyloRen   7 November 2017

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Fortune, E. (2016). Star Wars galactic maps : an illustrated atlas of the Star Wars universe. Los Angeles, CA : Disney Lucasfilm Press.

Kylo Ren vs. The Past: Part 2

IT’S A FAMILY AFFAIR

Lor San Tekka might have reached through the darkness to touch the Ben Solo he once knew if he hadn’t said the word family. Family is a sore spot for Kylo/Ben, and the word proved to be fatal for the old man. We find out early on in The Force Awakens that Kylo is the grandson of Darth Vader when we catch a glimpse of the shrine to the iconic Sith in Ren’s quarters. It isn’t until Snoke tells his apprentice, “The droid we seek is aboard the Millennium Falcon, in the hands of your father, Han Solo,” that we get confirmation Kylo Ren is the son of Han and Leia. Snoke goes on to challenge, “Even you, Master of the Knights of Ren, have never faced such a test.” There’s a moment’s hesitation before Ren replies, “He means nothing to me.”

The pause is significant. It suggests Ren — or rather the Ben Solo that is buried beneath the heavy black shroud — does have feelings for his father. They’re conflicted and they overwhelm him when he finally faces Han Solo on the catwalk in the oscillator shaft. Although Kylo addresses him as Han Solo instead of father, he lets down his guard and exposes his vulnerability. “I’m being torn apart,” he confesses, lip trembling. “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. Will you help me?”

Ben Solo desperately wants to go home, to have the cozy family life he knows others have. But he never got it. Both his parents, although they loved him, were absent for a good portion of his childhood. Neither one has a nurturing personality and neither can sit still for long. As a result, baby Ben never bonded with his parents. He was left in the care of others — maybe Chewbacca, C-3PO, or nanny droids — while Leia was engaged for long hours in senatorial matters and Han refereed piloting contests and ran his shipping company. Ben Solo shows the classic signs of reactive attachment disorder (RAD).

Growing up with RAD, he formed closer bonds with strangers and trusted them more than he did his parents. Enter Snoke — the elusive corpse-like leader of the First Order. I’ll leave my Snoke theory for another post, but Leia confirms Snoke turned Ben to the dark side when Han concedes, “We’ve lost our son forever.” “It was Snoke,” she consoles him, and in the novelization, she goes on to reveal, “He knew our child would be strong with the Force.” This is news to Han. “You knew this from the beginning? Why didn’t you tell me?”

HAN SOLO

Leia’s main reason for leaving Han out of the equation is the personality conflict between father and son. Han leans toward the anti-social/narcissistic end of the spectrum while Ben leans towards the highly sensitive/empathic/maybe-even-autistic end. Polar opposites. I’ll explain why I think Ben is an empath when we take a closer look at his abilities. Leia tells Han, “You had — you have — wonderful qualities, Han, but patience and understanding were never among them. I was afraid that your reactions would only drive him farther to the dark side.” (Foster, 2015, p. 196)

Han not only didn’t understand his highly Force-sensitive son, he also feared him. The little boy — his own flesh and blood — had powers that were terrifying, especially when they were unchecked. Ben’s Force-abilities got him into trouble on a regular basis, as in this story. Not knowing what else to do, Leia enlisted the help of the only known living soul trained in the ways of the Force, her brother and Jedi Master Luke Skywalker.

Luke was the obvious choice to help Ben Solo control his Force-abilities, as well as his emotions, but Luke was also the one who could best protect his young nephew. One of the drawbacks of having Han Solo as a father is a galaxy of pissed-off lenders, dealers, and pirates. Jabba the Hutt wasn’t the only one to send a bounty hunter after the notorious smuggler and there were others who were out for revenge. When Han married Leia, he started to live an honest life, but can one ever make a clean break from the criminal underground? Young Ben Solo may have been a target for retaliation against Han, as in this story.

LEIA ORGANA

And Leia herself was a target (as all royalty is) for her involvement in the Rebel Alliance, her wealth and political connections, and her lineage — although it’s unknown how many people knew she was Vader’s daughter before it tragically became public in ABY 31. Leia, through her adopted parents Bail and Breha Organa, was not only princess of Alderaan — a civilization that continued to some degree after the planet was blown up by the Death Star — she was also in line for the governorship of the planet Birren through the Elder Houses. When Ben was a young man, traveling the galaxy with his uncle, she passed up this right, focusing instead on her senatorial career. With his mother a political target, it’s not hard to imagine that Ben as a child may have been kidnapped for ransom or a leverage to influence Leia’s vote or stand on an issue, as in this story.

November 19, 2017 update: Talking to Entertainment Weekly, “Driver says Kylo began turning against his mother and father, Leia Organa and Han Solo, because he felt they cared more about the Rebellion and rebuilding after the fall of the Empire than they cared about him. That created a bitterness that ultimately consumed him. ‘I think the idea of someone whose parents are very much devoted to the cause, that’s something a lot of people could relate to, whether it be religion or politics or a business,’ Driver says. ‘Not identifying with [that cause] yourself, I think can give someone a complex.’”

So, Ben didn’t bond with either of his parents. Of the two, he was probably closer to Leia. Han undoubtedly taught his son piloting skills and swaggering street sense — and some gambling smarts, no doubt — but it was Leia Ben lived with the most. Her career as a senator required putting down roots on Hosnian Prime, and that’s probably where Ben grew up.

From Leia, Ben likely learned about the function (or dysfunction) of the Galactic Senate, witnessed his mother’s frustration from an early age. As a teenager, I imagine mother and son had some lively political debates as Ben formulated his own ideology, always lured and encouraged from the shadows by Snoke. Leia and Ben’s discussions grew more heated until the day when Ben walked out and never looked back. The scene may have gone something like this.

As for his father, Ben turned his back on Han as a teen. Han excelled in hiding his true feelings behind sarcasm and wit. He was embarrassed by his son’s sensitivity and extreme emotions. Han teased his son about things he himself couldn’t relate to — things Ben held dear but Han thought were silly. Teasing and making jokes was a way to deal with Ben’s outbursts. It backfired.

YOU CAN NEVER GO HOME

Ben Solo broke all contact with his family by the age of 26 and gave himself fully to the First Order. From there, it was a strait slide into the dark side. But the darkness wasn’t complete. Leia despaired but never gave up on her only son. As a Skywalker, she too was Force-sensitive and shared a special bond with Ben. When her son kills his father, it’s not Han’s death Leia is sensing with shock and horror across the depths of space (she’s doesn’t share a Force-bond with Han, after all) but Ben’s reaction to what he’s done. Kylo Ren had believed that the murder of the man he could not bring himself to call “father” would strengthen his dark-side powers. Instead, the heinous act weakened him. Why? Because once the anger passed, he took no pleasure in committing patricide. Because Ben Solo is highly sensitive, he could feel his father’s agony at the moment of death and felt compassion for him. Because Ben Solo knows right from wrong. In the preview for The Last Jedi, we see him hesitate to kill his mother. The light is still pulling at him.

For me, the encounter between Han and Ben in the novelization was unsatisfactory. It was the climax of the film, but Alan Dean Foster glossed over it. So, I watched the scene about 50 times, analyzing the body language of both men, got inside Ben’s head and wrote it out, blow by blow here. Naturally, or unnaturally, like everything in Ben Solo’s tragic life, Snoke is pulling the strings behind the scenes.

Next time, what’s up with Luke Skywalker?

 

@MyKyloRen    26 October 2017

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Foster, A. D. (2015). The Force Awakens. New York: Del Rey.

Kylo Ren vs. The Past: Part 1

With the release of The Last Jedi fast approaching, I thought I’d recap what we know about Kylo Ren so far — from The Force Awakens and leaks from The Last Jedi, interviews with cast and crew, fan theories, and fan art. As theories are confirmed or dropped, I’ll be revising my own thinking, along with this series of posts, which reveal some of the inspiration and theories behind the fan fiction on this site. Kylo has a lot of enemies he’s facing and he’ll need to defeat every one if he’s to survive, so let’s get started.

JEDI KILLER

Jedi Killer concepts by Christian Alzmann

The mysterious First Order warrior is introduced in The Force Awakens as a commander of a strike force, striding down the ramp of his bat-like command shuttle. He’s intent on seizing the map that will show the whereabouts of Jedi Master Luke Skywalker. We don’t know what the dark warrior’s motives are, but we assume it’s to kill Skywalker. We assume he’s hunting down any surviving Jedi, and Luke poses a special threat to the First Order. In the preliminary concept art, Kylo Ren was originally dubbed the Jedi Killer and looked more machine than human — a black plastoid grim reaper. But as time when on and the character was given a name, he was more refined and clearly human. From what’s been leaked about The Last Jedi, I believe Kylo’s hunting Luke not to kill him but to stop him — from doing what, I have a couple of theories — but I think Ren’s main objective is to acquire ancient artifacts and through them power, not to control the galaxy but the universe. Could it be that Luke’s intent on destroying these artifacts? More about that later.

A NEW DARK-SIDE USER

Kylo Ren’s heavy black garments cover him from head to toe, concealing every inch of him, concealing his identity, along with the helmet that distorts his voice. For a closer look at Ren’s garments, click here for that story. He’s a faceless menace whose humanity has been smothered. He’s a monster, and his monk-like robes suggest he belongs to an order outside of the military. That order, we learn, is the Knights of Ren. For my take on who the Knights are, click here. Many people are tempted to call him a Sith due to his powerful Force abilities and allegiance to the dark side, but according to Pablo Hidalgo in The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary, “Kylo Ren is no Jedi, nor is he a Sith. He is the archetype of a new generation of dark side users that have emerged to fill the void left by the Siths’ demise.” (p. 24)

LOR SAN TEKKA

But, despite his dark disguise, Lor San Tekka knows who Kylo Ren is, even though the enforcer’s true name is forbidden to be spoken within the First Order. We only see Ren without his helmet in the presence of Supreme Leader Snoke and General Hux — and later when all hell breaks loose on Starkiller Base. So, it’s likely that no other officers and no troopers know Ren’s true identity, but Lor San Tekka in the Jakku village of Tuanal knows. He’s a member of the Church of the Force who’s traveled far. He knows the man beneath the black shroud. And Ren remembers his captive from long ago, perhaps more than he’s consciously aware. There’s a dark and unfortunate history between them. For that story, click here. “Look at how old you’ve become,” he tells San Tekka in disgust. The old man counters with hope. He remembers under the disguise the youth he knew and perhaps loved and tries reach out to him. “I know where you come from,” he tells the enforcer. “The First Order arose from the dark side. You did not.”

In The Force Awakens novelization by Alan Dean Foster, the encounter is described as this: “ Ren spoke first, without hesitation, as if he had anticipated this meeting for some time. ‘The great soldier of fortune — captured at last.” (p. 20). When San Tekka continues to evade Ren’s search for the map, Ren says in the novel, “Don’t turn a simple transaction into a tragedy for these people….Hasn’t your presence here done enough for them already?” San Tekka replies, “I made my peace with these folk and this place long ago.” (p. 20-21).

So, San Tekka is not an innocent. He was a mercenary once, selling his services as a warrior. The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary paints the old man as a desert sage, retired from a life of exploration and adventure. He’s a font of obscure information and wears a Chain of Wisdom around his neck. “As the Empire toppled, retreating Imperial officials destroyed records that would have been vital to the New Republic’s attempts at galactic reconstruction. New Republic bureaucrats turned instead to firsthand accounts from well-travelled locals to fill in the gaps.” (p. 14) Hence, this was the most recent role San Tekka played…until Kylo Ren executed him in cold blood.

ACOLYTES OF THE BEYOND

As a follower of the Church of the Force, the old man was a worshiper of Jedi ideals and believed one day the Jedi would return. “In his travels, Lor San Tekka uncovered much of the history of the Jedi Knights that the Galactic Empire had tried so hard to erase. Others now seek him out for his knowledge of Jedi secrets.” And this, I believe, is why Kylo Ren has sought him out — not only for the map to Skywalker (who is another font of esoteric knowledge) — but to harvest the ancient wisdom locked up in San Tekka’s mind. Ren also hopes to recover any Jedi artifacts the old man may have stumbled upon.

What are these artifacts? We don’t know yet, but we know some of them will feature in The Last Jedi. Director Rian Johnson is all about focusing on the past, digging up relics and showcasing an aspect of the Force we’ve never seen before. One of these relics is Luke’s red kyber crystal shard which he keeps locked in a box and later wears around his neck. It’s said to have belonged to an ancient Jedi. Luke is rumored to keep other relics in his backpack, including an ancient compass, along with a lightning rod — a weapon used by the Jedi of old, possibly like a cattle prod. There are also books of precious Jedi lore kept on the island of Ahch-To, home of the original Jedi Temple and Luke Skywalker’s refuge for many years.

I also suspect Kylo Ren’s been on the hunt for Darth Vader’s effects, specifically his lightsaber. He may believe that the shard of crystal Luke now has belonged to Vader. We know Ren acquired Vader’s melted helmet and enshrined it, feeling its residual dark side power imbued with it. It would make sense for Ben Solo to attach himself to the movement known as the Acolytes of the Beyond, a group of non-Force-sensitives who operated as dark side fanatics worshiping fallen Sith, featured in the Aftermath novels by Chuck Wendig. They purchased Sith artifacts and destroyed them. In doing so, they believed they were returning the objects of power to the dark lords in death. By Kylo Ren’s time, the Acolytes were keeping the artifacts they recovered and using them in uprisings against the New Republic. Ren may have made use of Acolyte cells scattered throughout the galaxy to recover some of Vader’s personal things. Foremost on his list would be Vader’s lightsaber. We assume it was destroyed when the second Death Star exploded, but who knows? Click here for a story involving featuring the Acolytes.

Next time, we’ll continue looking at Kylo’s past and more specifically, his family ties.

@MyKyloRen    29 September 2017

________________________________

Foster, A. D. (2015). The Force Awakens. New York: Del Rey.

Hidalgo, P. (2015). Star Wars: The Force Awakens: the visual dictionary. New York : DK/Penguin Random House.

Szostak, P. (2015). The art of Star Wars, The Force Awakens. New York: Harry N. Abrams.

The Chosen One

Luke Skywalker stood in the doorway, bearded now after his long journey from Jedha. Leia Organa Solo ushered him into the small but inviting apartment with an excited hug.

“We didn’t think you’d have time to come by until tomorrow.”

“This couldn’t wait,” the Jedi master insisted, mirroring his twin’s excitement as he pushed past her into the sitting area. Han looked up from his game, gave his brother-in-law a quick nod and went back to studying the holo images to make his move.  Whatever Luke was on about, it was more Jedi nonsense and didn’t concern the ex-smuggler. Had had more respect for the Jedi since the Battle of Yavin, naturally, but he respected games of chance more, and this one was getting the better of him. Luke watched Han grit his teeth and smiled sadly. Nothing would change with Han. Gambling would always be Han Solo’s faith.

“Did you find what you were looking for?” Leia prodded.

Luke turned back to his sister and gripped her by the shoulders. “I found something better!”

She took a step back as he reached into his satchel and pulled out an object she’d only seen once before in her childhood. She’d found it in the office of Bail Organa, her father — or the man she’d always known as her father — Viceroy/First Chairman of Alderaan, one of the most influential founders of the Alliance to Restore the Republic. She remembered being fascinated by it — words, one after another, not backlit by a datapd or console, or projected in a holographic message by a droid — but written by hand. Something she’d never seen anyone do, although Threepio had promised to give her a demonstration from his databanks one day.

As they sat together, Leia looked now at the bound folio pages in Luke’s hand. “A book?” Bail Organa’s book had been one of Alderaanian poetry.

It was gone now.

Luke was grinning from ear to ear. “One the Empire didn’t find.”

Leia raised an eyebrow. “And you can read it? It must be ancient.”

“Threepio says by more than ten thousand years,” he confirmed, ignoring her skepticism. He placed it gently on the glass table before them and reverently turned a few pages until he found what he wanted to show her. “If Obi-Wan had lived, I’m sure he would have shared this with us.” He pointed to a passage that was illuminated by an ancient Jedi symbol. “This tells of the Prophecy of the Chosen One.”

Lei’s face fell. She knew Vader had once been called the Chosen One by the very Jedi he betrayed. She had no interest in discussing the exploits of the biological father she shared with Luke, let alone a vague and plainly erroneous prediction of some nebulous galactic savior.

She folded her arms and gave her brother a glare of exasperation. “Really?”

The Jedi Master sighed. “Look, I know you don’t believer in this stuff, but there’s one thing here we can’t ignore.” He waited for her to spew about Vader, but when she simply cocked her head to one side, he went on. Han was still oblivious, nose in his game. “The Jedi were wrong.”

Leia cocked her head to the other side. “About what?”

“Our father wasn’t the Chosen One.”

She almost laughed. “Well, that’s a relief.”

Luke didn’t miss a beat. “Your son is.”

“What?” Leia launched herself out of her chair. She cast an astonished glance at Han. “Did you hear what he said?”

Han gave her a dismissive wave without looking up. “Some mumbo jumbo about the Chosen One.”

Leia rolled her eyes and then leveled her gaze at Luke. She spoke slowly, deliberately, mustering all her patience. “Why would a book from an moldy cave point to a nine-year-old boy thousands of years in the future?”

“Come on, Leia.” Luke’s frustration level was starting to mirror his twin’s. “You know what an exceptional child he is.” He lowered his voice. “What an exceptional Force-user he is. The Prophecy speaks to that.”

“Prophecies are easily misinterpreted,” she returned coolly as if she were in a senatorial debate. “They’re not a science.” Luke opened his mouth to speak, but she held up a hand. She didn’t have time for long-winded doctrine. “Name one prophecy that’s been scientifically proven.”

Luke took a deep breath. He knew his sister would be tough sell, but he needed to get Ben the protection and training he needed — protection from those who hunted Force-sensitives and training to control the wild power within his nephew’s tiny but growing body. “There was the Prophecy of Hujusal M’akth on Tatooine. The Prophecy of Chierrruwwuthy among the Kaapauku of Kashyyyk.” He gave Chewie a pleading look. “You remember that one, don’t you?”

The Wookiee gave an affirmative roar as he peered over Han’s shoulder, eyeing the progress of the game.

Leia wasn’t going to let her brother win this argument. “Human prophecy — in recent times,” she challenged. “No offense, Chewie. If it’s my son we’re talking about, he’s not allowed to venture beyond the parameters of his room.”

“Actually, mistress,” C-3PO hesitantly broke in, “there have been exactly 26 prophecies that have been scientifically proven in recent human history regarding the Chosen One. Elik Vedde the Third predicted in 23 BY that the Death Star would….”

Leia quickly cut him off. “Thank you, Threepio. We could use some tea,” she redirected him.

“And then there was the time…that….”

She raised an eyebrow, knowing his photoreceptors would respond her body language with due efficiency. The droid jerked as his nonverbal subroutines kicked in.

“Oh…I’ll put the kettle on straight away.” The protocol droid excused himself, muttering how he didn’t understand why a perfectly good cup of tea couldn’t be had from the food synthesizer. It was, after all, the latest model and a very costly one at that.

Leia turned back to Luke, assured that the meddlesome droid would be kept busy for a few minutes. “What does this prophecy say?” She would be reasonable, she decided, and hear him out.

The Jedi Master exhaled in relief. He was getting somewhere. He pointed to the page in the book once more. “It says a Force-sensitive with powers the Jedi have never seen before will destroy the Sith and bring balance to the Force.” He glanced down at the text. “Well, it says that in forty-two verses, but I thought you’d want the executive summary.”

“And Ben has powers you’ve never seen before?” For once, Leia was glad Han wasn’t listening.

Luke got to his feet. He couldn’t sit still any longer. “Yes, and the prophecy speaks of a child born of a royal line yet knowing no privilege. A child whose father is absent.”

Leia pinched the bridge of her nose. She didn’t like where this was going. Her brother could be so gullible, so trusting sometimes. “Han, isn’t absent,” she countered. “Supervising the races and the shipping business takes him across the galaxy, but Han’s always there for Ben by comm.” She flung an arm in her husband’s direction. “He’s here now.”

Luke nodded in polite agreement. “Where’s Ben?”

“Playing in the solarium.”

Luke nodded again, gazing at Han grumbling at the gaming console.

Leia caught the accusatory look on her brother’s face. “Chewie’s keeping an eye on Ben,” she said a bit too loudly.

The Wookiee gave a rumbling sigh under Leia’s fiery glare and went to check on the child-in-question.

“It says the Chosen One will have a midi-chlorian count equal to a Sith lord’s,” Luke went on, eager to get his point across.

“Which is?”

“Seventeen thousand or higher. Ben’s is already that, and at his age….”

Leia exploded. “You tested him?”

Han looked up from his game.

“I had to.” Luke laid a gentle hand on her sleeve. “I had to know what I was dealing with.”

She shrugged him off. “What you were dealing with?” Her thoughts turned to Vader — the man who tortured her and gripped her fast while her homeworld was destroyed. She didn’t want to know what his midi-chorian count was. If there had been a record of it, it was long gone.

Luke was speaking very softly, reassuringly now. “The Chosen One will also radiate the Force in everything he does. Everything he touches, he’ll set in motion.” His voice dropped to a whisper. “That sounds like Ben with the control problems he’s had. The Force sticks to him like some sort of cosmic tar.”

Leia stared at her brother. “You mean shattering or short-circuiting things he touches.”

The Jedi Master nodded. “He’s better now at controlling the Force as it moves through him, but you can see how frustrating it is for him. I need to take him offworld and find the origins of the Jedi. There has to be an enclave out there — Masters more skilled than I — who can train him to bear this burden.”

“You’re not suggesting we tell him about this prophecy, are you?” After a deep sigh, Leia gave her twin an imploring look.

They all turned and gave a start to see Ben standing in the doorway, the glass of tea shattering in his hand. Blood began to drip from his fingers.

Han looked up at Leia and Luke and gave them a rueful smirk. “I don’t think you have to.”

Leia flew over to her son and took his bleeding hand in hers. “Who gave him glass?” she demanded.

Chewie, quickly following his young charge, bellowed at Threepio, who came shuffling in to see what the fuss was.

Ben Solo stared at the tea stain and broken glass on the white carpet. “Sorry, Mom.”

 

@MyKyloRen    25 August 2017

On the Knights of Ren

There’s a theory floating around the Star Wars fandom I find fascinating. It delves into the origins of the Knights of Ren, the secret paramilitary order Kylo Ren commands under Supreme Leader Snoke. The theory — and it’s a convincing one — focuses on the name Ren, Ben Solo’s assumed name and it’s ultimate reference to one of the franchise’s most beloved (yet widely unknown) characters. Ren is, as the theory goes, a corruption of Revan (R’en) and the Knights of Ren are a New Republic version of the Old Republic Revanites, or the Order of Revan.

Ok. Even if you grew up with Star Wars like I did and consider yourself a huge fan, it’s safe to say you’ve never heard of Revan if you haven’t played the Star Wars multi-player, choose-your-own-adventure online games Knights of the Old Republic or The Old Republic: The Shadow of Revan. For those who have, Revan is an old favorite and the fandom continues to petition the franchise to make a movie about him. Revan won the 2015 Black Series Fan Choice (for action figure development) at San Diego Comic Con, and his figure was released in late 2016 and widely available in early 2017. Revan’s story is about the tragedy of manipulation, the corruption of ambition, and the ultimate triumph of love (if you chose the Light side conclusion to the game, that is).

So, who was Revan and the cult who followed him? The Order of Revan, “a secret society known as the Revanites hides deep in the jungles of Dromund Kaas. Composed of members throughout Imperial Society — from esteemed Sith to enterprising slaves — the Revanite cult worships the teachings of the legendary Jedi Revan…. Revan wielded the dual philosophies of Sith passion and Jedi tranquility to conquer his enemies: he even nearly assassinated the Sith Emperor. Today, the Revanites secretly follow the path forged by Revan and await his return….”¹

Now, you might be asking yourself, why would a cult of Revan — a Jedi — develop among the Sith? We’re still talking ancient history here — over 3,500 years before Luke and his band of rebels destroyed the first Death Star and Vader went spinning off into space. At that point, there were definitely more than two Sith (a master and an apprentice), as suspected by the Jedi in The Phantom Menace. The Sith Empire controlled a good chunk of the galaxy and was a huge threat to the Old Republic. Revan was captured by the Sith, his mind overcome and controlled by the powerful Emperor until he was turned into the Dark Lord Revan and sent back to the Republic as a weapon. Revan nearly destroyed the Republic until the Jedi captured him again, erased his memories, and turned him back against the Sith.

He was ultimately imprisoned again by the Sith when he went looking for answers after nightmares of his former life started seeping through his broken memory and he followed his nose into Sith space. But this time he wasn’t captured by the Emperor but by a faction that opposed the mighty ruler. You can see where this is going.  Revan, knowing the threat the Emperor still posed to the Republic, led the charge against him and failed when his ally, the Sith Lord Scourge, turned on him (never trust a Sith. Seriously). The Emperor overwhelmed Revan, put the powerful Jedi in stasis, and fed off Revan’s essence for 300 years, probing his mind for the Republic’s weaknesses.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if this legendary Emperor — who had the ability to suck the living Force from a planet — were Snoke? Snoke is, after all, experiencing difficulty with his corporeal form. It seems logical that he would want to find a new body and with it immortality through the manipulation of the Force. But, that’s a theory for another post.

Now, why do I think the Knights are followers of Revan? Knights implies an order and a code of conduct. Based on their attire, they’re clearly a war band — heavy armor, helmets, and a plethora of hand-to-hand combat weapons. They’re also masked — a trademark of Revan. The traditional and rather medieval-looking weapons they yield also implies they aren’t Force-users. Only their leader, Kylo Ren, fights with a lightsaber (at least as far as we’ve seen).

As for Kylo, we can make an educated guess as to why he might be a follower of the ancient Jedi-turned-Sith-turned-Jedi. Kylo’s “ability to use the Force grants him many impressive combat skills, but Kylo Ren is no Jedi, nor is he a Sith. He is the archetype of a new generation of dark side users that have emerged to fill the void left by the Sith’s demise….The Supreme Leader believes Ren to be the ideal embodiment of the Force, a focal point, of both light and dark side ability.”²

Snoke reprimands his apprentice every time Kylo is seduced by the Light. In order for the for the leader of the Knights to remain ruthless in battle and interrogation tactics, Snoke needs to keep Kylo mean through “reminders” (i.e., torture). But in the novelization when Kylo confirms that it is his master’s teachings that keep him strong, Snoke demures. “It is far more than that. It is where you are from. What you are made of. The dark side — and the light.”³ The Supreme Leader needs Kylo’s Light side skills as well as the Dark. Without the two, Snoke’s power is incomplete.

Revan realized the same thing. “Revan devoured knowledge with an insatiable appetite under many Jedi Masters….Revan’s determination and pride sparked concern among the Jedi Council.”4 After he defeated the Mandalorians and chased them from Republic space, he discovered ancient Sith knowledge when he strayed into the Sith Empire. Desire to gain this knowledge was the start of his downfall. I believe it was Kylo’s as well. In my fanfic, young Ben Solo is on a scavenger hunt for Jedi and Sith holocrons and data files. He voraciously reads and practices what he finds.

But this passion for knowledge of both sides of the Force was not fueled by the influence of the Dark side. Both Revan and Ben could be classified as Gray Jedi. They left the Jedi Order to follow their own path and what they believed in — that balance had to be maintained between the two, that neither the Jedi nor Sith understood the Force in its totality. Unfortunately, both were preyed upon powerful Dark side users while they undertook their quests to study the Force.

“While Gray Jedi believed that the Force did indeed have inherently Light and Dark sides, they recognized that these aspects could not be separated without negative consequences. If the Dark Side and the Sith were to gain dominance, life would become self-destructive and be extinguished. However, if the Light Side and the Jedi Order’s quest for peace were allowed to come to pass, the galaxy would fall to lethargy, apathy, and eventually fade and die. Both Light and Dark were part of the Force, and all aspects of the Force had to be studied and respected.”5

So, if the Knights of Ren are followers of Revan, who believed in the balance of the Force, what happened to tip them over the Dark side? Snoke, of course, who needs them as a special ops strike team. And it would make sense that the Knights Kylo commands is only one faction of a much larger order, spread throughout the galaxy. But before Snoke dragged Ben Solo away by the scruff of the neck, it makes sense that Padawan Solo believed in his own code, which set him at odds with his uncle and Master:

Flowing through all, there is balance.

There is no peace without a passion to create.

There is no passion without peace to guide.

Knowledge stagnates without the strength to act.

Power blinds without the serenity to see.

There is freedom in life.

There is purpose in death.

The Force is all things and I am the Force.

(One version of the Gray Jedi Code)6

 

Compare this to the Jedi and Sith Codes:

 

It’s time for the Jedi to end. Time to bring balance to the Force.

@MyKyloRen     14 July 2017

__________________________

1Ryan, I. et al. (2012). Star Wars: The Old Republic Encyclopedia: The Definitive Guide to the Epic Conflict. New York: DK Publishing, p. 304.

2Hidalgo, P. (2015). Star Wars: The Force Awakens: The Visual Dictionary. New York: DK Publishing, p. 24.

3Foster, A. D. (2015). Star Wars: The Force Awakens. New York: Del Rey, p. 139.

4Ryan, I. et al. (2012). Star Wars: The Old Republic Encyclopedia: The Definitive Guide to the Epic Conflict. New York: DK Publishing, p. 73.

5http://swfanon.wikia.com/wiki/Gray_Jedi_Code

6ibid.

The Balance

“What are you doing, Ben?”

Luke Skywalker’s tone was one of exhaustion. He was too tired to feel the intense frustration he had a right to feel. He stared at his lanky sixteen-year-old nephew and padawan, who merely mirrored his tired expression, but a fire smoldered behind the coal of the boy’s dark eyes.

“And don’t think I don’t know you’ve been hacking into classified files,” Luke continued in a low but firm tone.

Ben lifted his chin. “Knowledge shouldn’t be locked away in a vault. It should be available to everyone.”

Luke closed his eyes and slowly shook his head. Not this argument again. “There’s a reason why these files are classified. This knowledge is dangerous to those who aren’t ready to understand it.”

“These files are all marked for deletion!” This last work was punctuated by a finger aimed at the Jedi Master’s face. “Every last one!”

“Ben,” Luke admonished quietly, trying to exert a calming presence over his excitable padawan through the Force, but Ben immediately threw up a defensive wall in his mind. Luke hoped their words wouldn’t carry beyond the confines of the softly lit study. He tried again, but his nephew cut him off.

“You’re purging any datafile or holovid you don’t agree with! Anything classified as Dark side knowledge. Anything written by Gray Jedi! You have no right to destroy what you don’t understand!”

The boy was more than precocious, Luke thought. He was arrogant, argumentative, and self-righteous, but he was still a boy, the Master reminded himself. But so was Darth Vader…at some point. “What I do understand is this,” he said calmly but grimly. “The Dark side won’t be eradicated until it has been discarded as an option for acquiring power.”¹

“So, you’re just going to attempt,” the youth spat back, throwing up his hands in a gesture of futility, “to eradicate all knowledge of it?” Ben began to pace. ”What about the Jedi power of affect mind — the ability to bend the will of the weak-minded?” He stopped in front of his uncle and stared him down, hands on hips. “What would you classify that as?” The padawan didn’t wait for an answer. “Isn’t domination a Dark side power — something the Jedi have no business wielding?”

Luke let out a long breath. “The Jedi use their abilities for good.”

Ben folded his arms. “How convenient. Who gets to say what’s good?”

“Society, Ben.” It was Luke’s turn to pace. He found himself walking around the big greel wood desk, running a finger along the carved edge, putting distance between them. “And that’s why I’ve come to the conclusion I have.” The Jedi Master stopped on the other side, resting his knuckles on  the desktop, waiting for his padawan to meet his gaze.

Ben tossed his hair out of his eyes and gave his master a petulant stare.

Luke came right to the point. “You can’t stay here, Ben.”

Silence slowly grew to a planet-sized bubble…and then popped.

“I can’t have you leaking this information to the other students.”

“It’s too late,” Ben bit off with a sneer.

Luke dropped his gaze, deeply saddened. “It’s never too late, Ben. I hope someday you see that.”

“You can’t dismiss the Dark side and you can’t destroy it. It’s not possible because you can’t separate it from the Light. If you do, the universe will be destroyed!”

“If you believe that, Ben,” Luke returned simply, “then I have failed you.”

Ben stared, dumbfounded. “The two need each other! They’re born out of chaos.” His voice took on an urgent, pleading tone. “All life is created from chaos by the interaction of the Dark and the Light. One cannot overcome the other and they can never be in balance! If that happens, the engine that creates life and keeps the cosmos going comes to stop!” He swallowed hard, desperation in his eyes. It was an ancient belief of the Gray Jedi, who’d been purged long ago from the Jedi Order. Their doctrine was not welcome.

Luke came around the desk to grip his nephew by the shoulders. “Ben, you have many talents and an intelligence beyond your years. Someday the Jedi path may be for you, but not now. You have a strong passion for justice. I suggest you go to university and explore a career in Galactic law.” He managed an encouraging smile. “You’ve got the head for it.”

Ben said nothing.

“And I have you to thank for setting me on a new path.” Luke gave the teenager’s arm a final pat before moving off, his heart lightening now with hope. “I’m taking a sabbatical to look for the first Jedi temple. You’ve convinced me I’ve got to bring the Order back to its original teachings.”

Ben looked at his boots a long moment in a stance of shame…or so the Jedi Master thought, until the young man raised his head, anger blazing so intently in the dark eyes that Luke thought for a split second they were red.

“You’d better hope you find it before I do, Uncle,” Ben Solo told him in a voice low and dangerous, “because when I find it, I will destroy it.”

 

@MyKyloRen     12 July 2017

¹Luke Skywalker in Windham, Ryder. (2007). Star Wars: Jedi vs. Sith: The Essential Guide to the Force. New York: Ballantine Books, p. 64.