“Clouded by the Dark Side, they are”, Yoda might say. Our brief introduction to them from Rey’s vision in The Force Awakens whet the appetite, but left a lot of meat on the bone. Then, in The Last Jedi, we never heard a word about them. So who are the mysterious Knights of Ren? Where did they go? What were they doing while Kylo was giving Snoke a repeat of Darth Maul’s death stroke? Here are some ideas to consider:
We know who they aren’t
After the release of The Last Jedi, there was speculation that the Knights of Ren became Snoke’s Praetorian Guard. It was a plausible theory until the release of the Episode IX poster, which features a small gathering of the Knights on the left side brandishing crude, but effective-looking weapons. Since we saw the red guards get wrecked by Rey and Kylo Ren in Snoke’s throne room, the Knights were obviously not the Praetorians. Other theories say they are other fallen student’s of Luke’s failed Jedi Academy. I say no. The Knights of Ren do not appear to have any real connection to the force.
Kylo’s light saber sets him apart
How do we know they aren’t force-sensitive? Well, we don’t. However, in every artist’s rendition and movie reference to date, we see the Knights with blasters, battle-axes, scythes, swords and spears; all the things Obi-Wan would call “uncivilized weapons”. Kylo is the only one wielding a light saber. Why is that? If my theory is correct, before we get into who they are, we have to know where they come from.
The Knights of Ren started as the Acolytes of the Beyond
Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath novels introduce a group calling themselves the Acolytes of the Beyond, and they may hold the key. The Acolytes are Sith groupies, of a sort. They call themselves “shadows”, declaring something binds them in servitude of the dark side of the force, but are not all force-sensitive beings. They start out non-violent, with a vandalism campaign with “Vader Lives” being painted on buildings across the New Republic. The more devout live out their Sith fantasies, taking on the persona of the dark siders they admire while under the guidance of Yupe Tashu, the Emperor’s former advisor and a dark side true believer. Some scour the galaxy for Sith artifacts, especially anything belonging to Vader himself. Finally, the most fanatic among them begin guerrilla-style attacks against New Republic facilities, becoming fierce Dark Side followers.
Ben Solo becomes their next target
Dark side artifacts are strong with the force. Sith Lords had a penchant for masks, believing they gave them the power of fear over their enemies. As the Acolytes are not Force-sensitive, they believed the Sith artifacts they were finding gave them the same powers. After his defeat, anything that belonged to Vader becomes the Acolytes’ most coveted prizes. I believe they discovered the charred remains of Vader’s helmet on Endor, and it led them to find out who Ben Solo is. Learning he is a direct descendant of Darth Vader, besides being trained by Luke as a Jedi, he is the obvious choice to be their leader. He becomes a target for them, not to kill, but to convert. So how did they convince him?
Vader’s mask is the key to the Knights of Ren
Remember Rey’s vision when she touched the light saber in Maz Kanata’s palace? I believe Kylo had a vision, too, once he came into possession of Vader’s melted helmet.
It’s not clear yet how they came together, but from Rey’s vision in Episode VII, it’s easy to see that the Knights somehow enticed Ben away from Luke and turn him dark. Ben, taking up his own mask and building a crude red saber (arguably one of the cooler designs in the whole tale), rejects the Jedi teachings. He embraces a new destiny where he believes himself to become the heir of Darth Vader, and the Empire, and finish what he started under the banner of the First Order.
“… I guess the one thing I would say is there’s a Knights of Ren story that I think would be pretty cool to tell.”
J.J. Abrams, when asked what he’d like to see as a Star Wars spin-off, speaking with Collider in 2016.
My guess is when Ben was given Darth Vader’s melted helmet by The Acolytes of the Beyond, he had his own vision, which we will hopefully see in The Rise of Skywalker in December. So who are the Knights of Ren? I think they are the militant arm of the Acolytes of the Beyond, the most zealous and ardent believers in the dark side. They went hard after Ben Solo to make him their leader. And they did.
Who do you think the Knights are? Tell us your thoughts!