"Reylo" is the word that defines a perceived romantic relationship between Star Wars' Rey and Kylo Ren, and its fans have grown to make up a significant part of the Star Wars fan community. When The Force Awakens came out in 2015, early Reylo perspectives were sidelined by a large part of the fandom. But with every new promotional release, it becomes more apparent that they were the only ones really tapping into the dramatic arc of the two main characters that could be set to crest with The Rise of Skywalker.
The Last Jedi was dripping with romantic subtext that permeated almost every detail of the screen and every choice of the sound design when the pair were together. When Kylo Ren and Rey discover their Force bond, their voices resonate in the void; when they touch hands over the fire in the hut, in an intimate scene full of close-ups that Rian Johnson described as "the closest thing that Star Wars will ever have to a sex scene," the echo is gone, indicating that they are closer to each other than ever.
However, the movie ended with Kylo Ren on his knees and Rey helping the remainders of the Resistance flee from Crait and seemingly losing the door on their connection due to irreconcilable differences.
But, there may be hope Reylo shippers yet. Speaking to Empire, Chris Terrio, the co-writer of The Rise of Skywalker, had this to say about Kylo Ren and the significance of his mask: "Some of the most interesting scenes in The Last Jedi are the conversations between Rey and Ren. We've tried to pick up that complicated relationship that really has been present ever since the interrogation in Episode VII. When Ren takes off his mask, there's a nakedness about him with Rey that he doesn't express to anyone else. Rian developed that in fascinating ways and we've been able to develop it even further."
This could be read as an indicator that Kylo Ren and Rey's relationship had been planned since the very beginning. The first time that Kylo Ren takes off his mask in The Force Awakens is when Rey remarks that it's normal to feel afraid of "a monster in a mask." Kylo only unmasks voluntarily for Rey, in a scene that could be viewed as a carefully staged call-back to Leia's unmasking in The Return of the Jedi, before she desperately kisses a freshly unfrozen Han. The other two times in the saga that he takes off the device are at the behest of Han Solo, his father, or Snoke, his master.
In fiction, masks are a clear stand-in for the persona that a character presents to the outside world. Masks were enormously important in The Force Awakens, as Finn, Rey and Kylo were introduced first with a mask that marked their station in life that they later took off to reveal or for us to learn who they really were.
Unlike Finn and Rey's, which were functional, Kylo's is a purely aesthetic choice designed to evoke his infamous grandfather's, and to inspire fear in his opponents and to hide his true emotions from his peers and subordinates. Almost every character that interacts with him, from Snoke to Poe to Han to Hux, chides Kylo Ren for holding on to it and for trying to hide his vulnerability instead of confronting it. When Kylo Ren smashed the mask in The Last Jedi, adopting his leitmotif "Let the past die," it seemed like he was ready to do this. The fact that he's rebuilt it in time for Episode IX (and using kintsugi techniques, which honor and highlight past scars instead of hiding them) points towards a much more guarded but mature mindset.
Putting the mask back on in The Rise of Skywalker could be Kylo Ren's equivalent of swearing off relationships after his and Rey's "break-up."
That said, the Vanity Fair photos, the Empire special and many other The Rise of Skywalker stills and footage released so far have shown Kylo Ren without his mask, suggesting that he will dispose of it again at some point in the movie, and it will probably be because Rey is nearby.
Kathleen Kennedy, the executive producer of Star Wars, described Kylo Ren and Rey's relationship as "very, very complicated" in an interview with Good Morning America, while director J.J Abrams and star Daisy Ridley used "desperate" and "connected," respectively. Those are descriptors more in line with sweeping romances rather than the language usually employed for sworn enemies. J.J. Abrams has promised a satisfying, fairytale ending to The Rise of Skywalker, and the most popular Disney fairytales have always ended with a kiss -- or even a wedding.
Furthermore, as What The Force Show's Marie Claire Gould pointed out, the three-act structure is following the classic enemies-to-lovers storyline in regards to Kylo Ren and Rey, and the filmmakers have dressed the characters with outfits suspiciously similar to those worn by Anakin Skywalker and Padmé Amidala in The Attack of the Clones, the most explicitly romantic movie of the entire saga, and to the 1977 photoshoot (above) of Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill, when Luke and Leia were not yet revealed to be siblings and were still treated as the romantic leads.
Coupled with the increasingly abundant "Bendemption" foreshadowing, the question now might be not whether Reylo will happen, but at which point in the movie it will occur.
Directed and co-written by J.J. Abrams, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker stars Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Kelly Marie Tran, Joonas Suotamo, Billie Lourd, Keri Russell, Matt Smith, Anthony Daniels, Mark Hamill, Billy Dee Williams and Carrie Fisher, with Naomi Ackie and Richard E. Grant. The film arrives on Dec. 20.
KEEP READING: Star Wars: Kylo Ren Doesn't Deserve Redemption