We've still got a while until Rogue One is released, but fans are busy getting pumped for the Star Wars anthology film. Leading straight into the original trilogy, Rogue One will provide a bit of backstory for those stolen Imperial plans that Princess Leia sends to Obi Wan at the beginning of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.
Promising to be a gritty war epic, the intrigue of Rogue One nonetheless rests upon our intrepid band of rebels. Lead by the roguish rookie Jyn Erso, this team will face impossible odds as they set off the steal the plans to the Death Star. There's not much we know yet about the supporting characters but there's one that really stands out — Alan Tudyk's droid, known as K-2S0.
Shown briefly in the trailer, the droid has been lumped in with the rest of the rebel crew, but he wasn't always part of the Rebel Alliance.
An Imperial Turncoat
A few weeks ago, a huge Rogue One leak hit the internet, detailing the names of the main characters with little tidbits about their motivations and individual missions. The two that really stand out are Ben Mendelsohn's character (as we suspected, he's a very high-ranking officer, the director of the Imperial military) and Alan Tudyk's droid.
The K2S0 is an "enforcer droid," who was part of the Imperial ranks before he decided to betray his programming and help the rebels instead. Also called a "security droid," it seems as though this model was designed to subdue the people under Imperial rule — a sort of peacekeeper probably intended to alleviate the duties of Stormtroopers.
Considering the violence with which the Empire used to keep its people good and oppressed, it's highly likely the K-2S0 was programmed with some seriously disturbing protocols. So how did this automated Imperial officer come to join the Rebel Alliance instead?
Discovering the mysteries of K-2S0's past will no doubt be an interesting narrative thread throughout the film. Honestly, the questions this raises about artificial intelligence and the agency of droids within the Star Wars universe are really fascinating, and have the potential to change the way we see droids completely.
Not Just Comic Relief
Until this point, the vast majority of the droids in the Star Wars films have been used for comic relief, from R2-D2's lovable indignant beepings and C-3PO's uppity obstinance, to the perpetually idiotic battle droids of the prequels. Star Wars: Rebels started exploring the agency of droids through their brave rebel gonk droid (which could also appear in Rogue One).
On the whole, droids tend to be the plucky little background characters who are played for laughs, although HK-47 from the game Knights of the Old Republic proved that droids could be seriously badass — and terrifying.
Built to be an assassin, HK-47 would frequently fall back on his programming as a justification for the viciousness of his actions.
"I can hardly be blamed for my programming, master. Do not worry — I am still well capable of killing most anything for you."
It seems as though K-2S0 is leading on in a big way from HK-47, but while the droid from Knights of the Old Republic reveled in his violent programming, K-2S0 defied his.
It's great to know that the notions of droid agency — of the boundaries of programming and artificial intelligence's capability to decide for itself — is finally being explored in the Star Wars films. These are themes which have been expanded on in the novels and games (another badass droid to look out for is Mr. Bones from the new canon book Aftermath), but so far the droids of the movies have been cute or funny little machines (for the most part).
With Alan Tudyk's K-2S0 as a badass Imperial turncoat, we're finally going to see some depth to one of Star Wars' most interesting subsets of characters. And personally, I can't wait for some I Robot style robotic existentialism!