How far would you go to save the lives of your family? The latest addition to the Star Wars universe, Rogue One, answers this question with an extreme response through the actions of Galen Erso: Force your family into hiding, place a fatal flaw in the plans to the Death Star and risk your life for the daughter you haven’t seen in 15 years. Is this one step too far, or a reasonable amount of steps in the right direction?
Let’s look at the Erso family in general. They were a small, solitary family living on the planet Lah’mu, and by the looks of things haven’t really had much contact with other people outside of their family in a while. So, the three of them would have grown pretty close during their time living on Lah’mu, most likely more so than your usual family of three, and even more so due to the circumstances they’re in; those circumstances being hiding from the Galactic Empire because Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) is required to help build a new superweapon. Unlucky.
Considering this, it isn’t really that much of a shock that the Ersos aren’t too fond of the idea of leaving each other behind – Lyra Erso (Valene Kane) goes back after escaping from the threat of Director Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) in an attempt to kill him and save her husband. Does this go to plan? No. Was there ever much chance of this going to plan? Probably not, no. Lyra went on a suicide mission to save her husband from being taken by the Empire, even though it went against Galen’s wishes for her to hide with their daughter. That’s a very special kind of dedication.
Furthermore, Galen was always willing to leave with the Empire to ensure the safety of his wife and child. But, doing this meant he would have to be a part of the creation of the Death Star, a weapon capable of destroying entire planets, and therefore making genocide an easy task for the Empire – to an extent, wouldn’t this imply that there’s an element of selfishness to Galen’s actions? Yes, he was saving the lives of two highly significant people in his own life, but wouldn’t him helping create the Death Star just lead to even more blood on his hands?
We know that Galen doesn’t intend for this to happen because of the trap he places in the plans for the Death Star in order to help the rebels defeat it; however, this still raises a few questions:
- 1) Did Galen plan this from the very beginning, when he told his wife and daughter to go into hiding, or only decide upon it halfway through the creation of the plans?
- 2) What if the Rebel Alliance had either never found out about the trap, or Jyn Erso had not been in a position to do something about it?
The Alliance see Galen as the selfish man trying to save himself and his family with a disregard for safety of others, hence why they intend for Captain Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) to kill him, and is probably part of the reason why they struggle to believe Jyn (Felicity Jones) that the flaw in the Death Star actually exists. The only reason why the plans become of use to the Alliance is because of Jyn’s loyalty and trust in her father; without this, no one would have bothered to side with her and go on the mission to find the plans and transmit them.
The fact that Jyn still feels connected to her father after 15 years of not seeing him is an astounding thing. It shows that she’s still extremely grateful for the risk her father took in leaving her, which is confirmed in her reaction to the hologram message she sees of him, and her determination to prevent her father from being assassinated. The reunion of the father and daughter at the time of Galen’s death is arguably the most powerful moment of the film, as we each character’s actions has been motivated by the other throughout the course of the story.
After Galen’s death, Jyn then has to take her father’s work into her own hands and persuade others to join her in finding the Death Star plans. From here it’s where it becomes clearer that family loyalty runs throughout the Ersos, and is an essential aspect of Rogue One. Without it, the film wouldn’t work. But, it’s also the question of whether or not Jyn is still loyal to her father that drives the plot: how will she react when Cassian assassinates Galen? Will she push for the Alliance to search for the Death Star plans?
We already know that eventually the Alliance do receive the plans, but we don’t really know how they get them, or what Jyn’s motivations for sending them will be in the end. We gradually learn that Jyn and Galen’s moral compasses have the same priorities: family first, then everyone else. In the context of Rogue One, is this really the best way for them to complete their actions, or is that too selfish?
Galen obviously isn’t a terrible person. However, in risking his life to protect his family, he also risked the lives of many people who were enemies of the Empire. In playing a part of the construction of the Death Star, there was always the possibility that his plan for the Alliance to find the flaw within it wouldn’t have worked, which we come dangerously close to when they refuse to embark upon the mission to infiltrate Empire headquarters. In wanting the best for his family, Galen almost became the reason for one of the Empire’s greatest successes – the Death Star. As a result, the subject of family loyalty is the most important part of this Star Wars story, but it was almost one of its biggest failures.