Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Here's how Kylo Ren became such a compelling bad guy

The Last Jedi just came to Netflix, which makes it a fine time to revisit the finer points of the best Star Wars movie of the past, oh, two decades. The YouTube show Lessons From The Screenplay recently dug into the movie with its typically thorough, structural take, and the resulting video makes a great case for the film while also acknowledging its very real faults.


On one hand, there’s Finn (John Boyega), who moves from Resistance ally to full-on martyr over the course of the movie. The problem is that the movie fails to reestablish his relationship to Rey and The Resistance, and so just scans as another freedom fighter in the movie, rather than someone who is gradually moving away from his Empire origins. He’s a largely passive character, listening to monologues about the power structures of the galaxy without acting convincingly on any of these conflicts. Making matters worse is that there’s a deleted scene that addressed this exact issue early on in the film.

On the other hand, you’ve got Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), who started as a great, conflicted bad guy, and in The Last Jedi became an even greater and more conflicted bad guy. He makes decisions that show his inner struggle, particularly in his scenes with Rey, which show him doubling down on his Sith nature, revealing portions of his tragic backstory to her, and then physically touching her, revealing a tenderness that had always been hinted at. All of this comes to a head in the climactic scene with Snoke, which allows him to act with finality on both sides of his dual nature.

It’s a lot of fun watching these screenwriting fundamentals mapped onto a movie that’s still an endless source of debate, and a reminder of how well Rian Johnson executed his table-flipping storyline. Hopefully he’s got a lot more planned for that far-off trilogy he’s dreaming up.

Clayton Purdom is a writer and editor based in Columbus, Ohio.