Presenting OTP Tuesday! Each Tuesday I will introduce you to a new One True Pairing! Tune in each week to find out which fictional couple you need to agonize/squee over next. But this week I’m doing something a little different. This week we’re looking at Reylo – my NOTP, a ship you unship so hard.
In honor of The Last Jedi coming out this month, all December OTPs have been from my original fandom: Star Wars. But after watching The Last Jedi, and long conversations with friends, I’m pressed to write all about why Reylo needs TO. GO.
Who Are Reylo?
Reylo is the ship name given to Rey and Kylo Ren from the newest Star Wars trilogy.
Rey is a literal ray of sunshine (#sorrynotsorry). She’s the heroine of the new trilogy, leading a new generation of characters in the quest to do the Right Thing and save the galaxy. We first meet Rey as a scavenger on the planet Jakku, where she was abandoned by her family.
Right from the start, Rey is perfect. She has a leitmotif that perfectly blends happiness with wistfulness, setting the tone early. Rey rescues adorable smol BB-8 from another scavenger and chooses to protect BB-8 over herself. She attacks Finn when BB-8 mentions that Finn stole his jacket from BB-8’s master, Poe Dameron.
Over the course of The Force Awakens, Rey embarks on a grand journey to return BB-8 to the Resistance. Along the way, she learns about herself. It turns out Rey is Force-sensitive, and she uses this to her advantage when she is captured by Kylo Ren. Later, she uses the Force to defeat Ren in lightsaber combat.
The Last Jedi picks up with Rey where we last saw her: having finally located Luke Skywalker on Atch’To, handing him his lightsaber. However, Luke refuses to train Rey, and she deals with her frustration by venting to none other than Ren. Later, she makes the questionable decision to go to Ren to try and save him.
Rey ends The Last Jedi having found who she really is, both literally and metaphorically. She knows her identity as a nobody, but also as the first of the new Jedi. She saves her friends and continues doing the Right Thing. Rey is good.
Conversely, Kylo Ren is bad. Or, if you’re a Ren apologist, you might argue that he’s not bad – but he’s definitely not good. Although there are hints of redemption along the way, Ren succeeds in continuing to be a total douche.
Kylo Ren is the main villain of the new Star Wars trilogy. He is a Darth Vader-wannabe, down to the outfit. Ren wears a black cape and mask, like Vader, but it’s purely for #aesthetic, rather than medical need like Vader. We later find out that Ren is Vader’s grandson, hence his idolization.
Ren is the son of Han Solo and Leia Organa, two beloved heroes of the original trilogy. However, where Leia was solidly good, and Han was a smuggler with a heart of gold, Ren actively seeks to be evil. He stresses over not being as evil as Vader, about the light pulling to him, seeking help in being more evil.
The Force Awakens showed Ren as a whiny manbaby who set out to ruin everything. He famously does ruin everything when he kills his own father, Han Solo. He irrevocably breaks apart his family, who were already on the rocks from his first defection. Ren captures and attempts to torture Rey for information, using really sketchy language that solidifies him as bad.
The Last Jedi tries to prove that Ren isn’t all bad, though. The movie provides him with a tragic backstory to explain his turning – Luke, having sensed a growing darkness in his nephew, nearly kills Ren in his sleep. This pushes Ren fully to the dark, as a sort of survival mechanism, I guess? I’m not really buying it, as far as “redemption” goes.
The Last Jedi takes the seeds of Reylo that formed in The Force Awakens and runs with it. In The Last Jedi, Ren and Rey form an inexplicable connection in the Force. This allows Rey to see who Ren “really is,” which leads Rey to believe he can be redeemed. He also supports Rey when she feels alone and lost, confused as to why Luke won’t train her.
But in the end, Ren chooses power over Rey. He kills Snoke, sure, but only to take his place, not to save the galaxy. There is, to be sure, a great scene in the movie when Ren and Rey work together to defeat Snoke’s guards. They work together in great harmony, but it’s a violent, aggressive scene.
Then, when Rey rejects Ren’s offer to rule the galaxy together, he turns on her, too. She manages to escape, but the “betrayal” leaves Ren even more unhinged and deranged. He becomes obsessed with destroying the last remnants of the Resistance. When Luke appears to duel Ren, he loses whatever shred of rationality he had left and goes wild.
Of course, Luke is ten steps ahead of Ren and proves that Ren has far to go before he ever approaches Vader levels of cool villainry. In the end, Ren is left looking pathetic and foolish, while Rey emerges heroic and inspiring. There’s a definite disconnect there that I hope translates to ending Reylo before Episode IX.
Why is Reylo NOTP?
Shipping Rey with Kylo Ren involves a great degree of irrationality. Either you ignore the fact that Rey deserves so much better than Ren, or you argue that Ren is actually not bad. It’s not a situation that could ever lead to a healthy relationship if you think it through.
Reylo is Abusive
One of the chiefest complaints about Reylo is that it closely resembles an abusive relationship. The pairing is based on antagonism and supposed sexual tension, which is not conducive to happiness. Just because you have chemistry with a person does not mean that you would enjoy yourself. Look at the facts of Reylo and a dark story emerges.
The very first time Rey meets Ren face-to-face, he is attacking her. He uses to Force to freeze her in place, removing any bodily autonomy. He later knocks her unconscious and literally kidnaps her. Then, he has her restrained, so he can use his already-demonstrated Force powers to invade her mind. He even makes a rape-y comment about “taking whatever [he] want[s].”
Later, Rey and Ren face off again in physical combat, though this time Rey has autonomy and is no longer a victim. Still, there’s violence and hatred between them. Rey ends up permanently scarring Ren with her lightsaber. This is no accidental maiming; this is out and out violence in response to hatred.
The Last Jedi doesn’t make things magically better, either. Neither of them is originally happy with their unexpected Force bond, but Ren seems to adapt to it much quicker. It would, theoretically, allow him to find Luke, one of his ultimate goals. He’s seeking to use her, even while Rey finds unusual comfort in the connection.
Later, Ren uses emotional manipulation to try and force Rey to stay with him. He knows they’ve formed a strange bond and seeks to capitalize on it and gain a strong partner (also at the same time eliminating a strong enemy). He goes so far as to neg Rey, telling her everyone else would consider her trash, but not him.
Rey Deserves So Much Better
Even if you discard the overt abusive tendencies in Reylo, it wouldn’t work because Rey deserves so much better than bitchy trash toddler Ren. To be fair, I haven’t decided yet who to ship Rey with. The obvious choice is Finn, but I ship StormPilot, so that’s out. But no matter what, Rey deserves someone good, compassionate, and just better than Ren.
I may be not into FinnRey, but I can see its appeal. Rey deserves someone like Finn. Finn is another spot of brightness in a dark galaxy. He believes in Rey, wholeheartedly, and he supports her. Finn would never think of negging Rey. He would support her no matter what, and Rey deserves that kind of love. The moment in The Force Awakens when Rey realizes Finn is the first person to come back for her is love.
There were also hints of maybe a Poe/Rey relationship – although this is extremely minute and somewhat reaching. But given that one of the primary motivations behind Reylo shipping is the chemistry between Rey and Ren, we shouldn’t deny that Rey and Poe’s miniscule conversation is charged. And Poe would be much better for Rey – he would respect her and treat her well.
Even if Rey ends up with neither Finn or Poe, she could end up with someone entirely different. Maybe we see Rey in a same-sex relationship; how cool would that be? Or, even, Rey could end up with no one. Not every story needs to have a romantic component, even if I am a shameless romantic. Rey’s story shouldn’t need to be predicated on her finding a partner when she’s great all on her own.
What’s Next for Reylo?
I’m not entirely sure there is a next for Reylo, which is not a bad thing. My fingers are crossed that all Reylo was exorcised in The Last Jedi and it won’t come up again in Episode IX. Surely, having Ren reject Rey’s attempts and become an even darker villain would eliminate hopeful hints towards redemption?
But this is Star Wars, and redemption is key to its central story. It’s entirely possible that Reylo continues to haunt the new trilogy in Episode IX. Unfortunately, we won’t know one way or the other until the next movie comes out, so we have a two-year wait for answers.
In the meantime, fanfiction is lousy with Reylo stories. This isn’t new; Reylo fics have been popular since The Force Awakens. Unfortunately, the overt Reylo tones in The Last Jedi will probably only fuel the fire. Luckily, there are also plenty of non-Reylo stories to clear your brain. Some FinnRey fics are beautiful and present the relationship that Rey deserves.
Is Reylo Canon?
Reylo is sort of yes and sort of not canon. The Last Jedi really flirted hard with Reylo, so the case could be made that the relationship was canon. The deep Force connection between the two, Rey sacrificing herself to try to redeem Ren, that hand touch, all point toward Reylo being canon.
However, in the end, they turn on each other, and all hints of a relationship vanish. So I would say that no, Reylo is not technically canon. Again, that might change when Episode IX comes out, but for now, let us applaud Rian Johnson’s decision to cut Reylo short. He may have made Reylo closer to canon than before, but in the end, Johnson decided against letting this abusive relationship be canon.