A trend I have noticed lately in storytelling, particularly Star Wars’ storytelling, is the redemption arc of certain villains.
Quick Warning: If you have not seen Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker yet, spoilers are to follow.
A noticeable twist that takes place in both Rise of Skywalker and Return of the Jedi is the redemptive arcs of both Vader and Kylo Ren/Ben. I stand in the position that both arcs worked out for the better.
Both Vader and Kylo Ren start out as the main villain of their respective trilogies. By the end of those trilogies, they have redeemed themselves as characters, and fans begin to love those characters. But then the characters’ lives are cut short.
So that brings up the question, does a redeemed character have to die?
I would argue yes, though a masterful writer can redeem their character and keep them alive.
Kylo Ren/Ben Skywalker is the perfect example of why a redeemed character needs to die. In Rise of Skywalker, Kylo Ren is conflicted the whole movie. He cannot decide if he wants to submit to the emperor and kill the scavenger, Rey. While on Endor his inner confliction rises to a peak when a memory of his father appears. After replaying a scene that happened in The Force Awakens, Kylo Ren tosses the sith saber into the seas of Endor and becomes Ben. But later, Ben dies saving the hero of the trilogy, Rey. This character’s death is the completion of Ben’s arc. He dies to save the one he had wanted to kill just earlier in the series.
Ben’s death is a sacrifice, and it’s a sacrifice for the good of another person. That person was someone he had wanted to kill earlier. Ben shows his redemption by paying the ultimate sacrifice. Thus proving he is a redeemed character.
Vader does the same thing in the original trilogy. He sacrifices his life for the son he had wanted to kill just moments earlier.
Now I am not saying that Rise of Skywalker was without its flaws, it had quite a few. But the redemptive arc of Kylo Ren was a really well-done aspect of the film. In fact, I would probably say it was the most well-done plot aspect of the film.
So what can we learn as writers from this?
Well first, I think that in order for character redemption to be believable, there needs to be some symbolic change. In Rise of Skywalker, there were two symbols. The first was when Rey killed Kylo Ren. The second was when Ben threw the sith saber into the sea. These were symbols of Ben’s turning away from his old ways.
The second thing is that when a writer chooses for a redeemed character to die, they must be sacrificing themselves for the good of another. Ben sacrifices his own life to save Rey, showing that his heart has changed for the good. He has given up the most valuable thing he has, his life, to save her, thus completing his redemption.
So when redeeming characters, authors should show symbolic change. And if the author chooses for the character to die, they also should be sacrificing themselves to help others, thus completing their redemptive arc showing change.
Now, these are just a couple of the things we can learn from Star Wars, not all of the things we can learn. Star Wars has been around for so long and has told many stories, that there are many things that we can learn.
From my pen to your paper, may our swords never clash.
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