star wars the rise of skywalker kylo ren plot holes

Even three months after its release, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker refuses to leave the national conversation. Perhaps that’s because so much supplementary material keeps coming out after the fact to fill out the plot gaps in the film’s ever-so-complex narrative. The latest from the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker novelization is all about Kylo Ren and his arc form Big Bad to big softie, and how exactly it happened.

Kylo Ren’s redemption arc was arguably one of the most dissatisfying parts of Stars Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, primarily because all the motivation for his turn from the Dark Side to the light took place offscreen and in supplementary materials. But here is a little more supplementary material to explain why Kylo Ren turned out the way he did. The Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker novelization fills out some of the plot holes in Ben Solo’s arc from the Skywalker heir apparent to fallen son.

First, there’s an explanation of Kylo Ren and Rey’s first fight in The Force Awakens, when the new Force wielder was able to beat a trained Jedi in a lightsaber duel. We can thank Chewbacca for that, according to the novelization, which reminds us that the Wookiee shot Kylo Ren after he killed Han, putting him at a disadvantage in the fight with Rey. The book reads (per CinemaBlend):

‘I have not forgotten that you shot me,’ Kylo said. That wound had resulted in a defeat at Rey’s hands. Had he been in top fighting form, the scavenger never would have gotten the best of him.

Yep, this sure is an explanation that doesn’t take away from Rey’s victory at all, because how could a girl who had been forced to survive on her own on a desert planet all her life eke out a win against a trained warrior? Uh, huh.

But that’s not all that has been revealed about Kylo Ren in the novelization. The retcon of Kylo’s “lie” about Rey’s parents being no one in Star Wars: The Last Jedi is further explained, writing (per Digital Spy):

“He’d glimpsed her parents in a vision, a poor, frightened couple eking out a meagre existence, surviving on the edge of desperation. He hadn’t been lying when he’d told her they were nothing, nobodies. But Force visions were filled with tricky truths and potential realities. Maybe he had missed something. Bringing all the power of the Force to bear, Kylo Ren demanded, ‘Who is she?’ The rotting remnant of Emperor Palpatine smiled.”

The last revelation digs into Kylo Ren’s pivotal turn, when he lays down his lightsaber and finally embraces his identity as Ben Solo. In the film, it appears to be his mother Leia’s death that leads him to make this turn, at the height of his battle with Rey, when she mortally wounds then heals him. In the novelization (via ScreenRant), we see Leia’s death from her perspective, as she remembers the birth of Ben and his “tiny, toddler rage.”

“I never gave up hope for him, she said” to Luke’s Force Ghost, who urges her to tell Ben. And Leia uses the last of her power to send this sentiment to Ben, who would be shocked by his mother’s affection for him — according to Claudia Gray’s novel Bloodline, Ben always felt rejected by his mother, who was busy with her political career, and realizing her unconditional love for him is what spurred his turn back to the light. Good thing we finally learned that now, three months after the movie came out.

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