anghraine: tarrlok glowering through his hair; text: lost (tarrlok [lost])
[personal profile] anghraine
At Tumblr, I received a submission from someone called Fladow, in response to this post:

Hello! I enjoyed reading your Star Wars Kylo Ren redemption thoughts. As a huge ATLA LOK fan, I found it very funny that you and others have started referring to a possibility of redemption arc as a potential Zuko arc. My sister and I would both prefer Kylo survives and has a redemption arc as well.

I’ve personally always referred to a redemption arc where a character survives but lives with guilt and tries to redeem self by their actions as a Kenshin arc. Named for the protagonist of the manga Rurouni Kenshin, who frequently tells this to other characters. Kenshin himself has gone through this: he believes that because dying doesn’t bring back those you’ve killed, living on and saving/helping people is true redemption/atonement. Rurouni Kenshin as a whole subverts the trope that only death can bring redemption. A number of characters follow Kenshin’s ‘advice’ and stay alive rather than dying from guilt or remorse. And they often become close friends with Kenshin, and go through their own redemption arcs.

Of course there are differences between Kenshin and your examples: while Zuko started off bad, he hadn’t done anything anywhere near the level of what Hitokiri Battousai OR Kylo has done. (Though I will say I never thought Zuko ever got fully punished per say for the things he’d done, like burning down Suki’s village, though he does apologize). And Kenshin has always been repentant and acted for selfless interests from the beginning even while killing, and then refuses to kill again. So I’m hoping for some combination of a Kenshin and Zuko arc for Kylo: his actions are worse than Zuko’s and he lacks the true moral compass of Kenshin, but Kylo seems to be of an inherently good light nature. And that’s why the light is tempting him from the dark. It’s like his very nature is resisting the fact that he’s on the dark side, which is why he has to fight it. I want Kylo to be redeemed and survive to make up for his crimes vs redemption equals death (like the Vader arc).

If Kylo is going to be redeemed, I’d much rather it be a long arc (like the mentioned Kenshin arc style and the Zuko arc style) rather than the Vader arc style. Mainly because in a way this WAS the easiest solution during return of the Jedi but I’d rather Kylo survives and has to live with his actions (as Kenshin might say) vs gaining redemption through death. It seems logical that the further Kylo gets down the dark side, the more likely his redemption arc will end with death at some point. But some would say this is too similar to return of the Jedi, and others would say that Kylo hasn’t reached the Vader point just yet. But I don’t know what he’s going to do over the next 2 movies. Redemption might be out the door depending on what he does from now on, but I’m still hopeful.

I have to say, I’m intrigued by your considering brainwashing as a separate option. Because I’ve never seen it as such. Growing up, my mother watched shows where the writers would hand wave the actions of a character by saying oh it’s their evil twin, it was a brain tumor, they were brainwashed. And I always considered it poor writing because it was merely a hand wave excuse for their actions without a full arc of development. It was taken as an easy way out. Basically, they don’t need to atone for their actions because they’re not responsible, and I always disagreed with this choice. I never agreed when those shows took this route.

BUT you bring up a good point here: if the entire story is set up to SHOW the effects of brainwashing on an impressionable confused character from a young age - this would NOT be a hand wave. This would be an actual in depth story arc. And so I’d accept it here if they went all in with the story potential. I’m not sure I’d say Kylo would be entirely blameless if it was revealed he’s been brainwashed. But obviously the situation does change. I think it could still be part of a full redemption arc. Some combination of both at least.

As for full villain option, I don’t think Kylo’s act will push him further over the edge to dark side. He didn’t want to take this path, but he feels he needs to. I think it’ll make him more unstable and guilty. But if this act WAS his true point of no return, then honestly it would be interesting to see Rey become a full hero while showing Kylo become a full villain. It would certainly be a difference from Vader as well since Vader did not cross this particular point while still doing numerous other crimes. But I’m far more interested in potential redemption and don’t necessarily think he has reached this point yet. I’m not sure what Kylo’s true point of no return will be if this wasn’t it.

Additionally, I’m also far more interested in seeing Kylo decide to switch to the light on his own vs having someone (like Rey) lead him back towards the light. If han couldn’t convince Kylo, then I have a hard time believing Leia or Luke could either. Kylo clearly has some connection to Rey, and I’m interested to find out what. But I’d still prefer the redemption come out of his own choices and not be influenced by Rey at all. But we don’t yet know what path they will take with these 2, so I’m optimistic as a whole. I loved the force awakens and I’m hopeful that every new character will be taken in a great direction for their development moving forward. I enjoyed reading your thoughts and hope you enjoy mine too.

- thoughts from Fladow

I replied:

Thank you! I’m in pretty much total agreement about everything. I’d much prefer a gradual redemption arc than Vader’s. I love Vader’s, but I prefer restorative justice to punishment, and it’s more interesting and challenging IMO–as with Zuko. As you say, he wasn’t punished for his wrongdoing–and I’ve been a bit “bzuh?” at the ZUKO WOULD NEVER TURN FLAMETHROWERS ON AN INNOCENT VILLAGE when, well … I guess technically since he shoots the fire out of his hands, but…? But the point isn’t paying for his wrongs, since they can’t be paid for. It’s about offering the world what he can, now.

I don’t think “he was brainwashed!!!!” would be a handwave here, since TFA already went to pains to introduce it specifically wrt the First Order, but without exploring it much (as Finn readily rejects it). And it’s not like ‘aliens took over his brain’; it’s about diminished capacity, not no capacity. Which I think is interesting, as it’s always been an issue with the Dark Side, but not directly addressed.

I can definitely see a combination, too. How do you live with what you’ve done? How do others live with you?

(I tacked on in the tags: There's a lot of Azula in Ben too, but ... please.)
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