Hot take: I believe Ben Solo is the most interesting character in the new Star Wars saga, and if the franchise doesn't embrace his character, they're making a mistake. I know that's not an entirely popular opinion, as many fans liken his character to an emo version of Darth Vader. I get it, he's angsty, prone to fits of reckless rage, and he's got a helmet. That said, he's also about the most complex character we've seen in the franchise to date, and I think the character that will ultimately drive the franchise in a new direction should he survive Episode IX.
First, let's just talk about what makes Ben Solo so interesting. You have a kid raised by the same people personally responsible for the Empire's destruction, whose hope for their ideals is shattered when he thinks his own uncle is going to murder him. Ben, who feels threatened by those closest to him, seeks shelter within the Dark Side and becomes indoctrinated within The First Order. He embraces the ideal that the galaxy needs a ruler to maintain order, but is he evil?
I don't think so. Yeah, he killed his dad, who also happened to be one of the most iconic Star Wars characters in history, but once again, consider his situation. Ben was ultimately driven into the arms of the dark side by Luke, and in feeling he had no family to return to, made the hard decision to kill his father (a decorated hero of the rebellion) in order to be further accepted by his new family, The First Order. Sure, he made the wrong decision, but is that so easy to see from his perspective?
Maybe, but Ben clearly has some regret for what he did. His hesitation to kill Leia showed that, and his willingness to help Rey shows that he's not wholly lost to the Dark Side. Of course, Ben's whole motive was to get Rey on his side to help him restore a new world with their ideals and essentially create a nicer version of the Empire, which is obviously problematic. Even so, Ben's not as lost as Luke assumed, and there's definitely a chance he could still turn away from the Dark side, if not entirely a full ally to the Light side.
Can Ben Solo be a good guy? Possibly, although I think it would be very hard for anyone in the rebellion to embrace him. He also seems to be on his way out with The First Order, as all Hux needs is a stronger superior to back him up so he can fully expel Ren from The First Order. So, where does he go?
This is the question I want to see answered in Episode 9. What happens to Ben when he loses the First Order, but is also too far gone to join the rebellion? Does he strike off on his own and begin his own Sith order to rival Rey? Does he forge a thin alliance with her once again and then set off on his own path? Both ideas have me intrigued, and far more invested in the next three films if Ren and Rey have a chance to build that dynamic between them.
I would much rather see that than a duel that results in Ben Solo dying. Truth be told, the dynamic between Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley is the best thing this new franchise has going for it, and to kill that all off so soon would be a waste. We're not living in an era where the next set of Star Wars films isn't guaranteed, so why does everything have to be resolved in a 3 film package? As Kylo Ren would say, "Let the past die".
My pitch? Let Ben survive Episode IX, and if he and Rey have to have some big confrontation where one dies, make it Episode XII. Give us more time with these characters, let them become better in combat and with the force, and you're going to see a much more emotional reaction from fans.
That's my two cents anyway, what are your thoughts? Honest opinion, do you think Ben Solo deserves a longer lifespan than three films, or do you think I'm completely off base here?