'Rise of Skywalker' Cast Hints Plot Could Focus on Kylo Ren's Redemption

Everybody's talking about Dark Rey. What about Light Ben Solo?

New comments from a major cast member of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker out of Disney’s D23 convention this past weekend indicate Episode IX will continue the Sequel Trilogy’s ongoing theme of redemption, lending credence to popular leaks and theories claiming Kylo Ren will finally turn away from the Dark Side and team up with Rey against Emperor Palpatine, with Kylo Ren finally turning away from the Dark Side. Here’s what we can piece together from the cast’s comments and the latest footage shown during D23.

When IGN asked Rose Tico actor Kelly Marie Tran “why the Emperor needs to be in The Rise of Skywalker in an interview published Saturday, she launched into an intriguing analysis of the franchise’s themes. “There are so many themes in the Star Wars films,” she expained, “my favorite being redemption, this idea that no matter what comes at you, you can — well, I can’t tell you what happens! But the idea of redemption!”

The interviewer follows up by incredulously asking, “the Emperor’s going to be good!?” Naturally, Tran dodges the question. Of all the characters we’ve met in the Star Wars saga, Palpatine seems to be the only one who is truly evil to the core, so the prospect of seeing his redemption in The Rise of Skywalker doesn’t seem too likely.

IGN interviews 'Rise of Skywalker' cast members about Palpatine's return.

Tran’s response would make far more sense in the context of Palpatine becoming the catalyst for someone else’s redemption, which would also corroborate a rumor that’s been circulating about Kylo Ren for a while now.

In June, someone posted to an image of text that supposedly summarizes the plot of Episode IX to the Star Wars Speculation subreddit. Everything remains unconfirmed, but it does offer a satisfying explanation for what Palpatine’s return couldmean for the film.

“When the Force spirit of Emperor Palpatine soon re-emerges from the shadows, where he has been pulling strings all along, he inhabits the willing body of a young Dark Acolyte of Kylo Ren’s,” the leaked text states. “[Kylo Ren and Rey] will find themselves forced to team up together in an effort to eliminate the growing influence of the Emperor once and for all.”

At the end of The Last Jedi, Rey became the powerful hero the Resistance needed to inspire hope, wihle Kylo Ren became the First Order’s Supreme Leader after killing Snoke. At this point, Rey and Kylo seem as far apart from one another as they possibly could be. The latest trailer from D23 new trailer even shows them squaring off in a dramatic lightsaber duel on what’s likely the seaswept ruins of the original Death Star.

If Palpatine’s essence possesses “the willing body of a young Dark Acolyte” — like Matt Smith as a Knight of Ren — Kylo Ren would have a good reason to team up with Rey. In doing so, he might realize the depth of his feelings for her. Or perhaps the goodness and compassion within him will be rekindled by a moment where he has to save her.

There are plenty of possibilities, but also numerous hints Palpatine could force them to team up, just as they did against Snoke in The Last Jedi. Perhaps this time, he won’t choose the Dark Side path once the battle’s done. As much as he tries to force those sentiments down, it’s obvious he remains conflicted about killing Han Solo in The Force Awakens, having forced himself to do so to please Snoke. Throughout The Last Jedi, that doubt still nagged at him so much that he couldn’t kill his mother, General Leia Organa.

Going into The Rise of Skywalker, Kylo Ren will remain deeply frustrated with his past choices, to the extent that he just might shift back to the Light side of the Force, just in time to bring the Skywalker Saga to a satisfying close.


Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker will be released December 20, 2019.

Media via IGN, Lucasfilm