Star Wars Episode VII and The Logic of Kylo Ren aka Ben Solo
A good friend of mine recently saw Episode VII and was losing faith in the balance of the Star Wars Universe. Specifically, he was unimpressed with Kylo Ren’s Dark Side Factor. While I had to concur with this, I provided him with a short email to explain the Logic of Kylo Ren:
So I have been thinking a little more about the whole Kylo Ren situation. Specifically, I have to agree that he is pretty much the weakest Sith possible and definitely far less menacing than Darth Maul or Darth Vader. I was considering why would the Sith, which ruled a galaxy far, far away with an iron fist for 50-ish years (dibs on coining the phrase “The 50 Year Reich”!) fall so far from their pinnacle of having agents of evil that are either a red & black demon looking dude with double ended lightsaber or a youngling slaying madman in 7-foot tall full black body armor with the most bitchin’ voice synthesizer mask (complete with menacing breath adder) to a kid with a BMX mask and cheap ski goggles, who merely talks in a faux-deep voice when he dons the mask.
We first need to consider that the Sith has fallen on pretty hard times. It has been quite a few years since they had their second Death Star destroyed and the Rebel Alliance has been able to pretty much run rampant through the Galaxy spreading peace and love. This whole “a lot of years of peace” has probably made it even tougher on the Sith to gain a foothold in the battle for galactic domination as they are really not going to be able to attract too many to join their cause — “Hey, we know things are great, but come join us to slaughter your family and friends” is probably not the greatest recruitment speech.
Proof of the Sith’s waning power is no more obvious than in the presence of the new Sith Lord, Supreme Leader Snoke. First of all, the name “Supreme Leader” just screams “I am trying to sound cooler than the Emperor even though I never will be!”. Supreme Leader is more of a job description than a title and really does nothing to add to the intimidation factor of the position. Taking what you are and simply translating that to your title makes you sound more like an employee and less like a force of evil to be reckoned with. It would not be a complete shock if, in the past, Supreme Leader Snoke had held such illustrious positions as Product Manager Snoke, Night Shift Cook Snoke, and Janitor Snoke. In addition, Snoke’s appearance is just not that menacing either. He looks like some type of weird living mushroom or at the very least a Jedi Master who got a bad case of full body athlete’s foot. Couple this with the fact that — and you heard it here first — the Sith are probably just using the gigantic hologram of him to hide the fact that he is either a 6-inch tall dude or a marionette being operated by a guy named Wally living in his Mom’s basement ( a far, far away basement mind you, but a basement nonetheless), and it becomes obvious that there is not a lot of recruiting power left in the Order of the Sith.
Mind you that to some degree the Sith do need to shoulder the blame for their own woes. They have, as an organization, failed to learn from their mistakes Clearly they have not been reading their Einstein: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Over the course of three separate films (Ep. IV — A New Hope, Ep. VI — Return of the Jedi, and Ep. VII — The Force Awakens) they have overseen the construction of massive planet destroying weapons (Death Star, Death Star II, and the Starkiller Base) only to have them destroyed in the end by ridiculously small bands of fighters and/or ground troops. It is shocking that they opted to do this three times. But the most mindblowing part is that it still happened even with the change in leadership brought about when Darth Vader opted to forego a shareholder meeting of the Sith and send the Emperor into the burning pit of retirement at the end of Episode VI after poor returns on the investment of selling his soul.
So in continuously creating these massive, undefendable weapons of sheer destructive power the Sith have basically opted to put all of their skill points into attack and put nada into defense. In essence the Sith/Empire/First Order are either that kid who builds a Magic:the Gathering deck with a bunch of “unstoppable” cards that cost 6+ mana each and then wonders why he is down to 2 health by the time he can even put one into play or they are that MMO kid who puts everything into attack and then whines about the fact that you can’t beer bong health potions. Snoke’s added incompetence of approving the construction of the Starkiller Base simply allows us to drive the analogy home further by stating that the First Order has either tried to improve the failing Magic deck by adding more mana so they can “have enough to get their finishers into play” or tried to improve their MMO chances of survival by sinking every gold piece they bought from www.leetmmogear.com into the Unbelievably Epic Sword of Mass Hinder Kicking, which by itself costs as much as a full set of quality armor.
And for Sith backers, the real issue here is that things really don’t look like they are going to get any better. If we break down the events of Episode VII we can ascertain that the Sith have pretty much entered a fight or flight mode and are shunting out any and all rational thought at this point. The First Order took the time to design, spent the resources to build, and burned the manpower to run a weapon that could harness the power of a star without burning it out completely and re-direct the energy it into a giant laser capable of destroying at least three planets per production run. “…harness the power of a star without burning it out and re-direct the energy…”. “…harness the power of a star without burning it out and re-direct the energy…”! Supreme Leader Snoke’s inability to perform as, ironically a supreme leader, are no more apparent by the fact that once he was advised that the First Order had developed this technology he did not just hold his hands up and say “Wait, wait we can harness the power of a star and re-direct the energy?! Gentlemen, from this day forth we shall no longer be known a The First Order, but rather The First Order Public Utility!”. Even if there are severe anti-monopoly laws in far, far away galaxies there is no way that any existing power company can provide better rates than a competitor that has either A) a power source the size of the Sun and B) a completely renewable energy source. The First Order have friggin’ both! Given this, I would be willing to put a substantial amount of money down that the Sith could conquer the galaxy faster as a publicly traded utility than an all powerful, marauding star force. They could even take it a step further and throw in some poorly trained, non-responsive, outsourced customer service reps and do it evil-ly if they really needed to. It is a complete win-win for them, they achieve their goal of domination and give a shout out to their Dark Side roots!
So this weakened state of affairs of the Sith, and the perceived lack of future upside given the current leadership, pretty much pave the way for Kylo Ren to make his big jump from the light side to the dark side. Let’s be fair here, while we have no concrete proof, I would be willing to bet that Kylo Ren was not Supreme Leader Snoke’s first choice when it came to enlisting someone from Luke Skywalker’s stable of talented young Jedi to join the Dark Side. Something tells me that Ben Solo was probably towards the bottom of his Jedi Class at the Skywalker Institute for Lifting X-Wings Out of the Swamp, and was likely the type of privileged, whiny, emo kid that the other Jedi pupils harassed by ruffling his hair and placing “BLAST ME” signs on his back. When you really think about it, Snoke probably tried to recruit a big part of the Star Wars cast of characters before Ben Solo: Luke, Leia, Chewie, a couple of Ewoks, Jar-Jar Binks (Darth Completely-Friggin’-Annoying would be pretty menacing), the Cantina Bar Sax Player, and Dead Greedo are probably all more menacing than Kylo Ren.
But the flagging influence of the Sith in the universe winds up putting Supreme Leader Snoke in a position where his potential for recruitment is extremely limited and Ben Solo is pretty much the best he can get. So, with limited insight into the backstory I would envision that the recruitment conversation went something like this:
SNOKE: Ben, I really need your answer on this whole light side, dark side thing. The Sith has a timetable that we need to keep.
BEN/KYLO: [concerned] I thought you said that I was your first choice. I overheard some of the other Jedi talking and they said that a mushroom faced hologram tried to get them to make the lightspeed jump to the Dark Side!
SNOKE: [stammering] Be careful Ben the light side clouds the truth and, uh, all kinds of stuff like that.
[mock confidence] Besides Ben, this is your destiny. You can take the place of your grandfather where you belong!
BEN/KYLO: I still don’t know. So would I be able to start as a Sith Lord, like could I be Darth Solo right out of the gate or am i going to be stuck on some corporate treadmill.
SNOKE: Well, er, uh….first while Solo has an ominous ring to it and makes you seem all foreboding and lonely it won’t work in this case since it is your surname and we need to sever all ties to who you are. Also, we are just starting back up so we can’t really justify any Sith Lord positions at this time…
BEN: So where would I start?
SNOKE: Well, we do have a ummm…Ren spot open on our team.
BEN: Ren, what is a Ren? I have never heard of it. So I would be Ren Solo?! Ren Anything sounds hyper-lame.
SNOKE: Again, it wouldn’t be Solo. But I do agree with you on the Ren Anything issue. [pauses] Hmmm, how about we go full mysterious and switch it up so the title is at the end of your name. It gives it an exotic flavor.
BEN: So something like “Solo Ren”
SNOKE: [Heavy sigh, ignoring the Solo part of the name] Yes, something like that.
BEN: [still unsure] I still don’t know things are pretty good here at the Skywalker Academy.
SNOKE: Skywalker Academy? Join me. Join me and you can become one of the elite, the few, the chosen that have trained at the Academy of the Sith…..University!!
BEN: [hooked and energized] Wow, that does sound pretty friggin’ cool.
SNOKE: [visibly excited] Yes, yes!
BEN: [convinced] Alright, I am in, when can you send a transport.
SNOKE: [still visibly excited] Right away! Right away! You can start immediately.
BEN: Sounds great! Just let me pack and then slay all of my classmates.
SNOKE: [slightly hesitant] There is one more thing…do you happen to have some, say menacing looking equipment with you. Y’know, robes, capes, masks. Preferably something in black or a deep red. Our budget here is kind of tight right now…
BEN: [thinks] Hmmm [exicted] Yeah, yeah! I got it. I have this black mask I used to wear on the BMX track and then these really ominous ski goggles, you know the kind where people just see a dark reflection, not your eyes…
SNOKE: [confident] Excellent, together we shall rule the galaxy!
And Kylo Ren is born.
So while we still need to wait for two more films to determine whether or not Kylo Ren will do the Sith proud, the good news is that no matter how it works out there is nearly limitless potential for the number of disparaging “Sith Names” that we can assign to Kylo Solo. Sitting here at my keyboard for less than three minutes, I have come up with the following:
- Darth Whiny
- Darth Emo
- Darth Suburban-White-Kid-with-a-Bad-Dye-Job
- Darth Not-So-Sure-of-His-Commitment-to-Evil
- Darth Snively
- Darth PG&E (see power harnessing above)
- Darth Not-So-Good-with-a-Lightsaber
- Darth Vader Lite (Tagline: Same great results, only ½ the Evil!)
- Darth Pretty-Much-Guaranteed-to-Fail