Rogue One: A Star Wars Story — Is Galen Erso a Hero or Villain?

By | November 22, 2016

The Rogue One trailers have given us enough clichés and geek-talk topics to keep us busy until the movie’s release in December.  For example, what’s Darth Vader’s role?  Is that a kyber crystal that Jyn has, and if so, is she force sensitive?

But the one question I can’t keep out of my mind is, “Who is Galen Erso?”

rogue one star wars story galen erso

Galen Erso: Hero or Villain?

We of course know he’s Jyn’s father and like many of Mads Mikkelson’s characters, probably a quiet and unwilling participant in something bigger than the simple life he wants.  But is he villain or a hero?  What really is his role in producing the ultimate weapon of mass destruction?

At 1:00 of Story Trailer #2, Jyn Erso says, “If my father built this thing, we must find him”.

First of all, that’s a kid exaggerating her father’s accomplishments.  We know Galen didn’t build this all by himself.  The Geonosians had pretty much designed the entire Death Star at the onset of the Clones Wars 20 some years before the Battle of Yavin.  And at the end of The Revenge of the Sith, Darth Vader, Tarkin and Emperor Palpatine oversee its construction.

rogue one star wars story

Give the bugs some credit

So, even if Galen was “recruited” when Jyn was still a child, the Death Star had already been considerably built by the time Galen was needed.

Was Galen working with the Geonosians?  I doubt it.  Are the filmmakers rewriting history and diminishing the work of the Geonosians (or more precisely, diminishing the work of George Lucas in Episodes 1, 2 and 3)?  That, unfortunately, might be the case here.  Some parts of the Prequels are difficult to watch without cringing, but the stories, characters and the worlds introduced in them are still fascinating.  The Disney films cannot completely erase what’s part of the official canon, but it would be very disappointing if they choose to ignore almost everything in the first three episodes.  I would also include the animated Clone Wars series, as well, which is also part of the canon.

And is Galen a hero of villain?

Many Nazis may have disagreed with what was happening during World War 2, but they were still Nazis.  Galen may be forced to work to save his family but he’s still helping to produce a weapon that ultimately leads to genocide (the destruction of an entire planet, Alderaan).

rogue one star wars story

Galen Erso’s legacy: the genocide of an entire planet’s inhabitants

It could be that he added the vulnerability to the Death Star’s plans – one that allowed Luke Skywalker to destroy it in the Battle of Yavin with a single shot.  That certainly makes sense since it always amazed me that the Empire would overlook such a weakness, especially since they’ve been working on the Death Star for over 20 years.

But I really hope that is not the case.  Because doing so would give Galen, a minor character overall, too much acclaim, and diminish Luke and the Force’s power and impact in their improbable victory over the Empire.

So, my hope is that Galen is a loving father enslaved to work for the Empire, and nothing more than that.

Leave a Reply