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Does the RISE OF SKYWALKER Art Book Hint at Kylo’s Redemption?

May the 4th is always a big day for Star Wars fans. A play on the film franchise’s trademark phrase, “May the Force be with you,” it’s an officially recognized holiday for the series, and often an excuse for Lucasfilm and other corporations to drop exclusive news related to the world of Star Wars. This year was no exception, and one of the biggest pieces of news concerned upcoming canon books tied into the December 2019 release of the ninth and final film in the Skywalker saga, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

Several new books were announced, including The Art of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. We also got a first look at the cover art for the book, which is a beautiful depiction of Rey and Kylo Ren locked in some sort of fateful struggle.

The artist, Phil Szostak, shows Rey standing against a red backdrop and Kylo against a blue one. It looks like a symbolic representation of the relationship between the two Force users in The Last Jedi, but what if there’s more going on here? There are some interesting things to note about the painting that start sinking in the more you look at the details.

First of all, the inverse of color representation is noticeable. Rey is typically associated with blue and Kylo with red, the colors of their respective lightsabers. But here, it’s Rey who’s seen in a red landscape and Kylo in a blue one. Their images are also perfectly mirrored, with their sabers creating an “x.” The look on Rey’s face is one of struggle, but it could also be confusion. Is her relationship with Kylo even stronger than it was in The Last Jedi?

A thousand generations
live in you now.

If Rey and Kylo are even more in sync this time around, as the cover seems to imply, this could confirm previous theories that the two are actually working together throughout much of The Rise of Skywalker. In the first teaser trailer, we Rey running through the desert from what looks to be Kylo’s TIE silencer. But the spacecraft isn’t firing at her, and her leap over it looks like a training exercise more than a duel. Like J.J. Abrams hinted at the Episode IX panel at Star Wars Celebration in Chicago in April, the film is about the galaxy’s “ultimate evil.” And that evil is likely Palpatine, not Kylo Ren.

Rey and Kylo working together against Palpatine sets the stage nicely for a Kylo Ren redemption arc. Remember that Kylo is notably less vicious than Vader was. He has killed in self defense and to prove himself to Snoke, and he of course murdered his father Han Solo. But he never mowed down children, like his grandfather, nor was he directly involved with the First Order’s deadliest order: the destruction of the Hosnian System. (In The Force Awakens script and novelization, he is taken aback when he learns Hux plans to destroy several planets.) If Vader can be forgiven by Luke and redeemed in the eyes of the Force—to the point that he appears as a Force ghost at the end of Return of the Jedi—then Kylo is also on the path to redemption. Perhaps Rey’s vision in The Last Jedi can still come true.

If I go to him, Ben Solo will turn.

That might be a lot to extrapolate from a single image, but if we look back at the previous two art books for the sequel trilogy, they feature concept art taken directly from a scene in the film. If this version follows suit, then this could be a Force connection moment between Kylo and Rey. It could mean that connection is no longer being puppeteered by Snoke, but by the Force itself, forging a bond between these two different manifestations of the Force for a larger purpose: to defeat ultimate evil and fully restore balance to the Force. That’s exactly what the image evokes: balance.

Kylo may have turned down a dark corner near the end of The Last Jedi, but that film ended with Luke sacrificing himself because he believed that Kylo could be saved, and balance restored. Remember his parting words to his sister, General Leia:

“No one is ever really gone.”

Images: Disney, Lucasfilm

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