The 5 biggest Star Wars: Rogue One plot theories (and whether they're any good or not)

Star Wars: Rogue One looms imminent like a huge, shadowy not-a-moon, releasing next week on December 16 (and a day earlier in the UK). And, being an entirely new kind of Star Wars film – one that stands alone as a side-story, rather than being part of an ongoing trilogy – it rather puts us in uncharted territory and with that in mind, fan theories abound. Who are Rogue One’s new characters, and how do they fit into the stories we already know, if at all? What are their motivations, and how will their roles play out? Being this close to the movie, and thus stuffed with as much rumour, speculation, and trailer fuel as we’re likely to get, I figured it was time to dig out the most prevalent theories and give them a good dose of dissection and appraisal. So I have. 

Jyn is Rey's mother 

Welcome to 'They Have Similar Accents And Look a Bit Similar' theory #1. There will be more of these. 

This one is actually pretty decent, and sets up some nice, thematic parallels and narrative mirrors that fit in neatly with the way that Star Wars does things. The gist is that Rogue One protagonist Jyn Erso is Rey’s mother, a non-Force-sensitive – or Force-latent – warrior who raises a Force-capable daughter and then leaves her on a backwater desert planet to protect her from the Imperial heat she has wrought upon the both of them. A rework of Luke’s story, basically, but one that swaps the blonde, male, American-sounding Skywalker line for a brunette, female, English-accented one. Parallel but opposite. Sequential but cyclical. Nice. 

Okay, so the evidence pretty much consists only of Jyn and Rey looking and sounding fairly similar, but in terms of narrative justification of a distinctly Star Wars style, it’s strong. Of course, this one is likely to be confirmed or quashed in 2017’s Star Wars 8 rather than Rogue One, but RO’s timing does give it tantalising scope as a set-up for a main series reveal. And despite Mads Mikkelsen being confirmed as Jyn’s father, Jyn’s own lack of Force-readiness means that, if anything, my ‘Obi-Wan is Rey’s granddad’ theory has even more weight. And I really like that theory. 

Jyn's father is responsible for the creation (and destruction) of the Death Star

Things we know about Mad Mikkelsen’s Galen: 

1. He’s Jyn’s father, but they haven’t seen each other for a good number of years.

2. It was his coded (Imperial) message that tipped off the Rebellion about the Death Star’s existence.

3. He’s a brilliant scientist/engineer/cosmic tinkerer who invented something "so fantastic that it might have changed the universe".

4. According to the Rogue One prequel novel, Catalyst, his research into enhanced power supplies - using the lightsaber-fuelling Kyber crystals - attracted the attention of both the Rebellion and the Empire, the latter eventually seducing him with a fat, seemingly benevolent development grant. But eventually he left.  

5. He has cheekbones that could cut through space-time, which may have led to the advent of Star Wars’ warp drive. 

But we could speculate a few more interesting possibilities, given the information we have at hand. Such as, if his technology is powering the Death Star, as seems pretty clear by now, and he still is "not a bad guy", as Mikkelsen attests, could that coded message have been sent intentionally, as a way of making amends, rather than truly intercepted?  

And heck, if we’re going all the way through with this one, there's a huge, glaring possibility that's just too exciting to ignore. Assuming he was heavily involved in the architecture of the space station, might a certain particularly pesky exhaust port have been Galen’s way of adding the equivalent of a video game boss’ big red flashing bit to the Death Star, to make sure the Rebels had an easy(ish) way of taking it down, once he realised the full, horrific magnitude of what he was involved with? 

That would be a brilliant twist, a glorious, crowning moment of Fuck You for Mikkelsen's put-upon character, and would finally, finally make sense of one of the most iconic but objectively stupidest bits of Star Wars lore. Because how would the Empire, having the engineering know-how to build a weaponised planet, miss a design flaw like that? 

Jyn's crew are The Force Awakens' Knights of Ren 

It’s easy enough to assume that because the Knights of Ren have Kylo Ren among their number, they’re all pretty young. But there’s no reason at all why this should actually be the case. We know next to nothing about the order. We don’t know where they’re from, how long they’ve been around, or exactly what their purpose is. For all we know, they could have been secretly operating for decades, or awaiting activation, and Kylo could have been a relatively new recruit following his Dark Side turn before The Force Awakens. 

Something we do know though: The Knights of Ren that we’ve seen, both briefly in that Force hallucination sequence in Episode 7, and more clearly in the Force Awakens art book (see above), tally suspiciously closely with the main cast of Rogue One. Like, really, eyebrow-raisingly, suspiciously closely. 

They conform to the same archetypes, weaponry, and overall demeanour across the board. Check out the pics above and below and you’ll see what I mean. Gunner with big (possibly sniper) rifle? Check. Armourer/engineer character, covered in pockets full of weapons and supplies, and strapped up with grenades? Oh yes. Well-armoured heavy? We have one of those too. Warrior monk? That syncs up as well. 

Also, consider the line in one Rogue One trailer, spoken by Forest Whitacker's Saw Gerrera: "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?"

He’s ostensibly saying that (off-camera) to Jyn, but it would make for a pretty tasty slice of irony if it ended up applying to the whole group, would it not? A version of this theory cropped up just after Rogue One's first teaser images appeared, but with with the extra detail provided by the art book, it's now looking very, very likely. Or it's the greatest bluff in Star Wars history. Either way, it’s certainly a more plausible interpretation of the significance of Whitacker's line than the idea that…

Jyn becomes Captain Phasma 

This one is tenuous as all hell. As such, it would be perversely cool in its flamboyance if it were to happen. But seriously, guys. Seriously. 

The idea is that Jyn gets captured by the Empire, broken and converted, and is so good at being a militaristic hard-ass – on account of being the hero of (most of) the film - that she eventually rises up the ranks and becomes The Force Awakens’ Captain Phasma. She later survives the fall of the Empire and joins up with the First Order. The logic behind this one seems two-dimensionally thin at the moment, stretching little further than the fact that both Jyn and Phasma have English actresses, mixed with a wildly broad interpretation of Whitaker’s line from the trailer, and the could-go-either-way vibe of Jyn’s morality as depicted so far. 

Still, it might be kind of cool if Rogue One ended with a shot of Jyn donning a Stormtrooper helmet to mirror Anakin’s Vader transformation, right? If we ignore the fact that Gwendoline Christie is around nine feet taller than Felicity Jones, and only four to five years older. 

Yeah, sorry, guys. 

Galen is Lor San Tekka 

Another slightly tenuous, ‘They have similar accents, so…’ theory, but possibly a better one. Possibly. 

The idea is that Lor San Tekka (Max Von Sydow’s rapidly dead character in The Force Awakens) is an older version of Mikkelsen’s Galen. The ‘evidence’? They both have Scandinavian accents (let’s ignore the fact that Von Sydow is Swedish, but now a French citizen, and Mikkelsen is Danish), and are about the right ages in comparison with each other to fit with the roughly 30-year gap between Rogue One and The Force Awakens. Though honestly, if we’re going to keep using accents and ages as an excuse to say that Star Wars characters are related, let’s just make it canon that C-3PO is Rey’s great uncle. 

But is there any actual, character-based evidence for the two being one and the same? Well now that I think about it… Well, no, not really. It’s feasible that Galen might have taken the Obi-Wan route to absolution following Rogue One, assuming he has been working for the Empire. I.e. Change name, camp out on desert planet, quietly help out the good guys while keeping your head down. But we know enough about Lor San Tekka’s history – from Marvel’s Poe Dameron comics – to have a clear picture of a couple of fairly divergent lives. 

LST grew up before the fall of the Republic, and spent the days of the Empire studying and uncovering suppressed Jedi lore in order to help the Light Side hold on and eventually fight back. He was a travelling scholar-cum-Force-consultant, a Jedi-supporting, non-Force-user exploring the galaxy for every bit of insight and knowledge he could use to fight the good fight.

This does not sound like something that Galen will have time to fit around Rogue One. Unless all that travel is the reason he hasn’t seen Jyn in a while. 

But at the same time, nah, probably not.  

David Houghton
Long-time GR+ writer Dave has been gaming with immense dedication ever since he failed dismally at some '80s arcade racer on a childhood day at the seaside (due to being too small to reach the controls without help). These days he's an enigmatic blend of beard-stroking narrative discussion and hard-hitting Psycho Crushers.