Like many geeks and pop culture junkies, Star Wars has been an important piece of science fiction for me. The original trilogy first sparked my interest in fantasy and sci-fi. Darth Vader is arguably responsible for my love of villains over heroes. As an adult I’ve explored Sith philosophy for practical, guiding principles in life.
All that being said, I was incredibly excited over the release of The Force Awakens. Kylo Ren visually drew from the expanded universe with his aesthetic, particularly his Sith mask. I was reluctantly optimistic that Abrams and company might introduce an antagonist worthy of carrying on Vader’s legacy.
Instead, the dark side delivered a temperamental man-child who throws toddleresque temper tantrums when faced with adversity. This boy, the grandson of Darth Vader, the nephew and protege of Luke Skywalker, and the apprentice of some mysterious Sith Lord, comes across like a pissed off teenager ready to shoot up a school rather than a galactic warlord.
I could go on about my disappointment with Kylo Ren, but instead, I present a list of Sith Lords from the de-canonized expanded universe who could have been adapted as much better villains for the newest Star Wars film.
Jacen Solo/ Darth Caedus-
While the new film definitely drew from the character of Jacen Solo, the son of Leia and Han who turns to the dark side after being mentored by Luke, Kylo Ren is like the Emo Disney caricature of the Sith Lord, Darth Caedus.
Jacen is a tragic figure who, after saving the galaxy as a Jedi, turns to the dark side because he sees it as the only way to stop even greater threats on the horizon. His fall from grace is slow and natural, as he finds it increasingly acceptable to make sacrifices for the greater good. He abandons his humanity, his family, and his ideals so that peace may be brought to the galaxy.
As Darth Caedus he became a ruthless, and incredibly powerful Sith Lord, willing to go to any length to do what he saw as necessary. While he lost his sense of self, he never lost his sense of greater purpose, which makes him an even deadlier antagonist.
Caedus even killed the next person on my list.
While Rey is an excellent lead and fills the need for strong female protagonists in genre fiction, a strong female antagonist would not go remiss. There are few characters, male or female, better suited to fill Vader’s shoes than Mara Jade.
Having been practically raised by Palpatine, Mara Jade experienced the best training in almost every field from force teachings to infiltration and assassination. Strong with the force, she served as the Emperor’s Hand, a secret position of honor that called upon her to undermine and destroy the enemies of the empire.
Mara Jade could hear Palpatine’s commands from anywhere in the galaxy, and his final command to her was to destroy Luke Skywalker. I think that would have tied in with the plot of The Force Awakens better than some of the forced connections the film makers shoehorned into the film.
Check out Mara Jade in this older fan film.
Yes, Darth Revan comes from way back in the days of the Mandelorian wars, but Disney was throwing all that to the wind anyway. They ripped off his look, so why not go all the way? Revan has enough hardcore fan appeal that expanded universe fans and gamers who played through Knights of The Old Republic would at least get excited for the name.
Let’s run through his rap sheet real quick.
Condemned Jedi inactivity in the mandelorian wars and became supreme military leader of the republic.
Defeated Mandalore the Ultimate.
After turning to the dark side, Revan broke free from the Sith emperor and created his own military empire that went toe to toe with the republic.
Influential in the establishment of Sith teachings, including the rule of two.
There’s a saying that the only thing people love more than seeing a hero win is seeing a hero fail. What more iconic fall from grace could there be than to watch Luke Skywalker fall to the dark side, just as his father before him.
Luke was always teetering on the dark side anyway. In Jedi he rolls in to Jabba’s palace, ready to cut everyone to ribbons to save Han. He fails his trial in the cave, beheading the phantom Vader. Yoda warns him that if he doesn’t finish his training he will fall to the dark side.
Now imagine the last great hope in the galaxy, and the single most powerful force adept, has turned evil. That is some real fucking drama! If that was Luke Skywalker stalking Rey through the woods, how much scarier would that scene have been. If she fought Luke, with the light saber which symbolized the light within both Skywalkers, that would have been truly epic.
The good news is you can still see a version of this. Track down The Dark Empire stories to see Luke go evil.