So, I’ve seen The Last Jedi twice now (with the possibility of a third viewing) and I’ve been torn about what it could mean for Reylo going forward. I think there were some great moments of foreshadowing in the film and parallels if one was watching carefully. I will attempt to write about some of them in this post.
One of the things that struck me immediately was Ren’s demeanour in the Force Visions. In ‘real life’ he has a volatile disposition, quick to lose his temper, but in the Force Visions, he’s eerily calm. In fact, it’s Rey who is the more turbulent of the two. She even fires at him in their first encounter while he’s just sitting there. And even after that, Rey runs out, clearly still intent on attacking him while he runs out and skids to a stop. There’s no aggression in his body language. This is echoed throughout their Force Bond exchanges. It changes when Rey goes into the Dark pit and comes back shaken. She talks about how she felt so alone and Ren replies that she isn’t. His facial expression is very important here. It didn’t strike me during the first watch, but when I saw it again, his eyes were wet, like there were unshed tears. This was not a warrior of the dark side. We saw him open up to Rey long before she opened up to him. He never retaliated against her verbal assault, even going so far as to agree with her when she calls him a monster.
We know from the TFA that he felt even more conflicted after killing Han. And that conflict is worsened with his interactions with Rey. I think it’s safe to say that it’s not Kylo Ren she’s talking to but Ben Solo. Another key scene is when he goes after the Resistance after destroying his helmet. He knows Leia is on the bridge and there is a very specific cutaway to his thumbs on the trigger, he starts to press it but then chooses not to. And is shocked when his back-up fires anyway. See that scene carefully, his reaction is one of shock. Even in the build-up of the scene, there are tears in his eyes and he can clearly sense his mother. If the point of TLJ was to establish Ren as a villain, they did a very shoddy job of it.
Another thing that struck me was that Ren never lied to Rey. When Luke told Rey of how Ben turned on him, he wasn’t being completely honest. It is Kylo who offers more insight into the situation. Of course, his version is also incomplete and muddled because of what Snoke must have told him following that incident. I think it’s also important to understand, that Kylo thought his own uncle and mentor tried to kill him in his sleep, that has got to hurt. Even outside of that, he never tries to manipulate Rey.
Then there’s the scene of a shirtless Kylo Ren. This is a very typical trope, we’ve seen in so many romantic films/tv shows. It always involves people who are meant to be a couple. I’ve read the ‘official reason’ as to why that scene is there in the film and I call BS. That’s a flimsy excuse if I ever heard one. At no point did he have to be shirtless. And Rey’s reaction is to be flustered, she’s not unaffected here. There is no way this scene plays out as platonic. And when Rey says to him, right at the beginning of that scene something like she’d rather not do this now, his tone is telling. It’s dry with just a hint of humour. But she’s still mad at him.
I think the other thing that the Force Bond served to do was bring them closer. It made Rey see him as more than someone she hates. She finally sees him a human being, as someone who was let down by people he needed. Someone who’s as lost as she is. She sees someone who understands her pain, her loneliness, the isolation she’s felt all her life. In a lot of ways, they parallel each other. They’re the only two people who can truly understand what the other is going through.
The throne room scene is a very important one in the film for a number of reasons. First, I think that when Snoke reveals that he bridged their minds, that was a lie. If that was the case, that link would have ceased to exist with his death, but that clearly did not happen. I think they bonded when Kylo tried to read her mind in TFA and she read his mind instead. I think they inexplicably bonded without realising it and Snoke noticed that and tried to use it to his advantage. But he made a fatal mistake. Right before Kylo kills Han, Han tells him that Snoke is only using him for his powers and Snoke proves him right. Till then, Kylo thought that Snoke saw him and his potential and respected that. But that was not the case at all, Snoke was using him, exploiting his ‘weakness’.
The fight scene is also very interesting. The one thing that jumped out at me was the part where Rey seems to grab Kylo’s thigh/hip while leaning on his back and he literally lifts her with his butt, giving her the leverage to fight off one of the Praetorian guards. I mean, what was the point of that particular move? These fight scenes are meticulously choreographed and they’re very precise and it’s interesting that they chose to with that move. Can you imagine, during rehearsals and training, while they were coming up with ideas for the fight, someone brought up this idea and it was okayed by Rian Johnson, assuming it wasn’t his idea to begin with.
They also fight like they’ve been training together their entire lives. They’re so in sync with each other. They know where the other is at all times and are aware when they’re in danger. When Kylo sees that Rey is having a hard time, there is an urgency to his moves, like he wants to get to her faster. Similarly with Rey, when she notices that Ren is in danger, she doesn’t hesitate and throws him the lightsaber. That scene is also drives home the point that they had to work together. On their own, neither would have made it out, but together, they defeated the guards.
One of my favourite scenes was right after the fight when Rey asks him to call off the attack. When she realises that he won’t, there is such heartbreak on her face. But let’s look at it from Kylo’s point of view. His master and mentor had tried to kill him (Luke), he had killed his own father and then realised that Snoke had been using him all along. He was never going to with Rey, This was a man who’s entire world had just tipped over. Everything he believed about himself and his new teacher was a lie. When he says that he wants to destroy the old, he’s talking about all the things that held them back. Told them what was possible and what wasn’t. He was done with the First Order, with the Republic, with the Jedi and the Sith. He essentially chose no side. But more importantly, there is such desperation when he asks Rey to stay by his side. He is desperate, he’s finally found someone who didn’t lie to him. Who was his equal in power and truly saw him, not as a weapon to use but as person. She saw him. And you can see it in her face, she’s torn, there is a part of her that wants to take his hand, not to rule the galaxy, that’s not her ambition, but to simply stay with someone who truly understands her as well. But it’s the ‘please’ that gets me every time, the way his voice breaks when he says it. That’s what I mean that he’s desperate and hurting.
Also, can we talk about the fact that Rey woke up before Kylo and did not kill him. She even gave him back his lightsaber. If she truly thought he was evil, that was the perfect moment to get rid of him. He was unconscious. But she doesn’t kill him. I think it’s because she can still sense light in him, that there is a chance that he’ll come back to the light.
In episode 9, Rey will be back with the Resistance and I think she will still be plagued by her feelings of loneliness and isolation. There are no Jedi in the resistance, not even people who are force sensitive. And add to that, she and Kylo are still linked by the Force Bond and that will definitely play a roll in episode 9. I don’t think TLJ set up Kylo as a villain, if it wanted to make him irredeemable, they really messed up because the Kylo Ren we see at the end, is a broken man. He’s on his knees. When he and Rey look at each other, again, there is no rage on his part when only moments before he had been lashing out. He stays on his knees, his posture doesn’t change. And Rey also pauses, she doesn’t immediately shut the door on his face. She doesn’t lash out at him. She looks at him for a moment and then shuts the door. We then see him again, still on the floor, a tight close up of his eyes, tormented and torn, looking down at Han’s dice that Luke gave to Leia. When they fade, his hand curls around them. I think the big take away is that ultimately Kylo has to save himself. He started that process when he killed Snoke and ended the film even more conflicted than before.
Star Wars is big on foreshadowing and these films are so carefully crafted that you can’t discount anything as an accident. There aren’t any, everything you see in the film was intended to be there. The Skywalker line has been at the center of the first two trilogies and we know that Kylo and Rey are the central figures of this trilogy. There is no way that Kylo stays a villain or that he dies in episode 9. We already saw Anakin fall to the dark side, I don’t see Kylo falling for the same trap. The original trilogy ended with Vader’s redemption and death. I think episode 9 will end with Ben coming back to Rey. She is the light to his dark.
Just before leaving Ach-To, she asks Luke to come back with her one last time when he’s trying to convince her that going to Kylo is a bad idea. When he refuses yet again, Rey says that with him not participating, Kylo is their only hope. That’s not a random statement. Luke effectively ascended and therefore can no longer help the Resistance, that brings us back to Kylo. Rey is a badass and a prodigy, I’m not undermining her abilities, but she can’t fight the First Order alone, she needs Ben by her side, fighting the way they fought against the Praetorian guards.
I think Kylo Ren as the big bad is a misdirect. He is going to find his way back to the light. I think the character that will emerge as the big bad is General Hux. I don’t know how many people noticed this but he looked positively sick in the film. More pasty than in TFA, he had dark circles and he looked gaunt. I think there is a slim chance that Snoke survived being skewered by being linked to Hux. Even if that’s not the case, he’s still very much a threat to Kylo. He hates his guts and would have happily killed him had Kylo not woken up when he did.
As far as love interests go, TLJ paired Rose and Finn and Kylo/Ben and Rey. I am worried that episode 9 may try to force a Poe and Rey romance but that would be bad writing, for one, they had their first encounter in TLJ. Setting up a relationship in episode 9 is simply too late. There are no stakes for the audience and no emotional investment, the way we are invested in Rose and Finn and Kylo and Rey. Besides, i think Poe’s journey is different, that of becoming a leader.
But tell me what you think? This meta is nowhere as organised as I wanted it to be. But I am looking forward to reading what you guys think.