So, I'm new in this category, but there was a thing that happened in the new Star Wars movie and I need to talk about it. A very, very important thing. You may know of what I speak.
(If you don't, and you don't understand why I keep italicizing the word thing, then you probably need to go away and see it before you ruin all the feels for yourself. It's cool, we'll wait.)
Back with us? Okay, great.
Guys, I don't know how to feel about this. Because while I hate that the thing happened, I also totally get why it happened, and I totally agree with it happening, even though it was horrible and traumatizing, and is it crazy that the person that did the thing doesn't feel like the worst person ever in the history of humanoid peoples to me? Because he really doesn't. Like, he feels more like an anti-hero who hasn't quite figured out the 'hero' part yet. And I want him to be a good guy by the end of this, desperately, so at least the thing didn't happen in vain.
So here it is. The thing. And what might come next.
The word echoes across the gaping chasm, reverberating through the open air, striking the metal of the catwalk, and slipping in between cracks forming slowly in a carefully-constructed mask of anger and bitter hatred. It is a word that should have no meaning, not anymore. That name belongs to the dim, fading specter of a stubborn little boy with a lopsided smile, sitting in a pilot's seat that is far too large for him, watching in amazement as trails of brilliant white light shrink back into the pinpricks of a billion distant stars. It belongs to a bright-eyed little boy who once dreamed of exploring the galaxy.
That boy is long gone.
And yet the man in the black robes finds himself stopping halfway across the bridge nonetheless. Beneath his mask, before he can even stop to think about what he is doing, he rolls his eyes, and wonders absently what he's done now to merit that tone, and how he might talk Dad out of telling Mother about it-
It is a nasty, queasy shock to be reduced so suddenly and absolutely to the naughty child. One word, barked out in that authoritative spacer voice, the one his father had always used when he was angry, that is all it takes. The Light feels closer than ever, pressing in on him no matter how hard he pushes it away, and with it, somewhere deep inside of him, the stubborn little boy he had once been cries out in joy and fights his way towards it.
Han Solo is older than he remembers, but then it has been over a decade, hasn't it, since he has last seen his father? That had been when he was still a teenager. Before he'd donned his mask for the first time and gone to face his uncle. Back when he was still trying to deny that anything was wrong.
Not wrong, he reminds himself sternly, though that voice sounds more like Snoke's than his own, The Dark Side is not wrong. The light is the liar. The light is what left you alone. Don't let him drag you back.
He knows what he must do. He had been avoiding this confrontation precisely for that reason. The Light is calling him more strongly than ever, has been for months, and he worries still he will fail unless he can find it in himself to truly reject it. But perhaps Snoke is right. Perhaps this is what it will take to finally banish it, once and for all.
He can summon anger for his mother with ease; for her selfishness, for the weakness and doubt that made her push him away when he was a child, sure that he carried the same darkness she feared she did. And the uncle who had convinced her to send him to the Jedi Temple, who had tried to comfort him with talk of peace and calm, who could not understand how the Force burned through his veins like fire he could not control… it had been Luke Skywalker, desperate to rebuild the Jedi Order, who had stolen his dreams and foisted the weight of his own upon his nephew's small shoulders.
For his former master, Kylo Ren reserves his deepest well of hatred. He wishes suddenly for it to be one of them standing there now, tempting him with the Light. He would not hesitate then. But it isn't his mother, and it isn't Luke Skywalker.
He tries to summon rage, but all that wells up is pain; the pain of a scared little boy, banished to a lonely island, surrounded by people who did not understand, who pushed him towards a power that overwhelmed him. He should thank them, really. If he had not been forced to confront that power, he would have never felt the first stirrings of the Dark Side. He would have never heard Snoke's voice in the back of his mind, urging him to embrace his fear and his anger and his pain and use it to punish the liars.
You said you would bring me home when I called, Dad. You said it wasn't forever. But you lied.
In this instant, he finds his rage, and instead of releasing the lightsaber to his father's shaking hand, he activates it instead.
After the shock fades, Kylo Ren expects to see anger amidst the pain. Let Han Solo suffer and hate him for all he had done; for bringing their hopes and dreams crashing down; for being the hand that finally destroyed him. Let him rage, let his face fill with bitter disappointment that his son could fail so completely.
Let whatever remains of Ben Solo die with his father.
But in those last moments, it is a smile that comes over Han's face. His hand reaches up to his son's face, to brush away a tear Kylo had not realized he had cried. Han does not speak, perhaps cannot speak, but his voice echoes in his son's mind as if he had. Impossible, Kylo thinks faintly, he is no Jedi…
That fading, impossible voice does not blame Ben for his failures, for his anger or his hatred. It does not condemn him for all the horror he has brought down upon the galaxy.
Han forgives him for it.
(And that, as it turns out, makes all the difference.)
When he is finally freed from the bacta tanks and the droids, from the clutches of the medic who stammers inanely about their ineffectual efforts to heal the scar etched across his face, he reaches out to Snoke.
Hux informs him with a sneer that their Supreme Leader is busy elsewhere, and has no time for his apprentice just yet, though he is curious to know how an untrained girl managed to defeat him, and has left instructions that her origins are to be discovered.
"Now that she seems to have succeeded in finding Skywalker," Hux adds with a shake of his head that makes the source of this failure clear. They are both surprised when Kylo Ren does nothing but stalk out of the room.
He is angry. It boils there in the pit of his stomach, but he finds it easier to push it away now. He decides this means progress has been made. After all, Vader knew how to use his anger, when to let it flow freely and when it had to be lashed away, lest his power run wild. This was what Kylo Ren had always lacked, this control, and his final act of devotion to the Dark Side must have finally calmed him enough to allow him to reach it at long last.
At least, this is the only theory he will entertain.
He refuses to acknowledge the other presence he feels still. A spark of wavering light that sometimes he thinks he can almost see. He goes to meditate with his grandfather's helmet, confident now that he had banished the light, he would rid himself of this lingering ghost soon enough.
Kylo Ren's ghost has a name, though there is no one here he can share it with. No one sees him, wandering the halls of First Order bases, or of Star Destroyers, or the other improbable places he finds himself; there is only one here who can sense his presence at all, and the boy does not understand.
The ghost has been with him for a very long time, and still he refuses to see. He quietly laments that they did not tell the child the truth when they had the chance. They sought to shield him from a great shame, and a dark legacy, but in doing so, they had driven the boy down a dark and lonely path. He has tried to explain himself before, but the boy cannot hear him. He thinks of his ghost as a manifestation of the Light Side of the Force, trying to pull him back, and perhaps in a way he is right.
But in a way he is also wrong.
The ghost was summoned here for a purpose he could not yet fulfill, but he knows his time will soon come. Soon now, the boy will see the truth, and the father's sacrifice will not be in vain.
The ghost will see to that. He will stop all of this happening again, and save the boy before it is too late.
He had failed so completely in life. He had allowed his pride and his arrogance to excuse anger and fear. He had brought irreparable harm upon those he loved most, and brought destruction and death to strangers the galaxy over. But once, at the very end, he had managed to do some good at last.
It was a sad and small thing, really. Too little, and far, far too late. But it is all he has. He only hopes it is enough.
He had wished better things for his children and their children. He had prayed, as he lay dying aboard a death machine, that it would never happen again.
It had happened. It was happening. But some part of the boy had summoned him. Some part of the boy was drawn to the light still, even after Kylo Ren thought he had won.
The ghost would save the boy. He owed his grandson that much.
He has proven himself now. His father's death, at his hands, that was the last test. He had passed it.
With Han Solo's death, Kylo Ren is free.
At least, that is what he tells himself over and over again, as if repeating the mantra in his meditations will make it true. He refuses to show his confusion. He refuses to entertain the notion that he is more conflicted than he has ever been. He cannot; Snoke would never tolerate such a thing. His fear of what his master would do if he ever began to suspect how close to the Light his apprentice had come drives him to ignore it, to hide it.
It is not until the ghost finally appears to him that he comes to understand what it truly means that Snoke cannot sense any of this.
He wakes in a bed in a med bay he doesn't recognize and thinks immediately that he should be dead. Not that he remembers much of the details of what has transpired, but he knows resolutely that he should be dead. Whoever had saved him must not have known his name, or his face, or his deeds.
Well, perhaps not all of his deeds were done in deference to the Dark Side.
He doesn't know what came over him. He barely remembers turning his powers on Hux. Barely recalls the fall of his blade. He thinks he remembers their shocked faces. The girl was there, the one from Jakku, the one who had nearly killed him, and her defective Stormtrooper, trailing her around like a lost puppy. He can still feel Snoke's rage as he finally realized the truth; that his father had been right. Snoke had used him for his power, because in the end, Ben Solo is stronger than Supreme Leader Snoke. Still, he felt Snoke's cold fury from across the galaxy, as his apprentice slipped from his grasp. And Uncle Luke…
He thinks that Luke Skywalker might have been just a bit proud of him in that moment, though it could have been his imagination.
He hopes it wasn't.
Though he can see the girl standing guard outside the door, watching him apprehensively through narrow dark eyes, the room is empty. Well. Apart from the ghost in the corner.
Anakin Skywalker watches him just as apprehensively. His eyes seem to wonder if this moment of rebellion will last. But then, after a long, tense moment, the ghost seems to relax a bit.
He reaches out, cautiously, with senses he has ignored for far too long. For a moment, fear swamps him again, but he does not feel fire tear through him. Other emotions flood him instead. The girl is uneasy. This was not entirely her idea, saving him. And the more he expands his senses, he discovers many in this place share her unease.
He does not blame them for their fear.
But there is something else about the girl. He had noticed it before, when they had last met aboard the Starkiller; something about her feels familiar. As if he had met her before, or someone very like her. It is not until his senses reach Luke that he realizes why. He had not sensed his uncle's presence in so long, he had forgotten what it felt like, he realized dimly. It was the faint memory of that presence, powerful and calm in ways he knew he could never be, that her power had touched. He glances towards his grandfather's spirit to confirm what he realizes now some part of him had known from the moment he saw her.
She has not yet realized herself, and Luke had not deigned to tell her. It is certainly not his place to do so. Still, he finds himself smiling slightly as he thinks hello, Cousin.
That smile fades when his mother finds him in the Force.
He does not know what to say to her. For all that he had blamed her, blamed Luke, for everything that had happened, he does not know now what is left to say. What he had done… what he had taken from her, from all of them, was beyond forgiveness. Beyond redemption. Nothing could ever make it right. To even attempt to apologize for it seemed crass and disrespectful; a dishonor to his father's memory.
No one who can still ask for it is beyond redemption, Anakin told him gently, as his image began to waver and fade, And though it will never make it right, sometimes all you can do is say that you're sorry. Don't fear them. Don't fear her.
The door slides open and he is face to face with the mother he thought he would never see again.
"Ben," she whispers it as if she cannot dare to believe it.
It is a word that should have no meaning, not anymore. Certainly, it should not prompt unwanted tears from a would-be Sith Lord. It is a name that belongs to a stubborn little boy with a lopsided smile, sitting in a pilot's seat that is far too large for him, watching in amazement as trails of brilliant white light shrink back into the pinpricks of a billion distant stars. And that boy is long gone, but the man who calls himself Kylo Ren manages to smile.
General Leia Organa is relieved to see that it's still a little lopsided. Just like his father's.
I'm sure that was heinously out of character and wildly speculative and all, but what the heck? Thoughts are nice things to have, and if you feel inclined to share yours, you won't find me ungrateful. Thanks for reading!