Kylo Ren Eleison: Patricide & The Pull to the Light in The Force Awakens

Throughout history, temptation has existed as that thing which draws one away from the good and toward the bad. Both a mediation and a catalyst, the word temptation itself is metonymic for that toward which it leads: “lead me not into temptation” is a second-order request: please make it so that I’m not even tempted to do the thing the temptation leads me towards.

Kylo-Ren-Mask-Off
Here let me just place my helmet in this pile of my grandfather’s ashes.

This is not the case with Star Wars Episode VII’s villain, Kylo Ren, for whom the formal structure of temptation remains the same, even though the script is flipped. In an essential scene we find Kylo alone before the famed half-melted helmet of his grandfather, where he monologues: “Forgive me. I feel it again. The pull to the light.” So while for everyone else in Kylo’s family and the universe, temptation is the vacuum of evil, for Kylo it is the opposite: the idea of doing good, of being good, draws him away from his desire to stay bad, be badder, or both.

The whole form of this question feels like that seminal moment of western subjectivity ala Paul’s exposition of the law in Romans chapter seven (verse 15b): “… (f)or what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.” Kylo Ren shows how this logic is applicable in all directions, regardless of which law one attempts to obey. A verse later Paul clarifies: “But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.” It very well might be that in episode VIII we will see Kylo do something good, thus having the occasion to proclaim “it is no longer I who do it, but the light that dwells in me.” Indeed, it is Leia’s insistence that there is “still light in him” that convinces Han to meet his brilliant fate out on that bridge over that gratuitous bottomless pit.

And Han himself plays an essential role in a second script-flipping, itself made possible by the first: here instead of a sacrificial son, we have the sacrificial father. He even gets his own, condensed garden of Gethsemane: moments before he meets his end at the hands of Kylo Ren, Kylo implores him: “I know what I have to do, but I don’t know if I have the strength to do it.” Prescient movie watchers and those of us with perfect hindsight know now that the “it” Kylo speaks of is the act of patricide (probably ordered by Snoke to help make Kylo eviler). But it isn’t only the fact that Kylo asks Han for his help, but that Han responds in the absolute affirmative: “Yes! Anything.” Now to be sure, Han’s fatherly sacrifice has more of an unwittingness to it- it’s hard to believe that Christ, as he was struggling so hard with his own humanity in the garden that he sweated blood, didn’t actually know (him being God and all) what was going to happen before he uttered the Han Soloan dictate: that “not my will, but thine, be done.” But this adds a layer of virtue to Han’s self-emptying, considering the fact that Harrison Ford’s performance doesn’t look as though Han really believes that his son’s about murder him. But alas, he does, and the image of the reverse crucifixion is made even clearer when we realize that Kylo Ren’s sword itself LOOKS LIKE A CROSS.

Klyoa Eleison
Is that an upside down red laser cross or are you just super pissed off to see us?

Yes, the oft-talked-about raggedy broadsword looking impliment is a cross, and it is worth noting that when Kylo finally deals Han’s death blow it is an upside down cross, which is both extremely metal as well as fitting, considering the inverted nature of the narrative. 

If the above is the answer to the question we had prior to The Force Awakens- how are they going to mess with the forms essential to Star Wars?- then the new question becomes: did Kylo Ren’s patricidal act do the trick? Did it make him more powerful than Vader? Or Luke Skywalker? Did it make him eviler? Did it- or will it help- push him beyond a threshold from whence there is no returning? In a word: No.

The Christianity that I was familiar with for a long time (Easter Orthodoxy) liked to talk about Christ’s crucifixion as a sort of trick god played on the devil: the metaphor was that of a fishhook, with Christ as the worm. Since the fall the lot of humanity was death- everyone had to do it. But since Christ was both man AND god, and since being god meant being deathless, being life itself, it was therefore impossible for either a) him to *actually* die (though they say he did, and they say that’s the beautiful paradox), but more importantly, b) for the devil to handle that action. Submitting life to death broke the bonds of the latter over the former, and thereby flipped the script on the whole shebang. I think something similar happens with Han & Kylo.

In short, since Han offered to do whatever it was that Kylo needed, Kylo will be forever grateful to him for that. This whole being-the-baddest-dude-in-the-universe thing is obviously really important to Kylo, and since it’s important to Kylo, it’s important to his dad.

Christ tricked the trickster: the devil thought that he’d figure out a way to kill god, but god was all “gotcha!” The same thing happens here: regardless of how heartfelt Kylo’s “torn apart”-edness was, the endgame was to be an eviler Kylo: trick your dad into letting you kill him! But then it turns out that this very act of “letting” nullifies the ends of said patricide, foiling said wicked plans. Unless of course the agent of said plans is really Snoke, in which case Snoke has Kylo exactly where he wants him, just like Han said mere seconds before his death: “Snoke is using you for your power; when he get what he wants, he’ll crush you.” and Han is still right.

At the end of the day, Kylo will never be able to let Han’s kenotic sacrifice go- and that never-letting-go is going to play an essential role in the narrative at some point in the future of the franchise- mark my words.

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