Four years on, we’re still learning new things about The Rise of Skywalker and the behind the scenes decisions that led to the highly divisive final chapter of the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy. For some, Episode IX was a return to form for the franchise, while for others, it paled in comparison to what came before, particularly the equally divisive The Last Jedi, because it chose to play the hits instead of saying anything new about characters or their world.
In particular, there are still fans out there debating the movie’s most controversial and surprising arc — Kylo Ren’s return to the light side, shedding his Supreme Leader guise and becoming Ben Solo once again, and the infamous kiss with Daisy Ridley’s Rey that followed. Diehard “Reylo” fans — those who support Rey and Kylo’s romantic connection — would tell you their smooch on Exegol tracks with their arc across the Sequel Trilogy, while others consider it to be a cringeworthy outcome to a rivalry that at one point saw Kylo’s First Order blow up an entire star system full of people. But by the end of J.J. Abrams’ The Rise of Skywalker, Kylo gets his redemption (and a new sweater), helping Rey defeat Emperor Palpatine and destroy the Sith once and for all.
That wasn’t always the plan, though. In fact, according to Adam Driver, Kylo Ren’s original arc as envisioned by Abrams while casting the role for The Force Awakens, didn’t end with a redemption at all.
“I had an overall arc in mind that [J.J. Abrams] wanted to do, which then changed,” Driver explained while promoting his new film Ferrari on The Rich Eisen Show. “But his idea was almost the opposite journey of Vader, where Vader starts the most confident, the most committed to the dark side, and by the last movie he’s the most vulnerable and weak. [Abrams] wanted to start at the opposite where this character was the most confused and vulnerable, and by the end of the three movies, would be the most committed to the dark side.
“I tried to keep that arc in mind regardless if that wound up not being the journey anyway, because it changed while shooting. But I was still kind of focused on that.”
In other words, Kylo Ren was meant to fully embrace evil by the third movie after shedding whatever parts of Ben Solo were left. Both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi explored Kylo Ren’s ascension to the ultimate dark side threat in the galaxy, from the villain destroying his father in the first film to killing his master and taking the throne of the First Order for himself in the second. And it sounds like the original plan was for him to double-down on the dark side in the final chapter of the saga.
But, according to Driver, that initial arc changed as the trilogy progressed: “Rian, he took it into a different direction, but it still kind of tracked with the character. Then the last one, it changed into being about [Rey and Kylo] and the dyad. And evolving into Ben Solo, that was never part of it. There was never a version where we actually see Ben Solo when I first signed up for it.”
Much has already been speculated about the lack of a plan behind the scenes at Lucasfilm during the making of a Sequel Trilogy, as one installment moved on from one filmmaker to the next (remember, Episode IX was originally going to be directed by Colin Trevorrow before he was replaced by Abrams), and how plot points in The Rise of Skywalker were in part a reaction to the online backlash that followed The Last Jedi. After the middle chapter of the trilogy subverted expectations by killing off the Sequel Trilogy’s own bid bad, somehow the Emperor returned in The Rise of Skywalker. Although Kylo and Rey couldn’t be further apart by the end of Johnson’s film, by the end of the trilogy they were sharing a kiss and fulfilling their destiny as a Force “dyad.”
But it sounds like if the trilogy had followed the original plan for Kylo, the “Reylo” ship would still just be a whole lot of fan art on our Twitter feeds and nothing more. How’s that sound? Debate away in the comments.