In life, everyone has different talents. Some are artists, writers, actors, and teachers. Others are singers, architects, pilots, or any other myriad number of skills. Jedi are no different. Some are swordsmen like Mace Windu; some, like Obi-Wan Kenobi and Ezra, are able to bond with space lizards and whales; and some can perform incredible feats of daring behind the stick of a starfighter. From the moment that he freezes Poe Dameron’s blaster bolt, leaving both Poe and the audience watching as it crackles in mid-air, we know that Kylo Ren has some rather unique powers. In addition to stopping fiery bolts of death, he also searches through the memories of his prey, and supposedly talks to the dark spirit of his murderous (at the time) grandfather. All of these abilities have something in common: they can be accomplished through the ability to manipulate time.
We have seen Jedi and Sith use the Force to push things away from them and pin things against walls and other surfaces before. In The Clone Wars episode, “The Wrong Jedi,” Anakin Skywalker pins the person responsible for betraying his padawan against a wall. The Inquisitor pins Kanan against the ceiling in the Rebels episode, “Rise of the Old Masters.” In both of these cases, the Jedi or Sith-wannabe are stopping someone from moving by pushing them against another surface. This is not quite the case with Kylo Ren. In all the instances where he freezes something, there is no other surface for him to push things against. He cannot push the blaster bolt against anything. When he freezes Poe and Rey, they are not against another surface. One is standing in the middle of the massacre of the villagers of Tuanul, and the other is trying to escape Kylo Ren’s pursuit deep in the lush depths of Takodana’s forests. In both cases, Kylo has not pushed them; instead, it’s almost as if he has frozen them in time. Rey, Poe, and the blaster bolt are still alive. They are still breathing or pulsing with energy, but they cannot move. Kylo Ren has stopped them from moving. Now, they are only existing in time as it flows and progresses around their frozen forms.
In The Clone Wars episode, “Children of the Force,” Anakin and other Jedi join together to try to compel Cad Bane to reveal where he has hidden the Force-sensitive children he had kidnapped. In the end, the pain of the intrusion causes Bane to relent and lead the Jedi to the holocron he has stolen and uncover the location of the children he plucked away. We don’t get to see how Kylo gets the information about BB-8 and the map from Poe Dameron. We see Poe scream, but because of the cutting of the scene, we don’t know if Poe follows his scream with a confession that he hid the map inside BB-8. I find it hard to imagine because Poe is obviously furious, and I would think that fury would make him less likely to reveal the information. It also takes three extremely powerful Jedi (Anakin, Mace Windu, and Obi-Wan) to pry the secrets out of Cad Bane’s mind. Kylo Ren is likely not as powerful as a single one of these Jedi, let alone all three combined. While some may argue that Cad Bane’s mind was simply more powerful than Poe’s, Poe was motivated by noble desires like restoring hope to the galaxy while Cad Bane was motivated by the shine of wealth. Maybe it’s just me, but I would like to think that nobility would trump luxury every time.
Even if we say that Kylo Ren tortures a confession out of Poe, it is clear that he doesn’t do so with Rey. When Kylo Ren interrogates Rey in the deep recesses of Starkiller Base, we know that she doesn’t admit anything. Kylo reaches into her mind and extracts information without Rey saying a word. He sees Rey’s feelings of admiration and desire for a father figure in Han Solo; he sees that she has seen the map leading to Luke Skywalker; and he though he doesn’t realize its importance, he says he sees an island that (as far as we know) Rey never visited except perhaps as a very young girl. In all of these instances, Kylo Ren is not forcing a confession. It is more like he is pulling out memories. Perhaps he looked into Poe’s mind and rewound his memories until he saw the pilot handing off the map to BB-8. He could have skipped through the scenes of Rey’s recent memory, examining her interactions with Han, watching her view the map, and questioning what the significance of the island was that lay out past the edges of her own remembering. Kylo Ren sifts through their memories like sand and when he finds a nugget of value, he plucks it out and weighs it to determine its worth to him.
One scene involving Kylo Ren that has puzzled many fans is when he is communing with Darth Vader’s disfigured and melted helmet. It’s not odd for a student of the Force to communicate with the deceased, but when they do so, they are usually communicating with someone as they were when they died. Because Anakin Skywalker was redeemed and appeared as a Force ghost at the end of Return of the Jedi, it seems like Kylo should not be able to commune with Darth Vader. If he did commune with Anakin, it seems unlikely that Anakin would show him how powerful the dark side is. That was not who Anakin was anymore. He would be more likely to reach out to Ben and pull him to the light side, just as his son did for him in the Emperor’s throne room. While it might be far-fetched to imagine Kylo Ren discussing dark side techniques with Anakin thirty years after the Battle of Endor, he could have Vader show him what the dark side is if he could actually look into the past. If Kylo could do that, he could learn about Anakin’s redemption, write it off as sentimentality, and decide to look past that time and see Vader in his villainous prime. He could view the massacre at the Jedi Temple, the killing of Obi-Wan Kenobi, the destruction of Alderaan, and the cutting off of Luke’s hand. He would have seen Vader show time and time again the power of the dark side. And with Snoke’s voice slithering around in his mind, why would one moment of light side love towards his son replace nearly a quarter of a century of death and destruction.
Before The Force Awakens made its way into theaters, many fans hypothesized as to whether or not it would retell one of the stories from the expanded universe, now labeled legends. Even once we were told that it would be an original story, fans still wondered if the writers might still tease out and use bits and pieces of characters and concepts from the old legends in order to create this new one. From our first glimpse of his dark, masked form, fans wondered if Kylo Ren might be a reworked version of Jacen Solo from the expanded universe. The end result was that he wasn’t. Kylo Ren was Ben Solo and his own character, but there are some similarities. Both are sons of Han Solo and Leia Organa who fell to the dark side. Both appear to have trained with Luke. Another connection between the two may lie in their ability to manipulate time. In the legends of old, Jacen Solo learned how to use a Force power called “flow-walking” that allowed someone to view the past and the future. While Ben Solo is clearly not the same character as Jacen Solo, it is interesting that both versions of Han and Leia’s son seem to have the ability to look into and experience the past.
When I first saw Kylo Ren freeze that blaster bolt, I didn’t really like it. I felt like it was too much, too powerful. Even Darth Vader only ever deflected blaster bolts with his hand in The Empire Strikes Back, he never froze them in the air in front of him. I found it hard to believe that Kylo Ren, who was clearly not fully trained, could be more powerful than the Jedi that many believed was the Chosen One. All Jedi have their own respective expertise though. Anakin was a superb swordsman and an exceptional pilot. His grandson’s path may have led to new powers that were long ago lost in time and are now his to rediscover.