To tie it back to Kylo and his redemption, I think the retconning of Vader’s importance as a character, to the point where “The Skywalker Saga” from 1977-2005 effectively became HIS story, and not Luke’s, is partially why I feel Kylo’s ultimate redemption doesn’t work , and the focus on his being redeemed is dramatically unfulfilling and brings down the Sequel Trilogy. TFA has a dual POV. Finn/Rey. Eventually it becomes REY’s story, solidly, by the end of TFA, but it’s mostly a two-hander. Kylo’s character is interesting, intriguing, and NEW in ways a Star Wars villain hadn’t been, no doubt. I still think he’s overall the best villain the saga’s got. But TLJ is pretty solidly Rey’s story. Finn is supporting. And Kylo’s story is there mostly to inform and illuminate and shade both Luke and Rey’s characters.
I think the problem is that, because of how Lucas sledgehammered Anakin into the center of Star Wars through clumsy, repetitive (and most importantly, NOT via successful storytelling) means, people came to believe that making your bad guy interesting and thoughtful and relatable in a Star Wars movie meant you HAD to redeem him because isn’t redemption what Star Wars is all about? Listen to Lucas! What’s he been saying for the last 30 years? It’s obvious that the whole point of Star Wars is this!
And it makes for great copy, but it’s also, if you ignore the after-the-fact interviews and just look at the stories themselves, and the quality of the storytelling within them, not very true. Vader’s redemption isn’t ABOUT Vader, it’s about Luke. Lucas spent three movies TRYING to make it about Vader and it didn’t really work. He then spent 6 (now 7) seasons of a television show to further make that point, and what ended up happening is Anakin’s apprentice became the heart of the story, to the point where Anakin’s fall gained more impact and more meaning to Star Wars as a story in REBELS, during Ahsoka’s realization and ensuing confrontation with him, than it did in Revenge of the Sith.
So if Vader’s redemption is now the FOUNDATION of what Star Wars is, thematically, its’ a shaky foundation because the reason it worked in Jedi is unique to Jedi, and the specific lead-in it got from Empire. You can’t just copy-paste it into other stories. And Kylo’s redemption in Star Wars almost always had a hint of “well, that’s just how Star Wars works” as its key justification, and that’s probably why it never really rang true to me as a possibility, and DEFINITELY didn’t ring true in its eventual execution. Kylo’s redemption was never really established as a thing Rey wants for the sake of saving Kylo. The closest you get to that is The Last Jedi, where Rey specifically calls out how turning him would help END THE WAR. Nothing about his soul, or his light. She speaks about him as if he’s a useful tool. A means to an end. And she’s not wrong to do so. She’s approaching it pragmatically, really, like a scavenger would. She doesn’t like him, but she recognizes he can be useful to her cause, and THAT’S why she goes to Snoke’s ship. And she wouldn’t have if Luke had gotten over himself just a little bit sooner, either. There’s a connection, and a level of understanding… and that just makes it harder for her when he shows her hope in his goodness to be naive and mostly unfounded after the throne room fight.
So already, right there - Kylo isn’t in a great storytelling position to have a successful redemption because nobody involved really wants it for the sake of his redemption alone, and it doesn’t mean that much to anyone IN THE STORY on that basis outside of Leia… who isn’t really a character in TFA or TLJ, and who, by the end, also doesn’t seem to particularly want Kylo’s redemption. There’s nothing his redemption does to serve ANY of our main characters arcs being fulfilled at that point. THAT’S why it feels unearned to me in TROS, because Abrams and Terrio never figured out a way to tie his redemption to Rey’s character arc meaningfully, or to Leia’s, honestly, and the execution of that was even worse.
Which is probably the most prequel-y thing Abrams could have done.