The internet being what it is, there were Reylo shippers literally from the moment their characters were revealed in the run-up to The Force Awakens. The films themselves haven’t exactly done much to disabuse us of this notion, either, with Star Wars: The Last Jedi showing them getting inside each other’s minds with Force video conferencing, before that scene where, for a moment, it seemed that the pair might strike out on their own path away from the old First Order/Resistance dichotomy.
Going into Episode IX, it seems that they’re once more firmly on opposing sides, and I can guarantee that they’ll face off at some point during the film. If they end up going toe-to-toe in a lightsaber duel, you can expect their true feelings for each other to surface. But according to Jason Fry, who wrote the novelization of The Last Jedi, their connection goes way beyond a romance.
Lots of fans assess it as a potential romance, and maybe that’s ultimately what it will be. (I have NO idea.) Certainly the famous scene in the hut verges on that.
But we fall back on romance because it’s the best analogue we have. Rey and Kylo’s relationship is more intimate than that. They’ve literally been in each other’s minds. Rey’s seen his deepest fears; he’s seen the past she’s buried. None of us have had that experience.
My point is romance may not be the endpoint of that. (Though it may be.) The analogue may be misleading, because it’s an analogue. Their connection is deeper and stranger and far more complicated. I think TFA/TLJ covers those complications wonderfully, with Ep IX promising more.
It’s an interesting take on things, and Fry has the benefit of spending time inside both characters’ heads as well as behind the scenes information that we’re not privy to. To everyone else in the galaxy, Kylo Ren is an outright monster, who by the time Episode IX begins will be leading a conquering rebirth of the Empire, has been complicit in the destruction of a star system and – perhaps most unforgivably – killed Han Solo. But Rey is unique in that she can see beyond all that to the traumatized man beneath and – like Luke realized with Vader – that somewhere underneath all the pain might be someone worth saving.
Conversely, Ren can use his insight into Rey’s miserable and lonely pre-Force Awakens life to contrast his own problems against her’s. After all, Ren is space royalty and though he’s got a Star Destroyer-sized chip on his shoulder, at least he didn’t spend his childhood slowly starving to death in a desert. If Rey can emerge from that hell as a good person, why can’t he get over his trauma and turn to the light?
I can’t wait to find out the answers to these questions next December. I just hope J.J. Abrams builds on what Rian Johnson added to the franchise in Star Wars: The Last Jedi rather than resort to the annoying puzzle-box storytelling style he relied a little too much on in The Force Awakens.