What Kylo Ren's The Rise of Skywalker role really means for 'Star Wars'
There were a few moments in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker when I thought, genuinely, that I was watching Marriage Story 2: The Rise of Charlie.
Before we get to the big boss fight against Grandpappy Palps at the end of the movie, we see quite a few scenes of Rey and Kylo either taunting each other via Force Skype, or fighting with lightsabers and such IRL. And Adam Driver’s turn as Kylo Ren, in its angstiest moments, channels that same energy that made him punch a wall and accidentally cut himself in Marriage Story.
Anyway, we finally get a resolution to Kylo Ren’s arc in the new Star Wars trilogy. After spending most of the film trying to convert Rey to Sitholicism, he ends up switching sides himself after Leia Organa spends her last bits of energy reaching him via the force. He has a beautiful—if unnecessary and confusing—scene with his father Han Solo, where they exchange the classic Solo love declaration. "Dad I...," Kylo says. "I know," Han responds echoing the exchange of love in Empire Strikes Back. And from there, Kylo Ren is saved and is Ben Solo once more.
With his goodness once again restored, Ben travels to Exogol to help Rey in her fight against Palpatine. It doesn't go great. Palpatine sucks the life out of both Ben and Rey. Palpatine also blasts Ben into a pit.
With Rey holding onto the last of her strength she's urged by the Jedi of the past—Obi-Wan, Yoda, etc—to continue the fight. Grandpa Palpatine then urges Rey to strike him down—thus completing her transformation into a Sith. Instead she uses both Skywalker lightsabers to reflect Palp's lightning back at him destroying him—hopefully?—for good. Ben climbs out of the pit and goes to Rey, placing his hand on her and bringing her back to life. When she's revived they briefly share an awkward kiss, and he vanishes.
It seems that with his last ounce of strength, Ben gave what was remaining of his life energy to save Rey. This was his last sacrifice, effectively acting as redemption to return him to the light side of the Force. That is why his body vanished, as Jedi like Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi and Leia did before him. It's a tragic and poignant conclusion to the Skywalker line—with each member of the family dying in sacrifice for the greater good. Leia, Luke, and now Ben have all vanished to become one with the Force at the time of their death.
Is Ben Solo gone for good? This is a massive franchise we're talking about, so anything could happen. If there's money in it, maybe there is a way for Ben to appear once more as a Force Ghost. Certainly we already saw Luke and Leia return once more as Force Ghosts, so maybe someday our dude will make another appearance.