The first trailer for The Force Awakens announced to the world there was a brand new Star Wars villain. We then learned his name: Kylo Ren, owner of the ominous, hilted red lightsaber. A second trailer followed, and immediately we were greeted by the face of Darth Vader. The obvious question was, “Why?”

Why, if you want audiences to fall in love with a new, lightsaber-wielding heavy, are we being reminded of the old one? We all love Darth Vader, but decades have passed. He’s dead. Gone. Redeemed by his son, aware of his daughter, burned to a crisp in the forest of Endor and returned to the Force alongside two other dead Jedi Knights, Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Why is Darth Vader in Star Wars: The Force Awakens at all? Well, we have a theory, and it’s a little bit nuts.

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To be fair, we’re not the first ones to speculate about the fate of Darth Vader. For example, while writing this piece, we stumbled on this EW article from April. But the evidence keeps mounting up, making us wonder.

Beware though. While we have no actual idea if what we’re about to propose happens in the movie, the evidence used to support it could be considered spoilers. And if it does happen for some crazy reason, it’s a massive, massive reveal.

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Full spoiler warning from now now on.

Basically, the idea is this. Kylo Ren, over the course of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and maybe beyond, is trying to either clone, or resurrect, Darth Vader.

What could lead my mind down this dark path? A lot of things. First up, J.J. Abrams has made a point to reveal Kylo Ren is obsessed with Vader, has modeled his mask after him and more.

“The movie explains the origins of the mask and where it’s from, but the design was meant to be a nod to the Vader mask,” Abrams told Entertainment Weekly. “[Ren] is well aware of what’s come before, and that’s very much a part of the story of the film.”

So Ren’s awareness of the past is part of the film. We’ve also heard that Ren may, in fact, be collecting Vader relics. Remember the shot in the trailer of Darth Vader’s burnt mask taken from the fires of Endor (seen above)? Well, who or what is holding that mask, and for what reason? Possibly Ren—and possibly because he’s a collector.

The mask is not the only Vader leftover we’ve seen in the film either. Princess Leia (below) and Finn (here) have both been spotted with Anakin Skywalker’s lightsaber, the one Luke got in A New Hope and lost in The Empire Strikes Back. If Ren is a collector, that sure would be a nice piece to go with his Darth Vader mask.

Is Ren after that lightsaber? It’s possible. One of the Kylo Ren toys now in stores says “That weapon is mine!” Is he talking about his own saber? Or he is talking to Finn/Rey/Leia or someone else who has Anakin’s old saber?

So let’s assume Ren is collecting Vader relics. Is it just because he’s a fan? Does Kylo Ren love Darth Vader as much as we do? Is Ren one of the many people lining up for Force Friday events on Courusant? Maybe. But being someone who uses the Force, he probably wants more than cool things to put on a shelf.

Kylo Ren is not a Sith (confirmed by J.J. Abrams)—but that’s obviously a status he aspires to. Ren may think by collecting pieces of Vader, he’ll be able to absorb his power and learn from him. The Force never really goes away, right? That’s one of the most logical conclusions drawn by this evidence. But let’s take it further.

Maybe there’s some futuristic technology that Ren believes can bring Vader back to life with these relics. We know cloning is possible. We also know Supreme Chancellor Palpatine (aka Darth Sidious) fooled Anakin Skywalker into believing the dark side could bring someone back from the dead. What if he wasn’t lying? Or what if Ren had just been fed the same line of crap as Anakin was?

Here’s some more, albeit it less direct, evidence. In Chuck Wendig’s new novel, Star Wars Aftermath (one of the first set after Return of the Jedi), there are several hints that could lend themselves to this theory.

In Chapter Eighteen, a mysterious, evil character named Tashu says this to his hostage, Wedge Antilles: “Did you know that Sith Lords could sometimes drain the Force energy from their captives? Siphoning life from them and using it to strengthen their connection to the dark side? Extending their own lives, as well, so that they could live for centuries beyond their intended expiration?”

Is that potentially something Darth Vader could have done? Or is it something Kylo Ren is going to try from the Sith Lord himself? Maybe. But there’s more.

An Interlude chapter set on the planet Taris features a character selling a red lightsaber he believes to be Darth Vader’s to a group calling themselves “Acolytes of the Beyond.” These “fanatics of the dark side” and collectors pay dearly for the saber with the plan to return it to “its master in death.” Creepy. Also, what’s on the wall? “A stencil of a familiar Sith Lord’s helmet with the phrase beneath it reading ‘VADER LIVES.’”

So, in the canon of Star Wars, there are characters who believe “Vader Lives” and are collecting his lightsaber, to return to him in death.

There’s a rumor going around about an Episode VII-specific Darth Vader toy that’ll be released at some point—but most of the time you can’t trust toys for spoilers. It’s still worth mentioning, though.

Another possibility. Maybe, the resurrection of Darth Vader isn’t literal. Maybe Ren knows Luke Skywalker is still out there and wants to tempt him. The prevailing rumor about Luke in this film is he’s isolated himself from the rest of his friends because he’s scared of his powers. We don’t know if that’s true, but we do know Lucasfilm is being ultra secretive about Luke’s role in the movie.

If Luke’s fear is true though, maybe Kylo Ren is collecting Vader relics as a gift. Maybe his plan is to bring them to Luke Skywalker, present them as evidence of his father’s legacy and ask him to help. Help Ren learn the ways of the dark side as master and apprentice. Maybe Luke Skywalker becomes Darth Vader.

So that’s the theory. It’s crazy, out there, filled with what-ifs and wild speculation, but it’s oddly plausible. It’s even more plausible when you think of this twist. Does a new, Frankenvader share the beliefs of old Vader? Or has his redemption in Return of the Jedi stuck? Ren wouldn’t be aware that, at the end of his life, Darth Vader once again became Anakin Skywalker. Only Luke knows that. Vader’s return, in any way, might end up being a good thing for our heroes. Or it could be the worst thing imaginable. Just the idea - long shot though it may be—unlocks a wealth of possibilities.


Contact the author at germain@io9.com.