The Dark Side, while tempting and powerful, is not particularly conducive to cooperation and team-building. It’s the main reason that the Sith Order Darth Bane was a part of did not survive. Even under Darth Bane’s Rule of Two, the Sith didn’t last any more than a generation after Darth Sidious took over the galaxy.
One sect of Dark Side users that received little attention presents an alternative to the Sith’s infighting, albeit an eerie one. The Knights of Ren were first mentioned and seen in The Force Awakens, shown in The Rise of Skywalker, and had their origins expanded upon in the comic miniseries Star Wars: The Rise of Kylo Ren written by Charles Soule. Each member of the Knights of Ren worshipped the dark side but are not trained to connect with the Force as the Sith and Jedi are. Kylo Ren has a deep connection to this knighthood and the knighthood itself dates back to before the end of the Galactic Empire.
Bottom Line Up Front
The Knights of Ren is one of the unfortunate casualties of the sequel trilogy; in that the concept in and of itself is interesting, but the execution left something to be desired. Much of the Knighthood’s lore comes from the Kylo Ren prequel comic miniseries as well as the novelization of The Rise of Skywalker, though the novelization simply repeats much of the same information. The individual Knights of Ren have very little character beyond their foreboding and menacing outfits and titles, which is intentional.
Part of the ideology of the Knights of Ren is to completely surrender your identity to “the Ren”, a name the cult gave to the red lightsaber given to the leader, who takes on the same name as their title when they assume the role (ergo, Kylo Ren). The cult believes that the nature of the “Ren” is to consume, and has no other purpose but to exist and burn whatever it so happens to strike. This obviously does not line up with the First Order’s plans for conquest, nor does it align with Darth Sidious-risen’s Final Order. This incentivized Supreme Leader Snoke/Palpatine to bring the Knights into the fold once they came under the leadership of Ben Solo/Kylo Ren.
The Eight Knights
The thing to keep in mind about Star Wars, specifically the sequel trilogy, their aspirations were BIG. While it is in contest whether or not they stuck the landing, the wealth of characters and new concepts that were introduced gave me some faith in the first two years or so. However, as the movies and spinoffs came out, I began to realize that characters hinted at or introduced in later mainline sequel movies were never going to see the sort of development that they were set up to have. Blame it on reception to earlier movies or audience response, whatever the reason, movies hyperfocused the final movies’ perspective on the Jedi and Sith (Rey/Luke and Kylo/Sidious).
Therefore, characters such as the Knights of Ren did not get any sort of explanation within the scope of the movies. Their first appearance is in a vision that Rey has when she first touches Luke’s lightsaber, and then they only come back onto the screen in the final movie of the entire Skywalker saga. Their introduction is meant to be menacing, and it is, but the sheer confusion I felt as to why I or any member of the audience should care about Kylo Ren’s lackeys overwhelmed any foreboding feeling that I was supposed to have.
Outside the Kylo Ren comic mini-series, the only information on the individual qualities of each of the Knights of Ren is pretty much spelled out in 1-3 extremely edgy sentences on the Star Wars website.
Whether this is because they weren’t specifically meant to have extensive backstories or because they neglected to show them is entirely up to you, reader. So I will describe each knight that served under Kylo Ren, outlining their basic traits/attire before delving into the Knighthoods’ history and leadership.
Cardo was considered a “walking arsenal” among his fellow knights. While the others preferred precise combat styles, Cardo lived to unleash chaos and mayhem whenever possible with his arm cannon. He would tinker with weapons often and developed quite an eye for modification, leading him to grow into the role of the groups chief armorer.
Vicrul self-described himself as a “reaper of the fallen”, among several other titles, during his days as a knight. The former title is more fitting, considering Vicrul wielded a scythe for most of his tenure with the Knights. He, like every other knight, lacked training in the Dark Side, but Vicrul’s connection to it would strengthen with every person that he killed. This subtle connection to the Dark Side allowed him to induce paralyzing fear in his opponents, and to develop the reflexes to outmaneuver them.
Trudgen was the collector among the brotherhood, and incorporated several of those trophies into his armor and equipment. Death Trooper armor fragments and other armor weave patterns were sewn into his clothes. Trudgen adorned his body with trophies as a record of his past conquests.
Ushar’s codex entry is probably the one that made me roll my eyes that most. Ushar was “known for torturing his prisoners into begging for mercy, of which he possessed none”. Ushar wielded a wear club and a vibro-machete (vibro is a way for Star Wars to make normal weapons sound more menacing), that both build up charges and release into shockwaves on impact. Ushar was the most active torturer in the Knights, taking his time with weaker victims while giving a quick death to those who fought back.
Kuruk is the lonely boy of this edgelord Motley Crue, preferring to take the long-distance approach as the Knights’ rifleman and serve as the pilot of their ship the Night Buzzard. Kuruk’s main blaster rifle was heavily modified, with three separate firing modes, including a sniper mode that was scoped directly into Kuruk’s helmet feed. His helmet was specifically designed to assist his aim, but Kuruk’s eye was sharpened by feeding into the Dark Side.
Ap’lek was the Knights’ strategist and a cunning one, at that. He differed from his fellow knights in this way, preferring misdirection to blunt force straightforward assaults. His own connection to the Force allowed him to see through the smoke screens he deploys to block the vision and sensors of his enemies. His weapon of choice is an unexplained albeit interesting oddity: an ancient Mandalorian executioner’s axe.
For the purpose of cohesiveness, this article will exclusively refer to the leader who was called Ren that preceded Kylo Ren. The title itself is one that is passed from leader to leader, but this specific Ren murdered his predecessor and took the red lightsaber that he wielded. His entire body is scarred and mutilated, but his masked face doesn’t have a single blemish. This reveal is somewhat chilling, as well as being a callback to the reveal of Kylo Ren’s true face in The Force Awakens. This is the true face of nihilistic terror, mundane and average. This Ren, despite being an active Dark Side user, was very charismatic and friendly to those he worked with and those he was trying to recruit. Instead of enforcing his will onto others, Ren sought to encourage the Knights to follow their unique philosophy.
Ren’s adherence to their philosophy of entitlement and conquest led him to become quite arrogant, believing that the Knights were legendary enough to beat Luke Skywalker. Though the rest of the Knights were unskilled in the Force, Ren was at least skilled enough to use more simple Force abilities such as telekinesis and was even able to lessen the impact of falls from great heights.
The Guiding Light of Ren
The main thing to keep in mind about every knight is that they are both unique and similar. Each of them has a unique look, but not every single one of them has a specific reason for it. This is because of the specific philosophy that the Knights of Ren ascribe to. According to Darth Sidious own writings in The Secrets of the Sith, he believed that the Knights did not adhere to a strict code and were willing to do anything to prevail. This is not entirely true, as the Knights literally follow the teachings gleamed from the Ren, the Knights’ word for their leader’s red lightsaber.
To them, everything that they had taken was because of the Dark Side. The red lightsaber wielded by Kylo Ren’s predecessor was symbolic of this mindset. According to the Ren before Kylo Ren, the lightsaber (symbolic of the expression of their will via the Dark Side) has no conscience. It does not acknowledge morality, guilt, or concern for what it might scorch through. Ren (before Kylo) was so enthralled by this idea, that he viewed himself not as the knights’ leader, but as yet another instrument of the lightsaber.
This mindset naturally developed a rather flexible do-as-you-please lifestyle among the Knights. As for membership requirements, the Knights hunted down Force-sensitives who were specifically in tune with the Dark Side to join their ranks. As such, Ren (before Kylo) considered mass murderers and Damien the Antichrist-style child psychos to join their ranks after feeling the depth of the Shadow in them.
From the Unknown, New Players
For centuries, planets in the Unknown Regions were plagued by tales of a band of masked warriors who razed entire worlds. As the Galactic Empire was built, the Knights had already been mythologized among the isolated cultures of the Unknown Regions. A group of marauders then donned masks and pillaged worlds under that knighthood’s ancient moniker, becoming the Knights of Ren as we know them.
The Knights of Ren were one of the very few dark side practitioners remaining in the galaxy. However, their skill in wielding it was not any more than the skill needed to hammer a nail into a wall. According to an Imperial Archivist, the Knights raw and untempered strength in the Dark Side were one of the reasons that they were motivated to openly challenge the Sith (which is even more impressive considering all the Jedi were dead and the Sith ruled the entire galaxy). This Imperial Archivist relayed this information to her new benefactor, Lady Qi’ra, who would go on to recruit the Knights as part of Crimson Dawn’s plans to thwart Sith hegemony.
Crimson Dawn hosted a gathering of criminal syndicates for the auction of the carbonite-encased Han Solo. Following this auction, Qi-ra discovered the origins of Crimson Dawn, how it was spearheaded by former Sith Lord Maul and that his master was none other than Sheev Palpatine, aka Darth Sidious. Qi’ra reveals that this was the reason she recruited the knights: as long as the Sith rule through the Empire, no one else could gain any influence under Sith hegemony. Ren agrees, saying that the Sith have taken their pride and ambition through their influence. The Knights of Ren were just one organization recruited into Crimson Dawn, but they were the only ones who were Force Sensitive, presenting an opportunity to overthrow the Emperor and his pupil.
Break-In at Fortress Vader
The Knights of Ren were then charged with stealing an object of significance from the home of none other than Darth Vader himself. Qi’ra’s payment was anything that the Knights could lift from Vader’s castle on Mustafar and the knights agreed, citing their preference of such a high-class job to pilfering kyber crystals from dusty temples. The Knights arrived on Mustafar and avoided the Imperial Garrison surrounding Mustafar on their approach to Fortress Vader.
Upon entering, the Knights were confronted by the visage of an ancient Sith Lord emanating from one of several Dark Side relics collected there. Along with the Dark Side relic collection, Fortress Vader was built on top of a cave with a strong connection to the Dark Side of the Force.
The Knights reached the main fortress, passing through a storage bay containing enough bacta fluid to heal the entire Imperial army. One of the more spiteful but short-lived Knights spit in one of the tanks, assuming correctly that they were for the Lord of the fortress. Suddenly, the Knights were set upon by Lava Troopers summoned by Vader’s attendant. After dispatching the troopers, Ren uses the Force to locate the mystical object: the Screaming Key (ooh, ominous). Ren successfully steals the key but sees the troopers retreat just as he does so. Who else would show up next but Lord Vader, slashing one of the old knights with his saber, killing him.
Ren orders a full retreat, covering the other’s escape by engaging with the Sith Lord. Vader remarked on the unworthiness of his opponent and labeled his entire knighthood a “pathetic rabble” unfit to wield the Force or a lightsaber. Ren survives the duel, leaping from Fortress Vader and cushioning his fall with the Force before rallying his troops back to their ship.
Vader’s subsequent scolding by the Emperor also included a realization: Crimson Dawn is backing the Knights of Ren, and are also responsible for other attacks against the Imperial High Command. After one other mission involving the Screaming Key resulted in the death of another Knight, Ren resolved to break away from Crimson Dawn and take the Knights of Ren elsewhere.
The New Republic
Now here is where we get into what I classify as the gunky part of Star Wars history. Now what I mean by that is the part of Star Wars history where (sigh) Emperor Palpatine “comes back”, and canon writers do every narrative leap and retcon possible to make this absurd plot point make sense. To me, this retcon makes every new villain and every new victory absolutely pointless and hollow because, for some reason, the Star Wars powers that be are trying their darndest to characterize every sequel-era villain as being related to Palpatine in some way. To me, it is a bizarre hill to die on, but I digress.
At some point between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, Darth Sidious brings in the Knights of Ren as secret enforcers of the Sith Eternal. Remember when I said this retcon makes the timeline gunky? Do you also remember that Ren hated Emperor Palpatine and the Sith for hunting and shaming the Knights through their genocide of Force-sensitives and hegemonic rule? If you do remember, just know that this is a plot discrepancy that is not resolved. Now that that’s acknowledged, no more distractions.
The Knights learned of Snoke and his status as a puppet for the Emperor. They sought out new and powerful Force-sensitives to join and to dole out death and destruction as per usual. After an encounter with a Force-sensitive serial killer that left their prospective member dead, Ren and his Knights traveled to an Outer World planet called Elphrona, where it was rumored to harbor a Jedi outpost filled with weapons and relics. Upon arriving, the Knights discovered weapons and objects dating back to the High Republic, among them being holocrons and an exotic “lightsaber” rifle.
But the Knights of Ren weren’t the only ones poking around the ruins. They encountered Jedi Master Luke Skywalker, his padawan Ben Solo, and the explorer Lor San Tekka, who themselves were on a journey searching for ancient lore to help rebuild the Jedi. Luke and Ben both felt the chill of the Dark Side emanating from the Knights, and the master Jedi claimed the temple as property of the Jedi Order. Being the nihilistic amoral bandits they are, the Knights of Ren did not care about the sanctity of the Jedi Order or any of its remnants. Ren thought of Luke as a joke and believed that he and his knights would have no trouble besting him in combat.
Ren allowed his knights to go ahead into combat, watching how the Jedi picked apart his warriors like it was nothing. He saw how Luke didn’t even see them as a threat, only using his saber to defend himself and using the Force to incapacitate the Knights. With his knights defeated, Ren ignited his lightsaber and activated a kill switch inside it. Ren explained that the lightsaber would set off a powerful explosion if it left his hand. After a brief confrontation, Ren realized that the Jedi was too strong in the Force and that he couldn’t win against him. Ren chose to surrender and retreat along with the other Knights, not willing to die for the outpost’s treasures. Before leaving, Ren focused on Ben Solo and sensed the shadow inside him. Ren removed his helmet and threw it before Solo, telling him to find him when he was ready to join the Knights.
Becoming Kylo Ren
Ben Solo had a rather destructive coming of age, in that it included destroying the New Jedi Temple and killing almost all of the others. He escaped from the survivors to Snoke, who was waiting on a nearby space station. Solo was completely disillusioned with the Jedi; his own uncle tried to kill him after years of bearing the weight of future generations of Jedi. With nowhere and no one left to turn to, Ben Solo is encouraged by Snoke to seek out the Knights of Ren.
Ben returns to Elphrona and finds the helmet that Ren left behind years prior. He donned the helmet and found a direct line to Ren built into it. Ren invited Solo to meet him on a planet in the Middle Rim called Varnak before some Jedi survivors attacked him. Solo killed two of them, not entirely on purpose, before covering his escape by collapsing the temple door. Solo finds the Knights of Ren in a cantina on Varnak and tried to plead his case for making it into the Knights through their one requirement: a good kill.
Solo counts off his previous Jedi kills, but Ren did not consider these deaths intentional. However, Ren took into consideration Solo’s inherent strength and the fact that Snoke vouched for the young Force-sensitive. He allowed Solo to accompany the Knights going forward but demanded the Knights find him a more suitable outfit (more suitable meaning edgier and also all black). Solo accompanies the Knights to a moon of Mimban on a job to steal an artifact called the Mindsplinter. The artifact itself is not important, but Solo displays his prowess with the Force as they search through the facility for the artifact.
Ren and Solo allow the other knights to massacre the miners in the facility but are cut off by two of Solo’s former Jedi peers: Tai and Voe. Tai was someone who empathized with Solo’s issues with his Skywalker heritage, so their battle was quite personal, whereas Voe was not as close with Solo. Ren checks in on their fight and sees Solo’s hesitation, internally making the decision to kill Solo for his weakness as he snaps Tai’s neck with the Force.
Seeing this, Solo’s inner shadow is unleashed and brutally killed Ren. His turn was billed in this comic as being so momentous, that it was felt across the galaxy (Rey, Snoke, The Emperor, and Leia in particular). After killing Ren, he took the eponymous lightsaber and used it to kill Voe. The Knights of Ren kneel before their new leader and left the Minemoon on the Night Buzzard. During their departure, Solo bled his formerly blue kyber crystal and modified his lightsaber before taking on his new name: Kylo Ren.
Conclusion: Unrealized Potential
After taking leadership, we as readers are meant to assume that the events of the sequel trilogy unfold from here. The Knights of Ren appear briefly in a vision during The Force Awakens, are absent during The Last Jedi, and appear sporadically during The Rise of Skywalker. Unfortunately for movie-goers, these movies do next to nothing to flesh out just who the Knights are or even how Kylo Ren feels about being their leader. Given their unique philosophy and the lengths he went through to join, you would think that the Knights of Ren would have at least a little bit more exposure and time in the movies.
Kylo Ren himself has a unique and interesting perspective on the eternal back-and-forth that is the Force’s struggle for balance in the galaxy. Kylo Ren sees how the same perennial struggles have plagued the galaxy with no change and no progress on either side. Instead of siding with the Jedi or completely giving himself to the Dark Side, Kylo Ren wants to create something new and make a new status quo for the galaxy. The Knights of Ren contribute to this dynamic as an amoral, brutal, and terrifying force he could have used to assert his ultimate will on the galaxy. Instead, they function as little more than eye candy in any given scene that they’re in.
Knights of Ren FAQ
Question: Why don’t the Knights of Ren have lightsabers?
Answer: That relates to their specific skill with wielding the Force. Because of their unskilled and more instinctive approach to the Dark Side, lightsabers would be more unwieldy in their hands. Think of Din Djarin wielding the Darksaber-likely they would have had similar problems with wielding it (sans the mythical Mandalorian significance).
Question: What was the point of the Knights of Ren?
Answer: My sentiments exactly. After so little screentime, it could seem as though the Knights of Ren amounted to nothing, thematically speaking. Looking at the movies, personally, it’s hard to argue against that point. Looking at the comics, however, it could be seen as a point in time when Kylo Ren saw how other Force-wielders thought beyond the scope of the Jedi and Sith. Here, the Knights could function as the catalyst for Kylo Ren’s mindset of carving a different path.
Question: Are they making a Knights of Ren movie?
Answer: In short, no. This question refers to a trailer that came out in the past few years, purporting to show a glimpse at an upcoming movie centered around the Knights of Ren. The executives of Star Wars quickly debunked this theory though, as nearly every Star Wars project outside of the streaming series has either been shelved or had little to no news released about them.
Now you know more about the Knights of Ren! They’re one of the sequel concepts that really deserved more attention, but ultimately was left in the dust. Be sure to check out more of our articles on Star Wars and be on the look out for more! Star Wars movies and television shows are available to stream on Disney+, and Star Wars: The Rise of Kylo Ren is available wherever comic books are sold.
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