I consider Kylo Ren the most original, well-written villain in the Star Wars universe.*
Kylo Ren had no one traumatic event that turned him dark. He didn’t set out to save some woman. He’s not on a quest for power. He isn’t trying to get rich or collect a bounty. He didn’t become evil because he was genetically programmed on Camino.
He became evil because, despite every advantage, he was broken inside.
He was attacked in his mind and it’s his mind that is wounded.
Kylo Ren/Ben Solo has no independent identity. He sought one in carrying on Vader’s legacy and when that was taken away, lost his sense of self with it.
His motivation is self-actualization, self-discovery. He’s trying to find his place in the world at any cost. There’s a vulnerability to him that no Star Wars villain has ever had.
He’s not “badass,” he’s broken. He’s raw. He’s real.
In reality, the true war between good and evil is fought in the human mind, the human heart. Kylo Ren is the perfect example of this.
It was his heart and mind that were corrupted.
Inside was where the battle was fought and lost.
He was tortured internally by Snoke despite everything he had going for him: a family, a supportive mentor, a stable society. It’s something thousands of people experience every day.
That’s is what it’s like to have a mental illness.
Kylo Ren is the Star Wars character I relate to most.
In Ben Solo’s character, I see my own struggles with mental illness. There’s that question of why there’s something wrong with you when other people who have been through worse seem alright.
Lots of people are saying Kylo Ren is obviously weak if he turned Dark Side while Rey turned out good with the much more standard “difficult life.” Perhaps that’s true.
But the thing is, some of us get attacked inside our own heads.
The writers of this new era have chosen to make a lead villain that is cracked and frayed at the edges. His explosive anger covers up the agony inside.
Many people are disappointed Kylo Ren isn’t a supernaturally evil antagonist like Palpatine or Darth Maul.
But that’s exactly what makes him such a good character.
We have here a villain that shows how much a person’s mind can torment them even when the outside world is peachy.
There are no expiration dates on the hurts from childhood.
And there is no way to know what a person is going through.