(Warning - the following contains moderate SPOILERS for Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, as well as one of its prequel novels. Proceed with whatever level of caution that suggests to you is wise...)
Now, with Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens set to break Avatar's domestic Box Office record any second now, it's rapidly becoming apparent that we all love it with a fiery burning passion unquenchable by minor plot holes or nearby cynicism. It is, as it turns out, pretty much as good as we all so desperately hoped, and well on its way to grabbing a permanent spot in the hearts of millions.
And one of the biggest reasons for that?
Everybody Really, Really Loved That One Stormtrooper With the Stun Baton
Specifically, that one, better known to the Internet at large as TR-8R, thanks to his now beloved catchphrase, shouted at Finn during the First Order's assault on Maz Kanata's cantina: "traitor!"
Why, though, did TRey (as he shall henceforth be known) have such a passionate hatred of Finn's treachery? After all, the rest of his Stormtrooper comrades remained more or less relaxed about the whole thing, with even Finn's one-time commanding officer Captain Phasma proving more snarky than personally wounded.
Was TRey just a really passionate Stormtrooper, or was there something else lying behind his cold, baton-wielding exterior?
Well, as it turns out:
TR-8R and Finn Were Almost Certainly Close Friends
The reason? Well, for that, we have to take a look at Greg Rucka's recently released — and very much official canon — Force Awakens prequel novella, Before the Awakening. In it, we see our three main heroes (Rey, Finn and Poe) before the action starts, and learn a little more about their respective back-stories.
And as it turns out, Finn grew up as the leader of a four-man Stormtrooper fire-team, consisting of him (FN-2187), and three others: FN-2199, FN-2000 and FN-2003. Now, Finn's comrades all had nicknames, with Nines and Zero acquiring theirs from the final number in their numerical designation, and Slips acquiring his because he was frequently slipping up. The reason that's so important? Finn didn't have a nickname.
As he was told by a seasoned veteran at one point, Finn is very much...
"An outsider. You're on the outside, and you'll always be looking in and wondering why you don't belong."
Now, that's partly the result of Finn being particularly gifted (he evidently scored in the top 1% on his exams, as well as proving an accomplished tactician and weapons expert), but also the by-product of what Captain Phasma labelled his one major flaw: a "dangerous level of empathy," which led him to care more about his teammates than the success of any given mission. By the end of the novella, Finn has in fact been explicitly told by Phasma to stop coddling the endlessly slipping-up Slips, whose inadequacies he's been covering for.
Why Does All That Matter, Though?
Well, remember that Stormtrooper that Finn sees be killed at the very beginning of The Force Awakens? The one who leaves the then FN-2187's helmet smeared with blood?
Well, as Susana Polo over at Polygon has pointed out, that's probably Slips. After all, it would surely have taken a major event to break Finn's lifetime of Stormtrooper conditioning, and taking part in a massacre didn't seem to phase a single one of his fellow 'troopers.
If he'd just watched the young man he'd spent a lifetime protecting be killed — all because he followed orders and didn't watch out for him — though? Well, that suddenly seems like exactly the sort of thing that would cause an empathetic guy like Finn to rebel his way into all of our hearts.
But How Does That Relate to TR-8R, Though?
Well, remember the other two members of Finn's fire-team, Nines and Zero?
One of them is almost certainly TR-8R. After all, they would not only have been likely candidates to pursue Finn — likely knowing him better than anyone else alive — but they may well have just lost one of their closest friends in combat, only to watch their leader desert them for the rebellion they had been raised to hate.
They would have motive (Finn's personal betrayal), means (having grown up with him, they would recognize his face) and opportunity (they would have made obvious pursuers), making them the most obvious candidates for TR-8R's true identity.
Which, a) makes the 'trooper's final battle with Finn super-poignant, and b) means that even if TR-8R is in fact dead (at the hands of Han Solo), there's likely still a final — now deeply, deeply pissed off — member of Finn's original four-man team hanging around, ready to pursue him in Episode VIII. A sidekick for Captain Phasma, perhaps?
What do you think, though?