Among the chief criticisms of The Rise of Skywalker is this one: it ignores or negates The Last Jedi. Whether you agree with that notion or not, or have such fatigue about Star Wars at this point that you can’t remember what matters and what doesn’t, what’s canon and what’s not, at least writer Chris Terrio is here to tell us that Episode IX is “in dialogue” with Episode VIII. He told TheWrap, “It’s not that it’s a meta-story or a rivalry between Rian and J.J. Rather, it’s about taking the ideas that came from ‘VIII’ and trying to complicate them and develop them and to have some new surprises.”
There’s so much to pick on with a statement like that, whether it’s Force stuff or Rey’s parents stuff or anything else fans are fighting about. Terrio claimed they didn’t begin with Colin Trevorrow’s previous TROS script, which may or may not have flowed more naturally out of The Last Jedi, but rather, they started from scratch. And that makes sense considering a number of story points. And costumes.
For instance, fans were undoubtedly surprised when Kylo Ren showed up with his helmet back, fused together somehow with bright red, veiny lines revealing the work done to restore it. Kylo destroyed that very helmet in TLJ, smashing it to smithereens at the provocation of Snoke. It was a moment for the character to take hold of some individualism—a step forward in his journey. But Episode IX paints him as, perhaps, guilt-ridden, regretting his outburst and patching back together that now iconic wardrobe piece. According to Terrio, they were merely continuing a metaphor established in The Force Awakens. Kylo is broken on the inside, so he ought to be broken on the outside, too. It’s on the nose, to be sure, but that was their thinking, and that’s why he wears it again.
Curiously enough, Terrio went on to say this in regard to a Kylo line from TLJ:
“Kylo says ‘Kill the past,’ but remember, it’s the bad guy that’s articulating that. ‘Kill the past’ is not the voice of the film. That is what any number of dictators would say. I feel that although Kylo Ren is always saying “Kill the past,” that is his blind spot. He doesn’t want to face the past. He doesn’t want to face what he’s done. He doesn’t want to betray the legacy that he’s come from in joining the Dark Side. I even think Rian would probably take issue with the idea that ‘Kill the past’ is the voice of the director. I think you don’t write characters that way, or write characters in a meta-conversation with another film.”
So, if Kylo Ren is, in a sense, running from his past up until his great awakening in the second act of TROS, why does he revert to the past and don the helmet again? If Terrio and J.J. Abrams have created a character on the run from himself, that helmet represents something he once was. Having him reclaim it is inconsistent with who they think him to be.
And yet, he’s still the most robust character in this fan-splitting new trilogy that has, mercifully, come to an end.