Welcome back to the Zurn blog! For the past few weeks we have been studying the development of trust as a theme in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and today we will look at two of my favorite characters from the new movie: Galen Erso and Bodhi Rook.
Before jumping into the personal studies, I'll note in passing that I almost started with these two, as they get little screen time in the movie and change the least over the course of the movie. And this makes sense, as they both start as people who are 1) willing to trust, and 2) acting based on hope from the get-go. But looking back on it, I'm glad I put them off until later in the series, as they build on themes we discussed in our earlier posts.
And as a quick note, spoilers. Just in case we need to declare that.
I. Galen Erso: The Man Who Cannot Lie
I have referred to Rogue One as the Star Wars Magnificent Seven, and some have asked me, "How can you have a Magnificent Seven movie with only six members of the Rogue unit?" Simple: one of them predates the others, and that member is Gaelan Erso.
While he is not young and spry, running around Scarif stealing the plans for the Death Star, Galen is an integral member of the team, laying a trap for the Empire in their greatest weapon, and sending Bodhi the pilot on his daring mission to find Jyn Erso.
And he is the first person in the movie to demonstrate trust. He trusts that his wife and daughter will hide at the family safehouse, trusts Jyn to implement his plan, and trusts the Rebellion to capitalize on their opportunity. And all of this is set within the context of Galen being a man who cannot lie, as Director Krennic tells us.
Of course, the whole orchestration of the Death Star's demise is based on a ruse: he feigns his grief and submission so that he can be the ultimate rebel, getting deep into the work of the Death Star to insure that his plan will work, making him a fascinating character to study in the area of trust. While he trusts the Rebellion (and particularly his family) with undying devotion (there is some irony in that word choice, I know), he is distrustful - and rightly so, considering his past history - of the Empire and its agents.
And these themes are only further developed by Galen's decision to trust Bodhi with the key message for Saw Gerrera...
II. Bodhi Rook: The Man Who Will Not Lie
Bodhi is the first lead Arabic actor in Star Wars, and he brings to life the Imperial pilot that we know as Bodhi Rook. Not unlike Robert Vaughn's character in the original Magnificent Seven, Bodhi doesn't get as much screen time as some of the other members of the group, but his story as a character is nonetheless compelling and powerful for the theme and purpose of the movie.
Unlike the others, Bodhi starts the movie on "the winning side": as far as he and anyone else can see, the Empire will inevitably win the war. It's only a matter of time before the Rebellion is defeated and peace is restored to the galaxy. And in spite of this, Bodhi's conscience gets in the way.
And it is at this pivotal time that Bodhi meets Galen Erso, and Galen gives him a critical mission: warn Saw Gerrera that the Empire is building a powerful new weapon, and find my daughter to help the Rebellion destroy it. Bodhi gives up everything to pursue this mission: he runs from the Empire, would be treated as a traitor if he is caught, and will be a marked man on the run for the rest of his life.
And when he does switch sides, he finds that not everyone among the rebels will accept him with open arms. He is imprisoned by Saw, put through an intense form of mental torture (which thankfully we are spared as the audience), and yet he still remains convinced: he must get the information to the right hands.
While it irritated me the first time I saw it (mostly because I was like, "Come on, man: tell them what you know so they can alert Jyn!"), I love the scene in the prison cell where Bodhi is rapidly repeating the same line: "I'm the pilot." While definitely a nervous reaction from having his mind broken down, it's also the thing he holds onto: he's the pilot who came to deliver the message. It's become the core of who he is, and his defining attribute.
And we find that this just continues to grow as the movie continues. It's Bodhi that leads the team successfully (and safely, more or less) to the outpost on Eadu, and he is the one that not only gets them past Imperial security above Scarif but allows them to actually transmit the plans to the Rebel fleet in orbit. His faithfulness and willingness in the face of obstacles is his defining characteristic, and he plays it out really well in the limited time he is on-screen. By the time the credits roll we don't doubt anything he does in the movie - it all makes sense.
And that's rare for a character with little screen time.
III. "Trust the Force"
And in a discussion on trust, we could not overlook that oh-so-important line that Mrs. Erso gives to Jyn: "trust the Force." The simple faith that the Ersos demonstrate time and again is pivotal to the movie, and define both them very well. It's telling that the final words of both the Ersos are to Director Krennic, telling him that the Empire will never win, even though they are facing certain death in the moment. That kind of trust - a trust based on what one cannot see - is what all of the characters develop during the movie, and the Ersos show it mature and grown, setting the bar for the younger characters.
Bodhi is a strange case: he has this trust already built at a younger age, trusting that the Rebels can actually destroy a super weapon that can destroy a planet, get the plans out of a high-security installation, and then bring the world freedom. He's vastly more developed in trust than Jyn or Cassian, and as we'll see next week he's further along than the other Imperial turncoat in the squad.
And this is an important lesson for adventurers to consider: if you build a character who is ahead of their age in maturity, you will find that they are able to embrace bigger problems. Trust is key in a roleplay party, as party members are expecting you to have their back, will trust you to level with them 100% (especially if you're the designated social character), and this allows you to work on other components of team cohesion that are built on trust. So while it's fun to play a loner character, or the "strong and silent type" that never talks things out with others, or a Chaotic Neutral character who goes where the wind blows, you'll find that this means you'll struggle with the fundamentals at every. Single. Session. And that can be frustrating.
Instead, consider building a character closer to Galen and Bodhi: someone that has learned how to trust - even if they don't know the people they are with, and even if that trust may mean relying on an ending they cannot see from where they are, because it will allow you to delve into deeper discussions with your group (not to mention save you and your GM a lot of headaches). You'll thank me someday.
Next week we will end our series by looking at one of the most popular characters from Rogue One: K2S0 the tactical droid. And this is fitting: he has more than enough material to talk about on this subject, and serves as a catalyst for the formation of the other characters in a way that I am just now beginning to understand. But more on that next week.