Phantom’s End: The Exorcism of Ben Solo (Fan Theory, May 2019)

Part I: The Haunting of Ben Solo.

Note: This is part 1 of a 2 part series proposing a STAR WARS Episode IX fan theory wrapping up the Skywalker saga. 

This fan theory relies heavily on the idea that Ben Solo is haunted. Of course, there are different types of haunting. Specific places can be haunted, such that a visitor is susceptible to the annoyance of haunting until they exit that location. When we speak of a person being haunted rather than a location, however, we speak of a more significant kind of haunting, one from which the annoyance can not be liberated by geographical relocation — no matter where one goes the obsession persists, as if that person is possessed by a spirit or phantom. The present theory proposes a way to wrap up the Skywalker saga. The haunting of Ben Solo is a significant focus of this theory, though the phantom which haunts him has its origins long before, when the Jedi Knights were guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic. Before the dark times, before the Empire.

In Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Shmi Skywalker states that “there was no father” in response to Qui Gon Jinn’s inquiry into the heredity of Anakin Skywalker. Some fans have theorized that this statement indicates a kind of miraculous virgin birth in the Force. Indeed Shmi’s Wookieepedia page reports the birth of Anakin Skywalker as miraculous, citing Shmi’s words. It is important to note however that Shmi’s words never include the words miraculous or virgin. She simply states that there was no father, which of course, could mean a number of things. For the purpose of the present fan theory, I will suggest that there WAS indeed a biological “midi-chlorian donor”, but this donor never stuck around to play the role of father. While this is consistent with Shmi’s report, additional speculation could be added to appease any fans that insist that Shmi would not be so cryptic about the parentage of Anakin unless she herself experienced some element of mystery to it all. For these fans we can paint a scenario in which Shmi was put under a spell of sorts, a dark side kind of spell, in which she coupled with someone, but was unable to recall the incident, which nevertheless left her impregnated.

STAR WARS toy figure photography by Stefan C. Densmore

We’ll return to who Anakin’s father may be. For now, though, let’s jump ahead a couple generations to Anakin’s grandson, Ben Solo, and specifically his obsession as Kylo Ren with Darth Vader. In Episode VII: The Force Awakens, we find Kylo Ren speaking presumably to the spirit of Darth Vader, while holding the crumbled relic mask of the former Sith Lord. Kylo Ren says “show me again the power of the darkness… show me, Grandfather…”. These words suggest that there was a previous communication that occurred in which the power of the dark side was shown to Ben. Most fans have presumed from this scene that Kylo Ren is simply crazy and talking to himself. I will suggest that while he may indeed be crazy, Kylo Ren IS communicating with someone through the Force, but it IS NOT who he thinks it is.

STAR WARS toy figure photography by Stefan C. Densmore

Recall that Darth Vader turned in Episode VI: Return of the Jedi; he turned on the Emperor, and is shown to be present in the light, as a Force Ghost, with Obi-wan and Yoda. Indeed Anakin’s Wookieepedia page states that he was “reunited in death with his Jedi mentors.” So it stands to reason that any post-death use of the Force by Anakin would not be for the purposes of the dark side, but the light. Clearly, if anyone is really talking to Kylo Ren through the relic of his grandfather’s mask, it is a dark side user. Snoke comes to mind as a possibility, given his claim to have the ability to connect Kylo and Rey together in the Force — giving them the ability to communicate across distance systems in space as if sitting next to each other. While Snoke’s prior secrecy about connecting Kylo and Rey makes sense in his scheme to capture Rey, it is much less clear why he would pretend to be Ben’s grandfather. As a source for empowering Kylo, does Snoke’s mentorship really need Vader’s mask? The telltale scene in the upcoming continuation of the saga is whether the mask continues to speak to Kylo after the death of Snoke. If so, the dark side user trying to influence Ben is arguably someone else.

STAR WARS toy figure photography by Stefan C. Densmore

This is where our speculation into the storyline of the upcoming 9th installment of the Skywalker saga really takes off. Imagine the inclusion in Episode IX’s opening sequences of a scene with Kylo Ren and the crumbling relic of Vader’s mask once again communing together. Imagine that this time we hear the voice that Kylo Ren hears in his head as he stares at Vader’s mask — a horrifying, sinister voice, accompanied by the classic terrifying sound of Vader’s artificial breathing. Perhaps this voice initially provides strategic guidance to Kylo Ren as he begins his reign as the First Order’s new Supreme Leader, but then turns to include other more cryptic instructions having to do with rebuilding an ancient occult artifact…

In select issues of the Marvel comic book series Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith, written following the theatrical release of Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, we’ve learned more of Vader’s history. We’ve learned that he once had an obsession with bringing Padme back to life, and even went so far as building a dark temple on Mustafar (seen briefly as his personal fortress in the movie Rogue One) for the purpose of harnessing the dark powers of the Force, to reach across the abyss and pull her back to his side. The possibility of such a resurrection was once promised by his soon-to-be master, Darth Sidious, in Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. The comic series reveals that the temple is indeed a viable portal for the dark art version of resurrection, but that Vader unable to find Padme among the dark forces there, destroys the portal, leaving only the surrounding fortress. I suspect that Vader destroyed the portal knowing full well that its intended use would only benefit a Sith ghost wanting to return to physical form… Now just imagine if in Epsiode IX the voice that Kylo Ren is hearing in his head, speaking from the relic of Vader’s mask, tells him to go to Mustafar to rebuild a portal in the ruins of Vader’s long deserted fortress!

Before we dive into who might want to be resurrected, let’s talk some more about what we know of this dark art. The power over death that Darth Sidious learned from his own master (before killing him), was not a power that anyone could use on themselves per se, hence the irony that Palpatine spoke of to Anakin when retelling the story of Plagues the Wise. It is a power that only the living can use to bring someone else back to life. But, of course, in Sith culture no apprentice would ever knowingly try to bring their master back to life. So the real secret to the dark art version of resurrection, is how to trick a dark side apprentice into bringing the master back to life without the apprentice knowing who they are really bringing back. Perhaps the phantom that haunts Ben through the mask of Vader is so strong that he can still use sorcery to make the sound of his voice, and even his physical image, appear to be someone else entirely. Imagine if we the audience are presented in Episode IX with Ben Solo’s perspective, showing him communing in Vader’s fortress on Mustafar with whom he believes to be the Force Ghost of Darth Vader. Imagine if the image that Ben sees speaking in Vader’s voice is a yellow-eyed Hayden Christiansen!

STAR WARS toy figure photography by Stefan C. Densmore

Now to unroll the reveal. Imagine there was a Sith Master, long ago, who planned from the beginning of his reign a way to come back to life in the event of his demise. Imagine that he even went so far as to hand pick an apprentice who he knew as well as himself, to better manipulate into doing the deed. What if Anakin’s sorrow, the fuel of his obsession to bring Padme back to life, was itself manipulated by this Sith Master to build a portal that could one day be used — with the false hope of bringing Padme back — to bring the Sith Master back instead? What if Anakin’s turn back to the light was the only unforeseen eventuality to this puppet master’s plan? Further, what if this Sith Master upon crossing over into the abyss of death has waited patiently for the opportunity to have another go at it — this time with Ben Solo!

Part II: The Reveal

Note: This is part 2 of a 2 part series proposing a STAR WARS Episode IX fan theory wrapping up the Skywalker saga. 

Imagine if the big reveal in Episode IX, that ties all the episodes of the Skywalker saga together, is that Sheev Palpatine is the midi-chlorian father of Anakin, great-grandfather of Ben Solo. The menace that was started in Episode I: Phantom Menace, was not Darth Sidious’s meddling in the trade dispute that brought the known systems to war, but his meddling into the life of the child, Anakin Skywalker, that set into motion generations of sorrow — his creation, abandonment, and false friendship with the resulting child’s psyche. The theme and title of Episode IX might properly then be “Phantom’s End”, providing a bridge connecting the first and last episodes. 

STAR WARS toy figure photography by Stefan C. Densmore

And the finale? The Sith art of bringing someone back from the dead requires that the summoner be someone who is willing to give their own life as a sacrifice to open the dark world spiritual gateway. In the new canon of Vader comics mentioned earlier, we have seen an example of this played out, in which the summoner is sacrificed so that the dead could take possession of his body. He was tricked, of course. He didn’t knowingly put himself in that position. If a similar tactic plays out in Episode IX there is a question about how Kylo Ren will be tricked. Perhaps Ben doesn’t know that the dark art requires his personal sacrifice — maybe he simply thinks he’s bringing back Vader to provide the kind of guidance for him as the father figure he felt he never had. Or perhaps he believes that his own sacrifice isn’t required, perhaps he captures one of our heroes and plans to sacrifice them to open the portal.

It makes for a far more interesting story, however, if it is revealed that Ben is being tricked into willingly sacrificing himself. I suspect it lends more sympathy to his character, making his final redemption more palatable for some fans — especially if his past crimes can be attributed to the manipulation of an evil phantom. The first stages of this manipulation may have been laid when Ben first starting hearing the voice speaking from his grandfather’s relic helmet. Who knows how long ago this may have been — perhaps it goes as far back as Luke’s training academy. Sidious’s goal in this stage of the plan may have been to help position Ben as Kylo Ren within the First Order, a heart beat away from the Supreme Leader, trusting Ben’s “pedigree” to eventually take over as Supreme Leader. By impersonating Vader’s Force Ghost, Sidious is further able to encourage Kylo to begin the re-construction of the portal in Vader’s fortress on Mustafar.

Once the portal is complete, Sidious begins the final phase of his plan to rise from the dead — a plan that involves tricking Ben Solo into sacrificing himself, so that Sidious can take possession of his body and rule as Supreme Leader of the First Order. The groundwork for this was laid when Kylo Ren killed Han Solo. The killing of his father was intended from the beginning to cause the same kind of sorrow in Ben that Anakin experienced with the death of Padme — a sorrow that might lead one eventually to allow themselves to willingly be sacrificed if it meant the return to life of their loved one.

STAR WARS toy figure photography by Stefan C. Densmore

This is possible if Ben has deep regrets about killing his father. In fact Snoke indicated as much when he spoke in disgust that the deed of killing Han Solo tore Kylo Ren in two. We’ve also seen that Ben couldn’t bring himself to kill his mother, which further supports the idea that Ben is conflicted and may have deep regrets that could be manipulated by a skillful Sith lord. Imagine if these regrets were part of the plan all along, to make Ben more easy to manipulate. Imagine if the totality of his past acts of evil are made to weigh heavily on Ben, such that he comes to believe his only avenue for redemption is to allow himself to be sacrificed to at least undo the act of killing his father  — not knowing, of course, that it will actually be Darth Sidious, not Han Solo, who will be resurrected.

Imagine as Kylo Ren is making the final preparations within his grandfather’s fortress, Sidious claims Ben’s poor clarity of vision allowed Snoke to trick Ben into killing his father. Sidious impersonating the Force Ghost of Vader tells Ben that “I mistakenly killed my father too, and now you’ve mistakenly killed your father. This act was unredeemable for me, but the portal you have reconstructed gives you the power to redeem yourself.” This statement could serve as the initial reveal to the audience that the Force Ghost of Vader is not who he says he is, as the audience says to themselves “wait, what? Vader mistakenly killed his own father?!”

STAR WARS toy figure photography by Stefan C. Densmore

As Sidious haunts Kylo by day, I imagine Luke haunts Ben by night, entering his dreams with cryptic and sometimes humorous messages. Further, it could be shown numerous times through the movie that in moments when Sidious’s phantom looses hold over Kylo, the messages within Ben’s dreams at night begin to make more sense. Building toward the climax of the movie, the images in these dreams become even more clear and familiar: Luke throwing down his light saber, “I am a Jedi like my father before me”, Luke removing Darth Vader’s mask and the true voice of Anakin Skywalker saying “let me look upon you with my own eyes” — they are the scenes of Anakin’s redemption. As the spell of Sidious’s phantom looses its hold, Luke’s Force Ghost appears to Ben saying “I have a message from your grandfather. He isn’t the one talking to you through the mask. He no longer wears it.” The faux Force Ghost of Vader then shapeshifts to reveal none other than the phantom of Darth Sidious, who begins to slowly chuckle at the notion that this battle is over. “Are you so naive boy that you fail to see? — I’m the one who offers true redemption — give yourself to me! Only in your death can you be redeemed of your crimes, just like Vader. Search your feelings. You know its true!” 

STAR WARS toy figure photography by Stefan C. Densmore

As Kylo Ren’s crimes flash through the mind of Ben Solo, the phantom of Darth Sidious begins to take possession of his body. I imagine Rey has somehow made her way to Ben’s side by this point. She screams for Ben to fight back, that “redemption does not require your death — its just another Sith lie — Sidious just wants to be the Supreme Leader of the First Order”.  But the full scale of Kylo Ren’s crimes continue to flash before Ben, the younglings at the academy, …his father on Starkiller base. Ben sees these scenes as if reliving them. But in the vivid memory of his father on Starkiller base, reaching out to touch his cheek, something changes — something changes about that memory of Han looking into Ben’s eyes — he says very clearly “It’s ok, son.” But it didn’t happen that way — it’s as if the visual memory is being edited in real time. “It’s ok, son”, he says again. Where is the voice coming from? “I’m here with you, …always.” Ben comes out of a daze and sees the Force Ghost of his uncle, Luke Skywalker, once again before him. “It’s true, Ben. Your father is reaching out to you. I’ve communed with him AND your grandfather — and you can too. All you have to do is reach out to them, not through some dark portal, but through the light.” Where Ben’s face once showed disbelief, his eyes widen in amazement, for the image of his father and grandfather begin to appear before him, as Sidious screams “No! He’s mine!” Han Solo embraces Ben, and wipes away the tears that are now streaming down Ben’s face. Holding Ben’s face and looking him in the eye, Han says “Destroy the portal, kid.”

STAR WARS toy figure photography by Stefan C. Densmore


This fan theory is pretty heavy on Ben Solo’s story, but what about the space battles from which Star Wars gets its name? I’m sure there will be space battles and political intrigue. Perhaps the secondary leadership of the First Order have begun to plot the overthrow of Kylo Ren as Supreme Leader, sensing his vulnerability, his divided nature, his seemingly irrational increase of interest in the occult. Perhaps the Resistance catches wind of this and plans to capitalize on the leadership instability through a series of attacks that draw division within factions of the First Order. There will probably be something big to blow up as well, but I suspect that overall, there will not be a conclusion to Star Wars at the classic level of Rebellion vs Empire, e.g., á la fireworks on Endor. Wars have always been among us, and that’s no different a long time ago in the galaxy far far away. The Skywalker saga, specifically the drama of light vs dark within this specific family will resolve, perhaps in a way very similar to the speculation in this fan theory, but the space battles will endure. I suspect it may even be a smart move to specifically end Episode IX with the space battles still raging, to underscore this notion. Perhaps a central theme of the ending will be that even though battles continue there is a way to win peace that will always eventually topple evil.

2 Comments so far:

  1. Ben still needs to die for this fan theory to conform with Disney’s statement that this is the end of the Skywalker saga — if that indeed means no remaining hereditary Skywalkers remain after this movie… Perhaps after dispelling “the phantom” of Sidious, Ben is on the verge of death, just like when his grandfather was redeemed. Perhaps Rey carries his mortally wounded body out of the Sith temple to prevent the phantom’s access to Ben in his dying moments — to prevent Sidious from taking possession of his body. Then you have the death of Ben, ending the Skywalker saga — not as a dark sacrifice of his life as a requirement for the life of another, but as a final act of love (like his grandfather) — accompanying his redemption via dispelling the phantom with the aid of Luke and Rey.

  2. This fan theory was originally composed in October of 2018, long before we had a title for the film. We’ll have to wait and see how divergent “Phantom’s End” and “The Rise of Skywalker” turn out to be.

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