In a galaxy far, far, away, there are two paths that force-sensitive people can choose from: the light side, or the dark side. While there are many wonderful reasons for fans to favor the protagonists, I find that the antagonists can also be very complex and interesting.
I am participating in Promptapalooza, this year’s version of Blaugust. Each blogger is assigned one prompt to respond to – and an additional one to pass on to the next blogger. Participating bloggers can also write about any or all of the other prompts.
The prompt I’m responding to in this post is: “Tell us about some of your favorite antagonists and explain why.” It was originally assigned to Naithin on the Time to Loot blog.
The most impressive thing about Thrawn is his ability to carefully calculate every step in his plans. He is a brilliant strategist who is able to make quick changes as the situation allows. Thrawn is the type of person who has the ability to always be several steps ahead of his opponents.
Thrawn finds the art and culture of other species interesting. The more he learns about them, the more he can use that information to his advantage. He is the rare Star Wars antagonist who not only understands why that knowledge is useful, but also appears to enjoy the scholarly aspect of learning such things.
Unlike several other Star Wars antagonists, Thrawn is able to keep his cool when a situation goes differently than he had planned. This gives him the ability to seem very reasonable to whomever he is trying to persuade.
An example of Thrawn’s ability to change tactics and adopt an alternate strategy are in what has been called “The Thrawn Trilogy” by Timothy Zahn. This trilogy is no longer considered to be canon, so I’m thrilled that Timothy Zahn has written new Thrawn books that are canon.
In the first book in the original “Thrawn Trilogy”, Grand Admiral Thrawn seeks out the strange and powerful Jedi Master Joruus C’baoth. It becomes clear that C’baoth believes he is the last Jedi (until Thrawn mentions Luke and Leia).
Thrawn convinces C’baoth to work with him by striking a bargain. Thrawn makes C’baoth believe that he would be in charge of a quest that C’baoth is intensely interested in. C’baoth insists that Thrawn is the one who should be in charge, and agrees to go with him.
This relationship eventually unravels, as it becomes clear that C’baoth has lost his mind. Thrawn switches tactics to make things go in his favor. Timothy Zahn puts the reader inside many of the character’s heads in this trilogy, and that allows the reader to experience what Thrawn is thinking.
Ben Solo / Kylo Ren
I am well aware that Ben Solo / Kylo Ren is a character that has evoked a lot of emotion from Star Wars fans. Some dislike him because he throws tantrums. Others seem to have fallen in love with Kylo Ren for reasons I do not understand.
Both groups are missing the complexity of this character. Adam Driver did a fantastic job of bringing out both sides of this broken, force-sensitive, person.
Ben Solo is the child of Han Solo and Leia Skywalker Organa Solo. Two parents with strong personalities and plenty of resources with which to raise a child. Things should have gone well.
Unfortunately, it was not enough. Something was very wrong with Ben Solo. After learning who his grandfather was, Ben Solo became obsessed with him. There are scenes in the movies where he is talking to the crushed and burned helmet that Darth Vader used to wear.
Han and Leia decided that the best thing to do would be to send Ben to train with Luke, who had begun training Jedi. The hope was that the experience would move Ben Solo towards the light side of the force.
While training, Luke realizes that he could feel the darkness within Ben Solo, and feared that Snoke had already corrupted him. He decided to speak with Ben about it, but found him sleeping.
Using the force, Luke reached out and saw the death and destruction that Ben Solo would eventually bring to everything Luke loved. He learned that his nephew had already been turned by Snoke. It was too late.
On instinct, Luke drew his lightsaber, briefly intending to kill his nephew, but stopping himself from doing so. Ben woke up, saw his uncle with his lightsaber raised, and believed Luke was about to kill him. In short, Ben Solo used the force to drop the ceiling on his uncle. He then killed the rest of Luke Skywalker’s students.
After Han Solo and Leia Skywalker Organa Solo learned what happened, they decided to separate. Each blamed themselves for what their son had done.
Eventually, Ben Solo realizes that Snoke had been “the voices in his head” since early childhood. Snoke saw Ben as “a focal point between the light side and the dark side” and wanted him for an apprentice.
Ben Solo eventually decided to drop his name in favor of a new one that didn’t connect him to his parents. He was now Kylo Ren, and became part of the Knights of Ren. Later, he moved up the ranks of the Empire.
And through all of this is a very confused young man who feels torn between the light and the dark. He feels betrayed by his uncle Luke, and has become convinced that his parents don’t love him anymore. All that is left is Snoke.
In other words, Ben Solo / Kylo Ren never really had the opportunity to make his own decisions. He doesn’t understand why he behaves the way he does.
There is a scene in one of the movies where Han Solo confronts his son. He calls him by name, Ben Solo, and asks him to remove his mask so he could see his son’s face. Ben takes off the mask, but insists that he “destroyed Ben.”
Han insists that his son, Ben, was very much alive. He pleads with his son to come home to his true family, and insists that Snoke is only using him. Ben starts crying.
“I’m being torn apart. I want to be free of this pain. And I know what I have to do, but I don’t know if I have the strength to do it. Will you help me?” Ben asks his father.
Han replies, “Yes. anything.” In that moment, Han Solo may have believed that he was about to get his son back. Instead, Ben Solo / Kylo Ren murders his father. He probably thought that killing his father would make him stronger. It did not. Instead, it made him weaker and more unbalanced.
So, why do I like Ben Solo / Kylo Ren? Part of it is the “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” aspect of this character. He has a split personality, with dueling motivations and interests. The viewer cannot know, for certain, what he will do next and that makes the story more intense and exciting.
Ben Solo / Kylo Ren is a character who believes that he is doing the right thing. He doesn’t see himself as the “bad guy”. He is able to find reasons to justify the things he has done. Kylo Ren identifies as the protagonist in his own story – which makes him a complex and interesting character.
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