What's the Deal With Reylo?
Two Bendemptionists look at where they differ, where they share common ground…
By Amy Wishman & Gina Sanders
What’s the deal with Reylo? Why are we discussing this relationship still?
Amy: Because it is interesting and compelling storytelling! Enemies to allies is a classic and cherished trope for a reason. Then there are some of the finest acting performances in the history of the franchise given by Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley. Add in the mystical Force elements of the connection between Rey and Kylo and it equals the ‘deal with Reylo.’
Gina: The Rise of Skywalker is coming out this December, that’s why we’re still discussing Reylo. Personally, I think Kylo Ren is the most complex and interesting Star Wars character ever created. I think Rey is in my top five of most interesting Star Wars characters. I think, at this point, whether you see it as romantic or platonic, you can’t deny a connection between the two. And I’m not sure if platonic is the right word because I’m not sure if friendship is the right word, but it’s the word I’ll use to differ from romance. I think Rey and Kylo’s relationship is the heart of the sequel trilogy. Their dynamic and their goals are what is driving this section of the Skywalker Saga.
So, what’s the deal with Reylo? Why is Reylo important? It’s important because it is Star Wars.
When we each became “aware” of Reylo
Amy: I became aware of Reylo through the podcast Scavenger’s Hoard. The hosts shipped Reylo and they had an episode that gave a basic outline of what Reylo was and their reasons for believing in it. This was after TFA but before TLJ. I listened to the episode and was intrigued. For them, Reylo was being interested in the pairing of Kylo Ren and Rey, sensing they had a connection in the Force. They discussed things like the bridal carry, the interrogation scene, and the final snow battle. At the end of the episode, I agreed that Rey and Kylo had some sort of connection but didn’t necessarily think it was a romantic one.
Gina: Like Amy, a podcast enlightened me about Reylo. I became aware of Reylo in name and as a romantic pairing from the Skytalkers podcast. I became aware of the connection between them from watching TFA. Especially after the snow battle, I knew that they would be linked for the rest of the trilogy, I just don’t see that link as romantic.
How do we define Reylo? What does it mean to each of us? Which leads to--
Amy (Romantic Reylo): For me, Reylo is the pairing of Rey and Kylo Ren. Rey and Kylo have a connection in the Force, as seen in The Last Jedi. They can see each other through the Force, and even touch hands across the galaxy. They investigated each other’s minds. They know each other intimately.
After The Force Awakens, I thought that Reylo was real: that is, the connection between the characters of Rey and Kylo Ren was there. But after The Last Jedi, I began to see the pairing through a romantic lens.
I know this can be and has been a controversial topic, but the sexual imagery used in the Force bond scenes between Rey and Kylo (the water on Kylo’s glove and face, the way Rey holds the lightsaber before going in the coffin/escape pod, the shirtless scene, the thigh grab in the Throne Room, the entire Throne Room actually) showed me that the movie was showing Rey and Kylo in a romantic light.
Pairing the sexual imagery with the intimacy of the Force bond scenes--particularly the hand touch scene, and my romance-loving self was there. But then we had the failed proposal, where Kylo offers Rey the galaxy in the worst possible way. At that moment, I was watching Pride and Prejudice in space, and I became a Reylo. And I haven’t looked back.
Gina (Platonic Reylo): I agree with Amy on this one. I define Reylo as the pairing of Kylo Ren and Rey. From the moment Kylo utters the line, “what girl” you knew his interest was piqued. The interrogation scene was big for me, them being in each other’s head. The moment, though, I realized their fates would be tied is (my favorite scene) that iconic snow battle. Here was an “ordinary” girl using that lightsaber. Here was a boy, obviously strong with the Force offering to teach her. After TFA I still saw Kylo as a villain and Rey as our hero (not that heroes and villains can’t be in a relationship). For me, that just meant Rey’s goal would be to defeat Kylo Ren and the First Order.
Enter TLJ. I don’t think anyone could deny a connection because Rey and Kylo literally had a Force connection. Each conversation, I think, brought Rey and Kylo to a deeper understanding concerning themselves and each other. I, personally, wouldn’t talk about things like my uncle trying to kill me or my parents abandoning me with someone I have no trust or understanding with.
To me, and many others, the throne room scene is one example of the closest we’ve come to seeing balance in the Star Wars universe. It was in that moment I realized that Kylo wasn’t the antagonist and Rey wasn’t the protagonist. Both were halves of our main protagonist.
I never denied that there is a relationship or connection between Kylo Ren and Rey. I just never read their actions as romantic. In my mind they’ve each found someone who they see as an equal, someone who understands what they’ve been through. I do, however, want to clarify that I’m not refusing to read romance for the sake of not reading romance. I’m one of the biggest romantics you’ll ever meet, and I’d put romance in everything I could. To me, Kylo and Rey just weren’t coded that way.
How do you define Bendemption? Are there consequences to Ben Solo/Kylo Ren’s actions? Is there a difference between Ben Solo and Kylo Ren?
Amy: For me, Bendemption, Rendemption, whatever you call it just means that Kylo/Ben learns to embrace both the Light and the Dark within himself. A realization and acceptance. Perhaps to be satisfying, Bendemption would also need to include forgiveness and atonement. For me, this isn’t about actually litigating Kylo Ren’s “crimes” but a space opera movie that can show that love always wins, that no matter what bad choices you’ve made, you can come back. The line between Kylo and Ben is much more blurred than the line between Anakin and Vader, and I believe that this is intentional. I don’t know that it is an either/or situation: maybe he is both Ben Solo and Kylo Ren.
Gina: There both is and is not a difference between Kylo and Ben, for me. When he’s full on First Order and trying to resist “the call to the light” I tend to call him Kylo. When he’s vulnerable with Rey I tend to call him Ben. Sometimes I don’t stick to that pattern and switch it up. I think the importance of names comes in that one is given, and one is chosen. It’s about how he ultimately chooses to identify. I define Ben’s redemption as accepting of that identity, whichever he chooses. He’s a Skywalker yet he felt the need to abandon the name (not literally since he’s a Solo but he’s a Skywalker, too). I understand that it’s fake and in space, so I don’t need an in-depth penance or anything. I also don’t think he can really earn it? I think it needs to be freely given. I guess what I really want is acknowledgement. I want the “good guys” to acknowledge the pain that Kylo went through and I want Kylo to acknowledge that the First Order isn’t exactly the greatest (an understatement for sure).
Does Reylo fit into your ideas of Bendemption (and if so how?)
Amy: For me, Bendemption is essential to a satisfying conclusion to Reylo. I want both Ben and Rey to embrace the Force (and each other) in a new way. I want a happy ending for the sequel trilogy, and that can’t happen without Bendemption.
Gina: I think redemption is absolutely in the cards for Ben and I think that Rey will play an important role in that. It’s through their Force connection in TLJ that Kylo is humanized into Ben. For those audience members that only saw the next “big bad villain” you’re given a deeper look at a complex individual. Because Rey has seen Kylo at his most vulnerable it’ll be her knowledge of his capacity for good, for change, that will show the Resistance he’s changed. Maybe even show Kylo himself that he’s changed.
Do you think your reading of Reylo as romantic or platonic affects your ideas of/for Bendemption?
Amy: I think the reading or hope of romantic Reylo affects my ideas of Bendemption. I hope for a truly happy ending. As a romantic at heart, I hope that there is lots of love and even kissing. I’m not as confident as some speculators that there will be a definitive romantic Reylo on screen in The Rise of Skywalker, but I also don’t need that to enjoy the pairing or the movie.
Gina: No, I don’t. No matter if they’re together romantically or platonically, they’re both our protagonists. I won’t be upset if they end up together, just like I won’t be overjoyed if they don’t. They’re connected and I think that’s all that matters in the end.
The much anticipated Vanity Fair covers and article came out May 22, 2019. A quote from the interview reads, “Their relationship is the closest thing the new trilogy has to a star-crossed love story on the order of Han and Leia: a source close to the movie says that their Force-connection will turn out to run even deeper than we thought.” Does a romance between Kylo and Rey as canon or not affect your feelings?
Amy: There is no denying that many individuals in the Reylo fandom have dealt with insults, abuse, death threats and other harassing and dangerous behaviors. So, for those people, I can see the validation in seeing your read of the pairing as being canon. I hate when fandom becomes competitive and about being “right.” There are many ways to enjoy ‘ships and Star Wars, and if you’re respectful to others, there isn’t a wrong way to fan. There is still so much we don’t know about the story in TROS. I just hope that whatever story decisions have been made, they are satisfying. Transformative fandom is the key that can get you out of canon jail--free your mind! Don’t fight what you hate, save what you love. Make your own.
Gina: No, I don’t think it matters to me. I still stand by what I said before. I won’t be upset if they end up together and I won’t be upset if they don’t end up together. I don’t read them, at this very moment, as romantic. Of course, if Rey and Ben end up making out in TROS or if one of them verbally confesses their love then that’s in my face confirmation that there is love. It’s not nuances or a reading, it’s laid out. Of course, I’ll accept it. Will I read the occasional fanfiction? Yeah. Reylo writers are some of the best storytellers I’ve ever witnessed. Will I like fan art on Twitter? Sure. Reylo artists make some of the best art I’ve ever seen. So, while I don’t currently ship them romantically, I’m always open to a new opinion. At the end of the day, for me, is that TROS tells a good story that wraps up the Skywalker Saga.
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