Editorial/Speculation – The Lost Prince of Alderaan: The Fall and Redemption of Ben Solo, Part Two
Before we continue our deep-dive into the potential redemption of Ben Solo in Episode IX, I’d recommend you read the first part of this editorial series, which speculates on the specifics of Ben’s transformation to Kylo Ren. Though I don’t believe J.J. Abrams is going to retread over Ben’s turn to Kylo in IX, I felt it necessary to establish a hypothetical chain-of-events to reference as I formulated my theory for his redemption. One thing I’d like to be clear about is that I don’t think the sole focus of IX will be Kylo’s redemption. I believe Rey is the focus of this film, but I think the fall and redemption of Ben Solo will be a moment that changes the Force forever, and will certainly have ripple effect on Rey’s story. Let’s take a collective breath and plunge into the murky depths of speculation.
If we look at the sequel trilogy as the conclusion of the saga, it doesn’t necessarily need to end with Ben Solo staring into the twin suns of Tatooine to bring everything full circle. I don’t subscribe to the theory that George Lucas had some master plan of specifics in everything he did that would ultimately connect these stories to each other. That could be totally wrong, but I would speculate George was more concerned with the human themes and emotions laying the groundwork for connective tissue between films –– and ultimately, trilogies. Usually, when George is questioned about what connects the films, he doesn’t cite specific examples, but more the human conditions that the characters go through that bridge gaps. As a storyteller, George painted these stories in broad strokes, and I think it’s a mistake to get lost in the minutia of events.
The specter of Anakin’s downfall to the dark side has cast a shadow over his grandson. As fans, we often talk about the ‘Skywalker Legacy’, but if an objective observer were to look at it, they’d probably be more apt to call it the ‘Skywalker Curse’. Anakin (for all intents and purposes) kills his wife and the mother of his children (yes, I’m in the camp who hold him responsible, even though she died later), he’s consumed by evil, haunted by a son he never knew, and only finds redemption at the end by sacrificing himself. Luke tries to right this path by taking it upon himself to learn the ways of the Jedi and create a true legacy of good through Ben but is once again setback by darkness. Feeling cast off from the Force, Luke rejects the ideology that seems to have plagued his family and has continued into the next generation he hoped to shepherd to the light.
Fear and regret torment the Skywalkers throughout these stories. Keeping this focused on Ben, we gather that his tutelage under Snoke was cruel. I’ll assume Snoke did everything he could to rid Ben Solo of any sense of self-worth. It’s textbook abusive and controlling behavior on Snoke’s part, but as too many have seen in real life and these stories, that kind of abuse is terribly effective most of the time. Ben felt abandoned by his parents, the weight of the Skywalker legacy loomed over him, and he woke up to a lightsaber held over his head by the one person he thought could still help him. I don’t believe what drove Ben Solo to the dark side was the desire for galactic dominance or to be the ultimate Force-user. Ben, like his grandfather, wanted to belong to something bigger. What ultimately drove Ben to the dark side and what will save him: love. Not in any romantic sense, but the perceived lack of love pushed him to the dark and the realization that love was never gone will be what brings him back. We’re talking unconditional love, the love bound by blood.
Episode IX will no doubt be billed as the conclusion to the Skywalker Saga. These trilogies are about family. That’s not just Skywalker specific, as an arc we have yet to resolve is Rey’s desire to find her family, in juxtaposition to Kylo Ren, who wants to destroy and run from his. The first time we meet Kylo Ren he’s called out for doing exactly that, living in denial of his family. His seemingly completing task in this fleeing of heritage is patricide at the end of The Force Awakens. Before Han falls to the depths of Starkiller Base, he touches the face of his son one last time, with a look any parent would recognize as unconditional love and sympathy. Han can’t save his son, neither could Luke, so there’s only one person who can: Leia.
Let’s take a short detour here to address the logistics of what I’m about to propose. Every time I read an article that references Carrie Fisher’s death it’s like cinder block being thrown at my heart. I don’t think the decision to bring her back for a posthumous performance in Episode IX was made lightly at all. It’s certainly not fan service, as anything half-handed would be seen as a total smear on her legacy portraying Leia Organa. That’s why I think they are bringing her back because the original plan was for Leia to save her son in Episode IX. Yes, I know that these The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, and Episode IX were conceived independently, but I don’t for a second believe that J.J. Abrams didn’t have an idea of how he hoped the sequel trilogy would end. If we reference Mark Hamill, he said that Episode IX was supposed to be Carrie’s film.
Realistically, I don’t see how they can generate an extended performance using technology, cut-scenes J.J. shot for The Force Awakens, and as we exclusively reported via ABC’s Clayton Sandell unused footage from The Last Jedi. Whatever scenes Leia has in Episode IX, I think it’s safe to say that they will be short but impactful. Maybe I’m stating the obvious, but it’s what I thought as soon as she was confirmed. Also, they had to have a good reason for taking such a huge risk. Sure, Tarkin and Leia in Rogue One were great, but there’s a stark difference between Peter Cushing’s appearance in A New Hope and the CGI hybrid. I mean no disrespect to the filmmakers or artists, but we haven’t crossed the technological threshold where the human eye can be completely fooled. That’s what makes me think there is a ‘less is more’ approach being taken for Episode IX.
Back to the redemption of Ben Solo and how Leia fits into this. Throughout the saga, Leia is a character that embodied strength and fortitude. One of the first times we meet her, she’s reading the riot act to Darth Vader after he’s wiped out most of her crew. Then she’s tortured for who knows how long and doesn’t give up the Rebel Alliance. If that weren’t enough, her home planet is obliterated in front of her for no reason other than a demonstration of might. In events depicted in the comics, Leia is the one running things during her missions and adventures with Han and Luke. In The Empire Strikes Back, as soon as she becomes vulnerable and accepts that she’s fallen in love with Han, he’s ripped away from her.
By the time she’s rescued him after single-handedly slaying Jabba the Hutt, they are plunged back into the Battle of Endor. In the end, she finds her love, but we know tragedy continues to follow her. In Claudia Gray’s Bloodline, the revelation that she is the daughter of Darth Vader strips Leia of her role as senator and casts doubt on her legacy as a hero of the Rebel Alliance. We don’t know for certain, but I speculated in my first piece this moment was likely especially devastating for Ben since the truth had been hidden from him. Also, somewhere in that timeframe, her marriage falls apart.
In the first part of this series, I speculated the Vader revelation in Bloodline was the beginning of the end for Ben Solo, and I think Leia probably looked back on this moment when we met her in the sequel trilogy. It gave Snoke an opportunity to cast doubt on Ben’s upbringing, as well as the guidance and teachings of his Jedi uncle, and eventually got him to turn his back on the two things that ground all the characters of this saga: family and love. From Bloodline, we also know it was a collective decision between Leia, Luke, and Han to keep the truth about Vader from him, which must have underscored the sense of betrayal felt by Ben. So far Ben has faced two of those people in the sequel trilogy. Only one remains.
Leia is in a unique position at this point in the story, that being Episode IX. We know she has some abilities in the Force but has chosen a life of public service over the service of a Jedi. She is not bound by the dogmatic codes of light and dark, though I’m not sure anyone is after The Last Jedi. Leia also brings her life and heritage as an Organa. There’s no doubt that Breha and Bail Organa’s parenting trickled down to Ben Solo, which is why I’ve subtitled this article ‘The Lost Prince of Alderaan’. I don’t doubt Leia honored her adopted mother and father by passing on their teachings of empathy, courage, and strength –– especially in the face of evil. Leia will need all of those if she is to save her son and end the reign of the First Order.
A mother’s compassion is something that can’t be quantified. It’s a powerful force of good itself, and it’s not out of reason to think that’s what will bring Leia face-to-face with Kylo Ren, just as it did Han. I don’t Leia storming a fortress with a blaster to get in front of the person who used to be her son. However they end up in front of one another isn’t a speculative road I’ll go down, but I do believe toward the end of the film this scene will take place. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s just after whatever final lightsaber battle he and Rey have. It will be the first time in decades that Kylo Ren/Ben Solo has seen his mother and I believe the light side of the Force will be channeled through Leia in an awesome demonstration of power.
No, Leia’s not going to pull out a quadruple-bladed lightsaber and start hacking off her son’s limbs. I believe Leia’s final act of good to the galaxy will be to make herself and her son one with the Force. Leia will come upon a wounded Kylo Ren, near death after Rey’s mopped the floor with him. She’ll take his hand, remind him of who he used to be and where he came from, and then she will become one with the Force and take him with her. Imagine some awesome manifestation of the light side of the Force consuming them both, in which Leia is the conduit. If the Force created the Skywalker family, this would bring that creation full-circle in a “back to the sea”-sense. Instead of ashes-to-ashes, it would be immaculate conception to transcendental departure.
Now, you could say this is Leia killing her son and killing the Skywalker family name, from a certain point of view, but I think it will be more of a selfless act of mercy. The person she’ll be taking away from the galaxy is Kylo Ren, and it doesn’t involve death. Without getting too in-depth with Force mysticism, we know from The Clone Wars and Rebels there are other planes of existence based in the Force. Perhaps Leia knows or we find out through the duration of Episode IX that bringing Kylo Ren to whatever Force-realm she takes him to is the only way to save her son. If they are gonna bring out the Force ghost parade, it will almost certainly be whenever Leia and Ben arrive there. I think J.J. Abrams is going to go big with the Force ghosts, but that’s a whole other subject. The last we will see of the Skywalkers is in that realm, one with the Force, leaving the galaxy in balance. Ben Solo is redeemed. The balance of the Force is achieved. Whatever state the galaxy is in after this, it gives Rey a clean slate to train a new era of Jedi or Force-users.
Please keep in mind that this is entirely speculation and I have nothing to back this up other than what I’ve learned from the characters, as well as my own impressions. My theory is we will get something similar to this – or maybe completely different – but I’m willing to bet that however it plays out Leia will be the one who saves him. Leia and Ben becoming one with the Force would satisfy fans that don’t see a galaxy that could accept Kylo Ren after the horrific things he’s done, but also believe there’s a good Ben Solo trapped inside that dark visage. There’s still a part of me that hopes he isn’t redeemed as well. I’ll be honest: as compelling as I find the character, I despise him. The way he tried to manipulate and demean Rey is something I still don’t know if I can get past. I’m sympathetic to the fact that Ben Solo was manipulated and demeaned as well by Snoke, and in Ben’s eyes, his family. Kylo Ren came from pain, and that pain came from the absence of love. Much like his grandfather, true love of family became a cruel reminder that he couldn’t have it.
When the credits roll on Episode IX, we will have all the answers. Until then, we can keep wondering what the Force has in store for the lost prince of Alderaan and the last Jedi. See you in December 2019.