I like the idea of Rey and Kylo Ren getting together in very specific scenarios, but I don’t think Star Wars: The Last Jedi is one of them.
The latest trailer for The Last Jedi brought to the surface a debate that has been on the minds of many Reylo shippers since the beginning: should Rey and Kylo Ren be together?
There are a lot of issues with Rey and Kylo Ren becoming romantically involved, from Rey’s parentage (Reylo shippers are aware that the ground could be pulled out from under them at any moment) to basic morality. The trailer only served to make things more complicated. At the end of it, a very emotional Rey reaches out to Kylo Ren and says “I need someone to show me my place in all of this.” He offers his hand.
Though I see the appeal in a relationship between these two powerful characters and their very complicated backstories, which is reminiscent of Zuko and Katara’s almost-relationship in Avatar: The Last Airbender (I mean, Kylo even has a scar now!) this is very tricky ground.
Kylo Ren’s redemption
Kylo Ren is a fascinating villain, not because he’s powerful or because he inspires fear like Darth Vader, but because he’s the opposite of these things. Kylo Ren is a young, angry boy with a power complex who’s in over his head. Through his tantrums and his indecision when dealing the final blow to his father, we saw that he wants to be evil very badly, but is always falling short for that very reason. He’s a very real kind of evil.
There are two ways Star Wars can go with this. Either Kylo Ren is doomed to be defeated after causing terrible destruction, or he will redeem himself (and probably die in the process). The first seems a bit too easy, and especially given this trailer, it’s likely that Star Wars will opt for the second.
But bringing in a romantic relationship into Kylo Ren’s character development could seriously throw off the profound story that’s at work. He cannot decide to be good because he’s falling in love — that removes his agency and is also blatantly false, promoting the idea that a woman can “change” a man. It also takes away from the more powerful forces in his life: his family, Snoke’s brainwashing, and his own feelings towards the Force.
Kylo Ren is struggling to find his place in the world, and this is a perfect opportunity to explore a much deeper story… one that’s about much more than Kylo Ren faling in love with a Jedi. There’s a lot more power in Kylo Ren deciding to follow Rey while not in love with her, simply because he realizes that there’s hope in following a more powerful, brave, kind woman.
Rey’s journey to find her identity
While Anakin’s story in the prequels revolved around his relationship with Padme, Luke’s had a more spiritual approach. Despite a shortlived (and incredibly weird) stint of feelings towards Leia, romance was never really a part of Episode IV, V and VI — they focused on his lineage and his relationship with the Force. Rey’s story seems to be following Luke’s in many ways, which is why the last few seconds of The Last Jedi’s trailer were so surprising.
It’s not that romantic relationships are necessarily bad for a female lead — look at Wonder Woman! — but romance should be constructive for the character’s progress. A romance with Kylo Ren would do more harm than good, interfering with Rey’s motivation to emerge as a true hero.
And after everything we’ve seen Kylo Ren do to Rey, Star Wars has to be very careful about the message it’s conveying. Do we really want a heroine that gives herself to the same villain who invaded her mind without her consent? Do we want a story this large and this profound to be boiled down to the female character’s feelings for a brooding villain?
(And as fascinating as this character exploration might be, I also really just want to see Rey beat Kylo Ren in a lightsaber fight.)
There’s no time for love in this plot
It’s not that Rey and Kylo Ren wouldn’t have incredible chemistry on screen, but the relationship would need much more time to properly explore all the elements that make their relationship complicated.
Both Rey and Kylo have very different motivations, and we need to see how they affect their choices with their respective friends, family and allies. Rey has to discover her parentage, and transcend the person she used to be to become a Jedi (although that’s looking more and more difficult with this last trailer). Kylo Ren has to decide which side he truly wants to take. The war has to end. The balance of the Force needs to be achieved.
Besides that, redemption and forgiveness needs very careful writing that takes place over an extended period of time. Anything less than that is disrespectful to the fact that Kylo Ren really did torture Rey in The Force Awakens, and the parallel it is to rape and power imbalance. There’s a lot to unpack. That’s a lot of things to tackle in only two more movies.
I’m very excited to see where this story is going to take these characters, which are in their own ways extremely unpredictable. Kylo Ren has had the ideal upbringing, according to Rey, and Rey has all the power that Kylo Ren wishes he had had. There’s a lot they could learn from each other — but that doesn’t have to happen through a romantic relationship.
In the end, Star Wars has always been about family and the Force. This trailer was confusing in many ways, but it still had an element of both. Let’s hope that the movie itself can avoid reducing this story to one of forbidden love, and instead fully appreciates the scope of the emotional journey to come. After all, “I need someone to show me my place” is a dangerous thing to make Rey say to a man without the appropriate context.