‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’: Was that Reylo Moment Meant to Be Romantic?

Put on your Reylo hats, everyone, but brace for impact.

Going into Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, fans had so many questions. The J.J. Abrams-directed film serves as the final entry in the ongoing Skywalker saga. And as such, it had immense pressure to tie up the loose ends from the previous eight films. Its grand solution? Bringing Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) back as the series’ ultimate Big Bad.

Despite that bit of apparent fan service, The Rise of Skywalker earned the worst critical reception of the saga, in part because of its poor handling of the Palpatine storyline. Now Disney is trying to smooth over its narrative messiness, starting with the novelization. We recently discovered Palpatine was intended to be a clone, a revelation absent from The Rise of Skywalker.

Again courtesy of the novelization, fans have made a shocking discovery regarding a key moment between Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver).

[Spoiler alert: This article contains MAJOR spoilers for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Read at your own risk.]

John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, and J.J. Abrams
John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, and J.J. Abrams | Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images for Walt Disney Studios

‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ rewarded Reylo shippers

After finally connecting with past Jedi, Rey defeats Palpatine — who, by the way, is her grandfather — and gives her life in the process. Only then do we discover Ben Solo — formerly known as Kylo Ren — didn’t fall to his death. Rather, he crawls out and rushes over to Rey, discovering her dead body. In a moment pregnant with purpose, he Force-heals Rey, reviving her.

Then the two grasp hands as fans everywhere lost their minds. Rey and Ben kiss. It’s the scene that divides the Reylo shippers from everyone else. Some moviegoers found the moment a natural culmination of the relationship between the sequel trilogy’s hero and villain. Others thought Abrams shoehorned in something with little to no precedent set for it.

Either way, the emotion was short-lived. After briefly exchanging smiles and rubbing lips with Rey, Ben dies, instantly becoming one with the Force. Despite its brevity, the Reylo kiss felt like validation to some fans that a lingering romantic tension carried out throughout the sequel trilogy. Now Lucasfilm seems intent on sinking the Reylo ship once and for all.

But now the novelization downplays what Rey and Ben’s kiss meant

The Reylo moment feels on-screen like it’s loaded with romantic possibility. The music even swells as the two touch lips. However, the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker novelization by Rae Carson could be attempting to appease those who didn’t take to the surprise kiss. According to leaked photos, here’s how the Reylo kiss reads on the page:

His heart was full as Rey reached for his face, let her fingers linger against his cheek. And then, wonder of wonders, she leaned forward and kissed him. A kiss of gratitude, acknowledgement of their connection, celebration that they’d found each other at last.

But then she drew back, concern on her face. She could feel him growing cold.

Ben smiled at her.

He had given Rey back to the galaxy. It wouldn’t atone for the darkness he’d wrought, but it was what he could do.

To be fair, the backlash over the above passage retconning the kiss as not a romantic gesture may be exaggerated. While Carson calls it a “kiss of gratitude,” this description is wrapped in with a variety of emotions Rey has at that moment. Remember, she’s just processing the fact that she died and has returned. We doubt very much she is thinking clearly. Who’s to say some romantic feelings aren’t caught up in the mix?

Perhaps Disney made the right call in not overly romanticizing the kiss

Viewers, of course, bring their own perspective to whether the Reylo kiss was romantic or not. Yet, despite the uproar from Reylo shippers about the novel’s perceived back-pedaling, maybe Carson made the best choice. The language, after all, doesn’t preclude Reylo from romantic feelings but could merely better contextualize them.

The alternative would have been for Carson to really play up the unrequited love between Rey and Ben. But this wouldn’t have really worked either. In previous movies, Kylo Ren has tortured, gaslighted, and terrorized Rey. So it would be a terrible message in today’s world for them to all of a sudden be ready to move past that to be boyfriend and girlfriend.

As the novel points out, Ben makes a very clear decision to trade his life for Rey’s. In part, this action is an effort to atone for everything he’s done in the name of the Dark Side. But on some level, he does have affection for Rey. That much is clear. And Rey, in turn, probably feels a form of love for Ben, the man buried beneath Kylo Ren.

Because of Ben’s choice, we only get an inkling, a hint of the life they might have shared together under different circumstances. Their journeys end where they are meant to. Ben’s destiny is to sacrifice his life with one final righteous act. And Rey’s is to live on and carry on the Jedi tradition (and, apparently, the Skywalker name). Reylo shippers might not be happy, but Carson’s novel does its very best, given the muddy material it works with.