“My son, you are here with me always, and everything I have is yours. But now we must celebrate, for this brother of yours who was dead, is alive again; he was lost, and is found.”
So I’ve never done this before, structured a blog post around a Bible verse. But it’s a verse that’s really special to me, and it’s been on my heart this week after watching Rise of Skywalker . . . so yeah. Here we go.
Needless to say: SPOILERS ABOUND BELOW. If you haven’t yet seen Rise of Skywalker and you do not wish to be spoiled, please exit this post now. 😉
Soooooooooooooo a couple months ago, I wrote a post expressing my extreme skepticism that Kylo Ren would experience any meaningful change of heart in this last installment of the trilogy–as well as my extreme frustration with fans who continued to treat him as if he were already redeemed. To insinuate that his crimes didn’t matter, that he wasn’t responsible for them.
Now, if you’ve seen the film, you know Kylo does indeed get a redemption arc in RoS, as well as a kiss from Rey by the end. When that news leaked, several of my Star-Wars-loving pals started worrying I’d HATE the movie as a result. (Cuz apparently I have . . . like . . . a reputation for fiercely held opinions or something?? I can’t imagine where that reputation came from, really I can’t 😛 )
The thing is, though–I loved Rise of Skywalker. Reylo kiss and all. Allow me, without further ado, to Explain™.
At the root of it, I didn’t want a redemption arc for Kylo because I’m skeptical of secular media’s ability (Christian media’s ability too, if we’re being honest) to present good redemption arcs. Why? Because these stories almost always use the love interest as the catalyst for change. More specifically, they use a girl as the catalyst; a ‘good girl’ who somehow (most conveniently!) can’t restrain her feelings for the ‘bad boy.’ Thus, the steamy, passionate part of their relationship takes root well before he’s truly changed. They’ll be making out (or even sleeping together) by Act Two, while he doesn’t get around to cleaning up his act till the very end of Act Three. But “I loved you so much I just had to”–shut up, mate. NO ONE WANTS TO HEAR IT. *intensive grumbling from stage left*
Amazingly, the new Star Wars trilogy never fell into this trap.
Rey firmly refuses Kylo for three whole movies, right up to the final scene where he’s finally changed.
And ya know what’s even better? When he changed, he didn’t change for Rey. He changed for his mom.
JJ Abrams, aka my New Hero and the Director We Don’t Deserve, grasped the crucial truth that Kylo Ren was never going to change for Rey’s sake. Kylo was too bent on controlling her, possessing her and turning her to the Dark Side. Therefore, motivation for his redemption had to come from an entirely new source: and lo and behold, it did, in the form of Leia’s Force sacrifice.
Leia understood that reaching out through the Force, across such distance, would sap what little strength she had left. Kill her, in fact. But she was willing to lay down her life to speak to the boy she remembered as Ben Solo–to reassure him that, even with all he’d done, all the stains on his soul, he could still come home. To remind him his destiny always lay with the Light, and never the Dark.
If you didn’t get chills when the screen went silent, when the battle stopped, when Carrie Fisher’s voice whispered “Ben . . .”
. . . well, I don’t know what to tell ya, man. Because THAT WAS OSCAR-WORTHY.
And then he and Rey both felt Leia die (!!) and Rey healed the wound she’d just given him (!!!) and then Ben saw Han’s ghost and told him “I’m scared I don’t have the strength do do what I must” (!!!!) and then HE THREW HIS FREAKIN’ LIGHTSABER IN THE FREAKIN’ OCEAN AND I JUST. I JUST. GUYS. I CAN’T ANYMORE.
*curls up sobbing on the floor*
I didn’t want a redemption arc for Ben, because I didn’t want one of those stupid, stupid, redemption arcs where the girl is the ‘prize’ that the guy reluctantly fixes himself to ‘earn.’ (Or where she has to do all the work of fixing him. *shudders*) But this movie reminded me of a better, older archetype of redemption–the kind that stems from a parent’s unconditional, sacrificial love. You bring a child into this world; and you never stop hoping and trying until you get them home safe.
Through Rise of Skywalker, I was reminded–and I guess maybe I’d forgotten–of the Shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine and goes out in search of the one.
Because “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine righteous who have no need . . .”
Which, ironically, leads to another mistake I didn’t want this movie to make. I didn’t want Ben’s redemption (if it happened) to overshadow Rey’s role as the true hero of the franchise. Because she’s the girl who’s put in all the work from Day One. She’s the girl who’s fought to hold onto the Light all her life. She’s the one (I felt) who should get the spotlight in this movie. She shouldn’t have her big moment stolen by this Johnny-come-lately to Basic Moral Decency. 😛 Like, bruh, we been waiting. Where’ve you been?
I needn’t have worried. No one took the spotlight from my girl. Not Ben; not anybody.
Sure, Ben helped her with the first part of the battle with Palpatine (and that WAS AWESOME btw, that moment of pure connection when she Force-transferred the lightsaber into his hands), but in the end, Ben was knocked [temporarily] off the cliff and Rey stood against Palpatine alone.
She wasn’t alone.
“I am all the Sith.”
“And I . . . am ALL THE JEDI.”
Don’t get me wrong, I love Ben Solo, I’m so glad he finally came home . . . but Rey is the true MVP here. I didn’t want Rey’s goodness and love to be forgotten–to go unrewarded–in the wake of all this fuss over Ben’s change of heart. That was my fear. And yet . . . and yet. What does the parable of the Prodigal Son tell us? Remember how it ends? What does the father say to the elder son?
“My son, you are here with me always, and everything I have is yours.”
That was Rey’s moment–her moment with “all the Jedi” standing behind her. Everything they have is hers. She’s their heir. Their representative. Their loyal disciple. Their companionship is the only reward she needs.
“Now we must celebrate, for this brother of yours who was dead, is alive again; he was lost, and is found.”
That was Ben’s moment. When he threw away his red saber, when he spoke to his father, when Rey passed the blue saber into his grasp; when he sacrificed his own life-force to save hers. The lost soul has come home . . . the dead soul has revived through grace . . . and we should celebrate, because it’s awesome.
Then–and only then–did they share their first and last kiss. Which, you know what? I’m fine with it. It felt right, in that moment. If Rey hadn’t kissed him, when I knew she wanted to, the scene would’ve been oddly incomplete. But as it stands? A+++.
It was so pure and soft and radiantly joyful and I was Here For It.
Although, to be 100% clear, I still don’t support Rey and Ben having an actual, long-term, sexual relationship and thus I’m slightly relieved there’s no possibility of such. 😛 I wanted Rey to end this movie single, single and contented, and SHE DID. (Another example of RoS delivering exactly what I wanted & needed.)
So yeah, fellas. I just . . . I’m grateful. I am grateful to Rise of Skywalker for reminding me why, at the end of the day, I still believe people can change.
Thank you, Adam. Thank you, Daisy. Thank you, JJ.
Thank you, Star Wars. ❤