There was a disturbing trend that started around the release of Rogue One with major entertainment journalists writing about how Jyn Erso’s character was left on the cutting room floor or how she lacked personality or wasn’t as strong of a character as Rey and blah and blah and blah. I didn’t understand that then and now that the film has been out for over a month now, that kind of chatter seems to be the new norm amongst a certain percentage of fans out there. Not only do I not like that icky way of thinking, I would even argue that Jyn Erso is not only a complex and fascinating character, she is one of THE MOST important characters in Star Wars history.
Let me explain:
When we first meet Jyn, she is a young girl watching her family literally torn apart as The King of Bad Luck Orson Krennic takes away her father and Deathtroopers kill her mother. She is later rescued by Rebel guerrilla fighter Saw Gerrera and I’m sure has a fun time living in stinky caves being taught to fight until she’s 16 and Saw ditches her in cave with only a knife, loaded blaster and a pack of gum. So here we have a person who looks at the Empire and the Alliance with equal disdain and distrust. Her whole life has her being an afterthought in this giant galactic civil war and every move she’s made has been wrapped around these two sides fighting. Because of this confusion and heartache, Jyn has turned herself off to all the political activity of her time. She travels around the galaxy with an alias. She has left her old life behind and would rather now just be nobody and blend in with the crowd looking out for only herself. Awoken in an Imperial prison by water dripping on her face, she stares longingly at the Kyber Crystal necklace given to her by her mother. “Trust the Force”, she said. Surely, at that moment she does not have much faith in that ancient religion, but then as we know “the force moves in mysterious ways…”
Things change once her father befriends an Imperial cargo pilot named Bodhi with the hope that maybe his message of how to destroy the Empire’s destroyer of worlds will get to Saw and just maybe his daughter is still there with him. Within his extremely important message of hope for the galaxy is also a personal message to his daughter if she is still alive. Completing her father’s mission becomes Jyn’s personal quest and she will do it with or without the Rebel Alliance. Her quest of mentally getting back home and repairing the damage done to her family is greater than any of the back and forth of the Empire or the Alliance. During her passionate speech to the Alliance council, you can see the looks on Mon Mothma and Bail Organa’s faces. Her fire is exactly what the stagnant, fragmented Alliance needs at that moment. After they tell her that a mission to Scarif can’t happen, what does she do? Against the odds, she goes anyways. This is the kind of David vs Goliath attitude that the Rebellion was founded on but had become lost under rules and battling opinions. Mon Mothma’s smile when she is told that Raddus is commanding an attack fleet to Scarif to protect Jyn’s team says it all.
Let’s look at Jyn Erso while she is stealing the Death Star plans. Over and over again, it becomes clear for her that there is no getting off Scarif alive in this mission. Even when Cassian is knocked out, Jyn “No Retreat, No Surrender” Erso keeps climbing and shoves herself through a death trap heat vent hole thing. Finally confronted on that catwalk by Krennic, Jyn wastes no time reminding him and herself who she is what she is fighting for. She still may not care for either side of the war that explodes in the sky around her, but she does care about her family that loved her and for what’s the right to do.
Had Jyn not begged the uptight Alliance to listen to her and then go off and rebel on her own, the Empire would eventually find Yavin and destroy it. Ben Kenobi & Yoda would grow old alone in their huts on far away planets, Leia Organa would likely be captured and terminated on the Death Star, and the last Jedi would sit on the moisture farm looking up at the sky and wondering what else is out there for him. With her compassion and ability to never quit the fight, Jyn Erso not only lights the fire of the Rebel Alliance, she plants the seed that ends up saving the entire galaxy and brings about the return of Jedi.
The history books in the Star Wars universe may not have a chapter on the brave Jyn Erso and her unbelievably heroic actions but us viewers of these Journals of the Whills have Rogue One to see just how things went down. The only one who would live to tell the story of Jyn and the daring crew of the Rogue One would be likely Mon Mothma. I would love a story or comic one day as she tells of a passionate criminal daughter of an Imperial scientist who inspired the very spirit of the Alliance that carried forward. Mothma would likely tell the young eager soldiers of the Alliance or the New Republic that everything they have is because of a woman she met once who was named Jyn Erso. People may think that Mothma is just telling a story to inspire others, but we know the truth that often some of the greatest heroes are not the ones who get the medals.