Being an ongoing series wherein CSW host and presenter Brian holds forth on news of the day, idle thoughts, and such like.
From a Certain Point of View
No One is the Villain of Their Own Story
I want you to imagine a story with me. Imagine a Star Wars story, if you will? A band of Rebels is facing off against the Empire, as they do. But this mission has a particular poignancy. One of the Imperial agents they are seeking is a former Rebel intelligence officer. And they want to recover him.
Why did he turn traitor? What could turn him against the Rebel Alliance and serve the Empire? Well, dear reader, in this story we’re imagining, he wasn’t a traitor. He was kidnapped. He was captured. And he was tortured, and brainwashed, and forced to believe things he never would have believed about his former allies. He was not just convinced, he was forcibly convinced. And in the course of his service to the Empire, he has killed dozens of Rebels. Including one he formerly served alongside, and knew personally: his brother. And he killed his brother without a thought; with his bare hands, and purely to gain information.
Imagine the horror this would be for the captured Rebel? What process did he undergo to have his brain so damaged? What did it feel like to him, as his memories were stripped and his beliefs subverted until not only did he no longer wish to fight the Empire, he loved it? How did he scream as he was forced to hate those he loved, kill those he served and served with? Or could he even scream? Was he even allowed to?
Brainwashed is one word for it. But another word would be “reprogrammed.” Because, of course, I’m describing exactly what happened to K2-SO prior to the events of Rogue One.
We don’t see how it happens, but we’re told that it happened. K2 was stolen and reprogrammed. He had previously been a loyal Imperial droid. He has memory of it. He knows what he used to do for the Empire and largely he still does it for the Alliance. He’s an enforcer and a strategist. Not that his opinions are much listened to, but he knows who he was. I wonder how he feels about that, don’t you? He clearly loves Cassian, and gives his life for Cassian and Jyn to achieve their mission goal. But that love was forced upon him. Inserted into him. It’s unearned, and perhaps undeserved. We see Cassian tell Jyn that he has done things he’s not proud of. I wonder if reprogramming K2 is one of them? Did K2 beg him not to, as the new programming was downloading? Did K2 sing “Daisy” while his mind was being overwritten?
Imagine the horror of an audience learning that a cruel and brilliant Imperial strategist was a brainwashed former Rebel who had been forced artificially into that role? Rescuing him would be the first priority: so awful for him to be forced to hate what he had loved, love what he had hated, and kill those to whom he once was loyal.
Kenobi tells us that truth can be seen a number of ways, a long time ago and far far away. And we see that continue on even to this day, where K2-SO is a beloved fan favourite character (thanks largely to his vocal portrayal), and we are never given pause in the film to consider how he got there.
No one is the villain of his own story. K2-SO was, until he was kidnapped, a loyal Imperial worker. He was forced to feel differently. I wonder how it felt for him to be forced into that.
Thanks for reading this episode of Imperial Dispatch. Brian Karasek can be found discussing Star Wars on channelstarwars.com, both YouTube and Podcasts. Find us on iTunes and subscribe on YouTube!