The Force may be strong in the Skywalker family, but so is villainy.
Darth Vader and Kylo Ren, grandfather and grandson, share a great deal of similarities, despite their individuality. Like Anakin feeling as though the Jedi were keeping secrets about the Force from him, young Ben Solo felt that he was being held back in his training. While a number of things contributed to either of their falls to the dark side, it was their desire for more power that ultimately pushed both over the edge. And so, their parallel falls from grace began. With Halloween season upon us, here’s a look at the similarities between two of the scariest villains in the galaxy.
Both Vader and Kylo Ren’s fall to the dark side had some outside influence. For Vader, he was seduced by Darth Sidious’ promise of a power that could save Padmé from the death he kept having nightmares of. Of course, whether Sidious could have actually taught the then conflicted Anakin that ability was irrelevant, Sidious only sought Skywalker for his power.
Kylo Ren’s full manipulation was not revealed to him until the near end of his life when the reanimated Sidious divulged the full scope to him on Exegol. Ren -- who was once similarly sought after for his “raw, untamed power” by the mysterious Snoke -- learned that it was Sidious who created the deformed being and had been manipulating Kylo from afar all along.
From the outset, both Vader and Kylo Ren showed a terrifying display of power and abilities. Some of our first meetings with either character are marked by their use of the dark side of the Force. Vader first shows just what he’s capable of during a meeting with Imperial admirals aboard his Star Destroyer. When Admiral Motti mouths off about the “ancient religion” Vader believes in, he gives a full presentation and uses the Force to choke the naive admiral until Governor Tarkin calls him off. Similarly, the first time we meet Kylo Ren, he effortlessly stops a blaster bolt fired by Poe Dameron in midair before it can even come near him.
And their skills with a lightsaber were equally terrifying.
Aboard the Profundity, rebels raced to secure the stolen plans of the Death Star. As klaxons howled and lights flickered, out of the darkness a single red blade ignited and what ensued next was absolute savagery. Darth Vader whipped his lightsaber effortlessly, deflecting the blaster bolts that hurtled towards him. And although the rebels secured the plans, the halls of the Profundity would forever echo a single rebel’s plea: “Help us!”
Kylo Ren, while not always as calculated as Darth Vader, still terrified those around him with his crackling saber and its unique crossguard. Whether he was throwing a fit and slashing control panels, or actually dueling someone and landing devastating blows, Kylo was just as intimidating as his grandfather before him. In his final duel against Rey aboard the wreckage of the second Death Star, he mercilessly swung his saber, countering each of her strikes until she became exhausted and terrified of Kylo’s brute force.
All Black Everything
A more obvious similarity between Vader and Kylo was their attire. Both embraced the literalness of the “dark side,” wearing all black everything from their clothes, to their masks, and even their capes.
Vader’s black suit was, of course, worn out of necessity. The dark lord, debilitated during his duel with his former Jedi Master, Obi-Wan Kenobi, was transformed into more machine than man. His suit included life support systems, an armored breastplate to protect his severely charred and vulnerable chest, and a mask that helped process air for his broken lungs.
Kylo, on the other hand, did not need the suit he wore to survive. To take over a galaxy, though, one needed to be imposing, and an all-black suit with a mask was exactly what got the job done. Kylo’s mask made him impersonal to his subordinates, and terrifying to his enemies. Truthfully, though, Kylo wore his helmet in particular to hide his true identity -- Ben Solo, son of rebel heroes Han Solo and Leia Organa -- and to embrace who he wanted to resemble: Darth Vader.
*Outstretches Hand* “Join Me”
Like grandfather, like grandson, both of them sought apprentices to mold into dark minions and serve their desires to rule the galaxy.
In Cloud City, Vader saw an opportunity. He could defeat his master if he could convince his son to join him on the dark side. Together, they could strike Sidious down and the Skywalkers would reign over the galaxy. But Luke, who didn’t even know Vader was his father until that very confrontation in the clouds, refused. His allegiance was with the light side of the Force, and with the Rebellion. If Luke was going to defeat the Emperor, it would not be so another could take the throne but so that the throne would be destroyed altogether. And so, Vader was denied.
Aboard the Supremacy, Kylo too saw an opportunity. After killing Snoke, Kylo and Rey took on the praetorian guards in Snoke’s throne room together. Afterwards, Rey misinterpreted Kylo’s actions, believing Ben Solo was the man standing before her. But he was still very much the wicked Kylo Ren. In similar fashion to Vader, Kylo extended his hand to Rey, hoping they could take over the galaxy together in the name of the dark side of the Force. But Rey, disheartened to realize he was still playing Kylo, denied the dark warrior.
But what makes Vader and Kylo so similar is not just the dark side, but also their return to the light.
Before he was Vader, all Anakin Skywalker wanted was to be a hero and live out his life with the woman he loved, Padmé Amidala. When Anakin began to have visions of Padmé dying in childbirth, he sought a way to save her. His intentions were noble, but they led him down a dark path that ultimately could not prevent Padmé from passing away. With nothing left, Anakin embraced the dark side and Vader for decades until a new hope rose -- Luke Skywalker, the son he thought dead. In the Emperor’s throne room aboard the second Death Star, Luke refused once more to turn to the dark side and so his fate was sealed. Sidious struck the boy with lightning until he was begging for mercy. In that moment, Vader realized he could do what he had intended all those years ago: save the ones he loved. Returning to the light, Anakin saved his son from death, sacrificing his own life in the process.
Like Vader, Kylo Ren returned to the light aboard the (wreckage) of the second Death Star after Rey miraculously healed the mortal wound she inflicted on him and confessed, “I did want to take your hand. Ben’s hand.” Realizing all his suffering could have ended if he had just taken Rey’s hand, Ben returns. On Exegol, the pair teams up to take down the ultimate Sith and end his reign of darkness. And it’s here that the Skywalker legacy of saving the ones you love transcended generations. After the effort of destroying Sidious exhausts Rey to the point of death, Ben uses his final breaths to bring her back to life and becomes one with the Force.
Emily Shkoukani is a jr. creative executive at Lucasfilm who helps to maintain the lore and continuity of the Star Wars galaxy. And sometimes, they write for StarWars.com!
Site tags: #StarWarsBlog