One of the most striking scenes in Star Wars: The Last Jedi is the Snoke scene when Kylo Ren brings Rey before his master, echoing the "Luke and Vader in front of the Emperor" scene in Return of the Jedi. But then, Kylo kills Snoke. He and Rey fight together until they have defeated all of the guards. But just as the audience thinks Kylo Ren has thrown off the Dark Side, he reveals he's doubled down, and wants to rule instead, with Rey by his side. But does Kylo Ren really love Rey? Let’s break it all down.
Romance in Star Wars is not as cut and dried as it looks on first blush. (Remember how Luke and Leia looked like they might be on the way to dating at the end of A New Hope?) As Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker revealed, the bond between Kylo and Rey created a dyad in the Force. It's a unique bond that spans across time and space, and when the two fight on the same side, they are “as powerful as life itself,” according to Wookiepedia.
That explains the intense energy in the aforementioned scene from The Last Jedi, where Kylo and Rey team up to take down Snoke in the best lightsaber fight ever committed to film. It’s not as simple as asking does Kylo Ren love Rey, as much as it is he is powerfully drawn to her. And it also drives the final fight with Palpatine in The Rise of Skywalker, where Rey sacrifices herself for Kylo, and then he returns the favor, though not before the most controversial kiss in Star Wars history. That kiss has been hotly debated ever since. Is it proof of romance? Is Kylo Ren in love with Rey? Or was it not romantic at all?
The Reylo true believers have been out there since the first reboot movie when Rey and Kylo Ren faced each other down, both on the Starkiller Base and on the surface of it in the forest. And it seems by the end of The Last Jedi that Kylo Ren loves Rey, his rage against the last remnants of the resistance is as much the rage of a man scorned as it is the determination to prove himself against his old master, Luke.
Rey has strong feelings, too. But they aren’t for Kylo Ren, but Ben Solo. And as Leia flatly states in The Last Jedi, "Ben Solo is dead." Rey feels the pull of the dyad. But despite their connection, as long as Kylo chose his path, she can not see her way clear to like him, let alone anything else. It’s not until Kylo faces Rey on the downed Death Star in The Rise of Skywalker and takes a stab wound from her that he sees his way clear to allowing Kylo Ren to die.
By allowing Ben Solo to rise, the Kylo Ren-Rey love story takes on a new wrinkle. After all, Rey does love Ben Solo. But by then, things are far more complicated than they ever could have been. She’s rejected him as Kylo Ren, and she has no idea that Ben is now out there, ready to fight by her side. She finally learns the truth when he shows up in the final scene of The Rise of Skywalker, taking down Palpatine’s Knights of Ren like so many badly-aimed stormtroopers.
But by then, their time is up. One of the dyads must die to bring the final balance to the Force. In their love for each other, Rey and Kylo each sacrifice for the other. But in the end, it’s Ben’s sacrifice that sticks, allowing him to ascend and stand as a Force-Ghost beside the rest of the Skywalker clan.
Perhaps it’s not the romantic happy ending Reylo-shippers want. But it’s the happy ending both Rey and Kylo need.
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