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Rogue One’s Galen Erso: A look at the film’s most important character

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He’s vital to everything that happens

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is introducing fans to a slate of new characters, from reluctant hero Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) to the Empire’s creepy Director Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn). Many of these characters are still shrouded in secrecy, including Mads Mikkelsen’s Galen Erso.

Disclaimer: These are assumptions being made based on previous information revealed and the trailers Lucasfilm has released.

Although we know the basics of Galen Erso’s character, there are still quite a few questions that people have about his role in the Empire and Rebellion’s battle over the creation of the Death Star. For example, we know that he’s a brilliant scientist and the father of Jyn Erso. We know that he’ll mostly appear in flashbacks, thanks to comments made earlier this year by Mikkelsen at Star Wars Celebration, and we know that both the Empire and the Rebellion want him on their side. Despite this, we still don’t know who Galen Erso is.

The first real introduction we got to Galen Erso was in Catalyst: A Rogue One novel, written by James Luceno. Before the book was released, publisher Del Ray released a synopsis of what readers could expect that detailed Galen Erso’s role in the fight between good and evil. According to the publisher, Erso is “an old friend of Krennic’s” and “could be the key” to unlocking the Death Star’s true potential. Erso has been described as the “galactic version ofJ. Robert Oppenheimer” with enough “Doomsday knowledge” to make him an incredibly valuable asset to both armies.

Before Galen Erso’s character was deconstructed, there were rumors that Mikkelsen’s character would be a villain because of his commitment to working on the Death Star. Now, it seems more likely that the oldest Erso was forced into helping Krennic and the Empire, but the revelation that he was friends with the new Director of the Empire is interesting to note. Again, it’s important to remember that most of Erso’s role in the film will be seen through flashbacks, and based on the importance of his friendship with Krennic, these may not be exclusively through Jyn’s memories, either.

The synopsis continues:

Galen’s energy-focused research has captured the attention of both Krennic and his foes, making the scientist a crucial pawn in the galactic conflict. But after Krennic rescues Galen, his wife, Lyra, and their young daughter, Jyn, from Separatist kidnappers, the Erso family is deeply in Krennic’s debt. Krennic then offers Galen an extraordinary opportunity: to continue of his scientific studies with every resource put utterly at his disposal. While Galen and Lyra believe that his energy research will be used purely in altruistic ways, Krennic has other plans that will finally make the Death Star a reality. Trapped in their benefactor’s tightening grasp, the Ersos must untangle Krennic’s web of deception to save themselves and the galaxy itself.

This gives us our best look yet at the reasons Galen Erso has agreed to help Krennic and more of an insight into the life of the renowned scientist. We know coming into Rogue One that Galen is already aboard the Empire’s ship and helping with the construction of the Death Star, but the synopsis doesn’t mention how Jyn Erso managed to get separated from her parents or why they were the targets of Separatist kidnappers in the first place.

We also know that this is why Jyn Erso was taken in by the Rebellion and brought aboard the team in the first place. There’s reason to believe that until being contacted by the Rebels, Jyn thought her father was dead, and one of the main reasons she agreed to help out the Rebellion with their mission is to save him.

The newest trailer gives us our best look yet at the relationship between Jyn and her estranged father, but there’s still much secrecy surrounding the character. Kiri Hart, a screenwriter and developer on the creative team, told Entertainment Weekly in a previous interview that Lucasfilm was hesitant to release information about Galen Erso because they were worried it would give too much away.

It’s pretty clear that Galen is instrumental to what happens in Rogue One, which leads to a couple of the most important questions about his role in the film: Will he be the one who hands over the secrets of the Death Star to the Rebels? Will he meet up with Jyn once again after years of being apart? Will he make it through the battle or will we be saying goodbye to another Star Wars character?

Unfortunately, it looks like we’ll have to wait for Rogue One to be released to find out the answers to these questions. Today’s trailer is the final one that Lucasfilm is planning to release ahead of the film, and while there are sure to be more TV spots ahead of the premiere, don’t expect Galen Erso to be starring in most of them.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story story hits theaters Dec. 16.