“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. ❤
Ahhhhh, I love this post. 😍 What you said, here and in our chat, about the message of the movie and what it did right–makes me so happy. Even though I don’t like the new Star Wars. I so so so agree that redemption arcs are usually harmful for those reasons, and doing it this way is amazing. And everything you said about Rey and the parable of the sons is THE BEST. YES.
I always love your heart and deep insight.
I love you too, friend! And I am so glad you loved this post ❤
YES. Because the parable of the Prodigal son has always spoken to me on a really deep level, but especially the older son because *whispers* I’ve been him more times than I can count 😉 And I just adore the way this movie illustrated those themes. With both sons. Not just one.
It’s such an amazing parable. Jesus was telling it to/for the Pharisees/older sons. Which is always me too, when I’m not careful.
LikeLiked by 1 person
OH MY WORD. YES YES YES. I agree with everything you said here. It was the perfect ending for the series!! I love your connections that you made, and I feel that with what you said in mind I’ll love it even more when I rewatch!! Thank you for this post!!
Thank you!!! ❤ I was thinking about this connection in church today and I thought, well, I should write it down. 😉
I hope you enjoy your rewatch! 😀
LikeLiked by 1 person
Okay, I know we’re texting even as I write this comment, hahahahaha…BUT YOU’RE SO RIGHT. YOU’RE SO RIGHT ON EVERYTHING. (*sobbing from Major Feelings*)
I have always been INTENSELY REPULSED by Kylo Ren. He killed Han Solo–my mom’s hero!!!–YOU JUST DON’T KILL MY MOM’S HERO AND GET AWAY WITH IT–NOT IN MY HOUSE. As a result, I always INTENSELY hated Reylo. It always seemed so toxic to me–besides the fact that Rey (my Sunshine Child) would NEVER compromise herself by linking herself romantically to the man who killed her VERY FIRST MENTOR. (Sorry, my All Caps Mode is on full-blast today…)
But The Rise of Skywalker made me SO HAPPY. Deep down, as much as I hated Kylo Ren, I did always kinda hope that Ben Solo would be redeemed. It would be thematically appropriate, since his story has obviously been a next-generation parallel with Anakin Skywalker–and besides that, you couldn’t help but want it for Han and Leia’s sakes.
But I could NEVER have expected the redemption arc to resolve itself so beautifully. Yes, it was Leia’s death that made him turn–but I’d also argue that it was Rey’s act of mercy and grace in healing him, too. Leia’s sacrifice and Rey’s grace killed Kylo Ren. And the Ben Solo that emerged from the ruins of Kylo Ren was RIDICULOUSLY AWESOME. I’m going to be flailing over Redeemed Ben Solo for a very long time to come.
On the other hand, though, I will be flailing even harder over Rey. In my personal but very strong opinion, Rey is one of the finest female characters to come out of Modern Storytelling. She’s physically tough, but also gentle–deeply principled, but kind–strong, but feminine. She puts Katniss Everdeen and other so-called role models to shame. And she stood up to Palpatine with all that courage and all that love for her friends and all that confidence in WHO SHE TRULY WAS–A JEDI–THE HEIR OF ALL THAT GOODNESS AND LIGHT–and she didn’t let her bloodline define her. THIS IS HUGE, and this is why I have always loved Star Wars–because it reminds you that when you know who you are, and how much you are loved, you can fight the Darkness and YOU WILL WIN.
ALSO: I confess that as a hopeless romantic, I’m already writing a fix-it where Ben *doesn’t* die and he and Rey live happily ever after (but ONLY after he goes through the gauntlet of the Resistance–you gotta prove yo’self now, Boy). But I’ll also say loud and clear that I am THRILLED over JJ’s choice to let him die in peace. It was a bold move, but the right one, thematically. And he died saving the girl he loved, so he was actually able to do what Anakin couldn’t. Nice divergence from the parallel storyline, JJ.
(*drops the mic*)
LikeLiked by 1 person
If you share that fic anywhere, I want to read it. 😉
LikeLiked by 1 person
*also sobbing from Major Feels*
I LOVE YOUR LONG COMMENT
I agree, Rey had a part to play in Ben’s redemption, too–not as the catalyst, not as the motivation, but more like . . . as a model? That’s how I see it, anyway. By healing him, she showed him the path forward. She showed him a future where he could fix things instead of destroying them. And so he went ahead and became more like her, using her as his role model. I AM HERE FOR MEN USING STRONG WOMEN AS THEIR ROLE MODELS. *basks in a happy glow*
I 100% agree, Rey is one of the best-written heroines I have ever seen.
So like I was saying over text–I have never had much love for the word ‘feminine,’ but Rey is startinggggggggggg to make me change my mind. 😉
Basically, I’m used to people using ‘feminine’ to demand conformity in really superficial things and (on top of that) being MEAN about it. Because I come from a family of super geeky, super introverted women who don’t care much about traditional feminine socialization, and people just have really a hard time accepting that about us. It’s always been, “Oh, you need to wear makeup.” “You have no sense of style.” “You care too much about school.” “You should go to more parties.” And I’m over here like . . . “maybe you should stop being MEAN???”
But Rey is one character who’s starting to make me see the concept of ‘feminine’ in a more positive light. Because she’s not being limited by femininity; she’s not being asked to conform in any superficial way. She is a woman who is Uniquely Herself and is Awesome. She is both soft and strong; she is allowed to embody both righteous rage and loving, healing kindness.
WHICH IS ALSO WHAT THE MANDALORIAN DOES and I know we’re chatting about this over text too (heh), but like, I can’t believe how blessed we have been by Disney Star Wars in recent years. We’ve been given amazing examples of what it means to be both a good man and a good woman, without limiting or stunting one’s personal uniqueness in any way.
And this is the kind of quality content I need in my life.
WRITE THE FIC. YES. DO IT.
LikeLiked by 2 people
I’m so sorry people have been so mean to you. In a small way I can relate, since I’ve often gotten flak from family members who don’t understand why I wear very little jewelry (it’s just not my fave), or why I’d rather stay at home with a good movie or book than go out and party or entertain a boyfriend (boyfriends have proven to be extremely overrated, in my experience). If people just allowed other people to be who God created them to be without conforming to arbitrary “cultural norms,” the world might be a more pleasant place. SMH.
BUT YES, Rey is truly Uniquely Herself, and that is part of what makes her so special. I HAD NOT CONSIDERED HER AS A ROLE MODEL FOR BEN, THOUGH. Gosh, your observations are ON POINT.
The Mandalorian is a precious soul and must be protected at all costs…just as he protects his Smol Green Baby at all costs.
There are a lot of people writing fix-it fics, so I should probably stop reading them and focus on writing my own original take on it, haha. Obviously the Resistance wouldn’t/couldn’t just accept Ben Solo on blind faith; he’d have to prove to them that he had truly turned back to the Light. How he does that, though…that’s what I want to explore. And of course Rey will be there to help him. I think I’ll have fun with it! It’s been MONTHS since I was able to write anything; you don’t know what a relief it is to be able to hammer away at my keyboard without a problem!
(And yes, I will be posting it on AO3 eventually…*wink*)
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thank you. ❤ At least I know now that all that meanness has nothing–NOTHING–to do with God's unique plan for my life, as a woman!
"Boyfriends are extremely overrated"–haha, PREACH, sister! 😉
Mando is such a sweet, gentle man at the same time as he's a strong and capable fighter. The kind of hero we need in our lives and the kind of hero we deserve. I won't settle for less, do you hear me, Authors of the World? GET OUTTA HERE WITH YOUR BROODY, INSENSITIVE JERKFACES. Give me Mando-level quality, or give me nothing!
I think that is a delightful idea, and I can't wait to see what you come up with! ❤
I think we’ve already mostly exhausted our agreement on this film via e-mail, but this post made me ridiculously happy since now you have come around and see the merit in Ben’s redemption. I wrestled with myself mightily, in the idea that he might be lost, and the crushing blow that would be for Leia — so I am glad they made the right choice in the end to have her and Rey save him, together. I think Leia saved them both, in a sense, because Rey would not have been the same woman, had she let him die. She stabbed him in a moment when he was not defending himself, when he was halted by his mother — and to be our pure Rey of sunshine 😉 she could not let him die that way. She had to atone. To heal him. To give him the second chance Leia wanted him to have.
Some think the Force ghost of Han was also Leia’s doing; that she somehow reached out into the Force as she entered it, and allowed him to visit his son, or show him the way. Ben dismisses it as a “living memory,” but I think her death had something to do with it.
I think my favorite moment in this film, apart from him healing Rey, was when he ran into the caves to find her, and looked up into the camera to see her — the same shot you used. He gave this rakish little smirk before he lit into the bad guys.
That was beautiful.
I’m so glad this post made you happy. ❤ ❤ Talking to you about the movie has been SO MUCH FUN.
I totally agree. Like . . . sure, if Kylo had persisted in evil up to the end, I still wouldn't blame Rey for killing him, but that would be a really sad ending and I’m glad, now, that JJ didn’t choose that path. Instead, he found a way for Kylo to come back to the Light that was both believable and BEAUTIFUL.
Yep, Leia saved both of them. She reminded them “you guys don’t have to fight, there is a way for you to work together for good.” I remember just being so awed by that, in the theater, Leia’s full and complete mercy showing them each a better way. Leading them them back from the brink of Mutually Assured Destruction. [cuz that’s what it was: they were so equally matched, they would have both died trying to kill each other.]
That kind of makes sense? I wasn’t sure if it was a memory or a vision or both.
I loved his smirk, hahahaha!! Somebody on Tumblr was like “proof Ben Solo is his father’s son,” and I was like LOL YES.
Ditto. It’s been one of the high points of the year for me. I so rarely get a good movie discussion that goes in-depth, and I appreciate the fact that RoS has done this for myself and many others — I see so many excellent conversations rising around it, mostly based on redemption, second chances, and changed feelings toward Ben Solo, and to me that is the mark of a good film. A deep film. Because it reaches into people’s souls and tweaks their heart-strings, but also makes them THINK.
I also liked the twist about Rey’s parentage, because it grants us such insight into Leia. She knew Rey was Palpatine’s granddaughter — the bloodline of this evil Sith, and she still gave her a second chance. She believed in her. She let her have the chance to prove what a good, kind, pure person she was. In a way, it contrasted really beautifully with Luke’s rejection of Ben and even of Rey on the island, where he was so horrified that Rey “reached into the darkness,” and was not at all afraid of it. It was because she faced it, because she knew about it in herself, because she was determined NOT to become that person, that she could defeat Palpatine. Yet at the same time, her journey was a light mirror reflection of Ben — so determined to BE bad, who ultimately returns to the light and — becomes who he was MEANT to be, all along. You can SEE the happiness in him, when he is once more Ben. He isn’t tormented any more. He isn’t full of self-hatred or guilt. He has an entirely different look about his face, because he has found peace. Love.
It really is beautiful, J.J.
Yeah, they really would have both died trying to kill or recruit each other. Silly beans.
It’s been one of the high points of my year, too! Heck, I was thinking about this movie IN CHURCH yesterday–and then I was like “should I stop and focus on the service?” and then I was like “no, God is speaking to me and I’m gonna listen.”
Because it is a great film, indeed, that can change you on a spiritual level. This is that kind of film.
Exactlyyyyyyyyyyyyy. Unlike Luke, Leia understood that Rey could have darkness *in her* and yet choose not to *be dark*. Her confidence, I am sure, is one huge thing that gave Rey the strength not to give in to Palpatine’s manipulations. Just as her confidence helped Ben turn back to the light. “Hate is always foolish, but love is always wise.” #doctor who
I knowwww *sobs* He was at peace at last. Which he had NEVER BEEN, in the entire trilogy up til this last moment.
Silly, silly beans. xD
LikeLiked by 1 person
Yes!! This post is everything I loved about the ending 🙂 Especially the fact that he changed for Leia, not Rey (kind of like how Vader was redeemed because of Luke’s persistence–the importance of family has always been important to Star Wars).
Family is everything in Star Wars and it makes me soooooooooooo happy ❤
I just love this movie. *blissful sigh*
LikeLiked by 1 person
I AGREE WITH EVERY BIT OF THIS POST 😍😍😍
*HEART EYES* Thank you!!!!!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Hmmm, I think maybe people were knowing that he had good in him and could change? I don’t know, I seem to always pull for the conflicted ones, if they are strong? Kylo Ren didn’t have my attention until the second movie, he was a whiny brat in the first. Edmund (no woman saved him, Aslan did), Loki (I think his brother’s love helped him back), Martin (on his own I think, before he met Ivy and Ivy was her own whole person in Faerie Rebels, I’d highly recommend those, I’m curious to see more people’s thoughts), I could go on in various levels of conflicted-ness. I don’t think its truly conflicted or truly change if a guy changes for a girl, if it’s not internal it’s not real. I’m not sure what redemption arches you mean where the girl leads them. I only can think of silly books like Georgette Heyer’s rakes and if a girl/woman like a rake and want to change him, that is her idiot problem.
I literally just got home from watching the movies and have been looking around for posts I’d avoided for spoilers to help me process it. It was definitely the best of the newest ones (and they brought back the REAL Finn and Poe not the hijacked ones from the second movie) but, but, but, I wanted Ben to live. And yet I know that wouldn’t make for a good storyline.
I’m torn between this and The Last Jedi as which is the ‘best’ / my subjective favorite of the new trilogy. There was sooooooo much I loved about TLJ. RoS wasn’t QUITE as much what I love in terms of tone, overall tone; but the redemption arc was so good that I almost want to say it’s my favorite. Ah, well. Idk.
But Luke in TLJ is hands down my single favorite thing in the entire new trilogy.
*RUNS AWAY TO WATCH THE REST OF THE FIRST MOVIES bc yeah, I’m a new fan of star wars*
Have fun!!! 😀
Annnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnd now you’ve made me want to see this movie again. Which I kind of thought I didn’t want. But now I do.
*grins* I only live to serve 😉
There were so many things about this movie I thought I would be annoyed with, but they did them in a WAY that I actually really liked so I am Pleased.
So I’m nearly crying right now because YOU SAID IT ALL. Ben’s redemption was just so good and so beautiful. ❤ ❤ ❤ And REY. OH MY GOODNESS I AM SO PROUD OF HER. *fangirls*
*CRIES WITH YOUUUUUU*
I am so proud of Ben for changing, and I am so proud of Rey for BEING THE GLORIOUS REY OF SUNSHINE AND POWER WE ALWAYS KNEW SHE COULD BE.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Hey, I wrote a comment on this a few days ago – did you not get it? 😦
Oh no!!!! Um I might not have–*goes to search frantically*
Hold on . . .
No, I can’t find it anywhere. I am SO SORRY. I am afraid WordPress may have eaten it.
*cries b/c I love your comments*
😦 😦 😦
Beautiful post! I’m not a fan of the movie, but the redemption. Ben Solo and Leia, the Han moment,
and Adam and Daisy’s acting made the rest of it, worth it.
So many good parts 😀 😀
I LOVE that you addressed how, in our concern that evil not be mistaken for good just because it has a Tragic Backstory (TM), it’s important that we not forget that changing evil people into good people is the heart of our Gospel. It’s literally what Jesus came to do; he didn’t come for the heroes, but for the villains. I love how you used the Prodigal Son and Lost Sheep parables to connect this concept with Star Wars and Ben, specifically. Yes, we absolutely need to hold people responsible for their actions; but we also SHOULD rejoice when people ACTUALLY CHANGE and actually DO try to make restitution.
Redemption in fiction is such a beautiful thing. Redemption in REALITY is such a beautiful thing.
[I'm still all Full of Unsettled Emotions about this movie, lol. Especially this redemption arc. So good, but like?? My heart?? Is a thing?? And I feel like we didn't take that into account?? xD ❤ Anyway, great post, as always!]
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thank you!!! *happy beaming* And yes, you summed it up so well!! I think a lot of my frustration stems from the fact that redemption in fiction is so often BADLY handled and DOESN’T go to the root of what it truly means to accept grace and let it cleanse oneself fully … but this movie did, and it’s soooo important. For all of us.
“I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” ❤
Ahh, I feel you! My heart is aLSO a thing and it's feeling very sore right about now xD