In 2015, The Force Awakens introduced us to a new cast of up-and-coming heroes in the galaxy far, far away. Along with the rampant theorycrafting over who Rey’s parents were and what Luke’s first words would be (when he finally got the opportunity to say something), fans immediately started brainstorming which two characters would become the main couple of the Sequel Trilogy (ST).
As Star Wars fans old and new know very well, there is always a major romantic pairing to be found — Han & Leia from the Original Trilogy (OT) and Anakin & Padme from the Prequel Trilogy (PT). Even the standalone film, Rogue One, gives off romantic vibes between Jyn & Cassian. Looking beyond the movies, the pattern carries over into the animated show, Rebels, with Hera & Kanan. And in the Campaign story line of Battlefront II with Iden Versio & Del Meeko.
Love is as much a part of what keeps this galaxy spinning as the conflict from which the saga gets its name.
However, the Star Wars franchise makes a point of overturning the adage that “all’s fair in love and war.” If anything, the love stories that are told illustrate the decidedly unfair side of romance. They end in tragedy, heartbreak, and, in the case of Han & Leia, the propagation of the violence and evil they’d once fought so hard to defeat.
With such an overwhelmingly ominous precedent behind it and no foreseeable end to the franchise (if Disney has anything to say about it), we may have something to worry about for the conclusion of the ST … especially considering the two characters being shipped as the OTP by a very enthusiastic population of the Star Wars fandom.
For better or worse, many of us envision the pairing of heroine, Rey, and dark warrior, Kylo Ren, as the two who will finish out the trilogy as the galaxy’s new power couple.
Opposites attracting … the prince and the pauper dynamic … the elusive balance between light and dark … lost souls finding belonging at long last … redemption … seduction …
No matter your feelings on the potential match, it’s undeniable that there are so many tantalizing draws for a love story between these two characters from a story-building perspective.
It would be a volatile mix, no doubt, but that’s never stopped Star Wars writers before, right?
It certainly isn’t curtailing any of the Reylo fandom’s excitement!
I will give fair warning that this is going to be a rather long read. It also doesn’t stand on it’s own. As the title suggests, this is to be only the first of a three-part exploration that makes the case for this ship.
A trilogy all my own!
In Part I, I will break down what we know based on the first installment of the ST, The Force Awakens (TFA). Part II will move us along through the events of The Last Jedi (TLJ), and Part III will address where the first two Episodes leave us and how I predict Reylo could prove to be endgame.
Whether you are a Reylo or an Anti-Reylo (or even if you don’t particularly care either way), join me in taking a closer look at what has prompted such a rambunctious reaction to a pair of characters who, at first, seemed destined to be mortal enemies … and perhaps still are.
SPOILER WARNING: This post contains significant spoilers for the Sequel Trilogy!
Participating in the ongoing debate over whether Reylo is or isn’t a thing is both convoluted and treacherous. Fans on both sides of the question can be touchy about it, so I want to put it out there that I would love to hear about any points presented that you do or don’t agree with. As you may have guessed, I fully admit to shipping Rey and Ben myself. Whatever you may think that says about me, I’ve tried to be reasonable and realistic in my interpretation of what their scenes together lay out for us. If you have another take, please share it with me down in the Comments!
Without further ado, let’s do this…
In the wake of TFA there were any number of possible love interests being proposed as likely contenders for that special OTP designation. Seeing the similarities between J. J. Abrams’ film and the OT, many pointed to the possibility of a romance between the Han and Leia-like characters of Poe and Rey. Others proposed that, since the OT’s main hero didn’t get an LI, Rey wouldn’t either. That would leave the field open to the adorably popular ship of Finn and Poe.
The most compelling pairing to come out of the debate, though, is that of our leading lady and her nemesis:
Rey + Kylo = Reylo
Simple enough, no? It’s a couple identifier to make any fangirl’s (or fanboy’s 😉 ) heart shiver with delight. And, indeed, shippers of the Rey/Kylo pairing proudly identify themselves as “Reylos.”
This OTP fandom has become a thriving community, particularly since The Last Jedi premiered in December 2017. Head over to your favorite social media site, punch in #reylo, and brace yourself!
The Reylo Controversy
This deserves to be said…
The idea that the ST would present a romance between Rey and Kylo Ren has been met with wildly disparate responses. Many were outraged. They pointed to the interrogation scene, in particular, noting its uncomfortable parallels to rape. With the current climate of our society, how could the writers even begin to think of putting these two individuals together?
It’s a valid point.
Film is an art form, and art isn’t (and shouldn’t be) constrained by the biases and mercurial tastes of society. In the effort to present a sense of realism, especially in a genre that is decidedly unrealistic, should the powers that be behind Star Wars hesitate to craft a relationship that is flawed? Unhealthy, even?
Haven’t they already done that? (*cough* Anakin *cough* Padme *cough*)
Art is one of the most effective mediums through which to probe our mores, beliefs, and assumptions about the world. Let it. Perhaps it will reveal a new perspective we hadn’t yet considered … and we all know that in this galaxy there are many different points of view.
What’s the Evidence?
So, where did this ship come from? It had a somewhat modest following in the wake of 2015, but absolutely exploded after 2017.
Let’s look at where it began…
The Force Awakens
The scenes shared by our new favorite heroine and villain in TFA consisted of an abduction, an interrogation, and a lightsaber duel (during which Rey did her best to slash the Vader fanboy’s face off).
Not so much … BUT. They still managed to raise some suggestive eyebrows during each of these three major collisions.
What Happened: Kylo Ren discovers Rey hiding in the forest on Takodana. After a short chase and unequal battle, he traps her and probes her mind, learning that she had seen the map BB-8 is carrying. Choosing to abandon the search for the droid he knocks her unconscious with the Force and kidnaps her.
So … how is this suggestive of a romantic subplot?
Stroll through Pinterest, Twitter, or Reddit and you’ll find references to the “princess carry.” Fans who caught the Reylo bug immediately latched onto how Kylo elects to carry Rey off. Rather than leaving her to be taken into custody by his Stormtroopers or levitating her with the Force, he catches her as she falls and cradles her in his arms, leaving the now-inconsequential battle behind. This has affectionately (and humorously) been dubbed the “princess carry,” and Reylos have gleefully pointed to this moment as WHERE IT ALL BEGAN.
What Happened: Rey groggily wakes up to find herself restrained in an interrogation room on Starkiller Base. Before her, watching silently as she comes to, is the crouching form of Kylo Ren. In response to her defiant charge that he’s nothing more than a “creature in a mask,” he rises and removes his helmet, revealing a very human face. Searching for the map she’s seen, Kylo probes Rey’s mind, only to have the tables turned on him — Rey’s broken into his own mind!
So … he tortured her. How the heck is that romantic?
Disturbingly, admittedly. This is the scene that has Reylo detractors concerned because of its questionable overtones.
However, there are a number of elements to this scene that leave us thinking that this bond between Rey and Kylo is destined for a romantic twist. The most prominent point is Kylo’s surprising gentleness in how he talks to and looks at his prisoner. In stark contrast to the interrogation of Poe at the beginning of the movie, Rey is treated with something approaching kindness. Kylo even seems to try and comfort her, saying of the unexpected connection they feel…
“Don’t be afraid. I feel it, too.”
This is also where Kylo learns of Rey’s background, seeing a loneliness and sense of abandonment that we come to find out resonates with his own past. Though his aim is to uncover Luke Skywalker’s whereabouts, that’s not all this interaction is about. Despite his sudden fear over discovering the strength of her untrained potential, Kylo seems utterly fascinated by Rey.
The Duel in the Forest
What Happened: Kylo Ren has murdered Han Solo, but not before it’s revealed to Rey that he is the son of the smuggler and Princess Leia. Rabid after watching his friend’s death, Chewbacca fires his crossbow at the murderer. Barely managing to react in time, Kylo contains the majority of the bolt’s force, but rises with blood flowing from the wound. Having spotted them, the former Ben Solo pursues Rey and Finn into the forest on Starkiller Base. Quickly eliminating the one-time Stormtrooper, the injured dark warrior squares off with the young scavenger. Awakening fully to the Force, Rey overpowers the more experienced Kylo Ren, slashing him across the face and neck. The destruction of the Base forces them apart, but it’s clear these two aren’t done with one another.
So … they tried to kill each other. Again, romance where?!
There are volumes-worth of subtext underscoring this fight scene, and none of it is overtly suggestive of these two ever becoming lovey-dovey, true.
Loyal Reylos have pointed out that there’s a LOT going on underneath the surface here. Though Kylo is clearly still the more capable fighter in spite of his injury, he doesn’t take the opportunity to kill Rey when he has the chance. When they lock lightsabers at the edge of the cliff, how simple would it have been for him to Force-push the little slip of a woman to her death? So easy! Instead, he halts the confrontation and makes his opponent an offer.
Kylo Ren, the heir to the Skywalker legacy, elitist, grandson of Darth Vader, and believed to be (until this point) the most powerful Force-user in the galaxy, offers to train a no-name scavenger from Jakku.
Does that really make sense?
Imagine for a moment that Kylo’s equal in the Force wasn’t Rey, but someone else — let’s say it was Finn. Put them in this self-same position and what would the endgame look like? Do we really imagine Kylo would be offering to be Finn’s teacher? Unlikely. He’d see a Force-user with the potential to rival his own power and eliminate the threat without hesitation. Bearing that in mind, doesn’t that color the dynamic between Kylo and Rey a little differently?
A Tidbit from the Novelization
After seeing the movie, I went out and grabbed the novelization to see whether it yielded any further clues.
Concerns over characterization and inconsistencies aside, Foster’s novelization did produce one key gem of dialogue which didn’t feature in the movie. Many fans have spotted it and you can find the resulting fan art if you go looking for it.
Chapter XV begins with the scene where Kylo returns to Snoke to inform his master of Rey’s Force sensitivity. We get a lot of the same lines from the movie, but this little tidbit sneaks in…
“The Supreme Leader’s voice was flat. ‘You have compassion for her … It isn’t her strength that is making you fail. It’s your weakness.'”
The novel makes it clear Snoke is deliberately stoking his apprentice’s unbalanced emotions, pushing Kylo toward making a move that will solidify his commitment to the Dark Side.
It’s also apparent that Snoke delights in his pupil’s tangled emotions, smiling in amusement as Kylo leaves his presence. It doesn’t just serve his purposes to pull his apprentice’s strings, it’s a source of entertainment. Though Andy Serkis’ performance in the movie left no doubt that his character is as nasty as they come, this exchange crystallized Snoke’s evil. It also leads to the question of whether Kylo Ren is really the bad guy here, more so than the movie did.
This is a facet of the master/apprentice dynamic that didn’t appear on-screen until TLJ, so it was interesting to see in the TFA novel.
Let’s Talk About the Cover
The last thing to consider, at least for “Part I” of this little series of shenanigans, is the cover art featured on both the DVD release and novel.
Look at how Rey and Kylo are depicted.
Our leading lady is front-and-center, as is her due, but Kylo is right up there beside her. He’s drawn larger than she is, in fact. This emphasizes the disparity between their respective experience with the Force very well. It also illustrates his presence in Rey’s life at this time in the ST — the big, looming threat that seems to overshadow everything, while obscuring the greater evil pulling his strings.
Also consider the fact that though Rey and Finn have become both allies and friends through their adventures together, they are set to look off in opposite directions.
The person Rey is placed in full alignment with is her seeming-foe, Kylo. They’re looking in the same direction, her glaring fiercely and him with his helmeted head bowed slightly in a menacing gesture. It’s almost as if they’re preparing to fight side-by-side against a common enemy rather than against one another.
Also, their iconic weapons — his crossguard lightsaber and her scavenger’s staff — are drawn so closely together as to make it appear as though they’re holding the same weapon. Again, this seems to suggest unity rather than division between the two.
If we’re viewing their future path together as that of enemies, it would make more sense to have them drawn in opposing positions with weapons crossed, no?
With me so far? Okay, let’s really dive off the deep end.
Digging further into how this is designed, Rey and Kylo are two of the four characters here (apart from the decorative line of Stormtroopers at the bottom) who are looking at the same point off to the left of the picture. From a pro-Reylo perspective, this would seem to suggest they are headed in that direction together — a place or future, perhaps, that no one else will go — or is even capable of going.
Why? Because of their abilities and bond, would be an apt guess.
A third character positioned to look in the same direction is one of the Stormtroopers flanking Captain Phasma. With his blaster drawn and aimed at that point, he could be interpreted as the threat the First Order (and Kylo’s allegiance to it) poses to that shared future.
The fourth character is Poe Dameron. Now, given the popular alternate theory that Rey may end up with Poe, this could make a certain amount of sense. However, even if there is to be a romantic tone to her interactions with the Resistance ace, the difference in his size, as drawn in this picture, might hint at one of two outcomes.
The first is that they do, in fact, end up together. The small proportions of Poe here in relation to Rey could simply represent the fact that he isn’t a significant figure in her life yet, whereas Kylo is. Having him looking off in the same direction as Rey might just be a quiet promise of what’s to come.
Reylos everywhere unite and say: NO!!!!
The other potential outcome is that Rey may see the possibility of a future with Poe, maybe even be tempted by it, but choose another path instead. As you may have heard, in the Star Wars: The Last Jedi: The Visual Dictionary, Poe’s write-up includes a very special ring. Kept on a chain around his neck, it’s his late mother’s wedding ring, which he’s waiting to “give to the right partner.” The ring even makes a subtle appearance in TLJ when it slips out from beneath Poe’s shirt.
Why include a detail like this unless it was going to be important at some point, right?
I strongly suspect we’ll be seeing that ring held out to someone at some point in Episode IX, and that someone is likely to be Rey. The question is whether or not she will accept it, though.
The possible relationship between Rey and Poe will be covered more satisfyingly in the recently released Part II & upcoming Part III of this little trilogy of mine. Suffice it for now to say that I’ve got my money on the theory that she won’t be putting that ring on her finger.
The Ship is Well Underway
With only the subtlest of hints that Reylo might prove to be canonical, the state of the OTP following The Force Awakens was relatively modest … compared to what was to come in 2017, that is. The Last Jedi solidified the ship as a mainstream obsession, leading to the state of contention we are left to live in until the as-yet unnamed Episode IX premieres in December 2019.
Look to The Case for Reylo: Part II in order to follow along through the black hole of this wonderful, hotly-debated theory that’s captured our imaginations!
Have a thought, a theory, a rebuttal? Let me know in the Comments!
(Please be kind to all, regardless of opinion)
© 2018 Sarah Easley – All Rights Reserved.