With the blu-ray of The Force Awakens now sitting on my shelf, I’ve been able to revisit a couple of questions, theories and pieces of speculation that have arisen since I saw it in the cinema. The one that has particularly piqued my curiosity lately is a theory that I initially had no interest in following at all. It just seemed completely unrealistic and unlikely. But having re-watched the film, and having considered it some more, I think I may be starting to talk myself into thinking something of it. So, could Kylo Ren – yes, the villain of the film – actually be working for the Resistance? Is Kylo Ren a double agent? This is a theory that has already been widely discussed, but this is my take on it. (Spoiler warning)
A Skywalker Story
First, allow me to go off on a slight tangent and return to October last year and the run up to The Force Awakens. Kathleen Kennedy, the President of Lucasfilm states that main Star Wars saga films will focus on the Skywalker family saga. In the prequels, this was Anakin. In the original trilogy it was Luke. Now, who is the focus of this new trilogy?
If we assume that Luke and Leia are passing the baton to a new generation, then the only member of the Skywalker family that we know of is Kylo Ren – formerly Ben Solo. My theory has always been that Rey is Luke’s daughter, and I think that The Force Awakens hints at this a lot. Too much, possibly, as I now think that the reveal of this in Episode VIII will just be too obvious and anticlimactic. But where does that leave us? Some people think Kylo Ren will follow a similar arc to Vader, and will end the trilogy be redeeming himself. If this is the case, then they’re essentially asking the audience to forgive the person who has just murdered Han Solo, possibly one of the most loved characters of all time. That is a big ask. Alternatively, if he doesn’t redeem himself, then it looks like the Skywalker story is ending shrouded in darkness. Or is it? Perhaps ‘redemption’ isn’t really what is coming.
I’ve just commented that I think it is too much to ask of the audience to forgive Kylo Ren after what he did. But what did he do? The double agent theory hangs on the fact that we don’t see who actually activates the lightsaber that kills Han. In the scene, Kylo tells Han that he knows what he needs to do, but isn’t sure he has the strength to do it. He asks for Han’s help, who agrees.
If we assume for a moment that Kylo is a double agent and is trying to get close to Snoke – in order to kill him – we can view this scene slightly differently. In order for Snoke to trust him, and to allow him even closer, Kylo Ren knows he has to show him that he is loyal and that Han means nothing to him – they even discuss this ‘test’ earlier in the film when Snoke reveals that Han has the droid. If Han is in on the plan, then he probably knows this, too. And in order to help his son go on to save the galaxy, Han, after taking the saber, ignites it to sacrifice himself and let Kylo go on infiltrating the First Order. Han performs the act that Kylo Ren can’t bring himself to do. In the novelisation, we get some insight into Ren’s reaction to this, with him feeling weakened by the act, rather than brimming with power from the dark side. And finally, at the close, Snoke instructs Hux to bring Kylo Ren to him to complete his training. Mission accomplished?
Kylo Ren a Double Agent?
Why would this all take place? Well, we get a few snippets of information throughout the film and novelisation that suggest that this could be the case.
- Kylo states that he feels the pull of the light when he is talking to Vader’s helmet. He states that Snoke can sense it in him, too. If Kylo Ren is undercover, he needs to completely eradicate any indication that he may still follow the light. He essentially needs to commit himself to the dark side, which he struggles with – he also mentions later that he feels “torn apart” which could refer to this internal conflict making him lose sense of who he really is. It is for this reason that he needs Han’s help in proving to Snoke that he has fully turned to the dark side.
- Kylo Ren knows of Vader’s redemption – he and Snoke have a conversation about it in the novelisation, where Snoke essentially claims that Vader’s only weakness – his love for his son, Luke – was the only reason that the Empire fell. So if Ren knows this, why does he idolise Vader through his helmet. He is idolising the one who destroyed the Emperor and brought balance to the Force, coming back from the dark side to do so. What if he is using this as a constant reminder that no matter how dark he goes, there is still evidence that he can pull himself back. The reason behind this all is that it will give him the strength to carry on with his mission. Then he can finish what his grandfather started by eradicating the dark side, and pull himself back from the brink of his own downfall.
- When Rey reverses Kylo’s “Force Interrogation”, she states that he is scared that he’ll never be as strong as Darth Vader. Not ‘as powerful’, but ‘as strong’. This can be interpreted a number of ways, but one could be that he is worried he won’t be strong enough to eventually come back to the light once he has enveloped himself so far into the darkness. Something that I haven’t seen considered anywhere else relates to his look of shock and fear when Rey throws this at him. Of course it could just be from him realising that she has turned his own interrogation against him. But, if he is really trying to trick Snoke, he is probably quite worried that someone as untrained as Rey can see this inside his head – if she can, then Snoke most likely will be able to do so, too. At this point he knows he has to do more to strengthen and deepen his cover. Kylo Ren’s mask might help to obscure his facial expressions, but it can’t hide what is deep inside him, something that another Force user would be able to sense just as Luke did in Vader.
- Kylo Ren has no interest in using the Starkiller Base superweapon. When Hux fires it at the Republic, Ren doesn’t join the mass rally or participate in the event at all, he simply watches it from his Star Destroyer. Later, when Hux and Snoke agree to using it on the Resistance base, Ren attempts to convince them not to, instead claiming he can get the information they need before the Resistance can act upon it themselves. Of course he probably knows his mother, Leia, is at that base. If we go along with the Kylo Ren a double agent theory then I don’t think he could bring himself to let her and the rest of the Resistance be killed in that way.
A connection with Rey?
In Rey’s Force Vision, we see Kylo Ren strike down someone who appears to be about to attack her. Now, we don’t know if this is the past or the future. But Ren definitely seems to have some knowledge about Rey – when informed about a girl on Jakku helping with the BB-8’s escape, his response of “What girl?” is delivered in such a way as to suggest an awareness of someone on the planet. A popular theory is that Ren left her there after the attack on the Jedi temple, possibly because while he was supposedly destroying it all, he found himself unable to kill her. Possibly because she is a friend, or even a relative. But what if the massacre was all staged, as a plan devised by himself and Luke? What if it has been a bluff all along, and all the Jedi students were placed into hiding, away from both sides, to help them spin the tale that they’re all now dead.
Later, when they’re duelling on Starkiller Base, Kylo offers to teach Rey the ways of the Force, not mentioning the dark side, and not encouraging her to use her anger as we’ve seen in earlier films. I wonder if he knows that he won’t be able to take on Snoke himself, and needs a partner to assist him. He never seems to attack her with the same intensity that he could, he seems to hold back and resist killing her. It is different with Finn, who he probably blames for causing many of the preceding events to occur, possibly even for drawing Rey out of her own hiding on Jakku. He has been throwing himself at the dark side for sometime now, so we can expect him by this point to not be completely ‘good’, and give in to his anger when facing him.
We’ve heard previously that the one question that made J.J. Abrams accept taking on The Force Awakens was “Who is Luke Skywalker?“. With hindsight, this seems a bit odd given how little Luke was in this film. So, who is Luke? Well, he is the one who knows firsthand how far dark someone can go, before being pulled back and redeemed through the power of love. Anyone else would have written Vader off. But not Luke. Luke was able to tap in to the power of his anger to defeat Vader and turn him, but was strong enough to prevent being consumed by it. Now, is he using that knowledge, coupled with the knowledge of Vader’s redemption, to send his nephew along the same journey?
Speculation: How could this play out?
If in the unlikely scenario that this all turns out to be correct, then where could it be leading? I suspect we may be heading for a tragedy where Kylo Ren engulfs himself so far into the dark side that he is finally able to get close to Snoke, and is powerful enough to kill him. He does so, completing his mission, but has had to go so far that he is now lost in the darkness, unable to find his own path to redemption. This could then go either one of two ways: Luke and Rey have to find a way to stop him, tragically killing him despite his ultimate sacrifice and heroism, or alternatively, it may be that the apparent connection with Rey is the bond that can stop him, in the same way that Luke’s bond to Vader ultimately brought him back from the same darkness.
Do I believe in this theory? No, not fully. I don’t expect it to happen. But if Rey is a ‘nobody’, then I think it would a great way to see the Skywalker story play out. If Ben Solo simply redeems himself, I think it will be difficult to look past what he has done. If this is all part of a larger sacrifice, a torturous mission that really does tear him apart inside, then it makes it more of a tragedy, and suddenly the character becomes completely different in the eye of the viewer.
So what do you think? Is Kylo Ren a double agent? If he is, will he end up as a new villain for the Resistance to face, or will he brought back to the light, successfully?