For all that there is to be said about Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’s strengths and shortcomings, one thing it gets absolutely right is character dynamics.
I have to admit that despite being a Star Wars fangirl, prior to this film, I hadn’t delved into the series’ companion materials—outside of hours lost to tumblr and Wookiepedia. Rogue One left me wanting more about these fascinating people and their backstories, and maybe the film being a standalone was the push I needed to go digging. In any case, I’m glad I did.
Did you know that Lyra Erso wore a red sash to signify her belief in the Force? That Bodhi Rook was a gambler? That Cassian Andor was the one who reprogrammed K-2SO? These are just a few minor details that didn’t make it into the film but are scattered throughout the companion novels and visual guide.
I turned to these books, as well as fan-created works, for a little more insight into some of my favorite character relationships in the film. What I found will SHOCK YOU. (Okay, probably not? But it’s all pretty cool.)
Galen Erso and Bodhi Rook
Bodhi Rook is, of course, the pilot. The pilot who brought the message. What message? Galen Erso’s message revealing the fatal flaw he hid in the Death Star. Since we never see them interact in the film, fans can only speculate on the type of relationship Galen and Bodhi had. But the clues point to a powerful friendship.
As Galen developed plans for a weapon that contradicted every one of his personal morals, he likely lived a life of bitter solitude and resentment, all the while taking on a false persona to conceal his plan for revenge. He must have recognized a like mind in Bodhi, who was flying shipments of kyber crystals from his home of Jeha to Galen’s research facility on rainy Eadu. However they went from strangers to friends, Galen must have eventually trusted Bodhi enough to ask him to carry the most important—and risky—message he’d ever sent. Galen also must have been confident that Bodhi would not turn the message in and report him or decide to chunk it in a garbage bin and go on with his life. It’s enough to make me wonder if Galen ever trusted anyone in his years at Eadu as much as he trusted Bodhi.
For his part, Bodhi is incredibly courageous, agreeing to defect from the Empire and carry a message—that he hasn’t even seen!—to the Rebel Alliance via Saw Gerrera (who turns out to be way more paranoid than Galen anticipated). Speaking to Jyn about her father, Bodhi recalls Galen telling him he could “get right by himself”—how could Galen have even known what that meant for Bodhi, unless he knew him well? Later, in Bodhi’s final scene during the battle on Scarif, his last words are, “For you, Galen.” Does that not speak to a powerful friendship (at least)?
In the Rogue One novelization, Bodhi asserts that it was his choice to defect after he learned the truth about Galen’s project. Also in the novelization? Flashbacks included in the scene with Bor Gullet, the weird psychic torture octopus—a scene that comes off as random and disjointed in the film since it offers no further context about Bodhi as a person. The book uses the scene as it should have been, and within a stream of memories, Bodhi recalls Galen offering to tell him the truth about the nature of his work at the facility if he “only asked.” Later, as he aids Cassian in identifying Galen on Eadu, Bodhi explains that he met Galen by chance while waiting in line in the mess hall, which Cassian assumes is a lie, feeling skeptical of Bodhi’s motives. But I’m not sure we have any real reason to think that Bodhi isn’t being truthful, and personally, I’m pretty delighted by the idea of their meet-cute involving lunch trays and boxed space juice.
The single best thing we get out of the novelization about these two, though, is when Bodhi later offers Jyn condolences after Galen’s death. He tells her that he “really liked” Galen, although he humbly disagrees when she suggests that he knew her father better than she did. It makes sense that Galen remained somewhat mysterious to Bodhi—by the time they met, I imagine Galen was someone who had put up thick walls between himself and the world. I want an entire Eadu spin-off NOW, thanks. (Fortunately, it looks like Funko Pop! Vinyls of both characters are on the horizon. Chop chop!)
Baze Malbus and Chirrut Îmwe
Is there any doubt that “I don’t need luck; I have you” will carry on as one of the most memorable lines from Rogue One—and maybe even in Star Wars lore in general? The consensus among fans seems to be that these two are married or in a similar long-term loving partnership… And who could argue? The way they support one another is the type of symbiotic friendship that is at the heart of Star Wars stories, and that I’m always looking for in sci-fi.
In an article for The Daily Dot, Gavia Baker-Whitelaw celebrates the “romantic love story” between these two characters, writing,
Rogue One takes place in a grimy world of pessimism and desperation, starring distrustful characters who are intimately aware of their own mortality. Chirrut and Baze are the ideal pairing to represent this theme, dedicating their lives to protecting the Jedi legacy during the last leg of the Rebellion’s long and arduous journey before A New Hope.
Both native Jedhans and former Guardians of the Whills, Chirrut and Baze easily have the strongest bond of the Rogue One crew. Companion materials reinforce this at every turn—the visual guide calls Chirrut Baze’s “best friend and moral compass,” and notes that each claims to be the guardian of the other. And in the novelization, as Baze watches over Chirrut during the final battle (not long before their tragic ending), we also get this gem, at once both moving and heartbreaking: “Where the Force failed Chirrut, Baze would not.”
SO MANY FEELS. It’s no wonder that the two have already inspired so much beautiful fanart and cute fanfiction. As Baker-Whitelaw notes in the Daily Dot article I mentioned above, “This unlikely partnership is crying out for some kind of tie-in novel or comic, so we can hear more about the circumstances that brought them together.” AMEN.
Saw Gerrera and Lyra Erso
The film only gives us the smallest glimpse of this relationship, when Lyra calls Saw to alert him that Orson Krennic has found her family’s hideaway at the beginning of the movie. From the companion materials, we also know that Lyra was a firm believer in the Force and, later in life, a supporter of the Rebels. Thanks to Catalyst, the novel prequel to Rogue One, we know that the Ersos only met Saw when he helped them escape Coruscant and hide on Lah’mu, a planet he personally selected for them—based on his expertise at avoiding the Empire.
What really intrigues me is that Catalyst also tells us that Saw gives Lyra the means to contact him if her family ever needs help, and he promises to visit them. Since Saw is the first and only person she calls when their hiding place is discovered, I think it stands to reason that the two had been in communication over the years. What’s more, when Saw came for Jyn, he knew exactly where to find (and had the means to unlock) her hiding spot, which makes it pretty clear that Lyra kept him in the know about their “if shit hits the fan” plans. This may be a reach, but I also have to wonder if Saw was aware of Lyra’s plan to attempt to kill Krennic if he came knocking, whereas her actions clearly took her husband by surprise.
Lyra, who should have had more than a few minutes of screen time (ahem), was wise enough to be suspicious of Krennic and the Empire for years before everything came to a head. In addition to her geological study, Lyra was fascinated by the history and philosophies of the Jedi and believed in the power of the Force. It stands to reason that she and Saw had a lot to talk about, given his connection to the Rebels and their shared opposition to the Empire she’d come to loathe. I’d love to know more about these two and how much they learned from each other.
Cassian Andor and K-2SO
Human + droid companionship is quintessential to Star Wars storytelling, and Rogue One delivers tenfold with these two. K-2’s sarcastic banter, fantastic on its own, takes on a new level of intrigue when we learn that it’s a side-effect of his reprogramming. More intriguing still is that Cassian reprogrammed K-2 himself, wiping out the original security protocols and allowing the droid to think for itself with a side of brutal honesty.
An interesting note in the visual guide is that KX-series droids “included built-in exceptions to the usual hard-coded restriction against harming organics,” which sheds new light on the hilarious—and apparently improvised—slap moment and K-2’s apology to Cassian afterward. Even though K-2’s personality is relatively unique for the Star Wars cinematic universe, there’s never any doubt where his loyalties lie. (Shout out to this excellent fanart that imagines a medal ceremony for the Rogue One crew, plus K-2 sporting a new Rebel logo in place of his old Imperial insignia.)
On a bummer note, K-2’s death scene was the point in the film where it started to sink in that I was not getting a happy ending. The funny droid didn’t make it? Everyone is doomed. On an even bigger bummer note, check out the droid’s final thoughts in the novelization:
With one second left until total shutdown, K-2SO chose to mentally simulate an impossible scenario in which Cassian Andor escaped alive. The simulation pleased him.
Pardon me, I’ve been chopping onions.
Orson Krennic and Wilhuff Tarkin
Ah yes, the Death Star Trash Brigade. These two are obviously closer to rivals/frenemies than actual friends, but I would be remiss to exclude them. It’s almost delicious how much Krennic obviously envies and despises Tarkin, especially when he’s such a sleemo himself. Catalyst makes it abundantly clear that Krennic is a Grade-A narcissist who manipulates those around him at every turn for his own benefit. If there were a thought bubble over his head, there would be a picture of himself inside at all times, probably lounging in a gold-plated Death Star suite and wearing a black market Wookie coat. All he wants is to be the Star of Death, man, and the people around him are either speed bumps or assets along the way.
Tarkin doesn’t give an ounce of a shit about what Krennic wants, of course. Like any legit Evil Villain, he’s poised to step in and take full credit just as soon as he knows Krennic didn’t royally fuck anything up. But, okay, let’s talk about that CGI, or more like… CGSigh. In his Rogue One critique for Forbes, Erik Kain points out that a hologram Tarkin would have been so much more believable (and simpler?), and I can’t help but wonder why they didn’t go that direction as well. How great would it have been if Tarkin didn’t even have time to torment Krennic in person?
Still, there’s a lot of poetic justice in their fates: Krennic dies, forgotten, at the hand of his dream weapon, and then Tarkin dies with the Death Star in A New Hope. Boom.
Now, you’re probably wondering: What about Jyn? Listen, I love Jyn Erso, and I love the fact that she overcomes her apathy toward the state of the galaxy and finds the courage to sacrifice herself for the sake of aiding the Rebels and carrying on both her father’s and Saw’s legacy! (Cue deep breath.) However, the Jyn we meet in the film is a loner, so it feels right that she’s never really defined by a relationship with any one character in the film. Instead, she serves as a focal point for the viewer, making connections with multiple characters and bringing them together when it matters most.
I think a lot of Star Wars fans agree that re-watching A New Hope after Rogue One makes the first Star Wars film—and the destruction of the first Death Star—exponentially more powerful than it’s ever been. It is, of course, the courage and sacrifice of the whole Rogue One crew that allows the events of A New Hope to take place. Luke delivering the fatal blow to the Death Star is the legacy of every Rebel on in the battle on Scarif, the Rogue One crew, and Galen Erso. (Oh, look, more incredible fanart.) It’s fitting, then, that the powerful relationships within the movie act as the beating heart of bittersweet success story.