PSA: Reylo and Three Act Structure
“Johnson says that The Last Jedi offers “no one-to-one equivalent of the Han-to-Leia, burning, unrequited love. In our story, that’s not a centerpiece.”
- Vanity Fair, May 2017
No worries. This is Act Two (Ahch-To, if you will) of a story being told in three parts. We’re not going to see Kylo and Rey setting up housekeeping in The Last Jedi - that wouldn’t make any sense within the structure of the story. Perhaps because we in the Reylo Fandom have spent so much time living with and dreaming about these characters, we tend to forget how far they still have to go in their respective journeys.
Once it finally arrives, we’ll be mining TLJ just as we did TFA. We already know that we’ll be meeting a more human Kylo Ren for whom patricide isn’t really working out as he’d hoped, that Rey’s meeting with her hero isn’t going to go quite as expected, and that Luke Skywalker’s views on the Jedi have turned in what appears to be a pretty dark direction. We left TFA with the Resistance in tatters and on the run, and there’s no reason to think it’s going to get better for any of these characters in the upcoming film; in fact, I expect a writer/director of Rian Johnson’s talent to leave us in agony at the end of The Last Jedi. I was a young teen when Empire came out, and if Johnson doesn’t deliver at least that same level of excruciating having to wait-to-find-out-what-happens-next that I experienced back then, I’ll be disappointed.
1 CONFLICT / 2 CRISIS / 3 RESOLUTION
In short: We are approaching ACT TWO. It’s going to get worse before it gets better.
That doesn’t mean Reylo isn’t endgame. It just means it’s a sloooow burn - and we all know slow burns are the best. It’s worth noting what Reylo could look like within the universe of the film. It’s entirely possible that the blossoming of a full, canon relationship between Rey and Ben could be expressed in the final frames of Episode IX by something as small as these two characters turning towards each other, joining hands, or making freighted eye contact.
Will the storytellers give us romantic Reylo on screen by the end of IX? I hope so. We’ll see. For such a long wait, I’d love to see that payoff for two lonely characters who are seeking belonging and family. In the meantime - well, I think Ao3 is at 3,000 Reylo titles and counting.
You all don’t need me lecturing on the power of storytelling. Keep the faith. All will be well.
tl;dr: If you want ammo for ant battles (though seriously, just have a block party, it saves time and aggravation) feel free to make use of this explanation of three-act structure, pulled straight from Wikipedia:
Three Act Structure:
The first act is usually used for exposition, to establish the main characters, their relationships and the world they live in. Later in the first act, a dynamic, on-screen incident occurs that confronts the main character (the protagonist), whose attempts to deal with this incident lead to a second and more dramatic situation, known as the first turning point, which (a) signals the end of the first act, (b) ensures life will never be the same again for the protagonist and © raises a dramatic question that will be answered in the climax of the film. The dramatic question should be framed in terms of the protagonist’s call to action, (Will X recover the diamond? Will Y get the girl? Will Z capture the killer?). This is known as the inciting incident, or catalyst. As an example, the inciting incident in the 1972 film The Godfather is when Vito Corleone is attacked, which occurs approximately 40 minutes into the film.
The second act, also referred to as “rising action”, typically depicts the protagonist’s attempt to resolve the problem initiated by the first turning point, only to find him- or herself in ever worsening situations. Part of the reason protagonists seem unable to resolve their problems is because they do not yet have the skills to deal with the forces of antagonism that confront them. They must not only learn new skills but arrive at a higher sense of awareness of who they are and what they are capable of, in order to deal with their predicament, which in turn changes who they are. This is referred to as character development or a character arc. This cannot be achieved alone and they are usually aided and abetted by mentors and co-protagonists.
The third act features the resolution of the story and its subplots. The climax is the scene or sequence in which the main tensions of the story are brought to their most intense point and the dramatic question answered, leaving the protagonist and other characters with a new sense of who they really are.