The newest Star Wars trilogy is a contentious subject for many, but its handling of the romantic relationship between Rey and Kylo Ren is worthy of praise. Every story needs an engaging hero and villain, and the pair’s dynamic is perhaps the most engaging aspect of the series.
Despite the Walt Disney Company’s attempt to re-create Star Wars by deconstructing the original trilogy (1977-83), the conglomerate couldn’t help but rely on the archetypal storytelling techniques that cemented the old series’ status as an iconic classic.
It might not have been intentional, as many fans pointed out that Disney seemed more concerned with defying expectations than telling a story. But universal human traits often emerge through storytelling, especially when the focal point is two characters discovering their intertwined destinies on a journey of self-growth.
While there is some debate regarding whether Rey and Kylo’s relationship was intended to be romantic, it seems any confusion about the pair’s connection has at last been cleared up in the sequel trilogy, which comprises The Force Awakens (2015), The Last Jedi (2017) and The Rise of Skywalker (2019).
USA Today reporter and best-selling author Sariah Wilson tweeted on Feb. 15 that “The Last Jedi” director Rian Johnson confirmed in an interview with her that he “absolutely saw them as a romance.” According to the author, Johnson said “there was more to their stories and growth and arcs, but he saw them as romantic and intimate.”
I mean, there was more to their stories and growth and arcs, but he saw them as romantic and intimate.
— Sariah Wilson (@sariahwilson) February 15, 2021
Johnson’s words merely confirmed the suspicions Wilson had about a potential romance blossoming between the pair. The author noted that the presence of storytelling tropes and instances of foreshadowing made Rey and Kylo’s romantic destiny an obvious plot point from the newest trilogy’s beginning.
“The first is that obviously, Rey and Ben Solo are a classic ‘enemies-to-lovers’ trope. In the first movie, he does a bridal carry and he reveals himself to Rey both physically by removing his helmet and emotionally by her accessing the Force bond,” Wilson told The Western Journal in a statement.
“In the second movie, all bets are off. There is nothing but emotional and romantic beats in The Last Jedi. A bond that forces them to interact without fighting (something I told Rian Johnson was brilliant).”
“How the only person who understands Rey and what she’s going through is Kylo. How when they touch hands, they’re both given visions that make them do reckless things for each other,” she added.
Wilson also noted the intimate subtext behind Rey and Kylo’s holding hands through the Force. The author said actor Mark Hamill jokingly referred to this moment as the franchise’s “first sex scene.”
Another instance where the two are rendered vulnerable to one another is when the Force allows Rey to see Kylo without his shirt in “The Last Jedi.”
The filmmakers used symbols to showcase the lack of barriers between the pair and demonstrate their mutual inability to hide anything from one another. In this instance, however, the filmmakers had Rey literally see everything that Kylo had kept concealed.
“Rey started bringing Kylo back to the light and wouldn’t accept him until he became Ben Solo again,” Wilson said. “Their kiss in the last movie seemed pretty inevitable to me!”
Psychologist Carl Jung’s work highlighted the concept of the collective unconscious. Jung theorized that universal aspects of the human psyche present themselves through common themes found in mythology or fairy tales.
If Rey and Kylo’s character arcs had an “inevitable” feel, that is probably due to the presence of the same Jungian archetypes that once guided the original trilogy’s storyline.
When Jung’s concepts are applied to Rey and Kylo’s development, these greater truths about human nature and a desire for wholeness provide a natural flow to their romance.
Rey is the archetypal hero who will realize her full potential after going on a quest. Throughout the series, Kylo serves as her shadow, the part of her that she denies the existence of and projects onto others.
Kylo is a “monster” to Rey at first since he is the embodiment of the fear and murderous rage she longs to suppress. But Rey is not the only one struggling with her base instincts throughout the series, as Kylo also has a shadow to overcome.
He cannot fully commit to the Dark Side due to Ben Solo’s shadow, the boy he used to be before he turned to villainy. As much as Kylo tries to deny Ben’s existence, he cannot conceal the capacity for love that resides within him.
The narrative leads Rey and Kylo to form a collective unit based on the similarities of their inner conflicts. Both must extend compassion to their shadow and learn how to regulate their base instincts without shunning them outright.
After Rey tames her darker side by the final film, she can rescue Kylo by extending love and redemption to him. Through the kindness that Rey shows him, Kylo can recognize the same qualities within himself and resurrect Ben Solo, a man worthy of Rey’s love.
While there are disagreements with the direction that Disney took the franchise, the dynamic between the newest trilogy’s hero and villain makes it worth a re-watch.
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