Today we wrap up the last of our posts in our Rogue One series, looking at one of the most adored characters in the movie: the tactical droid, K2SO. Over the weeks of February we've been looking at the theme of trust throughout the series, and it is fitting that we should end with K2, as he both initiates the discussion of the topic in the movie, and ends the discussion for us in his final minutes in the movie.
And just because we live in the 21st Century, if you haven't guessed by now, spoilers below.
1. K2SO: Reprogrammed to Aid the Alliance
K2 is first introduced to us as the faithful droid who knocks Jyn down as she attempts to escape rescue (yes, if you haven't seen the movie, you won't understand, but that's not a typo). His first line in the movie sets the tone for the character: he's witty, sarcastic, and just a tad bit snooty (which is exactly what we love about Rebel droids in Star Wars, be it C-3PO, R2D2, or Chopper from Star Wars Rebels).
Played by the amazing Alan Tudyk, they could not have picked a better (or more veteran) actor for K2. The same mind that brought us Sunny from I, Robot, Tudyk brings us yet another memorable droid performance in Rogue One. An Imperial tactical droid that was reprogrammed to work for the Alliance, K2 provides tactical insight (often humorous and at least a touch sarcastic) throughout the movie.
And a lot of them, interestingly enough, build on this idea of trust. When the company first lands on Jedha to find Saw Gerrera, K2 is encouraged to stay with the ship. He notes that he will be of use - tactics are his trade, and since this is an Imperial installment he will blend right in. But the party leaves him behind. So he does what we perhaps did not expect, but totally makes sense in hindsight: he ends up coming anyway.
And later we learn why (in a different context): "Cassian said I had to." This is a critical element of the movie: K2 sees Cassian as his master (not unlike C-3PO with Luke), and does as he is instructed (even if the danger level is high. Very high). That is to say, there is an element of trust there, but his relationship with Cassian is guided by instruction, not will. They do not trust each other as equals (as compared to, say, Chirrut and Baze as we saw in a past post).
Compare this to Jyn...
2. Reprogramming During the Movie
As the party leaves for Jedha, K2 asks, "Why does she get a blaster and I don't," an understandable question from a tactical droid. Cassian asks her to surrender the blaster, and, as you'll recall from our past post, she refuses to surrender it, simply saying, "Trust works both ways."
And as the story unfolds, we begin to see K2 and Jyn begin to trust each other. He runs a hilarious con against the stormtroopers on Jedha in an attempt to get Jyn and Cassian out of custody. He volunteers information on the sniper setting for Cassian's rifle when he heads up the ride on Eadu, giving Jyn the information she needs to confront Cassian after the attack (which also sets the stage for the beginning of Jyn and Cassian trusting each other).
He also sees how Jyn's father, Gaelan Erso, trusts her to complete his work by destroying the Death Star (which we discussed last week), and how Jyn is willing to risk everything to secure his legacy as a friend of the Rebellion.
But perhaps the pinnacle is found in K2 accessing the Scarif facility plans from a fellow tactical droid (psych! You thought I was going to say the death scene! Don't worry: that comes up later). The image of K2 accessing the data bank of a fellow tactical droid (that he incapacitated) by opening its head and accessing its data port is gripping: K2 is now, without a doubt, part of the Rebellion. We can tell he's not extremely proud of doing this, but he's willing to do it because he believes in the mission.
By this act he is able to plot a course that will give them minimal incursions with Imperial forces, leading them to the data vault. As Jyn and Cassian enter the vault, we get perhaps the greatest moments for K2 in the movie (which is saying something, because in many ways his actions and dialogue steal the show). K2 not only helps them access the files in the vault from the exterior console, but also holds off three squadrons of stormtroopers, ultimately sealing them inside to protect them from harm.
Before they enter, though, Jyn turns to K2 and offers him a blaster, because "you'll need this." The tie-back, of course, to the departure from Yavin is not lost on the audience, nor is it lost on K2, who simply replies that her actions continue to surprise him - a telling praise from a tactical droid. Trust has been established - and, as we learn within seven minutes, trust that was stronger than a desire for self-preservation.
3. Adventurers Should Act More Like K2
With his dying act K2 seals Jyn and Cassian in the vault, ending his life with a simple word to Cassian: "Goodbye." It's a powerful scene - he is the first of the Rebels at Scarif to meet his fate, and no one in the theater wanted to see it happen. But it's an integral event in the story: trust to the point of death.
And K2SO's trust is not blind: before he dies, he finds the file titled, "Stardust," proof that the trust that Jyn had in her father was not misplaced. He sees two young rogues who have had trust issues working together for a common cause, not abandoning the other in a time of crisis. He is the one throughout the movie who initiates a lot of the discussion of trust, and he is not disappointed in the end.
And if there is something I've noticed that is paralyzing (if not toxic) to a roleplay group (or any group of human beings, for that matter) it's a lack of trust. The team comes together in Rogue One because of trust, and it's what makes it possible for the mission to succeed. Had K2 sought self-preservation, the Rebels would have failed. He was willing to help the party, even to the point of personal harm.
What would happen if more roleplay groups acted like this? What if members of the party were willing to put aside personal gain and comfort and instead trust that serving a party member is a worthwhile investment? How many adventurers can honestly say that they are willing to suffer harm (be that harm in income, personal injury, or passing up personal glory) so that the rest of the team can be successful? Not many that I've seen.
And this is one of the reasons why we don't have amazing stories nowadays, because if a story lacks sacrifice - especially sacrifice with no reward beyond the flourishing of another person - the story will feel hollow. Sacrifice proves that we love someone, and without it a story will always feel like it is missing something integral to the human soul.
A Final Word on Trust
Without trust there is no reason to sacrifice in a meaningful way. And sacrifice rooted in trust results in yet another critical theme in the movie: hope. It does not shock us that Rogue One uses both themes, for they are closely related (and that "Hope" is the last line of the movie - literally its final note). Hope isn't something you need to tell adventurers to have: everyone will have it as soon as they are promised something big at the end of a campaign.
But trust is: it can be hard to build trust in a roleplay group, so at the start of the campaign (or as the campaign progresses, if you're already in the middle of a campaign) you should talk with the group about ways to build trust among your party members. This will take effort on everyone's part, but it will help you make faster decisions as a group (avoiding the paralysis that hurts your game experience), give you a reason to stick with the party when the going gets tough, and craft better stories.
Next week as we head into March we'll have something new for you - a few "tactical videos" on the Zurn system, as well as some footage from our beta tester sessions which are finishing post-production editing, so we're excited to bring those to you! Posting will be less frequent in March (as we'll be on the road for two of the four weeks teaching at conferences), but we're hoping to bring you content in the interim to hold you over until April as we start preparing for our May Kickstarter for the Search for Borgon Campaign.