Ship Wars: Why Rey and Kylo Ren Would Never Work Out
And not just because she's already shut it down
Star Wars ships. Inevitably, someone dies, someone’s related to the other person, or they break up because their child decides to go be a space fascist. It’s never a good time to fall in love while fighting a rebellion in space.
The latest Star Wars trilogy has ship teased a myriad of relationships for fans to latch onto. There’s Finn (John Boyega) and Rey (Daisy Ridley), best friends who could be on the path to turning into lovers. There’s Finn and Poe (Oscar Isaac), who met-cute while escaping from a First Order Star Destroyer and who share a jacket. Finn also got a kiss from cute mechanic Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) after their adventure together. Finn’s got plenty of romantic options, which is great because he deserves all the love.
However, this article is not about Space Bachelor Finn. It’s about Rey’s other potential love interest, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Kylo, a.k.a. the artist formerly known as Ben Solo, is the primary villain of the piece, but fans have been shipping them since he abducted Rey in first film The Force Awakens.
Director Rian Johnson fanned the flames in The Last Jedi by giving them Force-connected Skype conversations, having him appear shirtless to her, having her FedEx herself directly to him, and letting them battle side by side against Snoke’s (Andy Serkis) Praetorian Guards after Kylo kills him. It’s a little shippy, enough so that even someone who’s not a fan in the slightest saw that that’s where they wanted audiences’ minds to go.
But that’s about where the shippy goodness stops, because there are two massive problems with Rey/Kylo as a pairing. One, it’s not a healthy relationship and never will be. Two, giving them the kind of happy ending the trilogy is hopefully heading for would be narratively unsound. This is not to say you can’t ship them, because we all have Those Ships, but the two eloping into the sunset as the Resistance cheers and Force Ghost Luke gives them his blessing is an ending that can only exist in fanfiction.
First off, let’s break down why they would not be a good canon pairing. It would be an incredibly unhealthy relationship based around Kylo Ren consistently trying to kill Rey, torture her, kill and torture her friends, and take over the galaxy. When they first meet, he freezes her in place with the Force, mind probes her and causes her pain, then kidnaps her. It doesn’t matter that he carried her bridal style. He still forcibly took her away from her friends to torture her as a prisoner of war.
Similarly, it does not matter how “nice” he was while interrogating her. She was strapped to a table, in pain, and terrified. He was standing over saying creepy things like “you know I can take whatever I want” and exposing her deepest secrets. She was able to fight back with the Force, but given how he treated Poe, it’s easy to see what would have happened had she not had the ability to reach into his head and force him out of hers. Before the film finishes, he murders her father figure in front of her, brutalizes her best friend, and then tries to kill or abduct her again.
By the time The Last Jedi rolls around, which is about a day later, she’s suddenly comfortable relying on him for emotional support and attacks Luke after finding out he thought about killing a sleeping Kylo years before. This doesn’t make any sense given the timeline of the film—just a day or so before, she’s witnessed him doing unspeakable acts (the most unspeakable of which, such as the massacre of the villagers on Jakku and assisting with the destruction of the Hosnian system, she didn’t even witness but she would have heard about the latter). But now she’s touching fingers with him and saying he must be their only hope? Rey leaves Luke behind and goes to the First Order to save Kylo’s soul, only to have him turn on her once more.
Here’s where Reylo really becomes a problem. She offers him kindness and a way out, and he rejects it with supreme cruelty. He wants to let her friends die, and he tells her she’s nothing. The addition of “but not to me” doesn’t change the fact that what he says is emotional abuse. He rips into her greatest fears about her family and paints her as having no place in the galactic story. These aren’t the actions of a man in love, but a villain.
After a tussle over the Skywalker Saber that they both lose, Kylo continues trying to kill Rey and all her friends, even telling Luke he’ll destroy her. He sees her once more through the Force bond, but she shuts the door on him, effectively ending their connection, and he is left alone.
There’s precedent for enemies to friends to lovers in Star Wars: spoilers for the show Star Wars Rebels follow. Imperial agent Kallus helps wipe out a planet full of the Lasat people and tries to capture the main characters for most of two seasons, but after being stranded on an ice moon with Lasat rebel fighter Zeb, he begins to see the error of his ways and goes on a redemption arc. Most notably, when he’s offered compassion by someone, he reacts with empathy in return, instead of screaming about how his companion is nothing. After two seasons of a redemption arc, he gets a Disney happy ending with Zeb where the pair jet off to Zeb’s new homeworld to start a home.
But here’s the difference between Rebels and the sequel trilogy. A secondary antagonist is not the primary villain. If Kylo were to defect from the First Order and seek redemption, we would lose all conflict in the plot. Hux (Domnhall Gleeson) is not primary villain material; the Resistance would win in a heartbeat. There are also rumors of a time jump between The Last Jedi and Episode IX, which means that Kylo will be the Big Bad Supreme Leader who has crushed the galaxy into his fascist regime for at least a few months, if not a year. That goes beyond the realm of easy forgiveness and makes him into the villain who can never earn redemption in the eyes of the larger Resistance and the galaxy.
Much like how Vader could never receive forgiveness from anyone but his son and died promptly after saving Luke’s life, Kylo could do the same. He could die for redemption, or go off into exile. But even though he’s the remaining Skywalker heir, it would defy logic for him to get some sort of Disney happy ending. And Rey could choose to forgive him, but to do so would put her at odds with all her friends, who have stepped in to become the family who never came back for her. For the film to end with Rey telling Finn and company “nice knowing ya, bye!” and eloping with Kylo would be a slap in the face to every single establishing character moment we have built up to.
Kylo also does not have the time to earn a happy ending. Redemption would have had to start in The Last Jedi, and instead he became more and more decidedly evil. Even though he’s conflicted about shooting his mother and he doesn’t kill Rey on Snoke’s command, he still commits evil acts. If he was truly on the path to redemption, he would have taken Rey’s offer, or even Han’s offer in The Force Awakens. At this point, he has few options left. Either evil triumphs or he suffers some consequence for his actions. There is no happy ending left in the cards for him—especially not one involving an onscreen romance with Rey.
Ship what you want to ship. I’m sure no words will ever discourage shippers from wanting Rey and Kylo to end up together, especially given the ship wars that surround fandom. But there’s only a few endings in the cards for IX. Not only would a rushed Rey and Kylo romance where she falls for him while he’s being a fascist leader or he suddenly defects in the last fifteen minutes and gets immediately forgiven not make sense, it would defy the narrative’s logic.
Expect tragedy, or expect Rey to get a happy ending with a different person. There’s always fanfiction to soothe the hurt.
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