Did Ben Solo Use Sith Powers?
Considering his final scene in Rise of Skywalker
One Giant Question on Rise of Skywalker
Healing is new to the Star Wars universe for the most part (released lately in The Mandalorian as well as Rise of Skywalker). In the latter film, Rey explains the process: “I transferred a bit of life, Force energy from me to him. You would have done the same,” Rey tells a curious BB-8.
After healing the snake she encounters underground, she heals Kylo Ren, bringing him back from what appears a very serious, possibly fatal wound. A combination of this with other circumstances, like Leia’s intervention and Kylo’s despair, not only heals Kylo but restores him from the dark side.
A third healing comes when Kylo cradles Rey and, driven by love and desperation, heals her the same way. There’s one big catch—her staring open eyes establish that she’s dead.
This issue won’t require delving into obscure Expanded Universe comics or discussion of old vs new canon. Anakin’s entire conflict in Episode III, leading to his fall to the Dark Side and terrorizing the galaxy for twenty years, is based in the Jedi’s inability to prevent or reverse death. When Anakin speaks to the future Emperor, Palpatine offers him the one thing he craves:
PALPATINE: It's not a story the Jedi would tell you. It's a Sith legend. Darth Plagueis was a Dark Lord of the Sith, so powerful and so wise he could use the Force to influence the midi-chlorians to create life ... He had such a knowledge of the dark side that he could even keep the ones he cared about from dying.
ANAKIN: He could actually save people from death?
PALPATINE: The dark side of the Force is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural.
ANAKIN: What happened to him?
PALPATINE: He became so powerful . . . the only thing he was afraid of was losing his power, which eventually, of course, he did. Unfortunately, he taught his apprentice everything he knew, then his apprentice killed him in his sleep. (smiles) Plagueis never saw it coming. It's ironic he could save others from death, but not himself.
ANAKIN: Is it possible to learn this power?
PALPATINE: Not from a Jedi.
Thanks heavens the new film didn’t mention the midichlorians but just focused on transferring life energy. There’s also the Emperor’s preserving his own life through “unnatural” methods—seen here, as he possibly cloned himself or preserved himself in the memory of a Sith (though none was known to be alive at the time of his death…) His desperate self-preservation is in keeping with the villain’s unnatural goals in epics like Harry Potter as well as the patterns of myth—one of the oldest recorded stories, Gilgamesh, is about questing to avoid death. When one is at the top of the hierarchy, death becomes the ultimate loss of position.
However well the Emperor’s path fits mythology, the fact remains that he established this as a non-Jedi power. He might have been lying? Perhaps. However, in the same film, Yoda agrees. When he’s frantic over Padme’s upcoming death, Anakin seeks out Yoda first and Yoda tells him that Jedi specifically allow people to die.
YODA: Careful you must be when sensing the future, Anakin. The fear of loss is a path to the dark side.
ANAKIN: I won't let these visions come true, Master Yoda.
YODA: Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force. Mourn them, do not. Miss them, do not. Attachment leads to jealousy. The shadow of greed, that is.
ANAKIN: What must I do, Master Yoda?
YODA: Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.
Even if Jedi have the power, they train not to use it. This presents a few different possibilities:
1. This was a miracle. The coming of all the dead Jedi, who channel themselves through Rey to defeat their ancient foe, cost her her life. To make amends and to restore the last Jedi, they intervene directly and restore her.
2. The hidebound Council was wrong again. Yoda’s terrible advice to let Anakin’s true love die destroys all of them. Similarly, their choice not to train him in movie one, to let Palpatine gain power in movie two, to forbid marriage and love, to battle the Separatists without realizing this has all been staged, to trust the programmed clone army…the Jedi Council makes a lot of bad plays that cause the rise of the Empire. Possibly the forbidden power of restoring the dead, like the one of falling in love, is something Jedi could do but it’s considered too selfish. Thus, Ben and Rey, poised between dark and light, usher in a new era of Jedi, one in which they will do the right thing, driven by love and unbound by tradition.
3. Ben used Sith powers. This is certainly an interesting take. What if everything said in Episode III was correct and only unnatural Sith can restore others? Some fans believe that Palpatine drained Padme of life to save Vader (explaining her pathetically unlikely “she’s lost the will to live” death). Ben could have used this technique, but more altruistically on himself. This signals his bending dark powers to use for light and showing Rey a way forward using powers like the Force lightning that a good Jedi would never teach her. Adding this power to the new Jedis’ arsenal (to say nothing of Baby Yoda’s abilities in The Mandalorian) has interesting possibilities…especially if this power is originally Sith.
Valerie Estelle Frankel is the author of A Rey of Hope: Feminism, Symbolism and Hidden Gems in Star Wars: The Force Awakens; We’re Home: Fandom, Fun, and Hidden Homages in Star Wars: The Force Awakens; Star Wars Meets the Eras of Feminism: Weighing All the Galaxy’s Women Great and Small and many other books on pop culture. https://www.amazon.com/Valerie-Estelle-Frankel/e/B004KMCLQK