Thar be spoilers ahead. Seriously, if you haven’t seen the film yet you really need to go and watch it because this article will just about ruin everything for you. Get back to me when you’re done, chop chop!
With the commencement of a new episode in the grand saga that is Star Wars we see the return of old friends and rise of new heroes and villains as galactic history once more marches on.
When the first trailers for The Force Awakens hit the internet, the internet in turn whipped up an almighty storm around the content, particularly a hitherto-unknown Sith with a very distinctive lightsaber.
Who was he? Why isn’t he in the Expanded Universe? What the hell is going on with that ridiculous sword?
All of those questions were answered in December 2015.
His name was Kylo Ren, son of Han Solo and Leia Organa, apparently replacing Jacen Solo from the EU (now dubbed non-canon and renamed ‘Legends’), and his lightsaber looks like that because he apparently sucks at building them.
His appearance and actions in the film created a little bit of a fus, with many viewers claiming that he was a bit of whiner and a rather rubbish compared to the legacy of Sith badasses that included Darth Maul and his own grandfather Darth Vader, who he desperately tries to emulate. In fact, his floppy John Snow hairstyle combined with the unfortunate Sith predilection towards wearing black does make him look like a big fan of The Cure
However, if you scratch below the surface you may be able to see a person who could be a more powerful Force user than even Vader himself.
Let’s all sit quietly as I tell you why, shall we?
There is no doubt that Kylo Ren is a moody bugger. Stormtroopers are said to avoid him like the plague when he’s in the middle of one of temper tantrums, but why does the fellow suffer from such fits in the first place? From what it looks like the poor guy has an almighty case of identity crisis, torn between the love of his parents and following in his famous granddaddy’s footsteps; in other words, the light and dark side of the Force.
“Ok,” you’re maybe saying, “This gives him reason to be emo but doesn’t make him a badass.”
“True,” I reply with a sultry stroke of my beard. “So let’s look a bit closer.”
Use of the Force is all about focus, serenity for the light and channelling negative emotions for the dark, so it’s Ren’s troubled soul that is holding him back from being as much of a badass as he can be.
Remember at the end of Return of the Jedi when Vader was paralysed with inaction as he was Forced to choose between saving his son’s life and his massive loyalty to the Empire? It’s something like that.
It’s less Ren’s attitude and more his actions and mastery of the Force that make him a badass.
For example, during the massacre of that village on Jakku you see him stop a blaster bolt in mid-flight, holding it in suspended animation. Only Vader before him is shown to have so much as deflect a blaster with his mind, and even Master Yoda was never depicted doing either of those things.
Furthermore, Ren is then shown to hold an entire conversation with the thing still frozen. Like I said, Force powers are all about focus and that guy’s concentration was elsewhere, meaning that he was maintaining that with his subconscious. Kind of badass, no?
Still not impressed? Got beaten by an untrained girl in a lightsaber duel, you say?
Well I have a counter for that, too.
You might notice that Ren’s fighting style is much more brutal and rough than the formal kendo-like duels of the original trilogy or the smoother, more flowing moves of the prequels. This suggests he has had little formal lightsaber training, which is unsurprising considering he killed his classmates before he finished his tutelage under Master Luke.
Ok, so “bad at lightsabers” still doesn’t make him a badass, but other aspects of that fight do.
Bear in mind that Ren takes on not one but two people with lightsabers in quick succession and even if Finn isn’t a Force user (which he may well end up being) Rey definitely is. Not to mention the little matter of her probably being Luke Skywalker’s daughter and thus of at least as strong a Force lineage as Ren himself. The phrase “untrained girl” seems a bit inadequate now, eh?
Furthermore, Ren does all of this while sporting an injury from a goddamn Wookie bowcaster, something that is usually enough to put a normal person out of action, and if that isn’t enough he is frequently seen punching the damn thing to raise his emotional state and thus his connection to the Dark Side.
Most of us go into crisis mode when we so much as get a paper cut.
Let’s take a little trip back in time to A New Hope. How is it that Darth Vader attempts to interrogate Princess Leia? He uses a nifty little droid designed for such a purpose, of course! In contrast, we see that Kylo Ren can do everything that the droid can do and more with just his mind and lift the information directly from his victims’ brains without having to so much as pull out their fingernails.
That nifty little trick thus makes him much more powerful than Vader all by itself.
“But what about that “untrained girl”?” you bring up again. “She managed to resist him!”
And how many Force users do you think Ren has had the chance to practice against? Probably a grand total of zero, if you ask me. This means that it must have been completely unexpected for him to come across someone like Rey and thus leaving his badass credentials more or less intact.
As I mentioned before, lack of focus can lead to a bit of Force impotency, but with the conclusion of Episode 7 Kylo Ren managed to remove his chief distraction in a heartbreaking way, leaving the audience howling like Chewbacca and going into semi-official mourning for weeks.
Now Ren has his focus back, and after a little bit more practice duelling (and maybe a haircut), there is nothing stopping him becoming the most powerful Sith Lord that ever lived and thus be well and truly badass.
Hail to the Emp- …the Firs- …uhh… long live the New Republic?
Whoops, gotta go!