Needless to say this article contains enormous spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. If you don’t want anything spoiled for you, this is exactly the wrong place to be.
Here’s the summary of my theory, in 14 points
1. Snoke plants an apprentice among Luke’s Jedi-in-training
2. One of these Jedi-in-training is Rey
3. Dark side apprentice gathers susceptible young men and women to him
4. Dark side apprentice leads rebellion, killing all Padawans and younglings
5. Rey and Ben survive
6. Luke sends Rey off with Ben, to keep them both safe
7. Ben leaves Rey on a desert planet and goes after the dark side apprentice
8. Upon finding and killing the dark side apprentice in anger, he becomes vulnerable to Snoke’s influence
9. Ben falls to the dark side and becomes Kylo Ren
10. Luke goes into exile, Yoda-style, because he failed his students
11. Kylo Ren smashes consoles across the galaxy with wild abandon
12. Eventually Rey will redeem him, and remind him that he is a Jedi like his grandfather before him
13. Kylo Ren will possibly grab Snoke by his robes and jump into some manner of bottomless pit
14. Disney will then make the next trilogy
If you’d like to see where this (perhaps incredibly wild and thoroughly inaccurate) theory came from, read on.
First, things that I’ve taken into consideration for my theory
Rey is 19 according to The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary.
Kylo Ren is around 30, since the movie is set around 30 years after Return of the Jedi and he was supposedly born a year after the events on Endor.
A boy turned against Luke and ended his efforts at training a new generation of Jedi. (Although the boy is never named, we seem to be meant to infer that it’s Kylo Ren. Personally, I’m not so sure.)
Kylo Ren was seduced to the dark side by Snoke, which is something Leia says to Han, but Leia believes there’s still light in him.
Leia and Han named their son ‘Ben’. Not ‘Obi-Wan’ which was what Leia called the old Jedi Master back in the original Star Wars movie. Luke knew Obi-Wan as Ben; Leia didn’t.
And from the novelization, by Alan Dean Foster, courtesy Mashable
Rey hears a voice saying two things: “Stay here. I’ll come back for you.” and “I’ll come back, sweetheart. I promise.”
Leia tells Han that Snoke was manipulating Ben towards the dark side and that he was ‘manipulating everything’.
Han saw his son as a grown man for the first time after he took off his mask, meaning that Han hadn’t seen Ben in at least 10 to 15 years.
Kylo Ren recognised Rey; when she Force Pulled the lightsaber towards herself, he said (to himself), “It is you.”
The two observations that gave me the idea
There are a bunch of parallels between The Force Awakens and A New Hope, so I won’t go into those in detail. But there’s also one with Revenge of the Sith that gave rise to this theory – when Rey and Ren are fighting, there are two sequences that mirror the Obi-Wan – Anakin fight on Mustafar.
First, when they’re moving between the rocks, Ren slashing wildly and angrily, and then in the middle of the forest, when they grab each other’s wrists. It felt deliberate, in a way many things about The Force Awakens felt deliberate. And the message that I took away from it was that Rey knew Kylo Ren as a mentor, when he still called himself Ben Solo, because she was once a student under Luke Skywalker.
The second observation, besides those two bits of the fight, is the way Han talks about the boy who betrayed Luke. This could just be me interpreting it wrong, but when he says, “One boy, an apprentice, turned against him and destroyed it all.” he doesn’t sound the same way that he does when he’s talking about Ben. There’s pain in his voice when he talks to Leia about Ben but here he just sounded … flat. Like he was relating a fact. And that led me to wonder if he was talking about Ben at all, because we were obviously meant to infer (later) that he meant Ben. Perhaps too obviously?
How could Ben have been turned?
We know a couple of things here. One, is that Leia knew that Snoke was after Ben. Two, that she sent him away to train with Luke hoping to keep him out of Snoke’s hands and away from the dark side. Clearly, that didn’t work.
From the novelization, we know that Snoke is afraid of Luke, but we don’t know why. But it suggests to me that it’s unlikely he would have tried to influence Ben directly while he was under Luke’s care – if only for fear of reprisal. Instead, I imagine, he would have acted by proxy.
Plant a dark-side leaning apprentice there, a charismatic sort of youngster, capable of influencing the younger students (in the same way the Voldemort was recruiting the first of the Death Eaters at Hogwarts) at Luke’s Jedi Academy with the goal of corrupting Ben. It would have been easy, through the proxy, to introduce Ben to the story of Darth Vader and the Empire, to glorify the dark side in a way that would have countered whatever Luke was teaching the Padawans. And that apprentice, after gathering enough support from the Padawans, would have been the one to turn the tables – thus becoming the ‘boy’ that Han refers to.
Part of the reason I consider this likely is because I don’t think Ben killed either Padawans or younglings and because the apprentice would have been necessary for Ben’s fall to the dark side.
Becoming an apprentice in Palpatine’s time involved killing other apprentices
Anakin had to go through Dooku as part of his temptation to the dark side. When Palpatine was trying to tempt Luke, he wanted him to kill Vader. And Palpatine himself killed Darth Plagueis to become the Dark Lord of the Sith.
So if Ben’s fall was executed in typical fashion, he would have had to take baby steps towards the dark side. Step 1 wouldn’t have been killing younglings; even Anakin’s fall didn’t go from 0 to 60 that quickly. Step 1 would have been watching Padawans/younglings killed by Snoke’s mystery apprentice (or learning that they had been killed) and then killing said apprentice in a fit of blind rage.
The point of that would have been to draw Ben away from Luke’s influence – to give Ben a reason to hunt Snoke down and, in a face-to-face confrontation, Snoke would take care of the rest.
Where Rey fits into all this
Rey should really, really, really not have been to tag Kylo Ren the way she did in that final lightsaber duel, nor should she have been able to use the Force so easily. I’m not denying that she may be an incredibly powerful Force user, but she displayed a remarkable amount of control for someone who knew virtually nothing of the Force and its capabilities before her meetings with Han Solo and Kylo Ren.
It seems more likely to me that she’s had some basic training, things that she blocked out in the same way that she blocked out everything pre-Jakku because everything pre-Jakku might have been hideously, wretchedly traumatic. Having to hide under a space bed while all of her little friends were slaughtered would be more than enough reason for her to have repressed all of those memories.
But when confronted with a need to use the Force, she drew upon whatever basic elements of control she needed to without ever having to be told how. She knew, for example, what Obi-Wan had to try pretty hard to teach Luke – which was that he needed to empty his mind and trust his instincts, and let the Force guide his actions. That was Luke’s first lesson from Obi-Wan; I imagine it would have been the first thing he taught the Jedi he was attempting to train.
Also, we don’t know how long Ben spent training under Snoke but I think it’s safe to assume it’s been ten years or so, given how long it’s been since Han last saw Ben. In that time, with a very, very powerful dark side Force user training him – this is someone who stopped a blaster bolt mid flight, not long after it left the barrel – Ben should have been much, much more skilled than he was in that final fight with Rey.
Plus, there are a couple of other things to consider. We know from the novelization that Ben was shaken up after he killed Han; rather than feeling stronger, he felt weaker. From the movie, we know that Chewbacca wounded him. Put those two things together, both physical and emotional weakness, and then put him into a fight with someone he once knew, a child he once saved, and then he becomes even more on the back foot than before.
I think Ren could very easily have won that fight, even wounded, even mentally messed up, if he didn’t care about Rey at all. The fact that she won, to me, suggests more of a relationship than we’re aware of, all of it pre-Jakku.
How Rey wound up on Jakku
As the child of a Skywalker, Ben would probably have picked up everything he was taught pretty quickly. (I’m reminded of Luke saying, “The Force is strong in my family.”) So it would have made sense for him to be something of a mentor to the students even younger than him, which suggests contact with Rey, if not necessarily a great deal of familiarity or friendship.
Let’s assume he was elsewhere when the padawan slaughtering took place; when he came back, he would have found Rey still alive and, presumably, Luke attempting to deal with the devastation. Their reactions would have been polar opposites. Luke, dismayed, despondent, and Ben, wild with rage.
Ben’s instinct would have been to go after the apprentice; Luke’s to stop him and to protect Rey – they would, after all, have been his last two living apprentices. I think it would have been Luke who suggested taking Rey somewhere safe, perhaps back to her family? And I also think he would have sent Ben to do it, if only to keep him from chasing down the apprentice.
But people on the edge of the dark side make dumbass decisions and, wanting to hunt down the apprentice who destroyed the Academy, Ben would have dumped Rey on the nearest planet just so he could begin the hunt quickly. It would also explain poor Rey’s sobbing as she watched the ship leave; she probably thought she was being taken home or somewhere safe, and was dumped on a desert planet instead.
And I think it’s possible that, in perhaps his last moments of compassion, Ben told Rey that he would come back for her. I imagine that he meant to; but, well, Snoke happened. It adds another element of emotional conflict to the Kylo Ren-Rey fight because, looking at her now, he remembers his promise and who he used to be, and suddenly feels even worse than he already was. It would also explain why, according to the novelization, Ren recognised Rey.
I also consider the mentor-student relationship between Ren and Rey a reason why the kid was named Ben Solo. Like I said earlier, I find it extremely weird that Leia and Han would name their kid Ben – they had none of the emotional attachment to the old Jedi Master that Luke did; it would have made much more sense for Luke to have a kid named Ben, which happened in the (former) Expanded Universe. It feels like Ben’s name is a clue in itself, though I haven’t been able to think of another explanation for it yet.
A note here
I can’t bring myself to accept that Luke is Rey’s father simply because of the vision she had; it honestly doesn’t seem possible that Luke dropped his daughter off with a scavenger and then just never went back for her.
However miserable Luke may have felt, however much he may have feared for her life or blamed himself for what happened to his apprentices, it seems like a terribly cruel thing to do to a child and doesn’t fit my idea and understanding of Luke Skywalker. I could, however, be entirely wrong.
(As a small aside, if Luke was finding himself tempted to rage by the dark side – with the death of his apprentices pushing him over the edge – it’s possible that he did leave Rey on Jakku. Because, like I said earlier, people on the edge of the dark side are prone to dumb ass decisions. If that’s the case, it’ll be interesting to see how they handle that in Episode 8.)
Also, since we know from the novelization that Snoke was afraid of Luke, the safest place in the galaxy for Rey would have been by his side. (Until the movies say otherwise, in my head canon, the scar on Snoke’s head came from Luke’s lightsaber.)
Now, back to Ben’s fall
So Ben went off after the apprentice, found him and killed him. Either that confrontation happened in the vicinity of Snoke or, after the apprentice died, Ben went after Snoke himself. But they met and Snoke found a way to put his point across in a way that convinced Ben that the dark side had things figured out properly.
Again, this isn’t something that could have happened in the span of one or two conversations. The apprentice would have laid the groundwork, planting doubts in Ben’s mind that Snoke could tap into when the time was right.
It would also explain why Ben’s still conflicted. While it’s possible that he’s simply too decent at his core to be fully corrupted by the dark side, I think it’s more likely that up until killing his father, he never really did anything as drastically evil as Anakin.
Anakin’s progression to the dark side was over a considerable period of time, starting with arrogance as a padawan, continuing to the slaughter of the Tusken Raider village, through whatever happened in the Clone Wars (which I know nothing about) to killing Dooku, helping the Chancellor kill Mace Windu and finally, killing the younglings himself.
I don’t think Ben has had that sort of shove down a dark and slippery slope. Which is probably why when speaking of Han, Snoke tells him, “Even you, master of the Knights of Ren, have never faced such a test.” Snoke perhaps doesn’t believe he can do it, which could be why he asks Ren to bring Rey to him. In the same way that Luke would have been Vader’s replacement, Rey would have been Ren’s.
What (I think) this means for Episodes 8 and 9
Rey will probably redeem Ren, though how he continues on after having killed his father I simply can’t imagine. But the act itself – of being able to resist the dark side in the same way that Luke did – will cement Rey’s place in the Star Wars mythology as leader of the New Jedi Order. She’s already done a bloody good job of being a supremely badass Force user + Jedi in the making; I’d love to see her at the helm of the next generation of Jedi Knights.
Ren might sacrifice himself to destroy Snoke, in much the same way that Vader dropped the Emperor into a yawning chasm with him. It’s possible that the end of Snoke has been hinted at already in Rey’s vision, specifically the part with all the corpses around Ren and his Knights, in which Ren kills someone whom people are assuming was about to attack Rey. If all of the Knights of Ren are Luke’s former apprentices, it’s possible that Ren will rally them all to take down the creature who turned them to the dark side.
But even if I’m completely and utterly wrong about all of this, it feels really bloody good to have a new Star Wars movie to spin wild and fanciful theories about. If you have a wild and fanciful theory of your own – and/or something that proves/disproves anything I’ve said here, feel free to say so in the comments. I’d love to discuss this in more detail.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to watch The Force Awakens a couple of dozen times more and see if anything new comes to mind.