WARNING: SPOILERS FOR ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY AHEAD.
Before Rogue One: A Star Wars Story came out, the joke was already up and running that people couldn’t wait to go home and watch the sequel, a.k.a. A New Hope. On some level, everyone who set foot into their local theater over the weekend knew things were not going to end well for the members of Rogue One. They team is never mentioned in another film and Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) and Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) certainly don’t show up at the medal ceremony after the Battle of Yavin. Considering Hayden Christensen’s young Anakin was inserted into Return of the Jedi, the idea wasn’t beyond the realm of possibility, but the ending of Rogue One nixed the idea of either character returning in future installments. But there’s one element that leaves the door open for a return: Felicity Jones’ contract with Lucasfilm.
Earlier this week, The Hollywood Reporter reported that Jones was the highest paid actor of the Rogue One cast, a non-story in my opinion as she’s the star and by rights should be the highest paid cast member. But the real surprise was that sources connected to THR said Jones’ contract has the option of one sequel. Yet how can that be if Erso was vaporized in the aftermath of the Death Star’s precise strike on Eadu? Depending on how much Lucasfilm is willing to gamble on fandom’s good will, there are a couple of options. The obvious would be to set Jyn Erso down in a story prior to her run-in with the Alliance. The not-so-obvious would be to utilize the Force to save Jyn from certain death. After the emotional denouement of Rogue One, the latter would feel like cheating, yet the film has an emergency “Jyn lives!” switch built right into the narrative.
But first, let’s assume Jyn Erso did die on that Eadu beach, cradling her not-love-interest Cassian Andor. Audiences are first introduced to her character on the prison world of Wobani at an Imperial labor camp. Forging Imperial documents, possession of stolen property, resisting arrest, and aggravated assault on all on Jyn’s list of crimes as read out by the Alliance. Not exactly small peanuts, as far as rebellion goes. While a memorable line from the trailer — “This is a rebellion isn’t it? I rebel” — was removed and Jyn’s aggressive and undisciplined nature expunged from the final cut, hints to Jyn’s past remain. Why would she forge Imperial documents? Whom did she commit assault? And which of her myriad of crimes landed her on Wobani?
All of these questions could be answered as a subplot within the young Han Solo movie scheduled for release in 2018. The film stars Alden Ehrenreich as young Han, and the ages of both Solo and Erso line up. Jyn’s distaste for both the Empire and the Alliance would lend itself well to a life of smuggling with a scoundrel. And considering how much Lucasfilm hates a coincidence, it is 100% like the company to tie Erso eve more tightly to the original trilogy characters via a run-in with Han Solo. It could even be that scruffy-looking nerf herder’s fault Jyn found herself thrown into Imperial prison. After all, he’s known to drop cargo at the slightest sign of the Empire. Should Disney opt to utilize Felicity Jones’ contractual obligation, this is one of the most straight-forwarded approaches and leaves little room for fan ire.
However, there is another. Option that is. One that would fire up the fandom and divide it in twain because it’s either a cheap cop-out or brilliant bit of foreshadowing. Or both. Probably both. What if Jyn Erso survived? Impossible, you say? Nothing is impossible when you are one with the Force and the Force is with you.
The potential survival of Jyn Erso rests within the necklace given to her by her mother Lyra Erso (Valence Kane) at the beginning of the film. Lyra implores her daughter to “Trust the Force,” a point that is never brought up again. Without going into too much detail, the Rogue One companion novel Catalyst fleshes out Lyra as someone who cannot touch the Force but who still believes in it. An ancient hippie geologist determined to help her husband unlock the secrets of the kyber crystals for the betterment of the galaxy at large. The novel also implies (not for the first time in Star Wars lore) that kyber crystals are sentient and capable of choosing their Jedi companions. The crystal Lyra gifts to Jyn is clear, similar to the healed kyber Ahsoka Tano puts in her lightsabers after rescuing the the crystals from a Sith. Which could be a coincidence but as Lucasfilm has an entire story division, is unlikely. I’m not saying Ahsoka visited the Ersos, I’m merely saying it appears Lyra came into contact with a kyber crystal that has been healed of Sith influence which she then passed on to her daughter.
This significant exchange that never comes up again (unless you count Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen) sensing its presence and thus getting himself and Base Malbus (Jiang Wen) involved with the Alliance. But kyber crystals have an array of powers, not all of them yet explored by Star Wars lore. So it is not outside the realm of possibility that — much like the love of Lily Potter saved her son in the Harry Potter series — Lyra’s good luck charm saved her daughter from certain death.
As insane as that sounds, I’d kind of love this twist. One of my favorite parts from the trailer — the monologue from Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker) — could be reinserted or at least honored. “What will you do when they catch you. What will you do if they break you? If you continue to fight, what will you become?” With massive reshoots leading to a change in Jyn and Saw’s relationship, his questions were never asked. But just looking at Saw showed the toll taken on a lifelong fight as an extremist. More robotic than human, breathing through an apparatus that made him sound akin to Darth Vader, Saw Gerrara knew well the cost of battle and how the horror of war can leave indelible marks of people. Should Jyn survive the destruction of Eadu, it would be very likely she’d be found by the Empire. What would a Jyn Erso who’d been in their tender custody for years look like? Would her body be mostly cybernetic? Would she even remember her former life? How much of Jyn Erso would even remain? In other words, what would she become? (Oh hey, Mara Jade!)