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New Rise Of Skywalker Images Tease Important Connection Between Rey And Kylo

It looks like the epic conclusion of the Skywalker Saga is going to hinge heavily on Rey and Kylo Ren... and the connection between them.

The latest issue of Empire magazine was released with a series of variant covers which teases that the pair will cross paths, and lightsabers, early and often in Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker.

Rey and Kylo have a famously... complicated relationship, which is perhaps why there seems to be an enormous subset of fans that want to see them together by the end of Rise of Skywalker. When these images were tweeted by the official Star Wars Twitter account, 90% of the responses simply read, "REYLO!", and while we admit that they make a nice-looking couple, their relationship would probably develop more quickly if they stopped trying to kill each other.

At any rate, the first two variant covers offer a nice bit of foreshadowing for those who had any doubt as to whether the pair would fire up their lightsabers and throw down during the conclusion of the sequel trilogy. Here's the first one, featuring Kylo sporting the helmet which he has lovingly pieced back together:

Here's the second, featuring a grimly determined Rey in the heat of battle:

And, just in case it wasn't clear what the artists were going for here, check out the two covers combined:

So very, very tricky. A third variant cover features the pair, lightsabers ablaze, striking poses — Rey looking as if she's ready to defend the Resistance from the forces of the First Order, and Kylo simply looking as if he's up to no good:

There were also some interesting images to found within Empire's story, the first of which suggests that Reylo (sorry, it's tough not to get on board with that) won't be joining forces for any epic takedowns of old, wizened, really weird-looking Supreme Leaders like they did in Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. Here, we see the pair in a crazy Force duel for control of a lightsaber; it looks like there are some deceased dudes littering the immediate area, so it's pretty obvious that something major has gone down here. 

Here, we have Kylo and a bunch of First Order Stormtroopers seemingly getting blown back by a burst of blue energy. What in the heck could be emitting this energy? The image gives us no clues, but while Kylo seems to be making headway against it, the Stormtroopers are having a bad day.

Finally, here's one of our closest looks yet at the uniforms of the Knights of Ren, the mysterious squad of Force users who are loyal to Kylo (at least, that's what their name implies), and will apparently figure heavily into Rise of Skywalker's story. Their helmets are very Kylo-esque, which we suppose was to be expected, and it looks like they favor blaster rifles over lightsabers.

These are all amazing and provocative new images, and the best part about them is that they don't spoil anything. Whatever the intense connection between Rey and Kylo might be, it's being kept mysterious; we're guessing that whatever it is, it has to do specifically with Emperor Palpatine, who is going to play a major role in the events of Rise of Skywalker. 

All of the fans trying to ship Rey and Kylo seem to be hanging their hats on the possibility that Kylo could be a double agent, and that he's actually been operating with the intention of bringing balance to the Force this entire time. That's a fascinating possibility, but somehow — particularly given all of the mystery that has swirled around Rey's parentage since her introduction in Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens we have a feeling that it's slightly more likely that these two are related. Yep, they're probably brother and sister, and somewhere out there, there will be fans who were seriously freaked out over the reveal that Luke and Leia were siblings who are about to have the same squirm-inducing trick pulled on them again.

Of course, this is all merely conjecture, which we've been indulging in for months; after Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker is released, we and nearly every other fan on the planet are going to have to get our heads around the fact that we know what happens in the movie now, and we can stop compulsively guessing at its plot. Fortunately, we don't have long to wait: the flick finally hits the big screen on December 20.