Love has become a recurring focus in the Star Wars saga that has, to this point, never really seen a resolution in tune with how ardently characters have sought it out.
SPOILER WARNING: This post contains significant spoilers for the Star Wars saga.
Missed the first part of this series? Find it right here: “The Case for Reylo, Part I”
In the Prequel Trilogy (PT), Anakin fell for Padme as soon as he saw her. His dedication to the “angel” who captured his imagination never flagged, despite years of separation in the wake of the Naboo Crisis. Upon meeting again, his desire for her sparked an answering affection in Padme, setting the course for the extended story of the family line they would found. The warmth and joy of first love was warped by obsession, jealousy, conflict, and the machinations of a cruel puppet master. Where once Anakin’s love for Padme was what drove him to become a better man, it became the means by which Palpatine would mold the erstwhile Jedi Knight into the greatest terror the galaxy had ever known, destroying all the young couple had shared in the process.
This tragic story of star-crossed lovers established a theme for those who would seek romantic attachment in the succeeding generations.
The epitome of romance in the galaxy far, far away, the Princess and the Scoundrel, would come to see their love for one another end in tragedy. Though The Return of the Jedi left us with a triumphant sense that all was right once more and that Han and Leia would live on in happiness and peace, the story told three decades later in the Sequel Trilogy (ST) demolishes that belief.
True love does not change who we are as individuals. It can inspire us, as it did Anakin, but can only help to push us to become better versions of ourselves if we decide to let it. As with all matters of substance in life, it is our choices that influence who we become.
This truth is something Han and Leia learned to their cost. Focused on rebuilding the Republic, Leia threw herself back into politics; and Han, impatient with such a life, spent long stretches of time off sponsoring races and later returned to his smuggling ways. Their unwillingness to sacrifice their passions, to any degree, created the circumstances for their greatest sorrow.
Excelling at their respective vocations left the legendary lovers little time for their son, leaving him to feel the harsh pain of neglect. Though they both loved him dearly, their failure as parents left the way open for Snoke’s influence to latch onto young Ben’s mind and, with the aid of his uncle’s misjudgment, drove him to embrace the Dark Side.
Thus, Kylo Ren came to be. And the galaxy knew the terror of conflict between Dark and Light, once more.
The Force’s answer to the ascendance of the Dark Side is not the reemergence of the legendary hero of the Galactic Civil War, but a young, uncertain scavenger from Jakku, who not only arrests Kylo’s attention as she proves an unexpected match for him in his mastery of the Force, but pulls at him on a deeper, more emotional level…
Revisiting My Disclaimer
Yes, m’dears, we’ve returned to our exploration of the case for Reylo!
I won’t reiterate my original disclaimer verbatim (feel free to pop back to Part I if you want a refresher), but I will run through a quick Q&A for those who don’t want to go back right now or who are newly come to this deep-dive down the rabbit hole of cray-cray that is this delightfully divisive theory:
- Am I pro-Reylo?
- Am I going to be obnoxiously gaga about this OTP?
- That’s a matter of opinion, but for myself I will say that I try not to be.
- Do I invite comments?
- Of course!
- What if those comments disagree with me?
- It’s all good!
- What is the one thing that I ask?
- That if you make a comment that you be kind, regardless of your opinion.
- Wait. What the heck is Reylo?
- You’re going to need to go back to Part I, my friend!
Good! Now that’s out of the way, shall we?
The Good Ship Reylo
In Part I, I outlined the evidence on which the Reylo fandom based its initial conclusion that Rey and Kylo would be the OTP of the ST. Much of what was there depended on interpreting subtle, often nearly non-existant bits and pieces that had us raising our eyebrows during the few scenes the two characters shared in TFA. At a glance, it may not seem like much to go on, but the theory sprung up in spite of how little ground there was to stand on.
That all changed very quickly.
In December 2017, Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (TLJ) hit theaters. Reylos everywhere let loose a cheer of ecstatic triumph and many who hadn’t seen the possibilities of the theory before gladly joined the ranks as the newly converted. Social media blew up with new fan art, exultant claims of “REYLO IS CANON,” and Emo Kylo Ren over on Twitter gleefully rubbed his hands together over the mountain of snarky new tweets to be posted.
Many others were incensed. As we’ve already covered, the pairing of Rey and Kylo has its problems, especially given the climate of our society amidst the renewed movement against sexual violence and harassment. (Again, a valid point.)
However, whether you’re for or against the pairing, TLJ presents us with a significantly clearer view of how the bond the couple discovered between themselves can operate and that it can serve to facilitate a meeting of hearts & minds that was impossible during the uproar of TFA.
With the concluding chapter of this trilogy still distant, we remain mired in the purgatorial state of Will-They-or-Wont-They, but TLJ has given us a strong dose of optimism, despite the uncertainty of its ending.
What’s the Evidence?
The Last Jedi
Picking up right where TFA left off, the shared arc of Rey and Kylo continues along on a trajectory that had Reylos everywhere smugly nodding.
Though they spend the majority of the film separated by thousands of lightyears, the Force Bond that manifested itself during their previous run-ins becomes the vehicle for dialogue between the two exceedingly different individuals.
What Happened: Rey and Kylo start to have visions of one another. The connection is too weak at first to allow them to pick up the fight where they’d left off. Unable to ignore an enemy, they are left with no other option but to talk to one another. Though their resentments and prejudices remain rigid at first, they begin to see more deeply into one another as they are inexplicably brought together time and again. Kylo sees a woman who’s suffered the pain of abandonment as he has, but remains untainted by what life has done to her. Likewise, Rey discovers a man who despises himself and is tormented by the inability to move beyond his past.
Now, we’re getting somewhere…
With the option to fight one another effectively removed from the equation, Rey and Kylo actually get to know one another a little bit. We get the sense that this is the first authentic conversation Kylo has had, likely since before he turned to the Dark Side. And for Rey, who has only ever known the kindness of two people — Finn and Han — discovering an unnervingly sympathetic human being in her adversary is jolting.
Though some have charged her with forgiving too easily, I suspect Rey hasn’t absolved Kylo for wounding Finn or killing his father. Hers is a unique personality. Rey’s past has been nearly devoid of anything approaching a meaningful connection and is defined by having endured the worst of what the galaxy has to offer. Perhaps it’s possible for her judgment of him to live alongside something warmer.
We certainly get this impression later on, when…
What Happened: After her visit to the heart of Darkness in the cave on Ahch-To, Rey finds herself sitting in front of Kylo again. She confesses that she hasn’t found the answers she came in search of and that seeing nothing in the mirror save herself left her feeling lonelier than ever before. In response, Kylo insists she is “not alone.” Looking up, Rey whispers that “it isn’t too late” for him and reaches out her hand in invitation. Startlingly, Kylo removes his glove and returns the gesture, touching the tips of his bare fingers to hers.
Over to reylo4rent for the quick explanation on this one:
Does an argument NEED to be made that this scene is suffused with romantic, even sexual overtones?
*looks back up at fingertips touching, firelight caressing bare skin*
Nah, I didn’t think so.
First, let’s note that where the Force Bond wasn’t strong enough to allow Rey and Kylo to interact physically during their first “Force-Skype,” they can do so now. This shouts the fact that their connection has become more potent.
This moment of connection capitalizes on its simplicity, yet has a depth that speaks to the two extremely complex souls being laid bare. Not only are they touching for the first time (no gloves or lightsabers in the way), but their minds are fully open to one another (not invaded, as during the interrogation). They’re allowing themselves to be vulnerable to one another, which speaks to an unanticipated development of trust — the foundation of a relationship.
The Force may have bound them together for its own purposes, but the feelings that are growing up alongside are independent of it. Emotion ties Rey and Kylo together more firmly than we may have thought possible after their initial encounters. They are, in this moment, more attuned to one another than either Han & Leia or Anakin & Padme were ever shown to be.
On the Supremacy
What Happened: Convinced that Ben Solo will turn back to the Light and join her if she goes to him, Rey leaves Luke behind. After arriving onboard Snoke’s flagship, the Supremacy, Kylo detains Rey and brings her to his master. The Supreme Leader tortures “young Rey,” extracting Luke’s whereabouts and commands his apprentice to execute her. In a mind-blowing move, Kylo turns on his master and kills him, standing to fight at Rey’s side against the Praetorian Guard.
Wow. So, Rey was right!
Not quite … but more on that in a minute.
The scenes aboard the Supremacy are fairly dense and a LOT happens in even the shortest exchange of dialogue. Rey and Kylo share a heavy moment in the elevator on the way to Snoke’s throne room. Her defiant challenge that “Ben” is still conflicted gentles as she moves closer to look up into his eyes, promising to help him if he will turn his back on the Dark Side. The shock when Kylo reveals that his interpretation of the future is that Rey will be the one to turn throws her completely off-kilter. Where she’d expected to find an ally (and perhaps more…), she’s faced with the same Kylo Ren she’d left behind on Starkiller Base.
It sets up what follows perfectly.
Kylo’s face is the point to focus on throughout the action in the throne room. It can be hard to follow what’s going on there, since the camera is on Rey and Snoke the majority of the time, but the quick shots of him that we get tell the story of the decision being made behind those dark eyes. His face barely moves throughout the two-part scene, despite Snoke’s bombshell, his torture of Rey, and the charge to kill her. Kylo’s eyes, however, are extremely expressive. From solemnity upon entering the throne room, we then see the shifts as Snoke drives the scene forward — to shock, betrayal and hurt, resignation, resolution, and then, once his gambit plays out, relief and hope as Rey rises to stand beside him.
So well done!
Seeing the play of emotion there, hard as it is to catch, shows us that Kylo has invested himself in Rey. As we know from what Rian Johnson has said in interviews, he had entered the throne room with the decision to betray Snoke already made. What we’re watching during these scenes is a man strategically biding his time, waiting for the opening to make his move. And when it comes … oh my Lanta!
The battle which follows is epic, a celebration of what these two are capable of when united. Though they don’t have the trick of fighting as allies down pat, there’s a synergy that buoys them. They show concern for one another as the fight carries on, each intermittently stealing glances to see how the other is faring.
It’s kind of like seeing a rough sketch of what might have the potential to be a masterpiece one day.
What Happened: Snoke is dead. His Elite Praetorian Guard lie in defeated heaps around him. Elated in victory, Rey calls for Ben Solo to order the Supremacy to stop firing on the Resistance ships, believing her vision had come true. To her despair, it is still Kylo Ren who turns to face her, countering with an alternative offer: “I want you to join me.” Seeking to manipulate her feelings further, he reveals that Rey’s parents were “filthy junk traders” who sold her off and now lie dead in the deserts of Jakku. Rey at last accepts her years of waiting were for nothing and that she had truly been abandoned. Pressing his advantage, Kylo insists that she is a nobody with no place in the story of this galaxy … “but not to me.”
I was hating him for that snotty little speech … but then!
This scene is where Adam Driver really busts out his acting prowess — he gives us two very distinct characters speaking with the same voice. It is here that we see how divided this man is, not just in his commitment to the Dark Side, but in his own personality.
It’s Kylo Ren speaking as he declares that the past must be allowed to die, that Rey should let it all go, and as he callously crushes her sense of worth with his elitist spiel. They are the words of a hard, cruel creature of darkness. He wields the same mind-twisting tactics that Snoke had so effectively used on his young apprentice all these years, seeking conquest and surrender through the seductive draw of the Dark Side.
“You’re nothing … but not to me.” Stretching out his hand (once more gloved), his face opens like it did in the hut on Ahch-To. When he whispers that heart-breaking “Please,” we see a slight tremor in both his lips and outstretched hand. This is an entirely different man — this is Ben Solo. He’s still in there, just as Rey believed. In this moment, he’s dropped his internal armor, discarded his haughty rhetoric, and stands before Rey in genuine supplication. No longer intent on conquest, he offers a plea.
This is what persuades me, more than anything, that these two characters are destined to come back together in the end. Rey is the only one capable of drawing Ben Solo out enough to connect with and influence. She knows he’s there, and she’s not the type to give up after one attempt goes awry.
One Last Look
What Happened: Supreme Leader Ren has failed. Luke Skywalker duped him into a confrontation that allowed the Resistance time to escape and he marches his troops into the now-abandoned base on Crait to find the prize is beyond his reach. Ordering his guards to leave him, Kylo enters the command center alone. A familiar object on the floor draws his attention and he bends down to pick up the golden dice that had once hung in the cockpit of his father’s ship. The Force Bond jerks his thoughts away to Rey, visible to him once more in spite of Snoke’s death. They share a long look, his beseeching and hers disapproving. She sharply closes the door of the Millennium Falcon, severing the connection and leaving Kylo behind on his knees. Hurt by her rebuff, he looks back down to see the dice disappear, and bows his head in the wake of all that his choices have cost him.
But … wait … so … Reylo’s not going to be a thing, then?
Patience, young Padawan. This ship definitely hasn’t smashed into an asteroid!
There are three matters to contend with here: Rey’s reaction, Kylo’s, and the dice.
Rey’s clear anger and disappointment in Kylo, coupled with the force of the gesture she made to close the door on him, and then the subsequent exchange she has with Poe Dameron in a few moments, has led some to determine that the possibility of a romance between the two characters is over. There has even been the suggestion that the Force Bond itself is now officially broken … which has led to some great rebuttals from our beloved Reylos!
Does shutting a physical door permanently cut off an intangible connection originating in the Force?
Somehow, I just don’t think so. If this is right, Rey and Kylo will be continuing their Force-Skypes into Episode IX, which could lead to some very interesting conversations, given that the connection seems to grow stronger with each occurrence.
And, like I said, Rey is the tenacious type. She’s not going to just walk away without a fight.
As for Kylo’s reaction to Rey’s appearance, we see a lot of the emotion he was projecting during his “Please” line. All the hurt she caused by rejecting him is there, and it looks like he might just start to cry. He’d allowed her past his defenses, started to let her matter, and she turned around and abandoned him just as everyone else he’s cared about had. It was a major blow and it shows.
When Rey shuts the door, the sound of the metal sealing him off from her causes him to flinch. It’s a visceral reaction that turns her gesture into a slap. As he bows his head, it’s obvious he’s regretting losing her — not that he necessarily regrets the choice he made, but what it cost him.
Oh yes, and the dice!
You know that a young Ben Solo would have grown up running around inside the Millennium Falcon, so he would be intimately familiar with those dice and the story behind them. They’re his father’s luck. And that luck is what he put his faith in even as his best friend and wife relied on the Force. Having the dice disappear in Kylo’s hand would have been something akin to losing his father all over again, as well as the source of belief that the son would have grown up seeing some value in, if for no other reason that, until disillusioned, little boys think their fathers are the greatest heroes of them all.
To have this moment happen immediately after Rey’s rejection would place Kylo at the lowest of lows. Because there is still Light in him, regardless of how hard he’s been fighting to stamp it out. His past, though filled with pain, nonetheless featured parents who loved him deeply, and who he has admitted he never really hated.
With Han’s death in TFA and the necessary absence of Leia in the story moving forward, the disappearance of the dice carries a lot of weight. Kylo says he wants the past to die, but here he is, left mourning it. Rey’s power in regards to him is that she reminds him of what really has meaning.
There’s still a great deal for these two to settle, but what binds them together will not allow them to simply brush their feelings aside. And they, too, will be faced with the decision which dictates whether their love is destined for the tragedy of their forebears, or is allowed to be the transformative power that ends the cycle which has left so many couples’ stories in ashes.
The Last Jedi Novelization
Just as with TFA, I turned to the novelization of The Last Jedi for any further hints. I mined the heck of out that baby, highlighting every snippet that seemed to offer some idea of where Rey and Kylo stand with one another, no matter how obscure. Here are the bits that
This novelization, unlike that for TFA (which, I understand, was written based on an early version of the script that ended up seeing major changes), was very faithful to what was presented in the feature film. Some of what didn’t appear in the theatrical version made its way into the Bonus Features on the home release, so what the novel provides is a satisfyingly holistic story that delivers everything Rian Johnson had wanted to include before those edits.
And then there are some elements and scenes the movie didn’t show, but provide us with further insight and hope for the future of Reylo.
The diction Jason Fry used to craft the scenes between Rey and Kylo is very deliberate. It subtly shifts the nature of their conversations, giving them a sexual awareness that both characters appear to be struggling with. Johnson did this visually in Kylo’s shirtless scene.
In the novel’s version of that scene, not only does Rey come up short when she turns around and see’s Kylo, but we get to tap into what’s going through her mind. She has to “force” herself to stop looking at his scars and to focus on the conversation, meeting his eyes. Once she does, she recognizes not just that they are “angry” and “haunted,” but “needy” as well.
Needy is such a humanizing adjective and it’s interesting that Rey would use it to describe him at this point, when she’s still caught up on the murder of his father and her hatred of him for it.
Later on, after Rey’s visit to the cave, as she sits down in her hut and looks up to see Kylo there, her first thought is about touching him.
“She had closed her eyes, opened them, and found Kylo Ren there – right next to where she sat on the stone bench. As if she could actually reach out and touch his hand, his face, his hair.”
Woah! Now, given what they do next, it makes sense that making physical contact would be on her mind, especially when she’s feeling so desperately alone. To carry that thought further and consider not just touching his hand, but his face? His hair? Rey’s mind has progressed to a far more sensual level where Kylo is concerned — a regard that he returns, as we’ll take a look at in a little bit.
Touching his face recalls Han’s final gesture before falling into the depths of Starkiller Base. He reached up and cupped his son’s face, caressing it in grief. Later, Rey would slash Kylo along that same cheek, marking him (and his deed) forever. This thought to reach up and touch his face is exceptionally important, given this history.
More so, though, is her urge to run her fingers through his hair. Now, Kylo has a lovely head of silky hair, courtesy of his actor, but the impulse to touch it carries a significant social implication. Hair has always been a feature of beauty, pride, and has connections to romantic relations between two people. That Rey would want to feel it, taking part in a social interaction that points to intimacy and carries a strong sexual tone, is what really shows the progression of how she feels about Kylo.
In fact, this scene is where she begins to think of him as “Ben,” not “Kylo.” She’s re-identified him, connecting with warmth and hope to the newly-revealed Ben Solo.
Rey will Wait
Early on in the story, when Luke refuses to teach or even speak to the interloper come to interrupt his solitude, Rey resolves to wait him out, citing that after all those years on Jakku she’s good at it. Following her rejection of Kylo’s offer and escape from the Supremacy, Rey makes a similar promise in regards to the Jedi Master’s nephew at the end of Chapter 29:
“Rey had learned that the Force was not her instrument – that, in fact, it was the other way around.
Just as Kylo was its instrument, despite his determination to bend it to his will. He would learn that one day, she sensed – the Force wasn’t finished with him…
Rey would wait, however difficult that would be to do as the First Order warships descended on Crait. She would wait, and the future would unfold as the Force willed.”
It’s true that there’s no plain-spoken promise of romance in that future. Perhaps the anti-Reylos claiming that the spark has gone out are correct. Given the metric ton of emotional investment worked into the relationship between these two characters, though, it’s unlikely for such a weighty plot thread to just be dropped.
Rey is willing to wait, accepting her role in the galaxy as an agent of the Force’s will. Her instincts tell her that Kylo will come to the same conclusion, and if so, what will his mentality be and what will it have taken to get him there? In order to be like Rey, relinquishing the fight to command the Force, Kylo would have to be a very different person than he is right now. It would take no small amount of humility and trust for him to become an instrument of the Force.
Humility is certainly not a virtue that can be applied to him. That will take some doing. Some serious doing.
On the other hand, trust, as we have seen, is something that Kylo is willing to offer, albeit hesitantly. Rey’s rejection has damaged that fledgling conviction significantly, but it’s set something of a precedent nonetheless. The “last look” shows us she still matters to him. If he wants her badly enough he may be persuaded to trust once more.
However it shakes out, this passage promises some drastic character development for Kylo once Episode IX arrives.
That self-reflective moment in Chapter 29 also includes this bit:
“Luke’s error had been to assume that Ben Solo’s future was predetermined – that his choice had been made. Her error had been to assume that Kylo Ren’s choice was simple – that turning on Snoke was the same as rejecting the pull of the darkness.”
This frames the mutual plot line between Rey and Kylo in The Last Jedi perfectly, as well as going so far to demystify the complex personality of the man who once called himself Ben Solo. Rey has come to recognize, through her conversations through the Bond and during their encounter on the Supremacy, that Kylo Ren is just one face of the person she’s worked so hard to reclaim.
“Kylo Ren” is, in essence, an entity all his own. He serves as a mask of strength and power, shielding the much more vulnerable and very damaged Ben Solo. Not actually a “split-personality,” the dual persona is the same person, fundamentally, but Ben relies on the dominant, seemingly-indestructible Kylo to carry him through. He doesn’t trust who he really is, having been led to believe he’s of little worth by his family’s neglect and fear, and reinforced by Snoke’s manipulations.
Dependent on Snoke’s guidance, both as a student of the force and emotionally, he has allowed himself to become the monster Rey accused him of being early on in TLJ. He’s aware of what he’s done and though he embraces the power it’s won him, he despises what his crimes have warped him into.
Rey’s insight into Kylo’s mind may help her to see the convoluted puzzle lying beneath the surface. If she succeeds in solving it, perhaps Kylo will have finally found the right person to place his trust in — something that will be key if Reylo is to be endgame.
From Kylo’s Point-of-View
We’ll leave off with one final thing to consider: two scenes unlike any others that we’ve seen thus far.
The first scene is when Rey arrives on the Supremacy and looks up to see Kylo standing there, waiting for her. The second is when Kylo makes his counter-offer to Rey before Vice-Admiral Holdo sends the Raddus on a collision course with Snoke’s flagship.
Both scenes are shot from Kylo’s perspective, as though we are seeing through his eyes.
While we have seen shots that look up or down at him and along side him or his line of sight, these are the only two shots that actually look out from his eyes.
The first scene may not seem very special, really. Rey’s arrived, Kylo gives her that little smirk, and then the Stormtroopers step forward to cuff her. What’s interesting, though, is that we aren’t just seeing Rey, we’re seeing how Kylo sees her. It’s a glamor shot. She’s done up with make-up and her hair is brushed to frame her face. It’s a romanticized view of her, but true to how Kylo’s feelings portray Rey in his mind.
Interestingly, we get a corresponding perspective shot from Rey’s eyes, looking up at Kylo here. The light shines down on him, almost promising the future she’s desperately believing will be so.
The second scene shows us Kylo’s view of his outstretched arm, gloved hand open to Rey. Her hand has started to reach out, seeming to be about to grasp his own. In this moment of heightened tension when Kylo is making his bid for the person who would complete his vision of the perfect future, the camera gives us this lightning-quick look through his eyes.
In the end, as we know, his hopes are crushed as Rey turns her hand aside to reach for the Skywalker lightsaber, instead. There is no corresponding shot from Rey’s perspective, as with the arrival scene, which is a pity. It would be fascinating to see how her perception of him has altered now that she’s seen her interpretation of the future crumble away.
A 3rd Scene?
Now, it’s arguable that there is, in fact, a third perspective scene. During the final Force-Skype on Crait we get interchanging views of Kylo and Rey looking at one another. Based on the angle from which we view Kylo, we can say it’s not shot directly form her perspective. The view of Rey, however, could potentially be from Kylo’s. It’s almost impossible to tell for sure, since the relative distances between them revealed in the series of shots is indeterminable.
If it is shot to be through his eyes, though, that could color our understanding of Rey’s mindset during these last shared moments. She looks angry and disappointed in him, but if what we’ve been shown is his interpretation it could be inaccurate. Also, if this is the case, it further reinforces the belief that he is regretting his decision and might choose another path in Episode IX.
Where Do We Go From Here?
To say that the state of the Reylo theory is on uncertain ground would be accurate, given the inscrutability of the ending of TLJ, but there’s certainly enough here to pilot the ship onward.
But, wait! More, there is?
There certainly is! Keep an eye out for the upcoming “The Case for Reylo, Part III,” to conclude our long-winded adventure into the theorycraft behind this most notorious of Star Wars couples.
Thoughts? Rebuttals? An alternative interpretation of a scene? Share it in the Comments!
*Please be kind to all, regardless of personal opinion*
© 2018 Sarah Easley – All Rights Reserved.