[Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens](tag:711158) did a lot of things really, really well. It was funny, thrilling, and emotive in equal measures. Kylo Ren was an especially interesting character. By emulating Darth Vader he ensured we got a legacy story in Star Wars 7, yet Kylo is definitely something new: he's not Sith, but the master of the Knights of Ren, an enigmatic Dark Side cult.
The Knights of Ren were teased before the film was released, appearing in the third trailer and sparking the fires of speculation...
Spoiler warning: yeah, we're gonna talk about The Force Awakens.
Among many other fans, I expected The Force Awakens to explain exactly who the Knights of Ren are, and what their connection is to the Force. And yet, I left the film with even more questions than I had going in. The only mention of the Knights of Ren, apart from their appearance in Rey's vision, is this passing comment from Supreme Leader Snoke...
"Even you, master of the Knights of Ren, have never faced such a test."
But who are the Knights of Ren? If Kylo Ren is a master, does he lead them or is he just a more advanced knight (think Jedi Master)? Did they exist before Ben Solo turned to the Dark Side, or did Kylo Ren create the cult? Ah, so many questions. And we might have more answers than you'd expect.
Straight From The Bantha's Mouth
The Star Wars Episode 7 cast and crew have been surprisingly forthcoming about plot points, and none more than JJ Abrams himself.
In an early interview about Kylo Ren, Abrams revealed to Entertainment Weekly that not only were the Knights of Ren not Sith, they also had a surprising impact on young Ben Solo...
"He is a character who came to the name Kylo Ren when he joined a group called the Knights of Ren."
It's just a small tidbit of information, but it's very illuminating. So Kylo Ren didn't just come up with his new name: Ren seems to be a title similar to what Darth was for the Sith. But names aside, this little hint might debunk the popular theory that the Knights are actually Luke Skywalker's students, who Kylo Ren convinced to join the Dark Side before the Jedi Temple massacre.
Adam Driver has also hinted that the Knights of Ren are an old organisation, in his interview with the LA Times.
"It was a group that existed before him, that he was a part of. Their place within everything is maybe more of a satellite group than I would say ... This is really tricky."
I feel your pain, Adam Driver. Piecing together the Dark Side factions isn't easy. The Knights of Ren seem to have authority over the First Order, as we see General Hux aggravated by having to obey Kylo Ren's commands. So how powerful are the Knights of Ren? It seems likely that, just like Supreme Leader Snoke, the Knights of Ren have been around far far longer than we suspected...
Hints From The Star Wars Books
To replace the now non-canon Expanded Universe, Lucasfilm have been hard at work publishing new books and comics to fill in some blanks.
One of these books is Aftermath, which was written to lead in to The Force Awakens. It describes the situation in the galaxy after Return Of The Jedi, revealing that the Empire wasn't quite as defeated as we'd thought. After the fall of the Emperor the Empire regrouped, eventually forming the First Order. But they weren't the only faction forming from the ashes of the Sith: Aftermath drops hints about the mysterious Acolytes of the Beyond.
Described as "fanatics of the Dark Side", the Acolytes are a cult obsessed with Darth Vader; their hideout bears the graffiti tag "Vader lives". They are desperately trying to find Vader's lightsaber, lost after the battle with Luke in Return Of The Jedi. (Just to clarify: this is NOT the legendary Skywalker saber which Rey finds in The Force Awakens.)
In the confusion after Return Of The Jedi, there are turncoats and scavengers galore, one of whom has managed to acquire Darth Vader's missing lightsaber. The saber is highly sought after, and the merchant in question sells the weapon to 3 mysterious figures, cloaked all in black (hmmmm). Who are they? Their answer is as ambiguous as you'd expect...
"We are adherents. Acolytes of the Beyond. We are not violent. Not yet..."
They are apparently seeking to destroy the lightsaber, so that it can join its master in death.
So Are They The Knights Of Ren?
This is literally as much as we're told about the Acolytes, but it definitely seems as though Lucasfilm are subtly dropping hints about the origins of the Knights of Ren.
Of course, this could be a red herring. Personally, I'm really hoping the Knights of Ren play a big part in Star Wars Episode 8. They're a formidable foe, far outnumbering the budding new Jedi (which right now consists of Rey and probably Finn). The Knights have a huge amount of potential. After all, this is the first time we've seen any more than two Dark Side warriors.
Do they all have Force abilities, or is it just Kylo Ren? Are they helping the First Order or running their own missions? The more we find out, the more we want to know, so here's hoping Episode 8 will finally answer our questions!