WARNING: Spoilers for Star Wars: The Last Jedi follow.
The romances of the Star Wars franchise have long been fraught: Luke and Leia kiss, only to find out they’re brother and sister; Leia and Han fall for each other, but we barely get to see them as a couple; the one couple who we do really see fall in love on screen — Padmé and Anakin — is a wretched bore to watch (and ill-fated, of course). So let’s just say that we didn’t have high hopes for this series to deliver a romantic relationship that’s worth watching. Until now.
In Star Wars: The Last Jedi, we find love in a hopeless place. No, not because Finn’s crush on Rey becomes something more or because Rose plants a heat-free kiss on Finn’s lips. In fact, the couple I found myself inexplicably rooting for is one that I’m pretty sure I wasn’t supposed to: Rey and Kylo Ren.
In Star Wars: The Force Awakens, their initial contact with each other is cut and dried: she’s good, he’s bad. They’re enemies. Postviewing, though, we had a long time to think about their strange relationship: Why did they seem to share some strange connection? Could they be related?
In The Last Jedi, Kylo Ren — ahem, Ben — and Rey’s relationship is at the forefront. The first time their thoughts are bridged, they’re as bewildered as we are. Why is this happening to them? Then, as it happens more, they seem to relish it, find comfort in it. Sure, Snoke is the one who bridges them, but he doesn’t control their communication or what they end up feeling. Their easy identification as enemies falls away, and something else crackles into place: chemistry. Listen, I don’t know if director Rian Johnson meant for this to happen, or if electric sparks were written into The Last Jedi script, but, people, they’re there. Maybe there was a little something in The Force Awakens too, but we were too preoccupied to notice it.
If the audience is supposed to infer a romantic connection, then I say: I’m into it.
All I know is that I desperately wanted Rey to take Kylo Ren’s hand after they defeat Snoke together and rule a whole new world together. Go gray, baby! And that part where he breaks her heart to tell her her parents were no one special, but she is, to him? What else are we supposed to make of that? There’s no other reason for Kylo Ren to be causally hanging out shirtless, making Rey all flustered. If the audience is supposed to infer a romantic connection, then I say: I’m into it. I’m shipping it into Episode IX. I’m making my #KyloRey shirts.
And if I wasn’t supposed to sense this disruption in the Force? Then I’d say you need to tell stars Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver to maybe stop vibing off each other so hard (if that’s possible). It’s totally believable that Rey is just fighting her pull to the dark side and she needed to have a stronger link to it in the form of another, charismatic character. Maybe I’m supposed to be cheering her on for resisting the dark. But now that I know what Rey knows — that there is goodness fighting its way out in Kylo Ren — I can’t look away.