Leia to Rey in new novel: “No one can save Ben but himself”

Probably the most anticipated novel releasing this fall in the leadup to The Rise of Skywalker is “Resistance Reborn” by Rebecca Roanhorse, releasing on November 14.

Set after The Last Jedi, this novel focuses on Leia, Rey, Poe, and Finn rebuilding the Resistance. So this will undoubtedly provide good context for us as we prepare for TROS, as we learn more about how the Resistance is surviving and growing.

Today, Star Wars released an excerpt from the novel, and it gives us a conversation between Leia and Rey. You can read the full excerpt here, and I think it sounds good. I like the conversation between them, I love the subtle touch of Leia drinking Gatalentan tea (that’s from Holdo’s homeworld), and I got super excited when the excerpt tied in to the end of the Poe Dameron comic series! All of this, plus the importance of the setting, makes me incredibly excited for this book!

We’ll discuss it plenty once it releases, I’m sure, but for now I want to focus on the conversation Leia has with Rey in this excerpt.

Neither of them can sleep much as they’re processing all the events that just happened (that we saw in TLJ), so Rey brings Leia some tea after she had spent time fixing the Falcon (Leia thanks her for taking good care of Han’s ship). Rey is clearly shaken, and Leia assumes she wants to talk about Luke… but Rey instead wants to know about Kylo Ren and what happened:

Finally Rey met her gaze, a question lurking there. Perhaps she wants to talk about Luke, Leia thought. We spoke of him, but briefly. Just an acknowledgment that he was at peace in the end. But then Rey said . . .

“Kylo Ren. He’s your son . . .”

Ah. Leia nodded and drank from her now cooling cup. Rey squirmed uncomfortably in her seat.

“What happened to him?” she finally asked. “I mean, how did he turn to the dark side? He started in the light, didn’t he? He told me a story about Luke, about his training.” She exhaled. “I guess I just want to understand.”

“I do, too.”

“So you don’t know?”

“I think you would have to ask Ben what happened to him.”

“He wanted me to join him, but I couldn’t. I thought I could help him, but he only wanted me to become like him.”

Rey’s face fell, and Leia could see the pain etched there. The girl cared about Ben, and he had disappointed her. “Ben has made his choices,” Leia said. “No one can save Ben but himself. And I don’t know if that is what he wants.”

I think that line from Leia is so important: “Ben has made his choices. No one can save Ben but himself. And I don’t know if that is what he wants.” And here’s why I think it’s important:

  1. Firstly, because it represents what Leia has learned along the way. She sent Han Solo to bring him back, but Ben killed him. This was a crushing loss for Leia, but she persevered… and then was blown into space by Kylo’s minions after sensing a connection with her son. So she presumes that Ben is gone, but Luke reminds her that, “no one’s ever really gone.” This reminds Leia that there’s still hope left for Ben Solo, but Luke also told her that he can’t save him. So Leia now realizes that Han can’t save him, Luke can’t save him, and Rey can’t save him. This leads her to conclude that the only person who can save Ben Solo is himself. She is still hopeful that he will, but she doesn’t think he wants that. She’s correct – but we’ll see whether he wants it by the time of TROS.
  2. Secondly, because it’s an encouragement to Rey. Think about where we leave Rey at the end of TLJ: she has fundamentally failed (so, by the way, don’t listen to those who suggest she can’t fail). She tells Luke that if she goes to Ben Solo, he will turn. Luke tries to warn her otherwise, but Rey is convinced. She thinks that the reason Ben turned is that Luke had failed him by believing the worst of him, so she wrongly thinks that if she goes to him believing the best of him, he will turn. And he doesn’t. So she flees, having failed in her mission to turn Ben Solo. So think about where this leaves her at the end of the film: surely discouraged, with plenty of questions, and struggling still to find her place in this. So Leia’s words here are the wise words of a caring mentor: you can’t do it, Rey, so don’t be too hard on yourself. Han couldn’t save Ben. Luke couldn’t save Ben. Leia couldn’t save Ben. So Rey’s not going to save Ben. If Ben Solo is going to be redeemed, others may play a role, but it has to be Ben redeeming himself.
  3. And thirdly, because it’s (probably) a foreshadowing of TROS. Lucasfilm has certainly seemed to be sowing the seeds to prepare for an eventual redemption of Ben Solo, and I have to believe that he will indeed return to the light in this final chapter – but that could of course mean different things for his future depending on who you ask. And while I imagine that there will be plenty of factors and people that influence this decision, Leia is absolutely right: it is Ben’s decision to make. Han, Luke, Leia, Rey – they can’t force Ben back to the light. But Ben Solo can. So whatever happens, if Ben Solo returns to the light (and I think he will), it will ultimately be because he realizes that it IS the choice HE wants.

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