- "With the blood of a scoundrel and a princess in his veins, his defiance will shake the stars."
- ―Landonis Balthazar Calrissian
Ben Solo was a Force-sensitive human male who, after falling to the dark side of the Force, eventually renounced his adopted persona of Kylo Ren and was redeemed. At the height of his power, Ren reigned over the galaxy as Supreme Leader of the First Order and commanded the loyalty of the Knights of Ren as the master of their order. Ren's powers were enhanced by his knowledge of the Jedi arts as well as arcane dark side lore, but such contradictory teachings and the desperation to bury his past turned Ren into the embodiment of conflict. Nevertheless, it was through discord that he derived power, and he used his emotions to channel his anger into strength. Ultimately, Ren aspired to extinguish the light side within him and finish what his grandfather, the Sith Lord Darth Vader, began—the destruction of the Jedi Order.
A dark warrior with a mysterious past, the man who became known as the "Jedi Killer" was born on the planet Chandrila in 5 ABY, when the New Republic defeated the Galactic Empire. The son of General Han Solo and Princess Leia Organa, Solo learned the ways of the Force from his uncle, Jedi Master Luke Skywalker. The bloodline of the most powerful Jedi and Sith flowed through Solo's veins and, after turning to the dark side, he saw it as his birthright to rule the galaxy. With the destruction of the new generation of Jedi, Solo renounced his family and heritage, adopting the name of Kylo Ren and becoming Supreme Leader Snoke's apprentice. Ren's actions during his descent into darkness included the massacre of civilians and the murder of his own father, but the act of patricide failed to end the turmoil within. After assassinating Snoke, Ren usurped the position of Supreme Leader, seizing both military and political control of the First Order.
Though sworn enemies, Ren and the Jedi apprentice Rey formed a prophesied dyad in the Force, and therefore shared a unique bond with each other. Their conflict came to a head in 35 ABY with the return of the Sith Lord Darth Sidious, who urged Ren to destroy Rey and become the new Emperor. His compassion for the former scavenger, however, as well as the death of his mother and the memory of his father, killed the persona of Kylo Ren and restored his identity as Ben Solo. After the battle on Exegol, Solo sacrificed himself to revive Rey, and the two shared a kiss before he died, ending the Skywalker bloodline.
- "Let the past die."
- ―Kylo Ren, as heard by Darth Vader
Kylo Ren was the subject of Force visions before he was even born. Shortly after the Battle of Fortress Vader, the Sith Lord Darth Vader, the Sith persona of the famed Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker, heard the voice of Ren saying that it was time to "Let the past die" as he slaughtered illusions of Jedi while exploring the portal constructed by Lord Momin in Fortress Vader on Mustafar. Ren's voice was also heard by the Jedi Padawan Ezra Bridger, who visited the world between worlds—a mystical plane that existed between time and space in 0 BBY.
- "I know where you come from. Before you called yourself Kylo Ren."
- ―Lor San Tekka
Ben Solo was born in 5 ABY 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, one year and four days 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, Anakin Skywalker, who ceased to be Darth Vader when he was redeemed after decades of bringing despair to the galaxy.
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 occasionally 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. Ben also showed great affection towards Lando Calrissian, who he referred to as "unca Wanwo".
The namesake of Ben's first name was that of the late Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, a legendary Jedi who went by the name of Ben Kenobi while in exile on Tatooine after the fall of the Jedi Order at the end of the Clone Wars and who sacrificed his life while rescuing Ben's mother from the Death Star battle station in 0 BBY. Ben's surname, that of his father, was originally coined by chief recruitment officer Drawd Munbrin in 13 BBY on Corellia for Han when he enlisted for the Carida Academy to become a pilot. 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.
- "For many years, there was balance and then I saw Ben. My nephew with that mighty Skywalker blood. In my hubris, I thought I could train him; I could pass on my strengths. Han was Han about it, but… Leia trusted me with her son. I took him and a dozen students, and began a training temple."
- ―Luke Skywalker
Ben Solo proved to be Force-sensitive, taking after his mother, as well as his uncle and grandfather. Growing up, Solo 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 about Vader from Solo 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. Organa recognized similarities between Solo and Vader and hoped that Skywalker's training could help her son.
In 15 ABY, Solo began his Jedi training as part of Skywalker's initiative to restore the Jedi Order. Solo, like his master, became very devoted to the ways of the Jedi Order. He kept a calligraphy set filled with Jedi insights in his quarters during his time with Skywalker. They traveled across the galaxy in search of Jedi lore and relics during their time together as master and apprentice. But as Skywalker's training temple grew, he divided his attention among multiple students, leaving Solo to search for guidance elsewhere. As such, he was targeted by Supreme Leader Snoke, who recognized Solo's inherent strength with the Force through his lineage as a member of the Skywalker family.
It was through Solo 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 Solo as a focal point between the light side and the dark side—an ideal embodiment of a Force warrior—and wanted to take him as an apprentice of his own. Though his origins were a mystery even to his own subordinates in the First Order, Snoke was created by the reborn Emperor Darth Sidious and designed by the Sith Eternal cultists to mold Solo into an heir worthy of inheriting the legacy of the Sith.
The fabled Knights of Ren
- "Hey kid, you sure this is the life for you? You do know there are other paths, right?"
- ―Ren, to Ben Solo
As a young Jedi apprentice, Solo accompanied his master and Lor San Tekka on a mission to Elphrona where they found an ancient Jedi outpost dating back to the days of the High Republic Era. Unknown to Skywalker, Snoke was secretly communicating with Solo through the Force, allowing the apprentice to express his disdain for his master's teaching methods. It was during this mission when Solo first encountered the Knights of Ren, a gang of dark side mauraders who also sought the treasures stored within the outpost. A conflict ensued between Skywalker and the Knights, with Solo holding back to protect San Tekka at his master's command. The Knights were overpowered by the last Jedi, but Skywalker spared their lives and allowed them to depart. Before leaving, their leader, called Ren, offered Solo a place in their ranks, having sensed his potential with the dark side.
Twenty-four years after the Battle of Endor, the truth about Solo's mother Leia's parentage was revealed by her political enemies, in the Galactic Senate. Leia 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
- "I never… I didn't want this."
"And you did not choose it, Ben. The Jedi did. Skywalker."
- ―Ben Solo and Snoke
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 Solo. 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, though the desire to kill his nephew vanished in an instant, and Skywalker was immediately filled with shame. Solo awoke to see his uncle standing over him with his lightsaber raised, unaware of the brevity of Skywalker's instinct. He panicked, and drew his own saber at the sight of the attempt on his life. Believing Skywalker had failed him, Solo 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.
Solo left the ruins of his room, confused and consumed with despair and rage at the betrayal. Overcome with his emotions, a powerful storm brewed above the Jedi temple, razed it to the ground and set the buildings ablaze. Horrified by the destruction, Solo attempted to approach the burning temple, but was thrown back by an explosion. Solo stood alone and watched the temple burn, haunted by the day's events, until three fellow students Hennix, Tai, and Voe arrived from off-planet and questioned his involvement in the temple's demise. Eventually, Ben was forced to fight them, using only his Force powers, before making his way to his starship Grimtaash, whilst the trio followed in their own spacecraft. Though he had the opportunity to kill the other students, he merely incapacitated their ship, before making his escape, eventually arriving at a space station where he met with Snoke.
The rise of Kylo Ren
- "And when you called yourself by that new name, you saw your truth. It represents what you want to do on a deep level. The part of yourself you want to cut away. The part you want to kill. Perhaps someday you will do it. The galaxy will hear that name and see you."
- ―Snoke, to Ben Solo
Having rejected his future as a Jedi, Solo expressed interest in learning what he could from the Knights of Ren. Snoke not only supported Solo's new path, but also encouraged the fallen Jedi to take the opportunity of forging his own identity absent of Skywalker's influence. Solo had long felt the pressure of living up to the legends he was named after, and therefore wished to be rid of his given name as well as his father's surname. Even before he departed to search for the Knights of Ren, Solo began entertaining the idea of using a name he coined as a child. Snoke approved, believing that the new name represented Solo's true nature and would become known to the entire galaxy one day. Returning to the place where he last saw the Knights, Solo made contact with Ren by using the latter's helmet as a direct line of communication, and was told to seek them out on Vanrak in the Mid Rim. By then, the other Jedi students had caught up to Solo, intending to prevent him from going any further down the path of the dark side.
Solo ultimately assumed "Kylo Ren" as his chosen name, becoming the 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 Solo 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, which became extinct with the deaths of Ren's grandfather and his Sith Master Darth Sidious aboard the Death Star II during the Battle of Endor. Unbeknownst to Ren, Skywalker survived the tragedy, but he was forever changed upon witnessing the death and destruction of his Jedi Order.
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. No longer a Jedi but neither a Sith, Ren strove to harness the pain of his emotional conflict in order to fuel his extraordinary powers and destroy the last traces of the Jedi tradition.
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 and stamp put the last remnants of the light side of the Force. Though Skywalker had redeemed Vader during the Battle of Endor—allowing his father, Anakin to fulfill the ancient prophecy of the Chosen One—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. At one point Ren believed that he had made contact with the spirit of his grandfather, as he once beseeched Vader's helmet to "show [him] again, the power of the darkness."
Ren modified his lightsaber upon falling to the dark side, channeling dangerous amounts of power through a cracked kyber crystal. The crude design was an ancient one, dating back thousands of years to a battle between the Jedi and Sith on the planet Malachor. Even with the additional quillon blades, the kyber crystal within 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, flickering appearance.
As an apprentice to Supreme Leader Snoke and an enforcer of Snoke's will (much like his grandfather had been to Emperor Palpatine during the reign of the Galactic Empire), 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 the Galactic Empire's relationship with Darth Vader, 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.
Over time Ren's reputation came to rival that of Hux and Phasma, both of whom were noted among the First Order ranks for their power and influence. Nevertheless, soldiers such as Captain Cardinal held Ren in high regard, believing he would be the one to lead the First Order to victory. However, although he was highly regarded by some figures of the First Order command, others were less impressed with the young Knight of Ren. Agent Terex, an officer of the First Order's security branch, was disdainfully dismissive of the dark side warrior's attempt to emulate Darth Vader, whom he had met and considered a truly terrifying figure.
Descent into darkness
- "Use your fear. Let it crystallize into anger. Turn that anger into power."
- ―Snoke, to Kylo Ren
Sometime later, Snoke took Ren to a rocky world in the Rarlech system. As the two stood at the edge of a cliff, Snoke turned to Ren and asked if he was afraid. Ren replied by saying he wasn't. Snoke, using the Force, pushed Ren off the cliff and held him in the air. He proceeded to say that he knew Ren was afraid, as he should have been because he had no control. Instead, Ren was obfuscated and powerless. Snoke continued by saying that feeling that was good. Powerless men turned to anger and could lash out blindly with rage. But powerful ones can harness their anger and use it strike. Either they strike or fall. Snoke then released Ren, letting him fall. He told Ren to use the fear in him, turn it into anger, and make that anger become power. Following the guidance of Snoke, Ren was able to use the Force to survive the fall. He then asked Snoke if he would have rescued him if he wasn't able to save himself. Snoke answered by saying that Ren's former master, Luke Skywalker would have, but in doing so would hinder Ren's progress. Snoke wanted Ren to find his true power and potential if the latter wished to rule the galaxy alongside him.
After leaving the rocky world, the duo arrived on Dagobah. As they prepared to depart from the shuttle, Ren was about to bring his helmet when Snoke ordered him to leave it behind. Ren tried to tell Snoke that he wanted to bring it, but the incensed Supreme Leader slapped him in the face, drawing blood, and once again ordered Ren to leave it, telling him that he couldn't pretend to be Vader where they were going.
The Cave of Evil
- "I feel cold, death, and more."
"The cave is power. And darkness. And you will enter."
"What's in there?"
"Only what you've been too weak to bury. Or you can run away, if you'd like."
- ―Snoke and Kylo Ren
Following the incident on board their shuttle, Snoke and Ren proceeded to head towards the Cave of Evil on Dagobah. Ren made the comment that he could still sense his uncle from his time on Dagobah training with Yoda. Snoke nodded and told Ren that one of the most formidable Jedi began his training here. Ren then asked Snoke why he spoke of Skywalker with respect. Snoke said that Skywalker had earned his respect and fear. Ren told Snoke that Skywalker was weak. Snoke replied to him by saying that Skywalker was not weak; merely misguided. If Snoke had had Skywalker by his side, the galaxy would have belonged to him a lot earlier. They then went to the cave where Ren could sense a coldness radiating from it, along with death and other things. Snoke explained that was where all the fears Ren had been too weak to bury resided. He could go in or run away. But Ren's mind was already made up. He ventured in.
Once inside, Ren had a vision of his uncle Luke, saying that he didn't want to fight Ren. Ren told him that he did not care and activated his lightsaber. Snoke sensed the decision Ren had made and told that it was good and told him that Skywalker would have murdered him in his sleep because he feared Ren and how formidable he'd become. As the two continued to duel, Snoke advised Ren to use his hatred, rise above what was holding him back, and strike against the light within him. Ren did so and impaled the vision of Luke. Thinking he was finished, Ren told Snoke that he was done. But Snoke told him that the vision had just started.
Ren then caught sight of his parents, begging him to quit his actions. He tried to kill the light within him by saying that Ben wasn't his name, but Leia insisted it was and that he was loved. Back outside the cave, Snoke could sense the conflict within Ren, but then he sensed Ren ignite his lightsaber. He told Ren to kill the connection and snuff it out. But, back in the cave, Ren hadn't killed his parents, instead, he used his lightsaber to slice a tree. This action proved that though he hated his uncle, he loved his mother and father and it foreshadowed what he would do to Snoke, who couldn't sense that he had not killed the vision of his parents. Ren then destroyed the Cave of Evil, surprising Snoke who told Ren that the cave had stood for thousands of years and that he had planned to bring other apprentices to the Cave of Evil. Ren answered by telling Snoke that the past was the past and that Snoke would no longer need any more apprentices.
Colonization of the Unknown Regions
- "They also said that someone called Kylo Ren was leading the First Order army. Does that name mean anything to you?"
"You could say that. General Organa will want to hear about this immediately."
- ―Kazuda Xiono and Ello Asty
As one of the commanders of the First Order's military, Ren was heavily involved in its campaign to colonize the Unknown Regions, where the former Imperials had been rebuilding their strength since the Battle of Jakku. Aided by mysterious alien navigators known as the Attendants, the First Order had been able to navigate beyond the frontier of the known galaxy, allowing them to survive and rebuild their power. Several threats lurked in the Unknown Regions, hermetic kingdoms who were confronted by the growing new power. On Supreme Leader Snoke's instruction, the new military undertook a major offensive against several of these kingdoms to seize their worlds and resources to fuel their rise.
In 34 ABY Ren led an army to the world of Tehar, where they subjugated the local population by massacring a village. However, the siblings Kel and Eila survived the destruction of their village and fled Tehar after stowing away on a cargo ship. Since the children bore the knowledge of its aggressive actions against the people on Tehar, the First Order placed a large bounty of twenty thousand credits on their heads, telling informants that Kel and Eila were members of a high-ranking First Order family from outside its military hierarchy.
Kel and Eila eventually made their way to Castilon and sought refuge on a supertanker fuel depot known as the Colossus. After meeting the Resistance spy Kazuda Xiono, Eila told him about Ren's involvement in the raid on her village. Though she knew little about the warrior dressed in black, apart from his name and affiliation with the army that invaded Tehar, Ren's lightsaber reminded Eila of the legends about the Jedi who carried the same weapons. Xiono, who was also unaware of Ren's identity, passed this information to the Resistance while reporting to Ello Asty.
The search for Skywalker
- "If Skywalker returns, the new Jedi will rise."
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.
Mission to Pillio
- "Tell me where Lor San Tekka took the map."
"…Bayora. He took it to Bayora."
- ―Kylo Ren and Del Meeko
The hunt for Skywalker caused Ren to undertake a journey the planet Pillio. Although San Tekka was not found on the world, the First Order's allies captured and detained Del Meeko, a veteran of the Galactic Civil War who served the Empire and New Republic, in turn, as a member of Inferno Squad. Upon his arrival, the dark warrior was greeted by Protectorate Gleb of Jinata Security. Dismissive of the formalities, he instructed the Aqualish officer to lead him to Meeko. He found the former soldier wounded and alone on the bridge of the Raider II-class corvette Corvus.
Ignoring the prisoner's sarcasm, Ren used the Force to probe through Meeko's mind, determined to learn where San Tekka took the map. For all of Meeko's efforts to resist the probe, invading his mind was a relatively simple task for Ren, who saw memories ranging across the former commando's life—from his service on Scarif as a coastal defender stormtrooper to his participation in the Battle of Endor and the skirmish on Vardos. He also learned that Meeko encountered Skywalker on Pillio and subsequently discovered his faith in the Force. Ultimately, Meeko was unable to resist Ren's powers and revealed that San Tekka took the map with him to Bayora.
Having gained the information he sought, Ren turned the prisoner over to First Order officer Gideon Hask, one of Meeko's former teammates in the Inferno Squad prior the Empire's fall, who executed Meeko shortly thereafter.
- "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. Ren, his temper under control, felt something nearby: something from the planet that should not be on board. He activated his lightsaber to illuminate the room and looked around, but whatever it was had now gone.
After the conference, Ren transmitted orders to Phasma via private frequency. But he had to make sure she got them, so he walked over to the captain's quarters and called her from outside. Only Phasma's helmet appeared through the opened doors. Pleased by her punctuality, Ren relayed what he sensed to Phasma, for he planned to have a discreet search throughout the Finalizer. He ordered her to take a squad of trainees to investigate the planet for any Resistance activity. Anything Phasma may find, she must deliver to Ren. Then the dark warrior left.
Marooned with Hux
- "How did we…? Did you…did you save me?"
"Not intentionally. I saved myself. You were just nearby. Communications are out."
"Which means I have no choice but to talk to you instead of literally anyone else."
- ―Armitage Hux and Kylo Ren
At one point before the attack on Tuanul, an Xi-class light shuttle carrying Kylo Ren and General Hux crash-landed on a distant world. Their shuttle was consequently destroyed and the pilot died in the crash, although Ren survived the incident by protecting himself with the Force. By saving himself, however, he inadvertently saved Hux's life as well. The destruction of their vessel along with its communications system left them marooned and unable to contact the First Order. Realizing that a saboteur was responsible for their predicament, the two rivals began bickering over which of them was at fault. Ren chided Hux as he believed the general was targeted by a conspirator in his own army, to which Hux responded by mocking Ren for his temper and efforts emulate Darth Vader. Ren drew his lightsaber at the mention of his parents and contemplated ridding himself of Hux once and for all, aware that it would be some time before the First Order located their position. However, Hux reminded him of the one person who would learn the truth: Ren's master, Supreme Leader Snoke. Although he did not understand why Hux was important to Snoke's plans, Ren conceded the point that there would be a penalty for killing the Supreme Leader's favored general, and therefore deactivated his lightsaber, sparing Hux.
Following their argument, Ren and Hux were attacked by a norwood, a large creature native to the planet that they were stranded on. Drawing his lightsaber once more, Ren took a defensive stance and told Hux to stay behind him, only to see that the general had already fled in the opposite direction of the beast. Though abandoned by Hux, Ren stood his ground and managed to incapacitate the norwood by using the Force to smack its head against a tree. Believing himself victorious, Ren called Hux a coward and told him to come out from wherever he was hiding, but a second norwood ambushed him and ultimately rendered the dark warrior unconscious, at which point the Alderaanian exile Bylsma emerged and prevented the norwoods from killing Ren.
Hux, who had been hiding in the trees and watching as the event occurred, cautiously approached Bylsma from his hiding place. Recognizing the old man's uniform, Hux came to the conclusion that Bylsma was an Alderaanian palace guard. Bylsma confirmed as much and revealed that he had fled into exile after the destruction of Alderaan. He stranded himself on a distant planet and severed his connections to the larger galaxy, fearing that his new home would suffer Alderaan's fate if he attempted to use his ship's communications, but as a result, Bylsma had no knowledge of the events that unfolded after the disaster. Hux used Bylsma's ignorance of recent galactic history in order to gain his trust. In addition, he used Ren's heritage to his advantage, informing Bylsma that the man whom the norwoods attacked was, in fact, a fellow son of Alderaan. More to the point, he was the son of Leia Organa, the princess of Alderaan. Bylsma, who had known both the princess and her adoptive father, saw the physical resemblance between Ren and his mother and wondered if Ren was anything like the princess he once served. Hux assured him that Ren was indeed like his mother, even if he would have denied it.
Bylsma built a stretcher and carried Ren to his home, where Hux convinced the retired soldier to give him access to the ship's communications so that they could be rescued. After regaining consciousness, Ren played along with Hux's deception until a shuttle arrived to retrieve them. The shuttle ramp lowered revealing Captain Phasma and a squad of stormtroopers, leading to the norwoods' immediate death by blaster fire. Ren boarded the shuttle in silence alongside Hux, who told the captain to spare the old man's life but to disable his communications array, leaving Bylsma truly stranded and alone. They reported directly to Snoke via hologram after their return to Starkiller Base; although Ren offered to punish the culprit responsible for sabotaging the shuttle, Hux insisted on handling the matter personally, given that the conspiracy was directed at him. Snoke approved the general's request, causing Ren to question the Supreme Leader's faith in Hux. Ren, who could sense Hux's ambition to kill and replace Snoke, and therefore, deemed him untrustworthy, was certain that his master knew it as well. Snoke dismissed Ren's concerns, however, and explained why Hux—a vicious and unforgiving man, consumed by ambition and driven by spite, molded as such through years of abuse—was ultimately a useful asset.
Walking in Darth Vader's shadow
- "But still, we are walking in Darth Vader's shadow. This is the field where he fought. There is glory here."
"Glory? Nah. There's none of that buried out there. There are only wasted lives…"
- ―Kylo Ren and Ruthford
The First Order deployed an army, under the command of Kylo Ren, to the Benathy homeworld in Wild Space, intending to put an end to their expansionist campaign. Ren, who was aware that his grandfather once fought against the Benathy decades earlier during the reign of the Galactic Empire, saw his mission as an opportunity to succeed where Darth Vader failed—by forcing the Benathy to submit to the First Order. Captain Ruthford, a veteran Imperial stormtrooper who joined the First Order, accompanied Ren as his military advisor. Having served with Ren's grandfather against the Benathy, Ruthford opined that Vader managed to subdue the aliens but at the cost of thousands on both sides, resulting in a pyrrhic victory. But where Ruthford was disillusioned by his past experience with the Benathy, believing their conflict with the Empire was pointless and a waste of lives, Ren saw only glory as he walked across the field of battle where Vader once stood, the shadow of his grandfather's legacy looming over the young dark side warrior.
Despite the army behind him, the First Order's troops were ordered to stand by while Ren conducted negotiations with the Benathy's ruler, King Kristoff, attempting to secure their capitulation without bloodshed. Desiring to expand the Benathy's domain, Kristoff not only conquered four nearby planets but also had them purged of all life, leading Ren to demand that the Benathy cease their expansion immediately. Compared to Ren, the late Vader commanded the king's respect, but only to a degree because while Vader killed Kristoff's predecessor he failed to defeat their Zillo Beast, which the Benathy worshiped as a god. Nevertheless, Ren continued his efforts to resolve their situation through diplomacy and even attempted to dominate the king's will by way of the Force. The mind trick failed, however. Kristoff openly mocked Ren's negotiating skills, causing Ruthford to caution him against provoking the dark warrior. At that point, Ren stabbed the king through the head with his lightsaber, concluding negotiations in favor of open battle.
Leading by example like his grandfather before him, Ren fought alongside his stormtroopers as they engaged the Benathy and personally killed numerous enemy combatants until their deity arrived. Despite Ruthford's skepticism, Ren was undaunted and ordered his men to keep fighting. After their initial efforts to kill the beast failed, he improvised a plan to kill the creature to the dismay of Ruthford, who could no longer restrain himself from expressing his disapproval of Ren's desire to match Vader's achievements. In his view, there was no competition between Ren and Vader because the latter was long since dead.
Despite the captain's lack of faith in him, Ren commanded a shuttle to bring him to the jaws of the Zillo Beast, diving head-first into its mouth. Convinced that Ren was dead, Ruthford was in the middle of recommending the option of retreat to a nearby admiral when the Zillo Beast suddenly collapsed and died. Ren had killed the creature from within, where it was vulnerable, and managed to cut his way out, emerging from its corpse covered in the blood of the Benathy's deity. Declaring that their god was now dead, the dark warrior commanded the Benathy to submit to the First Order, and they did by kneeling in submission to him. In the end, he not only gained the allegiance of the Benathy, but also Captain Ruthford's respect.
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
Eventually, the First Order learned that San Tekka was on Jakku. Ren, who knew San 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. The First Order's military attacked the village of Tuanul, where San 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 San Tekka, lamenting how old the former explorer had become, to which San Tekka replied that Ren's fall to the dark side was far worse. Ren demanded that San Tekka give the map to the First Order, but San 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 freeze 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 could sense his fear before boarding 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 Ren 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 Snoke
With the droid 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 one and for all. 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 the droid was in the hands of Han Solo; the old smuggler had the astromech aboard his ship, the Millennium Falcon. 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 believed 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 the Sith started and destroy the last of the Jedi.
Capture of Rey
- "You still want to kill me."
"That's what 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 the droid 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 the droid were briefly captured by the First Order before Dameron and the Resistance Starfighter Corps arrived to recover the droid, while the girl and the astromech 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 would not need the droid, 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. The droid 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 young 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. Ren felt an innate connection to the scavenger, although at the time he was unaware that they formed a prophesied dyad in the Force. At first, he got a hold of 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 be 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
- "Supreme Leader, I can get the map from the girl. I just need your guidance."
"If what you say about this girl is true, bring her to me."
- ―Kylo Ren and Snoke
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.
On his way to Rey's holding cell, Ren learned that the girl had somehow broken out. The guard who had been ordered to watch her could not fathom how he ended up in his quarters. When asked by a First Order officer if "stronger methods" were needed, Ren declined; any further simple questioning might enable the guard to remember something important. In the meantime, Rey must be found.
When Ren returned to the cell, he needed to see if Rey had truly used her emerging Force abilities to escape. Inspection revealed the interrogation bench was deserted, every one of its restraints left open as if to mock Ren. Enraged, he ignited his lightsaber and destroyed the room, causing two passing stormtroopers to quickly back away.
Han Solo's last stand
- "I'm being torn apart. I want to be free of this pain. And I know what I have to do, but I don't know if I have the strength to do it. Will you help me?"
- ―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 dangerous 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, much like his father before him. Solo refused to acknowledge Ren's pessimistic stance on the matter, retorting that his son was very much alive and Snoke was simply using Ren for his power, and that once Snoke had exhausted Ren's usefulness, he would be disposed of. 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 to his true family, claiming that he and Organa desperately missed the presence of their son. Ren, conflicted by the pull towards the light, broke down in tears and told his father that he was being torn apart by the constant struggle between the dark and the light inside him and wanted to be free of the pain that he was feeling. He knew what he had to do to put a permanent end to his inner turmoil, although Ren was uncertain whether or not he could perform the necessary act to do so. Asking for his father's assistance in ceasing the struggle, 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 Chewbacca's roar of anguish nor Rey's scream of horror.
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. Quickly, Ren used the Force to reduce the effects of the wound, lest it may result in his premature death. Chewbacca 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. The Wookiee then 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 within him, 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 from which Han Solo could not save them. Outraged by Ren's patricidal actions, Rey denounced the dark warrior as a monster and 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 Skywalker 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 his opponent, 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. At that moment, 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 the young warrior's training could be completed. Hux and several troopers tracked Ren's signal and took him aboard a shuttle, leaving before the planet exploded. Immediately following Starkiller Base's destruction, Ren received treatment for the long scars on his body, though it was too late to erase them completely.
Let the past die
- "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. The blows inflicted on him, by Rey and Chewbacca, though stitched up some by microsutures, were still as fresh as ever, causing him some discomfort, though he tried to hide this. Kneeling before his master, he 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, the Supreme Leader revealed his belief that Ren could fulfill his grandfather's dark legacy.
But in light of his apprentice's most recent setback, Snoke retracted his faith in Ren's power. He chastised the dark warrior, calling him weak and sentimental, just like his late father. The struggle within Ren as he prepared to strike down Han Solo had been sensed by Snoke from afar. It was the trauma from this action that caused him to be outmatched by an untrained scavenger, who had never before wielded a lightsaber. Snoke had never seen such a pathetic display.
Fury building within him, Ren rose to attack his master, but Snoke quickly suppressed the attack with a surge of lightning, throwing the apprentice back. 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, who would have been ashamed of his grandson. Leaving the throne room, Ren erupted in a rage of self-pity and smashed his helmet against the surrounding metal. He then ordered his ship to be readied, resuming his quest to eradicate the Resistance.
Chasing the Resistance
- "Follow my lead."
- ―Kylo Ren, to his wingmen
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, he destroyed the Raddus hangar, leaving them unable to resist the 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 (with his mother likewise sensing him too) 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 upon the bridge.
Ren watched the detonation with astonishment. He reached out again, but could not feel Organa anywhere. He believed that if he had had enough time, if he had not been taken by surprise, he would have protected his mother with the Force. Now, however, he had to conclude that she had died, along with all those present on the Raddus' bridge.
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. Ren, with his wingmen being blown up around him, had no other recourse but to comply.
A growing connection
- "I'd 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 micro-sutures that had been attached to it, when he sensed a disturbance. Before he knew 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. The still shocked Ren pursued Rey when she ran away and found her soon after and tried to use the Mind Trick to force Rey to bring Luke to him, only to soon realize 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. He even discovered that Rey had found Luke Skywalker and was now studying under him, although he could not discern where as he was unable to see Rey's surroundings. Whereas the aspiring Jedi regarded their connection as an inconvenience, Ren 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. Ren eventually revealed his recollection of the night he forsook Skywalker's teachings—how he awoke to the sound of a lightsaber, held by his uncle who intended to murder Ben Solo in his sleep—shaking Rey's faith in her Jedi Master. Although Rey called him a liar, she sensed no deception from Ren. He genuinely believed that his former mentor had betrayed him and intended to kill him while he was defenseless.
After failing to discover the fate of her parents, Rey sought out Ren through their bond because he understood what it was like to feel alone and lost. They comforted each other, insisting that neither was alone and in that moment they touched hands. Rey then beheld a vision of the future, leading her to believe that Ren was fated to renounce the dark side and return to the light, like his grandfather before him.
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 his sanctuary 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.
- "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
Ren's emotions were fully open to Rey, who could feel that his conflict had grown worse ever since he killed his father. Clinging to the good she sensed within the dark side warrior, she reached out to the former Ben Solo and revealed her conviction in the vision she had when they touched hands through the Force. Solo was not fated to continue bowing before Snoke. Redemption was his destiny; of that Rey was certain. Ren, however, revealed that he also beheld a vision that convinced him it would be Rey who turned; because he now knew the truth behind Rey's parentage. Just before they entered the throne room where the Supreme Leader awaited their arrival, Rey sensed that much of Ren's churning emotions were about her.
Snoke, who proclaimed that his faith in Ren had been restored, began appraising Rey who remained defiant in spite of her inability to resist the dark master's Force powers. Although Rey remained certain that Ren would turn, her mental defenses began to crumble when Snoke revealed that he had been responsible for the intermittent connections she experienced with the Supreme Leader's apprentice, a revelation which came as a shock to Ren as well. It had all been a plot to draw Rey, the means to find Luke Skywalker, right into Snoke's hands. Nevertheless, Ren remained silent as Rey screamed, trying in vain to stop Snoke from invading her mind.
Upon discovering Skywalker's location, Snoke planned to wipe him out from above as soon as the more immediate enemy had been dealt with. Rey summoned Skywalker's lightsaber to her hand, only for Snoke to redirect the hilt onto her head; Ren, eyes shut, merely tilted his head to the right to avoid being struck by the flying object. The Supreme Leader revealed through his oculus the Resistance being picked off one by one as they tried to flee aboard transports for safety. All that Ren's mother had fought for would be destroyed by the Supremacy's guns. In response, an enraged Rey pulled Ren's lightsaber into her hands and charged at Snoke, who effortlessly overpowered her. Ren watched the lightsaber fall out of Rey's grip and shut off, sliding on the floor back to its owner's feet.
Snoke, who had grown weary of his oft-conflicted apprentice, exulted at the newfound resolve that he suddenly felt emanating from Ren. Having promised to kill Rey with the cruelest stroke, he immobilized Rey and gave Ren the chance to execute the girl who defeated him on Starkiller Base. Ren retrieved his lightsaber, stood up and stepped towards Rey. He knew what must be done and, as Rey predicted, he did indeed turn against his master. Knowing that Snoke could sense his every intent, he turned his lightsaber to Rey while simultaneously his uncle's weapon rotated to face in Snoke's direction. Snoke, who became distracted by the desire to appreciate Rey's impending doom with the Force rather than the approximation afforded by mundane senses, believed that Ren was about to kill his true enemy—a status he wrongly attributed to Rey.
With a hidden gesture from Ren's free hand, the blue energy blade of Skywalker's lightsaber sprang forth, spearing Snoke through his waist. Almost instantly, Snoke's control on Rey was lost. The blade, which was still under Ren's control, carved through Snoke, cutting him in half before returning to Rey's grasp. After a moment of locking eyes with each other, Ren and Rey stood back-to-back to receive the retaliation of the fallen Supreme Leader's Elite Praetorian Guards, who charged towards the Force-sensitive duo from all sides with the intent of avenging his death. Although the two were eventually separated and forced to contend with multiple guards on their own, they both held their own and continued to strike down one Praetorian after another. Ren, who felt both excitement and a hunger for battle, personally killed half the Guards on his own but was disarmed by his fifth opponent, causing Rey to throw the Skywalker lightsaber to him. He swiftly thumbed it on and off, letting the blade pierce through the last Praetorian's head.
- "It's time to let old things die. Snoke, Skywalker. The Sith, the Jedi, the Rebels… Let it all die. Rey, I want you to join me. We can rule together and bring a new order to the galaxy."
- ―Kylo Ren
Rey, who stared at Ren through eyes filled with joy, beseeched him to help her save the Resistance fleet. To her disbelief and horror, Ren proposed that he and Rey join together and "let old things die," including the Resistance, and bring a new order to the galaxy. Neither fear or anger influenced his decision; he had chosen to continue down the dark path with a deep resolve. Rey begged Ren to not give into the dark side, but the latter stood behind his convictions. To his frustration, he could see that Rey was still clinging to that futile hope of hers. He urged her to "let go," to admit the truth about her parents—a truth she had always known but hidden away for years. Rey struggled to control her emotions as she admitted that she knew this, that her parents were simply "nobody," but the revelation that she came from nothing threatened to overwhelm her. At that moment, Ren admitted that Rey was not "nothing" to him. Ren, who saw Rey as an ally in destroying the past he hated, wanted the former scavenger to join him permanently. Motioning her to take his hand, he pleaded with her to stay with him so that they could rule the galaxy together.
As on Starkiller Base, however, Rey used the Force to summon the Skywalker lightsaber her grasp. Ren, his entreaty rejected, raised his own hand to harness the Force around the lightsaber, causing it to stop mid-flight. Neither Ren or Rey relented as both continued to call upon the Jedi weapon with equal determination. In the midst of their standoff, the lightsaber's kyber crystal wailed through the Force, seeking resonance and harmony where there was nothing but dissonance. The crystal ultimately sheared apart, unleashing a wave of energy that tore the lightsaber in half before consuming the throne room in a flash of brilliant, blinding light. In addition to rendering both Force users unconscious, the shockwave of Force energy coincided with the sacrifice of Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo, who crashed the Raddus into the Supremacy at lightspeed, splitting the First Order flagship in half before it could destroy all of the Resistance transports.
Supreme Leader Kylo Ren
- "Our Supreme Leader is dead! We have no ruler—"
"The Supreme Leader is dead."
"Long live the Supreme Leader."
- ―Armitage Hux and Kylo Ren
Ren regained consciousness shortly after Hux reached the throne room. Having killed the Supreme Leader and his guards, Ren falsely accused Rey of murder, claiming that she was the one responsible for Snoke's death. Hux, who had contemplated shooting the fallen knight before he awoke, informed Ren that the girl escaped from the Supremacy using Snoke's private shuttle.
Realizing that Rey had awoken before him, Ren pondered why she had spared his life, knowing he was at her mercy while in an unconscious state. It then occurred to Ren that Rey could, in fact, care about him. Regardless, he dismissed it as a sign of sentimental weakness that would eventually lead to Rey's destruction.
Knowing that Rey would travel to Crait in an effort to save the Resistance, Ren ordered Hux to send their forces to the planet where they would end the war and his mother's movement for good. Hux scoffed at the notion of taking orders from his longtime rival and reminded Ren that the army answered to their general. In addition, he pointed out that, without a Supreme Leader, the First Order was cast into a state of disarray. Before he could go on, the General's protests were suddenly silenced by Ren, who applied the Force choke technique on Hux. Overtaken by fear, Hux grudgingly pledged his allegiance to Ren, whom he hailed as Snoke's successor. Even so, Ren remained distrustful of Hux and chose to keep the General close by as a safeguard against treachery.
Battle of Crait
- "General Hux, advance. No quarter. No prisoners."
- ―Kylo Ren
As far as the new Supreme Leader was concerned, the Battle of Crait would prove to be the final battle in the war between the First Order and the Resistance. He would give no quarter to his enemies, nor take a single prisoner. Looming overhead in his command shuttle, Ren oversaw the deployment of AT-ATs, AT-M6s, and AT-STs to the salt-covered surface of Crait, gathered from what remained of the Supremacy. It would be a relatively straightforward operation, with Ren's forces marching on 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 equipped with 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 Ren 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. Hux tried to advise him against what he considered a waste of time, but Ren thrashed the General against the wall with the Force, knocking him unconscious. The nearby pilot needed no further prodding and complied with the command.
The time had come for Ren to face Skywalker personally. He slowly advanced until he was but a few meters from the old Jedi. He tauntingly asked if Skywalker had come to be his salvation. Skywalker answered half-heartedly in the negative. Then lightsabers were drawn. Skywalker made no effort to harm his nephew and only moved to avoid Ren's attacks. He apologized for failing in his duty as Ben Solo's mentor, but Ren took it with sarcasm and declared that the war had ended with the death of the Resistance. In addition, he stated that Skywalker would die as well, marking the end of the Jedi Order itself. He was wrong on all accounts; according to Skywalker, the war had just begun, the Rebellion was reborn, and he would not die as the last of the Jedi.
Ren felt that Skywalker was talking about Rey, the old man's supposed "Chosen One". He vowed that he would see her annihilated, along with Skywalker and "all of it." In response, Skywalker turned off his lightsaber. He warned his nephew against striking him down in anger, otherwise, Skywalker would always be with Ren, just like Han Solo. It was thus that he opened himself up for the final blow.
Ren charged at Skywalker once more until he slashed through him with no effect. Confused, he pointed his lightsaber in the Grand Master's direction and moved forward until the blade harmlessly passed through his uncle again, revealing that Skywalker was not actually present for the battle; he had been projecting himself through the Force from Ahch-To. With one final chiding goodbye, the image had vanished.
At that moment, Ren realized what had his uncle had done: by distracting him, the old Jedi had bought time for the remaining members of the Resistance to escape. Hux had been right all along. Angered by the deception, Ren, Hux and their forces scoured the now-empty base, but finding only a projection of his father's golden hanging dice, all Ren could do was kneel 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 nor compassion for him. Both knew that this struggle between them was far from concluded. Ren had become the Supreme Leader, all but destroyed his mother's Resistance and struck down his uncle on the battlefield of Crait, but it did not feel like a victory to Ren.
After Crait, Rey and Organa discussed Ren and his actions. Rey wanted to understand him and how Ren had turned to the dark side, but Organa told Rey that she would need to ask Ren to know. Rey told the general that Ren wanted her to join him and that, while she thought she could help him, all he had wanted was for her to be like him. Organa could see that Rey cared about her son and also that he had disappointed her, so she informed the young Jedi that Ren had made his decisions, adding that the only person who could save him was himself, but Organa was unsure if that was what her son wanted. Rey understood this, but she had held onto hope, although Organa believed that hope was a good trait.
Campaign of terror
- "We can and will chase every rumor, every scrap, every vapor trail across the galaxy! We will mobilize every bounty hunter and informant and turn over every rock to find all of them…and wipe every one of them out of existence!"
- ―Kylo Ren, to Armitage Hux
Kylo Ren's reign as Supreme Leader was marked by a fierce crackdown on any star systems exhibiting signs of independence or defiance. Opposition to the First Order grew, in part, because of the persistent tale of Ren's defeat by a "legendary Jedi" at the Battle of Crait, which proved a difficult fable to suppress. In order to root out malcontents and crush the spirit of rebellion, Ren declared every world guilty of disloyalty to be subversive, making them prime targets for his stormtroopers and the dreaded Knights of Ren.
Although General Hux survived the regime change within the First Order, the new Supreme Leader was distrustful and refused to lower his guard around someone as devious as Hux. Ren ensured that his one-time rival would have little independent authority without supervision, giving assignments to Allegiant General Enric Pryde or even to the Knights of Ren before entrusting Hux with anything of importance. As a result, the former commander of Starkiller Base was reassigned to menial tasks, such as collecting status updates on the First Order's refueling stations including the supertanker fuel depot Titan. Ren also kept Hux close by to countermand the general's orders when necessary; on one occasion, Hux dismissed a reported sighting of the Resistance operative Finn, believing it was a waste of the First Order's resources to follow up on every rumor regarding the Resistance. This led Ren to openly chastise Hux on the bridge of the Finalizer, ensuring the general understood that they would use every available asset to find and destroy the Resistance.
The Supreme Leader made good on his vow to punish any world that showed anything less than absolute loyalty. Making his way to the neutral planet of Fondor, Ren placed it under military occupation after learning that the Resistance had passed through its system. Although an official of Fondor swore that his government held no allegiance to the insurgents, having refused to assist them in any capacity, the mere contact with the enemies of the First Order provided Ren with his justification for seizing control of the Fondor Shipyards. Convinced the Old Empire had been too lenient, Ren adopted a zero tolerance policy in regard to the Resistance, and as such, he personally executed the official via decapitation. Ultimately, Fondor was made an example to the rest of the galaxy, warning them to stay away from the Resistance on pain of death. Such measures were intended by Ren to prevent the Resistance from replacing their lost resources.
Hunting the Resistance
- "We have learned from the mistakes of the Empire—They were too lenient."
- ―Kylo Ren
The Supreme Leader launched a manhunt for the surviving members of the Resistance, deploying First Order forces to various locations across the galaxy. Ren personally oversaw the search for Resistance fugitives at the Black Spire Outpost on Batuu, having traveled to the remote installation via a TIE/es assault shuttle after receiving word that Rey had apparently been sighted on Batuu. Upon his arrival at Docking Bay 9, Ren was greeted by a First Order officer whom he deemed incompetent, and consequently strangled the officer by way of the Force. At one point during his time on Batuu, Ren confronted Resistance spy Vi Moradi, but she refused to give secrets to the Supreme Leader. Before Ren could strike Moradi down, Rey arrived, and the two Force-sensitives began a lightsaber duel. However, Ren was ultimately forced to leave when a stormtrooper informed him of an incident aboard their destroyer.
Ren was in command of the Resurgent-class Star Destroyer that captured a Resistance Intersystem Transport Ship. However, Poe Dameron managed to escape before returning with a sizeable fleet that caught the First Order off-guard. Ren, who commanded the First Order forces alongside General Hux, realized that the Resistance was using a hijacked First Order Fleet Transport and eventually engaged in a pursuit. Despite his efforts, the Resistance operatives escaped from the Star Destroyer using one of its escape pods to return to the ruins of Batuu.
As the war continued, more and more worlds capitulated to Supreme Leader Kylo Ren's rule. Decades of peace led to complacency, and the demilitarized galaxy was not prepared for the unified, mechanized war machine of the First Order's fleet and army. Rebuilding his command in the wake of the Supremacy's destruction, Ren brought Allegiant General Pryde to the fore after discovering the reserve forces under his command. He also transferred his command to Pryde's Star Destroyer Steadfast, bringing Hux with him after their old flagship, the Finalizer, sustained significant damage from the run-in with Resistance forces over Batuu.
The return of Ben Solo
The Emperor's return
- "He's gone mad. Flames of rebellion burn across the galaxy and Ren chases a ghost."
- ―Armitage Hux
Within a year of Kylo Ren's ascension to supreme power, the galaxy was shaken by a mysterious message broadcasting the voice of Darth Sidious, the long dead Galactic Emperor and Dark Lord of the Sith. Ren diverted his attention away from the Resistance to investigate the Emperor's return—unwilling to tolerate any threat to his reign—much to the annoyance of General Hux, who saw Ren's pursuit of a ghost while the galaxy burned with rebellion as a sign of the Supreme Leader's madness. By then, however, Ren had discovered that his old Master Snoke was not the apex of the First Order's dark side pyramid. Visions in the Force as well as scraps of arcane lore uncovered in Snoke's old bases were leading Ren to an ancient mystery.
Ren required a Sith wayfinder in order to locate the Emperor. Along with a contingent of First Order stormtroopers, he journeyed to Mustafar—a volcanic world that was once ruled by his grandfather—in order to find Darth Vader's wayfinder. The wayfinder was located on the castle grounds of Fortress Vader, in the region known as Corvax Fen. The Alazmec of Winsit, a tenacious sect of colonists devoted to protecting the fen, tried to black the Supreme Leader's path to the crumbling ruins of Vader's castle. Outpacing his stormtrooper escorts, Ren cut a swathe of destruction through the Alazmec before entering the castle grounds, where he found the artifact he had been searching for.
Heir to the New Empire
- "Kill the girl! End the Jedi, and become what your grandfather, Vader, could not. You will rule all the galaxy as the new Emperor."
- ―Darth Sidious, to Kylo Ren
With the name "Exegol" burned in his mind, Ren used the wayfinder to navigate a dangerous route through the Unknown Regions where he discovered the legendary hidden Sith world. Aside from seeking to eliminate a potential threat to his reign, Ren was motivated by the knowledge that he would find immense power at the source of this mystery. The ancient Sith bastion was home to a massive citadel filled with old, crumbling statuary that Ren explored on his own, while the Emperor's voice spoke to him in his head, welcoming Vader's descendant to Exegol. Ren, who exulted in the killing of his master, was confident that Sidious would share Snoke's fate by dying at Ren's hand. Having already died once, Sidious dismissed Ren's threats and revealed that he was all of the voices within Ren's mind, including Snoke and Vader. It was Sidious who created Snoke for the purpose of corrupting Ben Solo and ultimately serving as Kylo Ren's final test in his journey to the dark side. Ren came to learn that he was heir to a vast Empire—forged by Sith loyalists through technology coupled with the occult to bring forth unnatural embodiments of the dark side—waiting to be unleashed from the depths of the Unknown Regions. He also realized that, through the cult known as the Sith Eternal, belief in the Sith tradition had continued in spite of the death of the last Sith Lord.
Sidious implored Ren to become what his grandfather could not: the new Emperor. He offered Ren command of the Sith Eternal fleet—an armada consisting of Xyston-class Star Destroyers outfitted with axial superlaser cannons. It would provide Ren with the means to forge a true Empire out of the First Order, which had only been the first phase of Sidious' revenge on his enemies. But before Ren could lead the fleet, he was bidden by the Emperor to finish what he started by destroying Rey, the last Jedi. Furthermore, the Emperor warned Ren to be cautious for Rey was not who she appeared to be.
Ren ultimately accepted this mantle from Sidious, but knew there was still much work to be done. Having broken free of Snoke's rule, Ren redonned his once shattered mask, marking him as a Knight of Ren but this time on his own terms. The reforged mask's intimidating fractures also marked Ren's reign as the new Supreme Leader. His return from the Unknown Regions with the promise of new warships and soldiers bolstered the Supreme Council's confidence in their leader, whose submission to the dark side caused them concern as the group tended to favor orthodox tactics and strategies for the conquest of the galaxy. Although the council expressed concern about a potential spy operating within the First Order's ranks, Ren was more concerned with the intricacies of Sidious' plans. Nevertheless, Ren believed that he would succeed in returning the Sith to power, fulfilling his grandfather's legacy and becoming ruler of the New Empire.
Reunion with Rey
- "I offered you my hand once. You wanted to take it. Why didn't you?"
"You could have killed me. Why didn't you?"
- ―Kylo Ren and Rey
The bond between Kylo Ren and Rey still allowed them to commune with each other across the stars. As before, neither of them could see the other's surroundings, but one of the effects of their connection was the ability to transfer physical objects from one location to the other. When the minds became bridged again, the two quarreled over their last encounter, with Ren asking why Rey refused his hand when he sensed she wanted to take it. Rey, in response, questioned Ren about why he spared her life in Snoke's throne room. Ultimately, Ren was able to track Rey to Pasaana by taking a necklace that Rey obtained on the desert world. He subsequently deployed a division of First Order troops along with the Knights of Ren to apprehend the young Jedi and her companions.
Ren accompanied his forces to Pasana where Rey, sensing the Supreme Leader's presence, confronted him alone. He piloted a TIE/wi modified interceptor to reach Rey's location, but the Jedi was able to damage the vessel, causing it to crash and burn in the desert. Ren, however, emerged from the wreckage unscathed just as Rey discovered that the First Order had taken Chewbacca prisoner aboard one of their transports. Rey used the Force to seize the transport that she believed the Wookiee was on, but Ren blocked her efforts in bringing it down, wanting to see what would happen if Rey tapped into the dark side for more strength. As a result, Rey inadvertently destroyed the transport with a Force lightning attack, and was horrified at the thought of killing Chewbacca. Such a display of dark side power confirmed what the Emperor told Ren about Rey's origins.
A dyad in the Force
- "My mother was the daughter of Vader. Your father was the son of the Emperor. What Palpatine doesn't know is that we're a dyad in the Force, Rey. Two that are one."
- ―Kylo Ren, to Rey
Ren's pursuit of Rey brought him to Kijimi where he supervised his stormtroopers' search for the Resistance fugitives. Meanwhile, the same targets managed to infiltrate the First Order flagship, hoping to reacquire a dagger that was vital to locating the second Sith Wayfinder. When their minds bridged again, Ren took the opportunity to tell Rey the full truth about her past. Rey tried to resist listening to anything Ren had to say, not wanting to know the truth and calling him a liar. Ren denied ever lying to Rey; her father and mother were no one, but only because they chose to be in the hopes that they could keep their daughter safe from her paternal grandfather, Emperor Palpatine. The revelation enraged Rey to the point where she attacked Ren, resulting in a lightsaber duel through their bond. During the duel, the two accidentally destroyed Ren's shrine to his own grandfather, Darth Vader, whose mask was transmitted to Ren's location before the psychic link ended.
Realizing that Rey was on board his command ship, Ren returned to the Steadfast and offered Rey his hand once more, beseeching her to help him destroy the Emperor so that they could take his throne together, becoming rulers of the galaxy. As before, Rey refused Ren's entreaty and rejoined her companions aboard the Millennium Falcon. Displeased by Ren's lack of progress with Rey, the Emperor communed with the Supreme Leader and implied his willingness to turn the Final Order against Ren himself. By then, Pryde confirmed that Ren's rival, General Armitage Hux, was the spy who supplied information to Resistance. Hux, who cared nothing for the Resistance and only wanted to see Ren fail, was summarily executed by Pryde for committing treason against the First Order.
The death of Kylo Ren
- "I did want to take your hand. Ben's hand."
- ―Rey, to Ben Solo
Ren, having tracked Rey's group to Kef Bir in the Endor system, personally confronted Rey in the Death Star ruins. They dueled again after Ren destroyed the second Wayfinder, declaring that she would never find the Emperor without him. Ren wanted Rey to surrender to the dark side as he did, believing it was unavoidable and part of their nature. Ren eventually gained the upper hand in their duel, overcoming Rey's attacks with a powerful counterattack that brought the Jedi to her knees. However, a dying Leia Organa reached out to Ren through the Force, distracting her son before he inflicted a fatal strike on Rey, who seized the chance to impale Ren with his own lightsaber. But after sensing Organa's death, Rey healed Ren and departed in his starfighter, although not before admitting that she did want to be with him—the part of him that was Ben Solo, not Kylo Ren.
As Ren stood on the ruins of the battle station overlooking the ocean while in contemplation, he was confronted by the memory of his late father, Han Solo. Ren conversed with the vision of his father, paralleling the last conversation they had before he took Han's life. Like before, he felt it was too late for him to change, especially with his mother gone. Han reminded Ren that his mother's cause was not gone, that there was still time for him to honor Organa's sacrifice. As Ren's struggle intensified, Han touched his son's face once more, telling him that he did have the strength to do what was right. Moved by the memory of his parents' love as well as Rey's compassion, the fallen Jedi threw his lightsaber into the ocean, renouncing the dark side of the Force once and for all. From that moment onwards, the persona of Kylo Ren was no more, and his true identity as Ben Solo was restored.
Redemption and sacrifice
- "I miss you, son."
"Your son is dead."
"No. Kylo Ren is dead. My son is alive."
- ―Ben Solo's memory of his father, Han Solo
Solo followed Rey to Exegol, determined to stand with her as she faced down the Emperor and his forces. Armed with a blaster, Solo charged into the Citadel and gunned down the troopers in his path. He encountered his former companions, the Knights of Ren, who now served the Emperor directly. The Knights surrounded their former master, disarming Solo and overwhelming him. Yet just as Rey was about to strike her grandfather down out of desperation to save the Resistance, the Force reconnected her with Solo, allowing her to sense that he had come to save her. She then passed the Skywalker lightsaber to him through their bond, giving Solo possession of the Jedi weapon that once belonged to his grandfather and uncle, in turn. The fight turned in their favor, with Solo overpowering the Knights of Ren while Rey defeated the Emperor's Sovereign Protectors.
Ultimately, all of Sidious' guards were slain by the two Jedi, who stood together in defiance of the Emperor. However, by coming together, Solo and Rey revealed themselves as a dyad in the Force, giving Sidious the opportunity to restore his damaged body by siphoning their combined life essence. Restored to full power, the Emperor seized Solo with the Force and sent him falling into a ravine, all while noting the irony of killing the last Skywalker in the same manner that resulted in the Emperor's own death at the hands of Solo's grandfather. Solo survived, however, and managed to climb up to the surface by the time Rey destroyed the Emperor, who perished along with his cult and the First Order. The battle of Exegol was won by the Jedi, the Resistance, and their allied fleet, but Rey died giving her life to vanquish Darth Sidious.
At first Solo mourned Rey, whose body he cradled in his arms, but then resolved to sacrifice his life so that she could live again. After Rey awoke, her life now restored by her one-time adversary, she embraced Solo and the two shared a kiss before he became one with the Force.
- "I'm Rey. […] Rey Skywalker."
- ―Rey Skywalker
As the last descendant of Anakin Skywalker, Ben Solo's death marked the definitive end of the Skywalker bloodline. With the Emperor and his armada destroyed on Exegol, the galaxy rose against the First Order, defeating their military on multiple fronts, including Bespin, Endor and Jakku. Rey traveled to Tatooine where she located the site of Luke Skywalker's childhood home. After burying the Skywalker lightsaber along with the one that belonged to Leia Organa, Rey chose to adopt the name of Ben's family as her own, becoming "Rey Skywalker" and fully repudiating her lineage as a Palpatine.
Personality and traits
- "At least he could have let me fly the ship. Would give me something to do. He's a great teacher, very strong. I've learned so much from him… But he never seems to want me to use any of it."
- ―Ben Solo, reflecting on his apprenticeship under Luke Skywalker
Ben Solo was a human male who stood at 1.89 meters and weighed 89 kilograms. He had black hair, brown eyes, and light skin. As a child, Ben'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.
Even prior to his descent, however, Ben 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. As a result, he interpreted his mother's decision to send him away for Jedi training as her way of abandoning him.
The expectations of being a Skywalker—the nephew of the last Jedi and the grandson of a prophesied Chosen One—weighed heavily on Solo. Being named after legends only fueled his insecurity, causing Solo to hate his full name. He felt as though everyone wanted him to be like his namesake, Obi-Wan "Ben" Kenobi, even though he had never met the famous Jedi. Moreover, Solo knew that the surname he inherited from his father was an invented name, adding to his belief that his family's legacy was built on a lie.
As a young apprentice training to become a Jedi, Solo regarded his uncle Skywalker with great esteem. Though he harbored misgivings about his mentor's teaching methods, in Solo's view Skywalker was an amazing teacher and a legendary Jedi Master. He recognized his master's strength and knowledge with the Force, having learned much under Skywalker's tutelage. Despite the boredom that Solo tried to cope with on some of their missions together, he shared his uncle's enthusiasm for discovering ancient Jedi relics. Solo was particularly interested in ancient Jedi weapons; on one occasion he marveled at a lightsaber rifle. In private, he lamented how Skywalker hoarded such treasures by storing them away in his temple, never to be used.
Seeing his uncle standing over him with an ignited lightsaber had a profound impact on Solo's psyche. For Solo, it was an unspeakable betrayal that confirmed every worst fear he had about his family. Overcome with anger and confusion, he believed his uncle would have murdered him in his sleep. The experience also left him disillusioned with the Jedi way, which Solo now viewed as a lie that his life had been wasted on. When the temple was destroyed Solo tried in vain to help his fellow students. As he surveyed the burning ruins and the bodies scattered around him, Solo was left in a state of shock, expressing how he never wanted this outcome and blaming himself for it. His initial remorse was suppressed by the voice in his head, which convinced Solo that he was not to blame, but Skywalker and the Jedi were.
After renouncing the Jedi way, Solo no longer felt obliged to hold back his power, having known he was more powerful than any of Skywalker's other apprentices. As far as Solo was concerned, the notion that the others were his equal was a facade fabricated by his uncle. In reality, he was the prize pupil in temple, greater than all of the students combined and, in his mind, even more powerful than Skywalker himself. In his desire to put the Jedi behind him forever, he was willing to inflict harm on the apprentices who tried to stop him from leaving, although even he was momentarily surprised by the extent to which he hurt them with the Force. Though at the time he believed that Skywalker had died by his hand, Solo was not ready to kill his former peers, and so he settled for disabling their starship using the expert piloting skills for which both his father and uncle were known throughout the galaxy for.
While he initially considered returning to his mother, Solo ultimately resolved to seek out Snoke, whom he regarded as the only friend he had left. Snoke, in turn, used the situation to further discredit Skywalker in Solo's eyes, convincing the boy that his youth had been wasted learning the ways of the Jedi.
- "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.
Despite his feelings of desertion, Ren did not hate his parents. Although the act of patricide led Rey—who did not understand the dark warrior's motive for killing his father—to believe that Ren loathed Han, Ren confessed that it was not hatred which had caused him to strike down the elder Solo. Whereas he struggled against his conscience to take the life of his father, he could not bring himself to commit matricide. Indeed, as demonstrated in his trial on Dagobah, the vision of his parents caused Ren's hate to stem from the rush he felt upon fighting the image of Luke Skywalker.
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 the ordered destruction of the Ileenium system 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 such.
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 darkness that was 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 the Sith Lord'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. Although Ren admired Vader, he remained torn by the conflict from within and, therefore, afraid of never attaining the strength his grandfather possessed. He kept a shrine to 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 Solo, Ren had a sarcastic sense of humor. During the attack on Tuanul, he told Lor San 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. Ren's sarcasm was also evident during the interrogation of Poe Dameron, whom the dark warrior asked if he was "comfortable." Shortly afterward, Ren posed a rhetorical question to General Hux in regards to the reliability of First Order stormtroopers, only to answer his own query by denouncing all of them as potential traitors.
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.
Ren struggled to control his temper, yet often failed in his efforts when dealing with setbacks or criticism, resulting in devastating tantrums such as the destruction of computer terminals as well as his interrogation chamber. His tantrums appeared to have been common enough that any nearby stormtrooper avoided the area he was currently destroying. He struggled to keep his temper in check while listening to Snoke's disparaging remarks, only to feel the dark side rising within him to the point where he was physically unable to keep it contained, causing him to take a defiant stand against Snoke until his master subdued him with the Force. Once dismissed, however, Ren unleashed the dark side in the form of a violent outburst of emotion, destroying his helmet and damaging the elevator in the process. In addition to his temperament, Ren was known for his lack of patience.
When confronted by his father, Ren struggled to overcome his conflict while Han appealed to the boy he named Ben Solo. Plagued by self-doubt, he did not know if he could bring himself to sacrifice his own father. Ultimately, Ren was desperate to end the conflicts that caused him so much pain, and therefore, he chose to murder his father, believing Han's death would free him from his emotional attachments. But this act of patricide did not cause Ren to grow stronger in the dark side. Instead, he felt weaker and remained at war with himself, becoming even more emotionally unstable than before.
Ren was furious when his master derided him as weak and sentimental—a child in a mask, unworthy of Darth Vader's legacy. Though enraged and desperate to prove his worth to Snoke, Ren soon found himself re-evaluating his life and his place in the First Order. A lifetime spent living in the shadows of powerful mentors fostered in Ren a need to determine his own destiny and discover his own path. Castigated by Snoke, Ren questioned the gifts given to him by his master, recognizing them as cages and leashes designed to keep him obedient under the Supreme Leader's rule. After killing Snoke and usurping his throne, Ren finally gained the freedom and power he coveted as an apprentice, and yet still felt shackled to a fate he was only beginning to understand. As the new Supreme Leader, Ren jealously guarded his independence and was unwilling to serve another master, having sacrificed far too much to be subservient. As such, he felt no indebtedness to Darth Sidious or the Sith Eternal cultists, for they were but a means to an end.
Ren 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. After usurping the title of Supreme Leader, Ren decided to wear his mask once more, now feeling that he was a Knight of Ren on his own terms. The reforged helmet was symbolic of Ren's growth as an individual—its fused shards mirrored the breaking and rebuilding of Ren's identity.
Relationship with Rey
- "You come from nothing. You're nothing. But not to me. Join me. Please."
- ―Kylo Ren, to Rey
Ren was puzzled by the strange connection he felt with Rey during their first encounter. He was also surprised by her ability to read his mind while he probed hers, which allowed her to sense Ren's thoughts as well as his inner conflict and doubts. To Ren's surprise, Rey evoked feelings of compassion within him, according to Snoke, who decried his apprentice's sentimentality as a form of weakness. Ren denied his master's accusations, unable to comprehend how he could feel anything except hatred for an enemy of the First Order. Nevertheless, he offered to make Rey his apprentice after gauging her raw strength in the Force. Even after she defeated him, Ren was preoccupied by what he sensed from her; that their destinies were somehow intertwined. From that point forward, much of Ren's churning emotions were about Rey.
His emotional state became even more intense as their Force-bond grew stronger; to Rey's surprise, Ren no longer bothered trying to hide his pain and misery from her. He allowed Rey to confide in him and reassured her that she was not alone. Later, as Rey lay at the mercy of Snoke, all of Ren's doubts gave way to a newfound sense of purpose and determination—he knew what he had to do. Instead of executing Rey as his master commanded, Ren resolved to kill Snoke and take his place with Rey at his side. Though at the time he believed Rey's origins were irrelevant, and even told her as much, Ren reassured her that she still meant something to him. He envisioned himself and Rey ruling together as the architects of a new galactic order, but her refusal caused Ren to feel betrayed and he vowed to destroy Rey along with everyone else who opposed him. However, as soon as Ren saw Rey again through their bond, he was unable to revel in his triumph despite the way he overthrew his master, all but destroyed his mother's movement and struck down Luke Skywalker.
Ben Solo reborn
- "I know what I have to do, but I don't know if I have the strength to do it."
- ―Ben Solo and his memory of Han Solo
Following the death of his mother, the revelation of Darth Sidious as the true mastermind behind everything and Rey saving his life, Ren became conflicted once more between his identity as Kylo Ren and his identity as Ben Solo. Confronted by the memory of his father, Ren was forced to face this conflict with Han insisting that Kylo Ren was dead and Ben Solo was alive. Han urged his son that while Leia was now dead, which caused Ren to think it was too late to go back, everything she believed in and fought for was not lost. In a mirror of his final moments with his father, Ren was forced to make a difficult choice but did not know if he had the strength to do while his father reassured him. In that moment, he threw away Kylo Ren's lightsaber and became Ben Solo once more, mirroring the transformation of Darth Vader back into Anakin Skywalker. As Ben, he proved himself to be a selfless individual who came to Rey's rescue against the Knights of Ren that he had once commanded and threw himself into danger against Sidious to protect the galaxy and most importantly, Rey. Ben's final selfless act was to sacrifice himself to revive Rey, thereby redeeming himself at the end of his life. When Rey awoke to see that Ben had saved her life she kissed Ben and shortly after Ben died, becoming one with the Force.
Powers and abilities
- "I've seen this raw strength only once before in Ben Solo. It didn't scare me enough then. It does now."
- ―Luke Skywalker
The heir to the Skywalker bloodline, Ben Solo was gifted with immense power, raw and untamed, a fact which did not go unnoticed by either Luke Skywalker or Snoke. Yet whereas Skywalker feared his nephew's power to a degree, Snoke was intrigued by the young Solo's potential to become a Jedi of limitless power. The Supreme Leader, therefore, conspired to bring that power into his service at the expense of the resurgent Jedi Order. After becoming Kylo Ren, Skywalker's fallen apprentice was tasked with destroying any remnants of the Jedi, including his own uncle, 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 or his uncle's power, Ren's raw strength still gave him powerful abilities with the Force and in combat. It also augmented his physical strength by considerable degree, making Ren capable of crushing the Emperor's wayfinder with his bare hand. Additionally, he was able to leap across great distances to an even greater extent than Rey.
The dark side that flowed through Ren made him a nearly unstoppable force, and he was exceptionally skilled in 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 Skywalker 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 Skywalker 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, to hold a blaster bolt midair for over a minute, and to block a lightsaber blade with the Force. 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. By the time he arrived on Batuu, Ren's proficiency in telekinesis allowed him to crush a person's larynxes—an ability used by his grandfather before him—as he demonstrated on a subordinate at the Black Spire Outpost.
Ren displayed remarkable durability and a tolerance for pain, having survived a long ranged blast from Chewbacca's bowcaster. His natural ability with the Force allowed him to contain the blast and minimize the damage it caused, thereby preventing the resultant wound from being fatal. Although Ren sustained severe injury, he only briefly doubled 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. Even after being injured, Ren was still very formidable, showing great prowess in an acrobatic and offensive form of lightsaber combat in his duel against FN-2187, a former stormtrooper with specialized training, fairly quickly besting him, although not before he got cut in the shoulder. 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.
- "He really was the prize student."
- ―Voe, on Ben Solo's overall ability as a Jedi
Ren, who pulled from the teachings of the light and the dark to hone his power, possessed superb skills in lightsaber combat. He put his talented fighting skills in combat to use when he annihilated most of his uncle's students. His destruction of Skywalker's new generation of Jedi earned him the nickname of "Jedi Killer" amongst the First Order ranks, and his abilities with a lightsaber were what ultimately prevented the art of lightsaber combat from returning to prominence as he eliminated the remnants of the Jedi. Ren's own lightsaber reflected his skills in designing one; while its crude appearance suggested construction by an inexperienced hand, its partially exposed inner workings allowed for easy modifications and upkeep. Although Ren was capable of repairing his lightsaber, he preferred its unstable, volatile nature. In combat Ren typically utilized his lightsaber in the standard grip form, but he was also proficient in the unorthodox reverse grip.
With his proficiency in the art of lightsaber combat, Ren could fight outnumbered and prevail against multiple adversaries. He fought alongside Rey against the Elite Praetorian Guard until they were separated, forcing Ren to fight four guardsmen on his own. He killed two Praetorians with his crossguard lightsaber and, using a dead guard's vibro-voulge as an improvised weapon in conjunction with his saber, demonstrated his ability in the art of Jar'Kai while defeating a third guard. Though he was outmaneuvered by the fourth and final Praetorian, Ren survived by stabbing the guardsman through the face with Rey's lightsaber. He later fought against the Knights of Ren after reclaiming his identity as Ben Solo, who was outnumbered and briefly outmatched by the Knights. Once armed with his grandfather's lightsaber, however, Solo bested all six Knights on his own, resulting in their deaths at the hand of their former master.
Ren's loss to Rey—a girl unfamiliar with the lightsaber—was an isolated case according to his master Snoke, who believed his apprentice lost because he was unbalanced by the murder of his father. Despite defeating Ren, Rey felt his strength in the dark side and knew that he was only getting stronger. Luke Skywalker even regarded his nephew Ren as a strong adversary who was far more powerful than Rey. As they fought once more on the ruins of the Death Star, Ren overpowered Rey moments before she managed capitalize on his distraction by Organa's death.
Ren was also skilled in the art of defense; notwithstanding his earlier defeat by Rey, Ren succeeded in parrying all of her attacks with a lightsaber during their last duel. he was even adept at avoiding close range melee attacks while unarmed, as he demonstrated by dodging Rey's lightsaber several times before activating his own saber.
- "He took out our main engines. One shot. If he was even the tiniest bit off, we'd be hot vapor right now."
- ―Voe, on Ben Solo's piloting skills
Ren was an excellent pilot, having inherited the piloting skills of both his grandfather and father, Anakin Skywalker and Han Solo, respectively. Utilizing his personal TIE/vn space superiority fighter, Ren led the First Order's initial attack on the Resistance fleet. He was able to evade the Raddus' defenses and destroy the vessel's starfighter hangar, owing to his own talents as a pilot. However, Ren was never satisfied with the speed and responsiveness of his craft and pushed the First Order engineers to outdo their best efforts. Ren modified his TIE whisper's astrogational systems to accept Darth Vader's wayfinder as a signal source, and the ancient device sent out binary signals that the ship's hyperdrive interpreted as jump coordinates.
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.
Although Snoke was capable of probing his apprentice's mind, Ren was able to deceive his master into believing that he intended to kill Rey when, in fact, his actual target was Snoke himself. Specifically, he used his master's reliance on reading his every thought, twisting it to his advantage and ultimately outmaneuvering the Supreme Leader.
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.
Since George Lucas' earliest versions of the film's story, a son of Han Solo and Leia Organa struggling with the dark side of the Force was always in the mix. In some of these versions, the son's name was "Skyler" and he was corrupted to the dark side by Darth Talon, a character originally created for the Dark Horse Comics' Star Wars: Legacy comic book series. Talon's role was then morphed into that of the "Jedi Killer", the initial name of the character who evolved into Kylo Ren, which was used throughout the film's pre-production before the 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 the 1983 film 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 the mask of Revan, a Dark Lord of the Sith who first appeared in the 2003 video game Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.
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. Abrams originally saw other actors for the role, including Eddie Redmayne, who had been cast in other films by casting director Nina Gold, but all of them lost out to Driver. Driver didn't 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 played 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.
- "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.
In popular culture
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—including a stormtrooper played by future Star Wars Resistance voice actor Bobby Moynihan—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 at 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: All-Stars – "Scouting for Leia/A Mission with Maz"
- LEGO Star Wars: All-Stars – "Rolling with BB-8/Resistance on the Run"
- LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens
- LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
Notes and references
- Kylo Ren on Wikipedia