The darkness rises. The pain pours from his eyes as he looks into those of his father, both knowing what he should do and what he will do. The father knows it too, although he is trying to change the course of destiny. But he can’t. The red blade ignites.
“Thank you,” the son tells his father, who gently touches his son’s face, not the mask he tries to hide behind, in an act of forgiveness. Falling. Falling. Cries from the witnesses aloft like a Shakespearen choir. Han Solo is dead.
Once the decision was made that the villain “Jedi Killer” first imagined in art and storyboards for The Force Awakens would be the child of Han Solo and Leia Organa, there was only one path the story could go. It is a tale as old as time, quite literally, that has permeated mythology. Killing the father, sometimes through the guise of Joseph Campbell’s “Confronting the Father” stage of the Hero’s Journey, is a mile marker in a character’s evolution.
Going back to the days of the Greeks, the famed Zeus gained his throne though a succession of patricide. Zeus’s father, Cronus, killed his own father, Uranus. Zeus would later overthrow Uranus. The story of Oedipus is probably the most well-known example of mythological patricide. Oedipus was fated to kill his father, and thus was cast out. Unknowingly, he would later kill his father, whom he had never met, and marry his mother, again whom he was unaware of, to become the king. This story almost single-handedly has defined the psychological dynamic between parents and children for centuries.
Yet Star Wars had been lacking in patricide. Anakin had no father to kill, and Luke rescues his (falling more to the “confronting” side of the spectrum). Father figures die, and Darth Vader does meet his end, but not at the hands of their children. On Mortis Son attempts to kill Father but is stopped from doing so when Daughter steps in front of the dagger. Father, knowing what will become of Son if he is to kill Father, later sacrifices himself via seppuku. (There are other minor incidents in the canon, such as Phasma orchestrating the death of her family, but for our purposes we’ll keep it on-screen.)
What Father realizes is that if Son kills him it will not accomplish what Son wants. It will, as Ben Solo later learns, “split your spirit to the bone.” Ben Solo tells his father he is being “torn apart” and his actions show that he believes killing his father, one of the figures upon whom he has projected his internal struggle, will make him complete. This idea stems from the history of the Sith and Knights of Ren, the two factions that essentially possess Kylo Ren. The Sith kill their father figures, their masters, in order to ascend to the rank of Master. Along similar lines, in order to join the Knights of Ren, one must have a “good death.” Essentially this means killing someone who is of importance or who meant something to you. Kylo’s “good death” is killing the leader of the Knights in order to take the head spot and really become Kylo Ren.
This does not achieve what he wants, though. The facade is Kylo Ren, but Ben Solo still lives and still carries the legacy of the Rebellion, the Skywalkers, the Organas, the Jedi, and most clearly the name Solo. While he certainly wants to kill Luke Skywalker the most, killing Han makes equal, if not more, sense. Han was a leader in the Rebellion, came to believe in the Jedi, and was essentially a Skywalker and Organa by marriage. Whereas Luke was the object of revenge, Han Solo was the object of separation. The scoundrel turned to the light killed by the son turned to the dark? It’s almost too poetic.
Much like Oedipus’s father and mother, who abandoned him on the side of a mountain, Han and Leia took away their son’s choice with regards to who he wanted to be. Oedipus’s parents did so because of the prophecy that their son would kill the king; Han and Leia did so because they saw the darkness rising in their son. Essentially these are the same thing, and they both led to the same end. (Thankfully Ben Solo didn’t marry Leia.) The canon has alluded to Ben possibly following in his father’s footsteps as a pilot. There has been no evidence to say that Ben was interested in becoming a Jedi. (To be fair, there is nothing that says he didn’t want to become a Jedi, but at the end of the day the choice was still made for him.)
This is a sin perpetrated by the Jedi of old. In taking younglings to the Temple before they were old enough to know what choice is, the Jedi Order indoctrinated their young. The cause was noble, certainly, but it does not negate the facts. Thus, when you get a student like Anakin, a slave whose first real choice is to leave his mother, the one source of love he’s ever known, and you place him in an environment where choice is sterile, you have problems. This undertone is present in The Mandalorian in that Din Djarin allows Grogu to make the choice. While we don’t know where that story will end, the dynamic is important.
A story we do know the ending of is that of Darth Vader and his son, Luke Skywalker. Coming from the Jedi Order that took away choice, Obi-Wan and Yoda have learned a thing or two from their mistakes. They never take Luke’s choice away, even when they know he is making the wrong one. Instead, they allow him to make mistakes they know might doom everything.
Obi-Wan tells Luke that he must kill Vader or the Emperor will win. Yoda tells Luke that in order to become a complete Jedi he must confront (he never says kill, although the implication is there) his father. Nonetheless, they never take his choice away.
That decision makes a world of difference. As Luke had the choice, he also had the freedom to find a new way. Which he did in having compassion for his father. Ben Solo, as he perceives it, never had such a chance. After Rey impales him with his own blade on the second Death Star, she tells him he always had a choice. “I did want to take your hand,” she says. “Ben’s hand.” In that moment he realizes that he may have been forced into circumstances, but at the end of the day the choice between doing good and doing evil is always ours. That can never be taken away. As Qui-Gon Jinn so eloquently puts it, “I don’t turn toward the light because it means someday I’ll ‘win’ some sort of cosmic game. I turn toward it because it is the light.” This is the choice both Luke and Ben make on the second Death Star, and it is the choice that brings balance once more.
All because of a choice.