In thinking about the paths that our heroes take in the Star Wars saga – for the original trilogy, that of Luke Skywalker, and for the most recent trilogy, the tale of Rey (now Skywalker) – my mind is awash with questions and conflicts. As a child, seeing Luke turn Vader in the end was a heroic action. He fought against the dark side of the Force to save his father from a death that would have disconnected him with all living things.
Likewise, Rey fights for Kylo Ren’s soul, hoping to change him, to bring him back to the light side of the Force. But why? Kylo killed her briefly held mentor (and Kylo’s own father), Han Solo. Rey did grow close to Leia (Kylo’s mother) which may have created some deeper connection in that regard. She also saw into his mind in their first real interaction in The Force Awakens, sensing fear and conflict. Then, The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson took their Force connection and turned it into sexual tension, only to have J.J. turn it back into a Force connection… but also sexual tension. There are a lot of threads that could explain why Rey so desperately needs to help Ben Solo. While Luke’s path to fighting for his father was clear, Rey’s path was less so, but both shared one major thing in common: a sense of almost suffocating naivety.
No matter how much conflict was in Vader’s and Ben Solo’s souls, they had a hand in murdering millions, if not billions, of people. That’s… a lot. No matter how dramatically fulfilling it is to see Ben Solo in those final moments of The Rise of Skywalker help Rey, we see him die and essentially get away with his atrocities. Even though their kiss brought me to the edge of my seat, how much of that was amazing editing in the face of kissing a mass murderer? I would like to see a story not set in a fantasy world, without magic powers, try to get away with our hero kissing a mass murderer in the end. That’s really freaking dark!
These are questions that I have heard and conversations that I have been a part of. These are story points that, as a storyteller myself and someone who lives for the experience of enjoying a story, are always on my mind. But, these questions and how the Star Wars universe handles them are why #StoriesMatter. With the veneer of fantasy or the hyper-reality of science fiction, we are allowed the safety of exploring the ideas of redemption within hyperbolic situations. If Rey can forgive and work to redeem a villain such as Kylo Ren, maybe we can forgive someone that has slighted us to a much smaller degree. If Luke can see good in his father who has destroyed a planet and the people on it, then maybe we can take a moment and see the good in someone who at first seems distasteful.
This theme of redemption runs far and wide in the Star Wars universe, from Han Solo redeeming himself in A New Hope to Lando Calrission in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, or Poe Dameron and even Luke Skywalker in The Force Awakens. We want to see our heroes, and even our villains, do the right thing. When it is dramatically appealing, we root for them all. There is so much in Star Wars that can be applied to life, so much wisdom, and this, to me, feels like one lesson we haven’t quite yet learned how to navigate.