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Defining Moments: Cassian Steps Forward

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The Rebel operative lets go of his past to make a heroic choice.

“Defining Moments” is a continuing series exploring key scenes or sequences from Lucasfilm’s many productions. It examines storytelling craft, behind-the-scenes insights, and cultural legacies from each selection. Revisit an old favorite or discover something brand new…

Production: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

War and rebellion bring out the best and the worst in people. The ambiguities that most of us neglect in day-to-day life are forced into the open. Each and every day, an operative like Cassian Andor is faced with new decisions that place survival and the greater cause at odds with honesty, trust, and principle.

Cassian’s final transgression comes in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Having “rescued” sometime rebel Jyn Erso from an Imperial labor camp, Cassian and his droid, K-2SO, bring her to a secret base on Yavin IV where she is interrogated by their commanders. Erso is the key to an important lead involving a fearsome superweapon, the Death Star, and her father, Galen Erso, who secretly designed a critical weakness inside it. Convinced to join Cassian on a mission to locate her father, she is unaware of her new partner’s secret assignment.

Following a trail of clues to a remote Imperial facility, Cassian breaks off alone. Unbeknownst to Jyn and their group, his orders are to kill Galen Erso, who is wrongly suspected of helping orchestrate the Empire’s deadly plans. As Jyn attempts to reunite with her father, Cassian lines him up in his gunsights, only to abandon the task at the final moment, shaken by the prospect of committing yet another murder and hurting someone he’s come to respect. Tragedy strikes when Rebel fighters attack the base, leaving Galen dead, and a heartbroken Jyn embittered and resentful of Cassian’s seeming betrayal.

In a heated exchange following their escape, each attempts to justify their position. “We don’t all have the luxury of deciding where and when we want to care about something,” a defensive Cassian tells Jyn. “Suddenly the Rebellion is real for you. Some of us live it. I’ve been in this fight since I was six years old. You’re not the only one who lost everything. Some of us just decided to do something about it.” As the latest victim of Cassian’s duplicity, Jyn resoundingly tells him, “You can’t talk your way around this,” to which the other stingingly replies, “I don’t have to.”

Returning to Yavin IV, Jyn makes a heroic appeal to Rebel leaders in hopes they might follow her father’s clue to uncover a weakness in the Death Star. But with reason for doubt and plenty to fear, the majority denies her plea. At her lowest point, seemingly without hope, Jyn is ready to give up. She then sees Cassian and a small group of soldiers emerge.

“They were never going to believe you,” Cassian says bluntly. “I appreciate the support,” Jyn responds sarcastically, perhaps suspecting the operative has come to gloat.

I do. I believe you. We’d like to volunteer,” Cassian says as the group behind looks on. “Some of us, most of us—we’ve all done terrible things on behalf of the Rebellion. Spies, saboteurs, assassins. Everything I did, I did for the Rebellion. And every time I walked away from something I wanted to forget, I told myself it was for a cause that I believed in, a cause that was worth it. Without that, we’re lost. Everything we’ve done would’ve been for nothing. I couldn’t face myself if I gave up now. None of us could.”

Cassian’s appeal forms his last partnership with Jyn, one that results in both their ultimate success and sacrifice. “I’m not used to people sticking around after things go bad,” Jyn tells him. “Welcome home,” Cassian replies with a smile.

In Star Wars: A New Hope (1977), Luke Skywalker is remiss when Han Solo chooses not to accompany the Rebel mission to destroy the Death Star. “Take care of yourself, Han,” he says. “I guess it’s what your best at isn’t it?” Solo faces an internal conflict between his need for self-preservation and desire to help his friends. Although he abandons them at first, he ultimately makes the choice to go back and help Luke. Like Cassian’s appeal to Jyn, it’s a decision to find redemption in the cause and reconciliation with a friend. We may never be able to erase past mistakes, but we can find peace by doing the right thing in the present.

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