The Murder of Lor San Tekka

We had only just met him in the opening moments of The Force Awakens before he is brutally murdered by Kylo Ren. Sitting in a small hut, Lor San Tekka (Max von Sydow) offered a valuable item to Resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), an item which will be critical to the plot of the film. Their conversation also offers brief but important context as the movie opens, with the elder providing his thoughts on the state of the galaxy, the Jedi, the Force, and General Leia Organa. “To me, she’s royalty,” he points out when Dameron mentions the General, an obvious nod to Leia’s more familiar title of Princess (both in universe and among the audience).

The dialogue between Lor San Tekka and Poe Dameron is abruptly cut short when BB-8, the pilot’s droid, bursts through the door with a warning: the First Order is approaching. Seeing troop transports on the horizon, Dameron tells Lor San Tekka “You have to hide” to which the older man responds, “You need to leave.” At this urging, Dameron runs through the small village, a village teeming with commotion as it prepares to defend itself against the First Order incursion.

Only a short time later, the village will be overrun by stormtroopers, and a massive black shuttle will descend. Out of the shuttle will walk Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and he will head towards the center of the town where Lor San Tekka is being help with the remaining villagers. Now, Lor San Tekka will engage in another dialogue, this time with a man shrouded in darkness whose face is hidden by a terrifying mask. It is Ren who speaks first.

Lor San Tekka confronts Kylo Ren.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

Kylo Ren: “Look how old you’ve become.”

Lor San Tekka: “Something far worse has happened to you.”

Kylo Ren: “You know what I’ve come for.”

Lor San Tekka: “I know where you come from, before you called yourself Kylo Ren.”

Kylo Ren: “The map to Skywalker, we know you found it. And now you are going to give it to the First Order.”

Lor San Tekka: “The First Order rose from the Dark Side. You did not.”

Kylo Ren: “I’ll show you the Dark Side.”

Lor San Tekka: “You may try. But you cannot deny the truth that is your family.”

Kylo Ren: “You’re so right.”

Finally agreeing with the elder, Kylo Ren springs into action. Igniting his lightsaber, he raises it above his head and attacks. San Tekka only has time to raise his arms in defense, covering his face, before he is cut down by the crackling red blade.

While I had mixed feelings about The Force Awakens the first time I saw it, the murder of Lor San Tekka was a moment that left me with no reservations. To be blunt, I thought it was brilliant. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a fan of gratuitous violence for the sake of entertainment. I do, however, appreciate a death which is meaningful, where the loss of life, even in its obvious brutality, adds to the story in a worthwhile way. And this is how I see the death of Lor San Tekka. While he is a very minor character in The Force Awakens, his murder- tied to the dialogue immediately preceding it – adds terrifying and frightening depth to Kylo Ren, this new villain in the Star Wars sequel trilogy.

A Closer Look

From the very outset of their conversation we learn something rather stunning: Kylo Ren and Lor San Tekka already know each other, and their connection clearly goes back years. Kylo Ren mocks the man’s age and appearance, a clear indication that he can recall at time when this old man was younger. But this ageist mockery opens Kylo Ren to a piercing retort from Lor San Tekka: “something far worse [than growing old] has happened to you.” If Kylo Ren knew a younger Lor San Tekka, then Lor San Tekka remembers when the villain was NOT an agent of darkness.

Ren does not take the bait. Instead, he immediately turns the conversation to what he is seeking, stating “You know what I’ve come for.” Instead of addressing Ren’s object of desire (undoubtedly the object given to Poe Dameron) San Tekka takes Ren’s words and flips them by going deeper into the personal connection. “I know where you come from,” he says, “before you called yourself Kylo Ren.” It was Kylo Ren who opened this dialogue by making it personal when he mocked the man’s age, but now Lor San Tekka has flipped-the-script, calling the villain’s adopted name/title into question by citing his knowledge of Ren’s life before his turn to darkness.

Again, Kylo Ren does not respond directly to San Tekka’s comment. Instead, he stares at the man and declares what he wants: “the map to Skywalker.” “We know you found it,” Ren continues, clearly annoyed as he begins pacing, “and now you are going to give it to the First Order.”  To this, Lor San Tekka flips Ren’s words once more, directing the conversation once more into their personal connection. “The First Order rose from the Dark Side,” he remarks, “you did not.” It is not just that Lor San Tekka knows villain’s real name, but he also knows the man calling himself “Kylo Ren” was raised in the Light Side.

This hits a nerve. Now, Kylo Ren deliberately moves in front of San Tekka so the two are once again face-to-face. “I’ll show you the Dark Side,” the villain declares, a clear threat meant to intimidate. Unsurprisingly, the threat does not have the effect Ren anticipates and the old man maintains his composure. Instead, San Tekka responds by acknowledging that Ren “may try” showing him the Dark Side, but that Ren “cannot deny the truth that is your family.”  It is now that Kylo Ren has had enough. “You’re so right,” he calmly responds and then viscously cuts Lor San Tekka down with his cross-guard lightsaber.

What makes Ren’s attack even more disturbing is the camera angle and movement suggests we are looking at Ren from Lor San Tekka’s perspective.
Gif Credit – Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

That Kylo Ren chooses this moment to kill Lor San Tekka, after the elder mentions Ren’s “family,” is telling. It is the most direct hint we are provided in the exchange regarding the identity of Kylo Ren, an identity which is revealed over the course of the film and reaches its climax in Act III. There is only one family Ren could possibly belong to, but it is also clear that Lor San Tekka and Kylo Ren have very different interpretations, differing “truths,” of that family’s story. And by murdering Lor San Tekka, Kylo Ren offers his interpretation, his truth.

Yet, this act is not only about Ren’s interpretation of family, it is also about his interpretation of self. With the ferocious stroke of his crackling red blade, Kylo Ren formally declares his identity as an unhinged monster who embraces the Dark Side of the Force. In the act of murder Kylo Ren proves that he is not the man Lor San Tekka once knew, and he wants nothing to do with who he was prior to his dark conversion. In this regard, the murder of Lor San Tekka is not just about a villain murdering a defenseless old man, an obvious act of evil which leaves little doubt about how this dark figure operates. No, it also symbolic, a way for the villain to kill his former self by-proxy. Through the murder of Lor San Tekka, Kylo Ren symbolically murders Ben Solo, and it should come as no surprise that as The Force Awakens progresses that Kylo Ren continuously seeks ways to destroy the man he once was, an obsession which ultimately culminates in another horrifying murder in the form of patricide.

10 comments

    1. Personally, I feel like the depiction of Ren by The Rise of Skywalker went off-track. I really liked his set up in The Force Awakens, and thought Adam Driver did a hell of an acting job in The Last Jedi. But I was really hoping that he wouldn’t be “redeemed.” I looooooved the idea of a villain really struggling with shedding themselves of “the Light” and wanting to fully embrace the Darkness. I was really hoping he would go down in a Dark blaze of glory in the final film…and/or he would just end up winning (which would have been a wild twist).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh my gosh! Us too. We really wanted them to embrace the idea that Kylo Ren cannot be redeemed and that the duality theme would play out by both he and Rey being tempted by the other sides but ultimately choosing the binary Dark and Light respectively.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I honestly felt like the Dark-Light thing was what they were going for in the first two films and then it got blown up in The Rise of Skywalker. The concept of the Force Dyad opened a fascinating possibility there but it also became sorta “meh” once Kylo became Ben again. It would have been far more interesting in my opinion for Kylo to be the Dark and Rey to be the Light in the Dyad. They could have been the anthropomorphic version of the “Balance” of the Force. It could have solidified what Anakin/Vader did when he did the balancing act but now, I guess, we just have to be confused about how everything works… *shoulder shrug*

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Also, for the record, I thought Kylo’s “redemption” was rather lazy and unearned. He did a lot of really bad stuff and I really dislike the idea that all of that gets tossed aside because he decided he felt bad about some stuff.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Right?!? I totally agree. And I LOATHED that scene where he sees Han again (totally outside of the tradition of SW to have visual projections of people’s psyches that were not related to interaction with the Force – and Han is not presented as a Force ghost). It was also completely lazy to suggest that the chat with his own imagining of his father and the sacrifice of his mother is the bridge to his redemption. Even had they chosen to redeem Kylo Ren (which I don’t think is how it should have ended) there would have been better plot beats to bring us to that point.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Oh my gosh! I disliked Han showing up too! I get that the film makes sure we know he is projecting a memory but still! It was unnecessarily confusing and overwhelmed the moment with too many layers of “renmotion” (Ren + Emotion = Renmotion?). Is he redeemed because of his chat with his imagined father? Is it because of Rey healing him and saying she wanted to take Ben’s hand (which is a separate issue)? Is it because Leia reached out through the Force and she pulled him back from the brink? I have no idea.

        In Return of the Jedi, we know why Vader is redeemed. There is a singular reason: he loves his son and he is going to save him. This doesn’t atone for his many many MANY crimes, but it does in that moment show that there is goodness in him, tied to his children, and he is willing to act on that. But with Kylo Ren, we have to guess at what really makes him ready to return to the Light, there is nothing definitive about his redemption. It really just felt like a cheap way to get him into Act III as “Ben Solo” so he and Rey could do that little lightsaber trick and then he could transfer his life force to her (and kiss….bleh).

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Hi IT,

    You do have an art for digging up insightful details about characters. Good deduction of character. In many ways Kylo forged his Dark Side path in a fight all the way. It usually meant people he loved had to pay the piece. Could he be imitating Vader in this way too?

    Thanks, Gary

    On Tue, Jun 23, 2020 at 5:30 AM The Imperial Talker wrote:

    > Imperial Talker posted: ” We had only just met him in the opening moments > of The Force Awakens before he is brutally murdered by Kylo Ren. Sitting in > a small hut, Lor San Tekka (Max von Sydow) offered a valuable item to > Resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), an item which wi” >

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Gary,

      I appreciate you saying that. I’m happy to hear you enjoyed this piece and my insights. To answer your question, I think that yes, Kylo Ren was absolutely attempting to imitate Vader. In fact, this raises another interesting question about what, exactly, he believed or knew about Vader, and how precisely in his mind he was trying to emulate the darkness in his grandfather. I’m not sure a definitive answer is needed, but it is definitely interesting to think about.

      IT

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I loved his redemption. Palpatine showed him only a sliver of Vader’s story to feed on Kylo’s desire for change. When he got to whole story Kylo saw the truth from the lies.

        Like

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