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Star Wars Rogue One: Who is Galen Erso?

Updated on December 30, 2016

Galen Erso: Rogue One Poster

Rogue One: Galen Erso Poster
Rogue One: Galen Erso Poster | Source

Galen Erso: A Summary

The Erso family last appeared in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, an animated TV series. Galen Erso is the living member of the old Erso family, with his wife Lyra and daughter Jyn. Galen also appears on the Star Wars novel, Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel.

Galen Erso is not a new character to the Star Wars series when he is introduced in Rogue One. In addition to the TV series, he also appears in Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel. He was a very powerful person in the inter-galactic universe, an asset to both Light and Dark sides. He's responsible for the design of the Death Star, and in fact can be considered as the man who single-handedly brings the Death Star online, by incorporating Kyber crystals for the laser beam. Therefore, he's the reason that Darth Vader is able to blow up the planet Alderaan and ultimately destroy Princess Leia's life as she knows it, in the 'A New Hope' film.

In Rogue One the film, Galen Erso is played by Mads Mikkelsen. He is considered by some as the guiltiest man in the Star Wars universe, because his research is the reason that an entire universe is subjected to the reign of the Empire, under the threat of the Death Star's power of mass destruction.

Galen Erso from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Mads Mikkelsen as Galen Erso
Mads Mikkelsen as Galen Erso | Source

Education and Alliance

Although he was born in poverty, he was a man of extreme intelligence. His intelligence was first recognized by his mother. He was the son of a merchant and a pre-school teacher. Despite growing up in a poor environment his mother tried to save as much as she could so her son could acquire a good education and make himself a man of great potential. Galen acquired the education of crystallography. He is in fact the man who discovered the great potential of Kyber crystal for fuelling planets all across the galaxy.

Galen Erso did not want to play any part in the war between the Rebel Alliance and Empire, but was unfortunately forced in to working for the latter. The Empire knew of Galen Erso's knowledge of Kyber crystals, and tried to recruit him. He eventually began working for the Empire on the design and construction of the Death Star. Throughout his working for the Empire, he maintained a true, good spirit. This was shown in a number of scenes in Rogue One, and it was clear that his main, and perhaps only priority, was his family.

The Galen Erso we see on screen is clearly down-beat in most scenes. He struggles to live with what he has created, and is obviously heavily burdened by the fact he was a huge help in creating the Death Star. His true allegiance is shown when Jyn Erso and Saw Gerrera finally view the message he entrusted to Bodhi, the defected Imperial Pilot. Finally, after years of not taking a side in the ware, being a pacifist, he has realised that although what he has created has terrible potential, he can still do some good. He redeems himself in Rogue One, showing his allegiance for the Rebel Alliance (and his daughter Jyn) and it is great to see.

Galen Erso before coming face to face with Director Orson Krennic
Galen Erso before coming face to face with Director Orson Krennic | Source

Friends or Enemies?

Orson Krennic and Galen Erso
Orson Krennic and Galen Erso | Source

Galen Erso and Orson Krennic

In Rogue One, it appears that Krennic and Galen Erso are familiar with each other. And upon closer research, this is certainly the case.

During his years studying and gaining an education, he befriended Orson Krennic, who eventually is put in charge of overseeing the construction of the Death Star (and is the main villain in Rogue One). Some time after Krennic leaving education to join the military, he meets Galen Erso once again, offering him a position as a scientist with the Empire, working on the Death Star.

Naivety or Workaholic?

Galen is shown to be rather naive (or perhaps stubborn). He works on the Death Star project willingly it would seem. His wife, Lyra, believes something sinister is going on and that the project's true aim has not been disclosed to Galen. Although he listens to her, he does not heed her warnings. His love for science and research is too strong, and he continues with his work.

The question here is this: Does Galen believe Lyra, but keep working nevertheless? Or is Galen naive to the idea that his project has sinister intentions? If the latter is the case, then he really is an innocent. However it is hard to believe that he did not have at least the slightest idea that there were perhaps dark undertones to his work for the Empire.

Who is Glen Erso? A Video Summary

Galen Erso and Saw Gerrera

Galen Erso clearly trusts Saw Gerrera, as he leaves Jyn under his care when he is taken to continue his work on the Death Star.

Upon finding out that the Death Star is not in fact being used to restore power to planets (as he was initially told), and that it actually being turned in to a highly destructive weapon, he contacts Saw Gerrera. Saw Gerrera helps Galen flee the Empire before they can use his knowledge to fully create this weapon. With Saw's help, Galen takes his wife and daughter to a remote farm.

Unfortunately, Orson Krennic finally finds Galen. This is where the Rogue One film kicks off. Lyra is killed by Krennic's Troopers and Jyn goes in to hiding once again. Some time later, she is found by Saw Gerrera. Although it is not overtly said on screen, it is clear from Lyra's questions to Jyn that this has been planned for a while. When asked whether she knows where to go / what to do, Jyn responds with an affirmation. It's clear to us that Lyra and Galen have trained Jyn for when such a situation arises.

Galen returns to work with the Empire, knowing that if he refused, the project would be taken up by someone else. He knows now that he is the only one capable of ensuring the Death Star has some vulnerability. He makes it his secret mission to create a weakness deep within the Death Star, and to somehow get word to his trusted rebel friend, Saw Gerrera, that the Empire can be defeated.

A Case of Redemption

Do you think Galen Erso redeemed himself by ensuring the Death Star has a weakness?

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Galen and Jyn Erso

Jyn and Galen Erso
Jyn and Galen Erso | Source

Galen's Role

Galen does not have a huge role in the film, and appears in only a number of scenes. Nevertheless, his role is well-defined when he sends the message to Saw, showing his real allegiance to the Rebel Alliance, and also showing his true intentions when he returned to work on the Death Start at the beginning of the film. Galen is an essential part of Rogue One, and also of the rebellion. By creating a flaw in the Death Star, Galen is able to create 'A New Hope' for the Rebel Alliance. In summary, he represents redemption and hope.

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