TV & Movies

In Star Wars, Is Rey Really More Powerful Than Kylo Ren?

Kylo Ren vs Rey

Ever since the release of Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, I’ve been hearing the argument a lot that Rey is inexplicably more powerful than Kylo Ren, and that this is one of the film’s more obvious plot holes. I mean, here she is, a scavenger from the backwater planet Jakku, beating a trained Force user in combat.

Some people even use this as evidence that Rey’s character is a Mary Sue, or a female character who is good at pretty much everything for no apparent reason.

But I think these arguments completely overlook the themes that make The Force Awakens work as a great Star Wars movie. I also think Rey actually isn’t more powerful than Kylo Ren. At least not in The Force Awakens.

In my opinion, this argument comes from a very shallow understanding of how the Force works in the Star Wars universe, as well as how power works in the real world. In this misrepresentation, the Force is seen as a thing that Force-sensitive folks have a certain amount of. So if Person A has double the amount of Force as Person B, Person A will always win in a fight.

Han Solo That's Not How the Force Works

But, in the words of Han Solo, “That’s not how the Force works.”

The Force is an energy that surrounds all living things. Those who tap into it don’t necessarily control it; they sense it and they yield to it. They can pull off crazy stunts where they block blaster bolts because they can sense where those blaster bolts are. They feel a deep connection with life, so the suffering of other lifeforms can cause them great pain, like it did to Yoda on Kashyyyk when Order 66 was executed.

Order 66 Yoda on Kashyyyk

And sure, they can jump extra high and control people’s minds. I’ll give you that.

But on the Light Side, tapping into the Force is about not letting your emotions dictate your actions — it’s about not reacting to things that should cause you anger, hatred, or fear. When you submit to those emotions, the Dark Side begins to take over. And while the Dark Side may grant power to those who harness it, those people — at least all of the ones we’ve seen in the films — have been trained to use it. Even the Dark Side is about submission to some extent.

While both characters are powerful in the Force, Kylo Ren is almost certainly more powerful than Rey, at least throughout The Force Awakens. But while Kylo Ren was trained in the Force, he has a great deal of trouble controlling his emotions. This is signalled by his many temper tantrums throughout the film, and it’s an integral part of who he is in this saga.

Kylo Ren Threatening Rey, The Force Awakens

Rey, on the other hand, grew up in a cutthroat scavenger culture, where a cool head was surely a survival skill. Negotiating with scoundrels takes patience, cleverness, and a well-developed poker face. So Rey would have developed the ability to carefully manage her emotions — she might not have survived Jakku if she hadn’t. (She was also shown fighting off thieves at Unkar Plutt’s place earlier in the film, so she also has at least a decent level of combat skill, though it’s clearly unrefined.)

Unintentionally, she had been honing skills that would allow her to have greater command of the Force once it awoke inside her.

And that plays into the roles of both of these characters throughout the film and into The Last Jedi. Kylo Ren is a very emotional person who carries around a lot of baggage and exists under the shadow of near-impossible expectations. Rey isn’t.

Kylo Ren vs Rey

So when they meet in combat at the end of The Force Awakens, Rey doesn’t win because she’s more powerful, she’s just a more natural fit for Force-related activities.

Also, keep in mind that Kylo Ren is severely injured after taking a blast from a Wookiee bowcaster, a weapon so powerful that it sends Stormtroopers flying through the air. He also took a hit to the shoulder from Finn. Both of these injuries give Rey an advantage.

But is Rey an uncanny natural when it comes to lightsaber combat? Well, actually no. If you re-watch that particular fight, you’ll notice that Rey isn’t all that great with her new lightsaber. She has a tendency to stab rather than swing, and she often stumbles backward while blocking. She’s clearly untrained.

Kylo Ren, on the other hand, is far more confident holding a lightsaber. He’s more adept at using it offensively and defensively, and he even throws in a few stylish spins between strikes. However, he’s also extremely peeved. You can watch his technique devolve into chaos as the fight progresses. By the end of this, he’s lashing out in a blind rage.

And this is where the battle finally turns in Rey’s favor. Before he’s defeated Kylo Ren submits so completely to his own rage that he’s no longer able to function. All of his training goes completely out the window, because he lets his emotions overtake him completely.

Kylo Ren Defeated

So no, this scene isn’t evidence that Rey is more powerful than Kylo Ren. It just shows that she’s better able to control her emotion in a situation where that really, really matters.

As the saga continues into The Last Jedi, this theme becomes more important — in fact, it’s one of the core lessons that many of the characters must learn throughout Episode VIII.

So Rey besting Kylo Ren in the snow isn’t a matter of lazy writing, as some might suggest; it’s cleverly setting up themes that will continue to develop as the trilogy progresses.

It’s a lesson that a good many folks arguing about Star Wars on the internet should heed as well.

Josh Wirtanen owns this place and has opinions about pretty much everything. Follow him on Twitter: @joshuajwirtanen.