Do I ship this is, legit, the first question I ask when I see two people who have the amount of chemistry Diego Luna and Felicity Jones do. Sometimes, the answer is no. Most times, however, if chemistry + plot combine, my answer is yes. I’m a sucker for canon ships, what can I say? I’m a writer. I respect the process.
And yet, I walked out of Rogue One not necessarily shipping anything. Maybe it’s because my heart was too heavy for shipping. People had died. A lot of people I loved. All the people I loved.
In fact, the first time I saw the movie (ha, first time, it’s been at least four and counting), I wasn’t even sure I loved it as much as I do now. Because it hurt. And I’m not talking omg they caught me off-guard pain, no. I’m talking I went into this trying not to care because I expected the worst and I still did, so PAIN. And pain clouds your judgment.
The second (and third) re-watch helped my feelings settle. I was already certain of this movie’s importance re: diversity and the presence of a strong female lead before I even re-watched it, but after I did, and I after I consumed the brilliant Rogue One novelization by Alexander Freed, a funny thing happened.
I started shipping.
Now, let’s be clear: I don’t consider shipping a bad thing. I’m not ashamed of watching a movie/a TV show/reading a book, and wanting the characters I’m emotionally attached to, to be happy. I don’t care for the people who want to tell me that just makes me a typical female or whatever other insult they need to come up to justify their narrow thinking. I’m a shipper. I ship things. I’m very comfortable with this label.
I just didn’t ship Cassian and Jynn right away.
Not because it wasn’t there – it was. So much more in the novelization than in the actual movie, because it’s different to read a characters thoughts, but even in the movie, if you’d somehow made it to the elevator scene near the end thinking Jynn and Cassian were platonic partners who had a lot of respect for each other and nothing more – that had to change your mind, right?
Did it change mine? I don’t know that I needed my mind changed. I just know that, on first viewing, the only thing that struck me was the greater tragedy of giving up your life for a cause you believe in. I was into the war, not the romance. Because this is, without a doubt, a war movie.
A war movie in space, yes, but a war movie nonetheless.
In wasn’t until later that I was struck by the smaller-in-scale tragedy of losing a thing you never really had to begin with.
Love. Or, at least, the possibility of it.
All the deaths in Rogue One are different. Baze and Chirrut die together, and though this does not make it any less heartbreaking, there’s a certain satisfaction in going out in the arms of someone you love, in knowing that you’re not going to be alone. Bhodi, a tragic character if I’ve ever known one, dies with the certainty that, for the first time, he’s done something right.
Jynn and Cassian die knowing they could have had it all, like Adele once sang.
No, for real. The tragedy of them holding onto each other as they die is that, yes, Jynn’s father would have been proud, and yes, all of Cassian’s morally ambiguous choices did mean something – and yet, at the same time, despite the fact that, on the outside, they went out in peace, they also feel like the people who lost the most in this heartbreaking ending.
Could Jynn and Cassian have worked? We don’t know. We assume they could have, because movies have been built on the notion of happily ever after for generations, and yet, the saddest part is this – we have no idea.
Maybe, if they survive, they go back to the rebellion only to find that, outside of the heightened euphoria of the war they really have nothing in common. Maybe they irritate each other at every second. Maybe Jynn is too messy and scared of being abandoned. Maybe Cassian is too neat and ashamed of what he’s done to actually try.
Or maybe not. Maybe two broken people can find, in each other, a reason to try.
Either way, we’ll never know. They’ll never know. And though that isn’t the greatest tragedy in Rogue One, or the most important message they were trying to send, the point still stands.
Knowing is always better than not knowing. Certainties are always better than doubts. There’s, perhaps, a greater tragedy in losing something before you ever had a chance to start it than in losing something you already know you had.
So, take this lesson into your life. Tell the people you love that you love them. Hold onto them tight. Tomorrow a Rebellion might break out, and you might find the flicker of possibility ignites when it’s too late to do something. Don’t let the rest of your life be like that. Learn a lesson from Cassian and Jynn, just as you learned one from Baze and Chirrut and Bhodi.
Be your own hero. Fight for what you believe in. And don’t let the chance to kiss that boy or girl slip away from you. You never know if it might come again.