New J.J. Abrams Interview Reveals Kylo Ren's Serial Killer Souvenirs In 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens'

  • Science Fiction
Adam Driver as serial killer Kylo Ren in 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens.' David James/© 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd.

Killing people in combat situations typically exists in a different ethical realm than your workaday murder. Soldiers who massacre civilians in defiance of orders suddenly become murderers, even though their real transgression was acting on their own passions and frustrations rather than their country’s. Twist fear, anger, hate and suffering enough and a soldier can become a sadist, inflicting horrors on other people for their own psychological gratification.

Kylo Ren is such a soldier. Though enabled by Supreme Leader Snoke and The First Order, Kylo’s killings are typically done out of his anger and passion, performed to move him further and further away from the Light side of the Force. His murders aren’t strategic, but ritualistic, the victim’s actual identity measured in the personal empowerment Kylo can take from the act of killing.  

If that weren’t enough, J.J. Abrams revealed in an interview with Entertainment Weekly that Kylo Ren takes souvenirs from his victims, one of the major hallmarks of a serial killer.

In Star Wars: The Force Awakens Kylo reveals himself to Rey during an interrogation at Starkiller Base. After removing his helmet, Kylo slams it into a pedestal of ashes. In the final film this is no more than a neat visual, but the truth is closer to the broken down sadist soldier wearing a necklace of ears.

“The backstory is that that table has the ashes of the enemies he’s killed,” Abrams told EW.

Kylo Ren's helmet resting in its bed of ash. Photo: Lucasfilm

The taking of souvenirs from dead victims has become such a hallmark of psychologically-motivated murder that an entire cottage industry of serial killer murderabilia has emerged. For most serial killers, motivated by abnormal psychological gratification, souvenirs provide an opportunity to relive the murder, or serve as totemic symbols of their continued power over the victim. A lock of hair or a photo can be a constant reminder of the ongoing relationship the killer has to the person he or she has killed.

Kylo Ren’s motivations are similar, though far less tied to the individual victim. Instead, his murders are performed to maintain his mystic powers, each killing a further distancing of himself from the temptation of the Light side of the Force. Cradling his helmet - which he imagines to be his true face - the ashes of his victims are a constant reminder of the accumulated evil on which his identity has been built.

Even without the ashes, this struggle is evident in The Force Awakens. Killing his own father is the ultimate ritual act, a final purging of his original self, Ben. “With this act,” Kylo must think, “my inner conflict will end.”

Like most compulsions driven from within, it will never be enough. Kylo cannot stop his own serial killing spree, someone else will have to stop it for him.

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