Not Politics: Why Rose Tico Should Have Been a Really Cool Character in The Last Jedi

Let’s get a few things straight right now about the much maligned Rose Tico. The character was boring. She added very little to The Last Jedi, and her memorable moments were few. Now, this has nothing to do with the acting. Kelly Marie Tran’s performance was solid, and her character's chemistry with Finn worked very well. The toxic fandom backlash against the actress was at best misplaced and at worst racist. The weakness in Rose had nothing to do with Tran and everything to do with a really bad script. 

Kelly Marie Tran as Rose Tico in The Last Jedi.
Picture credit: By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use,
Now, a really well-balanced article would spell out why we believed Rose was such a lackluster character. To that we say, “watch the movie.” Come on. “This is how we win?” The nonsense she has to say shreds the story narrative to advance the plot in such disjointed ways that we’re not going to go through that here for fear of spiking our blood pressure and stroking out. Let’s just get to the huge missed opportunity that would have made Rose a much more compelling character.

Who was Rose? She was one of two sisters who volunteered to join the Resistance to fight the First Order (thank you, Wookieepedia). Rose was a maintenance person, but her sister Paige was featured in one of the more memorable scenes in The Last Jedi. As we recounted in the last Not Politics article, at the start of the film, Poe was earnestly orchestrating the destruction of the Resistance (you read that right…go read the article). His gambit to destroy a Dreadnaught looked to be about to end in disaster when, through the heroic actions of Paige, the last Resistance bomber successfully throat-punched the First Order before being destroyed. Paige sacrificed her life to complete the mission.

Now, as we argued in the previous Not Politics, the attack on the Dreadnaught was not only criminal, it was of questionable strategic value. After all, General Leia herself wasn’t interested in the opportunity and she’s not only in command but has made a career of saving the galaxy. So what exactly did Paige die for? Fighting tyranny? Or for Poe's ego?

In the movie, the impact of Paige’s death was boiled down to this: Rose sniffling about it when we first are introduced to her, and maybe a comment or two later in the film (honestly, we didn’t want to watch the whole thing again to find specific references). But what should have happened was Rose learning that her sister died in an ill-thought out attack by none other than hero of the Resistance Poe Dameron. Suddenly, we have an interesting character dynamic that is way better than what TLJ sort of tried to establish with that 30 minute mindless detour through Space Vegas (actually called the casino city of Canto Bight, but Space Vegas is more fun to say). There, we get introduced to class warfare for the first time in the Star Wars universe, where Rose opines about the wealthy bleeding the poor and fueling war by selling weapons and yada yada yada. It was tacked on, boring, and forgotten as soon as they left Space Vegas (because what happened in Space Vegas stayed in Space Vegas).

But had Rose known the circumstances that led to her sister’s death, then she might have either questioned the Resistance itself, or at a minimum questioned the capabilities and intentions of Poe, who was, throughout TLJ, doing the same thing to Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo. Where should she put her allegiance? She could have even, with some additional development, had a light/dark side internal conflict as she grappled with anger at Poe and her devotion to the Resistance. All the ingredients were in the movie to make Rose a compelling character. But the writers decided that killing Luke and making him suckle at the teat of blue milk space cows was more pressing.

Ah well.


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