like maybe it’s late and maybe i’m tired but it is truly fucking exhausting, sometimes, to see the way parts of the fandom discuss something as emotionally rich and nuanced and selfish and tragic as TTM. and i could talk about lujanne in that comic, or callum, or rayla, but rayla is the one that people misunderstand the most bc... people are teenagers and Dumb, i suppose??
like, literally every part of rayla’s character led up to her decision at the end. literally every single notable, character defining scene and relationship in her life, particularly with her family.
runaan leaves ethari at home and takes rayla off the mission. rayla sees ethari survive and she is the only one of her troupe to survive, ergo, leaving callum at home and taking him off the mission will ensure his survival. that is, quite literally, a Surface level reading of the text. that’s not even getting into how tdp is about trauma and grief and how ttm just enforces that tenfold.
it’s not even talking about how rayla has been Left so many times she’s developed the obvious coping mechanism of leaving first. that she struggles so hard in believing that other people actually need her. she thinks callum can complete her mission without her (“just keep [the egg] safe” in 1x03, “if i don’t come back, you and ezran can get zym to xadia” in 2x07, “you and ezran should take zym, but i can’t leave” in 3x08) but she doesn’t feel the same way: “because i don’t think i can do it without him.” how their relationship has evolved from rayla realizing she can depend on him to saying it’s okay if he can’t help her because she values him beyond what he can do to her telling him not to come with her because she can’t handle more loss.
how rayla has broken both her word stated in bloodmoon huntress, that she would never kill anyone or leave someone she loved behind, showing that she’s surely already going to rapidly change over the course of the novel. at the end of s3, she fulfils her mission by killing the king of katolis - and simultaneously fails again, just like in 1x01 by sparing marcos, because viren isn’t actually dead, and in her mind, it’s her fault. “you let him live” and “you killed us all” are deeply connected.
that her self loathing issues have been evident since 1x09 (“this is all my fault [...] i let you both down. i let the world done”) which is why 3x04 repeats this almost word for word: “it’s me, and it’s all my fault. i failed them. i let them all down” and how even saving zym, both times, by going nearly off or actually off a cliff wasn’t enough to soothe her core wound. that her self loathing directly feeds into her belief that there’s something fundamentally wrong with her (“i’m sure it would’ve flopped when it was my turn”), that she will always lose people because of it (“i can’t lose you like this”), that the guilt and restlessness she carries around is something she has never been able to entirely put down. that she’s cracked and so far gone that she won’t believe she’s ever Paid the Price enough until she isn’t just already dead, but actually dead. because it’s her fault if viren is alive and if viren is alive he’ll hurt callum, and in her mind, that will be on her. it’s all her fault. of course it’s her responsibility to make it right. (it always is).
that her last words to callum are “just... remember me, okay?” and leaving a letter in TTM because in her mind, her parents forgot her when they left and forgot their duty, because runaan and ethari forgot their love for her when they turned their backs on her, because she is terrified of being left, she is terrified of being forgotten, again, of having another person she loves die and be ruined.
because rayla is working from a fundamentally flawed viewpoint where she moves, and grows, becoming more emotionally open, understanding what she wants to fight for and protect, because she is so much like runaan it hurts (aka exactly where she got her “i bear it so my loved ones don’t have to”) but even amongst all that growth, she’s still trapped in the same cycles. she’s still repeating history.
it’s the way i’ve been waiting for this sort of plot beat since s2 and see the way that 1x02 and TTM perfectly parallel each other with rayla trying to ultimately spare callum’s life, and “i’m sorry. i have to do this. i don’t want to, but i have to,” because when has what she’s wanted - what makes her happy, what keeps her safe - ever truly mattered in a life wrapped up in war and grief? (“it doesn’t matter what happens to me”)
when will she get to choose to Stay and not feel like the floor is going to fall out from under her, again