Movies

The Case for Reylo, Part I

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!


My Disclaimer

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…


“Reylo”

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.

However…

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).

So sweet.

Not so much … BUT. They still managed to raise some suggestive eyebrows during each of these three major collisions.

 

The Abduction

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.

 

The Interrogation

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.

However!

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?

Hmmm!

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.

Awww.

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.

4 replies »

  1. The one good thing to come out of TFA (for me) was Reylo. And I didn’t even notice it until a year later while browsing for SW updates.

    On the surface of the movie, it seemed like odd story telling to me. I remember being irritated with Kylo because he took off his mask in the interrogation room with Rey. I couldn’t believe the character would do that. I felt that he should’ve unmasked on the bridge when facing his father. Technically, that is when we’re supposed to find out that this fearsome beast of a man is actually the son of Leia and Han, nephew to Luke.

    Looking back on the reveal, it’s become more apparent that the early reveal was necessary for the bond between the two protagonists of this trilogy. The title of the movie, The Force Awakens, hinges on that interrogation scene. Kylo awakens the force inside Rey. He unwittingly created one of the heroes of the story.

    Also, the fight in the snow, was a bit…hmmm…I liked it but there were some things that annoyed me a bit. Again, later going back my initial shallow impression. I didn’t understand why Kylo was so keen to catch them when he was so badly wounded. He could’ve held off until the next time they met. He also made the decision not to use the force to defeat Finn but took the time to duel him (he didn’t even attack him when he went to help an unconscious Rey). He seemed strangely fixated on defeating Finn one on one. To me, Finn-while technically a traitor-should not have garnered that much anger. He’s so much below Kylo that it seemed odd that he would make it personal. Why didn’t he go after Chewie or Rey again?

    In the end, he was unbalanced and had just done something horrible. He coped with anger and directed it towards the first person he made eye contact with (Finn). Perhaps it didn’t help that Rey was with him on the base and in the forest.

    Overall, I’m with you on this. Reylo is endgame. I look forward to your follow-ups.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the insights & kind words, Jene!

      I find your thoughts revolving around the “unmasking” and where it falls in TFA interesting! I hadn’t considered the possibilities of it before. Personally, I’ve viewed the awakening as having taken place prior to the interrogation scene. Rey’s always been Force-sensitive, but her life didn’t start to change until she met BB-8 and Finn — both instances occurring because Kylo Ren came to Jakku. Ah ha, right?

      My fear is that too many will read Rey’s awakening and strength has contingent on Kylo without the reverse being true as well. As Snoke points out in TLJ, “darkness rises and light to meet it.” What I wish some of the nay-sayers who can’t get past the superficial appearance of the man leading the woman is now that Rey has come into her own, Kylo’s own direction is likewise dependent on hers. It really is a balanced equation, neither really capable of advancing without the other.

      As for Kylo’s rage at Finn, I would interpret it as a mixture of things. First, Kylo is wounded, hurting, exhausted, confused, and looking for an outlet. Like you said, following his patricide, Finn’s the first one to strike a nerve. I would say it’s because, despite the fact that a lot of Kylo’s confusion is because of Rey and she’s right there, Finn’s defection is enough to get his temper to boil over. The “TRAITOR!” line is what leads me to see it that way. After all, Kylo himself is struggling to reconcile his own place in this story and the fact that Finn would betray the organization he’s trying so hard to be a part of is a real kicker.

      I can’t wait to hear what your have to say on “Part II,” soon to come! 🙂

      Warmly,
      Rhi

      Like

      • I hope that people won’t give Kylo all the credit for her awakening either. You are correct. about something, because I just remembered something! I’m way off on my recollection. Kylo didn’t awaken the force in her. She had the force vision on Takadona when she touched the light saber. That was the awakening!

        What I should’ve said was, Kylo initiated–not the force awakening in Rey–but the *force bond* between the two characters. They mussed around inside each other’s head, lines were blurred and doors were opened. And as you said, light rises to meet dark. So while Kylo had the upper hand at first (interrogation room), Rey was able to equalize herself to him. Apologies for that mistake.

        ~~~~

        As far as antis are concerned…I’ve noticed that they will look for any angle they can to discredit this pair (or Rey in particular). I haven’t really seen anyone come from the angle of the man leading the woman (therefore the woman is dependent on the man) YET.

        I tend to see that many (especially male naysayers) think that she doesn’t rely on him enough! You’ve probably seen Rey being called a Mary Sue. They are very frustrated that she doesn’t seem to need any help or have any weaknesses. They want to see a somewhat stereotypical woman who needs saving (a princess/damsel type). Because when her weaknesses are brought out (naive, headstrong, impulsive, abandonment and childhood issues) it’s not good or bad enough. They complain that she has never faced failure. But completely ignore her origins or the fact that she failed to “save” Ben. Or that she “failed” to bring Luke Skywalker to the rebels.

        Female (and some male) naysayers turn their ire upon Kylo saying that he’s an abusive type. Siting the interrogation scene (TFA) and his words to her in the throne room scene (TLJ) as proof. While no one is condoning abusive behaviors, the idea of context seems to be lost or ignored. His background as a royalty (snobbish), his childhood (struggling with his abilities and the fear from his parents and uncle) adult life (training as a darksider, pitted against his peers, used and mentally abused by his Master, still trying to find a place for himself and his anger). Context.

        They will find away to detract no matter how illogical the reason. Nevertheless, the story is there to tell. And I hope that it’s one of hope for both of these characters together.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I agree! I think it’s important to recognize that both characters are flawed and have seen failures. Rey’s inability to bring Ben Solo back stems not just from his commitment to his goals, but her own naivete. Luke warned her, but she refused to listen, sure that her own conclusions were correct. It was a very immature decision, in all honesty, and she paid the price for it. She failed, as Snoke did, to take into account just how complex Ben/Kylo is. He’s been on a long, twisted road to get to the low point he’s at, and a brand-new connection with someone from the enemy camp isn’t going to lead him out just like that (no matter how tempting). It made perfect sense to me that he’d turn Rey’s hopes around and offer partnership on the condition that she joined him in the Dark Side. From his point of view, it would have been the best case scenario, allowing him to have everything he wanted — power and dominion over the galaxy as well as the bond with this fascinating woman who’s coming to mean so much.

        You pointed out the allegations that Kylo is abusive, and it’s a valid concern, I feel. I’m excited for you to read “Part III” of this series, as I’ll be looking at that a little more closely! Suffice it to say, for now, that you are absolutely right: understanding Kylo requires the context revealed by his personal history. TBC!!

        I know that there was no way any pairing between characters would have been met with anything but a divided audience. If they’d gone with Finn and Rey, people would have complained that they were so bland and unimaginative. The Finn/Poe pairing would have had people up in arms over homosexuality. And even the Rey/Poe pairing would’ve been charged with being a carbon copy of the OT’s pairing of Han and Leia. *throws hands up in the air*

        If nothing else, Reylo gives us something genuinely interesting. As a matter of fact, I would say the level of dissent proves it! 🙂

        Like

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