Rogue One is a story about family; on the surface, it seems to be more the story of a father and daughter, Galen and Jyn. It is the story of a broken relationship, of a failed hero, of forgiveness, and strife. Under the surface, and thanks in part to James Luceno’s Catalyst, we can find another family story: that of Jyn and Lyra. Though Lyra dies at the very beginning of the film, echoes of her reverberate throughout the story.
The primary lens through which Jyn sees the world is through that of a prison. Not hard to imagine, after all she was born in a prison on Vallt. Even her life on Coruscant was, as her mother described it, more compulsory than by choice. After Krennic comes to Lah’mu, taking Galen and killing Lyra, Jyn is forced to hide in a cave. This becomes Jyn’s defining reality for everything that happens later, including her capture on Corulag and her release on Wobani. Even her “rescuers” don’t seem to stay for very long: Krennic becomes overbearing, directly threatening her mother; her mother dies and she hates Galen for going with Krennic; Saw abandons her in the field; and now the Alliance simply wants to use her as a means of getting Galen to the senate. It’s easy to see how being taken forcibly from Wobani (despite the levity K-2 provides), almost coerced into a mission to find Galen, and promised a vague premise of freedom after the mission, would sound less and less desirable (and even comparable to what Krennic offered the Ersos before).
This is where we hear the first echo of Lyra in the film. When Lyra was brought to Coruscant with Galen, she was quick to make her hesitations about working for the Empire known. In order to remove Lyra from Coruscant, Krennic arranges an expedition for her so that she might get out of Galen’s mind and let him continue to work. She takes up the expedition, more for Galen’s sake than for her own. She told Galen how she felt, and she had the opportunity to say something to Has Obitt and Nari Sable as they discover the damage done to legacy worlds. Only seeing the vast damage that the Empire has caused to worlds earmarked for environmental protection could make a neutralist in the Clone Wars into a staunch opponent of the new regime. Lyra is so outspoken about the damage that she attracts the negative attention of Director Krennic, who blatantly threatens her and Jyn.
Unfortunately for Jyn, she does not have the same outlet for expressing her dissatisfaction with the Alliance. While she is quick to speak out, she does not find a listening ear like Lyra had with Has and Nari. Even though she accepts her position in Operation Fracture, she does not do it for anybody else except herself. She only hopes to have another potential confrontation with Saw and a chance at meeting her father, whom she currently hates. When Lyra saw the destruction caused by the Empire on legacy worlds, she denounced the movement entirely. Jyn has an eerily similar experience in the Alliance: she is devastated to see how an Alliance raid has killed her father, and she is entirely dissatisfied with how High Command handles her information on how to move forward in destroying the Death Star.
This is where we might hear a second echo of Lyra. Where Jyn sees an Alliance that refuses to help her, Lyra is similarly left empty-handed by the governing body on Coruscant. Rather than sitting passively, letting the Empire take over the galaxy while manipulating her husband, Lyra moves to make Galen see the truth of the damage that the Empire is causing. She arranges an extraction, thanks to the help of Has and Saw, which manages to get the family out of harm’s way (for now).
Jyn can no longer be passive, either. Despite the rejection she faces at the hands of the Alliance High Council, she decides to go to Scarif on her own terms and capture the data from the Citadel data center. This may be where some members of the Alliance change her opinion of the Rebellion. Before, she saw Cassian as just as bad as a stormtrooper. Now, when she is ready to risk it all, she sees that they are truly with her. No longer is she just the girl who can arrange a meeting with Saw: she is now a Rebel, and part of their fight and family. Where the Empire refused to call the Ersos family, the Alliance has taken Jyn in gradually, but completely by the end of the Battle of Scarif.
This is where we might hear the third, and loudest, echo of Lyra. On Lah’mu, when Krennic finally finds the Ersos, Galen steps up to face Krennic head on. Urging Jyn to run, and trust the Force, Lyra returns to make a final stand for her family. Where she expected to meet cowardice, she meets steely resolve, and a blaster. Her death motivates Galen to work a design flaw into the Death Star – his revenge for what Krennic did to the Ersos.
Jyn, surrounded by family, trusting in the Force and in her father, finds the Death Star plans. As her team falls around her, she is forced to come face to face with Krennic on her own. Rather than backing down, she makes her final stand in the name of her family. She beams up the Death Star plans, ultimately not knowing if her mission was successful or not. Though she is killed by the Death Star, her death motivates the Alliance to cripple the Empire, initiating its descent into destruction.
Though Lyra is written out of the movie fairly early, her larger role in Catalyst helps us see Lyra for a much longer time in Rogue One, thanks to Jyn. Though the theme is not prominent, the mother/daughter relationship subtlely informs and fills out the story of the film, and the character of Jyn.