Redeeming Kylo Ren is something of a communal effort in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, as Leia reaching out to him through the Force with her final breath, Rey showing him mercy by Force-healing his wound and the memory of Han Solo all conspire to bring back Ben Solo. However, the movie’s novelization reveals that another character also played a key role in Ben’s return to the light. Namely, his “uncle” Chewbacca.
We don’t see Kylo encounter Chewie once he’s captured by the Knights of Ren in the film, but the novel – penned by author Rae Carson – includes a new scene in which the First Order’s Supreme Leader reads the Wookiee’s mind in order to learn info on Rey and the Resistance. Instead, however, he witnesses some heart-warming memories of times he and Chewie shared in his youth.
“He saw flashes of the Wookiee laughing with a much younger Han Solo than he himself remembers. Felt Chewbacca’s joy when his best friend married the woman he’d come to love like a sister. Saw the Wookiee cuddling a human toddler, teaching an older boy to fly a speeder, target practice with a young man, their blasters set on stun against a haphazard dummy made of rocks.”
As Kylo continues to rifle through Chewie’s mind, he sees that his quarters are filled with pictures and mementos of his “nephew,” making clear that he doesn’t hate Ben, even for killing Han. This causes Kylo to have a flash of hope that maybe there’s still a chance he could return home to those that love him. This is his first taste of redemption, then, which will later bloom thanks to his experience on the wreckage of the Death Star. But it turns out it was Chewie who helped show him the way back first.
Fans have often criticized the sequel movies for sidelining Chewie but, to be fair, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker did include a couple of moments that put the spotlight on him. Namely, the heartbreaking scene where he cries out after finding out Leia has died and then the pleasing bit at the end where Maz Kanata finally presents him with the medal he deserved back in A New Hope. As such, this passage is one of the better ways that the novel expands on the movie.