The latest Star Wars trilogy introduced us to a diverse cast of new heroes and villains and brought back many fan-favorite characters. However, while the trilogy brought us Porgs, Snoke, and the return of several historical characters, the bulk of the story hinged on the relationship between Ben Solo and Rey Skywalker.
Their relationship can best be summed up by looking at the final scene in every movie they’re in together.
Rey and Ben’s strange relationship
Much like the moral grey area that guides the original Star Wars movies, the newest trilogy was about the complicated line between the dark side and light. On the one hand, Rey was an unknown girl from a far-off desert planet who has no footprint on society past her struggle to survive. On the other was Ben Solo, also known as Kylo Ren, whose famous parents Leia and Han Solo were known for saving the empire.
Early on, fans realized that this relationship was going to be vital to the universe’s outcome. While Ben was hellbent on taking over the galaxy and ruling it with an iron fist, we saw the complications that arose inside him early on. By the time the second film came along, Ben had appeared ready to side with Rey and the good guys before revealing that he was still an agent of chaos.
In The Rise of Skywalker, Ben finally lights the light side overtake him. Much like his infamous grandfather, Darth Vader, he ultimately sacrifices his life for what is right and secures his place, not as a villain, but as a complicated anti-hero who finally made the right choice.
Not quite lovers, but not quite friends. They didn’t get much time together, but it was immediately apparent that their connection was more substantial than even that of Luke, Leia, and other prior Jedis.
The moral gray area where Ben operates makes him a compelling villain from the beginning. Whether he was helping Rey take on Snoke or fighting her in a lightsaber battle of their own, it was never easy to hone in on his intentions. While Darth Vader, for all of his faults, showed little room for nuance until finally returning to the light side, Ben never fully committed to his role as a villain.
At the end of all three movies, Ben is seen looking at Rey in ways that convey defeat, jealousy, and a subtle admiration at how she comes through and fights for what is right.
Although we later find out that she’s a Palpatine, as far as he knows, she’s the unknown hero rising that he desires to be. However, right before he dies, he gets to defend her honor and prove that he is just as much a hero.
All three times that the duo shares a final scene together, Ben is left looking at her, first in pain, then in fear, and finally in love. Fans on Reddit discussed this in a recent thread.
Reddit chimes in
Fans on Reddit noticed the way that Ben is always left staring at Rey and took to the website to discuss what these stares mean. User u/street_tacos__ noted that he always looked like he was on “the verge of tears” (per Reddit), although the connotations of those tears might change with every look. Eventually, the argument went toward the Kylo vs. Ben discourse.
Much like Vader and Anakin, Kylo and Ben are two sides of the same person. However, while Vader fully embraced the dark side, Ben continually waffled between them,
“User u/DARTH_LT4 broke it down.
I don’t really get why everyone calls him Ben now? It seems like he was exclusively “Kylo Ren” up until after Rise came out?
I guess I get the whole redemption thing, but he was definitely not redeemed in 2/3 of those scenes so why call him Ben? More so, when talking about the end of Jedi (Return of the Jedi I should say) I’d imagine most would say “Luke burns Vader’s body”, etc – not “Anakin.”
Star Wars is a maze of subtext and fan theories at this point. Whether intentional or not, Ben’s three looks at Rey show a character more complicated than the previous trilogies’ Vader. Here, they saw a glimpse at a man who had gone to the dark side but continuously felt on the verge of leaving it until the end. This is why he looks at Rey serve as a window into his inner thoughts.
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