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  • Writer's pictureAaron Fonseca

Star Wars: Who are the Knights of Ren?

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The Star Wars Sequel Trilogy introduced several new pieces of lore to this already vast sci-fi fantasy universe, including the mysterious Knights of Ren led by Ben Solo. Introduced as the fearsome team behind Kylo Ren, fans were eager to see who the Knights of Ren were. Also, like several elements of mythos touched on in episodes VII through IX, most of the lore surrounding Kylo Ren's band of dark siders was only explored in supplemental materials — namely the mainline canon Marvel comics.

These wandering rogues followed a sinister yet free-flowing structure regarding their goals, having affiliated with some key groups and figures across the galaxy. From the group's formation in the waning days of the Galactic Civil War to its demise during the Battle of Exegol, the Knights of Ren led an eventful — if brief — history.

The Knights of Ren Were a Band of Dark Side Marauders

While the Knights of Ren are most closely associated with Kylo Ren, the eventual leader of the First Order, this group of dark-side mercenaries existed before Ben Solo was born. The Knights were founded in the closing days of the Galactic Civil War between the Rebellion and the Empire during the Original Trilogy, operating separately from the pair of Sith Lords who ruled the authoritarian regime. Their origins were fleshed out in the Marvel prequel comic book miniseries The Rise of Kylo Ren by Charles Soule and Will Sliney. Originating from the Unknown Regions of Space, these marauders were founded three years after the Battle of Yavin in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope by a human male going by the alias "Ren."

Their ideology was based around the red lightsaber he wielded — also dubbed Ren — seeking to be guided by the Dark Side of the Force to lead them to power across their many violent raids across the galaxy. Ben Solo became their face during the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy, but Kylo's predecessor gave fans a more in-depth look into the Knights' philosophy from decades earlier. Each group member wore similar masks, but only the leader could wield the red lightsaber — "the Ren." They operated as one of the few Force-sensitive groups during the Empire's reign, as Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader saw to it that potential rivals were either exterminated completely or quelled far past the point of maintaining a vast organization.

Both the Sith and the Knights of Ren sought to immerse themselves in the Dark Side, but the former were more totalitarian with their approach, while the latter's lifestyle was more flexible. Figures like Emperor Palpatine show the Sith's tremendous power over the Dark Side of the Force, but the Knights had no qualms about aligning themselves with whomever they felt would help them gain power. This element of their philosophy was seen in another critically praised comic book miniseries, once again spearheaded by Charles Soule and illustrated by Steven Cummings, titled Crimson Reign. This comic saw the return of Solo: A Star Wars Story's Qi'ra, now leading the organized crime syndicate Crimson Dawn and attempting to overthrow the Galactic Empire after she learns it's secretly run by two Sith Lords.

Lady Qi'ra sought to recruit Force-sensitive combatants for this grand plan, so she hired the Knights of Ren for a series of high-stakes missions. This included infiltrating Fortress Vader, clashing with its eponymous Dark Lord, and stealing an ancient Sith artifact. However, after suffering too many casualties during their alliance with the shadowy Crimson Dawn syndicate, Ren renounced the Knights' alliance with Lady Qi'ra. By the end of the Galactic Civil War, however, they had already secretly pledged loyalty to the presumed-dead Emperor Palpatine and his newly formed Sith Eternal cult.

Ben Solo Joined the Knights by Usurping its Leader and Founder

Back in The Rise of Kylo Ren miniseries, the Knights of Ren spent time in the shadows looking for recruits during the New Republic era. This eventually led them to attempt a raid on an ancient Jedi outpost on the planet Elphrona dating back to the High Republic era centuries earlier. The Knights intended to scour the old outpost for Jedi Holocrons and exotic weaponry, but they didn't count on a chance encounter with Jedi Master Luke Skywalker, his apprentice Ben Solo, and the explorer Lor San Tekka. The latter group aimed to find anything of use from this ancient age of Jedi to help Luke rebuild the Order in the post-Empire galaxy.

This event would plant the seeds for Ben Solo's descent into the Dark Side and rebirth as Kylo Ren. Seeing that the odds were slim at best to defeat the legendary Luke Skywalker, Ren opted for a tactical retreat — but not before removing his helmet and tossing it at Ben's feet, telling him to find him once he was ready to join the enclave of Dark Side knights. After Ben killed his Padawan companions and destroyed Luke's temple, he sought Supreme Leader Snoke of the First Order to join him and seek advice on tracking down and joining the Knights of Ren.

The fallen Jedi embarked on a grim quest to prove himself to the Knights' leader, culminating in clashes against his fellow Padawan students and killing Ren himself. This satisfied the Knights of Ren's criteria for joining and leading the enclave, with the rest of the group believing Ben killing their former master constituted "a good death." In this sense, the order of succession of the Sith — known as the Rule of Two ushered in by Darth Bane during the Old Republic era — and the Knights of Ren is similar. New figureheads are acknowledged through hostile, lethal takeovers.

The Battle of Exegol Saw the End of the Knights of Ren

The Knights of Ren would achieve their highest level of power when Kylo — the enclave's master at the time — became the new Supreme Leader of the First Order after he murdered his former master Snoke during Episode VIII - The Last Jedi. But much like the Skywalker Saga, the Knights of Ren would meet their collective end in Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker. Before the final movie in the flagship Star Wars film series, the Knights were only seen briefly in a cryptic cameo when the young Jedi-in-the-making Rey touched Anakin Skywalker's lightsaber and had a vision of Kylo leading the mercenary group of dark siders.

They still didn't have much of a presence in The Rise of Skywalker either, with the characters having little more than the cameo they received in the first movie in the trilogy. Once again, that leaves the Star Wars comics to do the legwork in providing vital context. Even so, the group achieved new prominence in-universe. The Knights of Ren effectively replaced the Praetorian Guard that served the late and former Supreme Leader Snoke as Kylo Ren's bodyguards. It was revealed that Snoke himself was merely an artificial life form that the resurrected Emperor Palpatine was using as a proxy to position a comeback with his Sith Eternal fleet.

Unbeknownst to Kylo, the Knights had already sworn allegiance to Palpatine, with the dark-side users answering squarely to him following the former's redemption and return to the Light Side of the Force. During the final assault against the resurgent Sith Lord on the planet Exegol, a redeemed Ben Solo — now complete with a blue lightsaber — killed his former followers, ending the line of dark siders. After Ben's sacrifice to help Rey defeat the Emperor for good, the final remnant of the Knights of Ren's presence in the galaxy was snuffed out. Considering the sprawling nature of the Star Wars universe's lore, the Knights of Ren's place in history was brief. Nonetheless, even if it was mainly confined to the shadows, they were involved in some of the most crucial events in the Skywalker Saga's latter stages — both directly and indirectly. But since much of the Dark Side of the Force revolved around operating discreetly in the background — Sith or otherwise — this is arguably a fitting approach for the nomadic Force users.

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