Following Darth Vader was never an easy task, but Kylo Ren is well on his way to rivaling the iconic villain. Although we didn't get to see much of him in [Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens](tag:711158), Kylo Ren's character certainly is intriguing. He might be an imposing figure, but as soon as Ren removed his helmet we were confronted with the fact that he was more than a "creature in a mask".
It is the human element of Kylo Ren which makes him so intriguing, and it's honestly difficult to predict which way his character development will go in [Star Wars: Episode VIII](tag:711868). Having said that, it seems likely that Kylo Ren will go to one of two extremes: either his guilt over killing Han Solo will drive him back to the Light, or cause him to descend further into his twisted, tantrum filled darkness.
So which will it be? Kylo Ren's backstory holds some clues for which direction his development will go, although much of this was not revealed in Star Wars 7...
Corrupted From Childhood
Kylo Ren's obsession with Darth Vader isn't just a neat homage to the original trilogy on the part of the film makers: it actually makes a lot of sense once we know how Ben Solo was seduced to the Dark Side. The official Star Wars 7 novelisation contains a lot of details that were left out of the movie, including the fact that Supreme Leader Snoke was watching, and manipulating, Ben Solo from his childhood.
"He knew our child would be strong with the Force. That he was born with equal potential for good or evil... In the beginning, even before I realized what was happening, he was manipulating everything, pulling our son towards the Dark Side."
So says General Leia Organa to Han Solo, in a crucial revelation which was cut from the film. What does this tell us about Kylo Ren? It could be that he's trying to become Darth Vader because his own identity was stripped from him.
Snoke slowly corrupted Ben Solo until his identity became intrinsically wrapped up in what Snoke wanted from him. Kylo Ren's final goal is to become as powerful as Vader, and it could be that through his obsession Ren is desperately trying to regain personhood and agency. Of course, he doesn't realise that Darth Vader was literally in the same position as him: a puppet of a more powerful master.
"Snoke is using you for your power. When he gets what he wants, he'll crush you. You know it's true."
Identity crises aside, this manipulation explains a lot about Kylo Ren's behaviour, specifically those tantrums which are evidence of his volatile and impulsive personality.
These outbursts are very intriguing, and could very well hint at one option for Kylo Ren's development...
A Twisted, Volatile Predator
Although his past holds clues about his development, Kylo Ren is most interesting when we consider his future. Kylo Ren could become a counterpoint to Darth Vader: just as Vader was rigidly controlled and controlling, the truly terrifying thing about Kylo Ren is his unpredictability. Vader was not overly sadistic in his actions, at least not in the original movies. His method of oppression was cold, calculated, and ruthlessly efficient. It would be very interesting to see Kylo Ren become the opposite of this, a truly twisted villain who is ruled by rage.
We do see elements of this already: Kylo Ren destroys parts of the ship in outbursts of anger, then beats at his own wound when he fights Finn and Rey. And yet, we do get the impression in The Force Awakens that Kylo Ren is holding himself back, just about clinging on to his control so that he doesn't descend into truly wrathful behaviour. And it's this which hints at another path for him in Episode 8...
Redemption & Return To The Light
Kylo Ren does admit to being "torn apart": even after years under Snoke's control, he still feels "the pull towards the light". In an effort to free himself from this struggle, Ren ruthlessly kills his father... but as the novel reveals, this action only drives him into further torment.
"Stunned by his own action, Kylo Ren fell to his knees. Following through on the act ought to have made him stronger. Instead, he found himself weakened."
Rather than hastening his descent into the Dark Side, Kylo Ren's remorse could start him on a path back to the Light. There are plenty of options for Kylo Ren's redemption, and I'm not going to start spinning out plot possibilities. Personally, I'd rather see Kylo Ren become the terrifyingly volatile epic villain he could become... were it not for Leia Organa.
Out of all the characters in Star Wars, Leia is probably the one who has faced the most loss and grief. From losing her entire planet in A New Hope, to Han Solo's death in The Force Awakens (not to mention the countless friends killed in the war in between), Leia's life has been harsh. Hopefully she'll reunite with her brother in Episode 8, but after all she's been through, and all she's fought for, Leia deserves to get her son back.
So which direction will Kylo Ren's development go in? We definitely need to see Kylo Ren's origin story explained onscreen, and it would be nice for him to grow darker only to be confronted with the harsh consequences of his choices. But finally, for Leia Organa's happiness if no other reason, it would be satisfying to see Ren redeemed.