The first time Ryle and Lily meet, Ryle seems too good to be true. He’s an attractive neurosurgeon who wants to skip idle chit-chat in favor of deep conversations. However, the cracks in his flawless façade begin to show early on. Ryle illustrates he is both passionate and quick-tempered when he repeatedly kicks a patio chair. He shows he’s dedicated to his profession—and that he’s darkly affected by his own past—when he shares that he lost a child in the hospital to a gunshot wound. He exhibits obsessive tendencies when he knocks on 29 doors to beg Lily for sex, and he shows that he is willing to transgress Lily’s boundaries when he picks her up against her will during a party and physically carries her to his bedroom. This early behavior, often framed as charming by Lily, foreshadows his later violent behavior. 

The closer he and Lily get, the more he vacillates between two extremes. His first mode consists of violent, jealous, possessive outbursts in which he briefly blacks out in fits of rage that leave Lily bleeding and heartbroken. His second mode is overly demonstrative expressions of love, ranging from intense declarations to grandiose gifts to impulsive wedding proposals. Though Lily is devoted to him, Ryle drives her away, not just with violence, but with his increasingly dark obsession with her relationship with Atlas. Where Atlas is patient, calm, and slow, Ryle is intense, demanding, and chaotic, creating a destabilizing world for Lily as she struggles to free herself from the kind of violence she saw growing up. His actions end up creating the reality he most fears: Lily ends up with Atlas, and Ryle realizes too late that his violence and jealousy have destroyed any chance he has to be with Lily.