This post contains spoilers for Rogue One. Proceed with caution!
Are they, or aren’t they? A lot has already been written about whether Rogue One’s Chirrut Imwe and Baze Malbus qualify as the Star Wars universe’s first official gay couple. Given that heterosexual romance didn’t get much traction in the film either, who’s to say, right? But what I know for damn sure is that Chirrut and Baze are love—a great, sweeping, epic love that is both the stuff of romance novels and that of your parents bickering at each other across the dinner table.
It’s a dynamic we’ve seen already in the Star Wars franchise—from Han Solo and Princess Leia to C-3PO and R2-D2 (that’s a shipper manifesto for another time). It’s a partnership that transcends everything else, the constant that gets you through in the trenches. And Donnie Yen’s Force-devout Chirrut and Jiang Wen’s gruff mercenary Baze are already a rock-solid team when viewers meet them on the desert planet of Jedha. They’re the last remnants of the Guardians of the Whills—followers of the Force but not actual Jedis. Chirrut is still a believer, and Baze has become a cynic, more trusting of his gun than what Han Solo would call “simple tricks and nonsense.” But our very first glimpse of him is as Chirrut’s backup, behind him, protective and suspicious when heroine Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) approaches them. Chirrut later notes that Baze used to be the most devoted Guardian of them all...and it’s clear that, now, he’s a devoted Guardian to just one person.
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Though they quickly join up with rebel spies Jyn and Cassian (Diego Luna), Baze and Chirrut remain a unit unto themselves, fighting in concert with one another and with Baze always protecting Chirrut. Not because he’s blind but because he sees with his heart and constantly follows it. Chirrut is impulsive, irreverent, a dreamer. Baze is his touchstone, his rock. At one point, when Chirrut recklessly plunges into the rain-soaked night in pursuit of their pals, Baze grumpily wishes him luck. “I don't need luck, I have you!” Chirrut calls back to him. And, sure enough, Baze goes after him! It’s such a simple and honest gesture of commitment, of kinship, so very “whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge.” And, honestly, given that the Force is very much about spirituality and the Jedi are basically written as samurai-monks, it’s no wonder the Biblical reference fits.
And that brings me to perhaps the most poignant aspect of Chirrut and Baze’s connection―Chirrut’s constant mantra of “I am one with the Force, the Force is with me.” When the film’s battle sequences come to a grisly head, with our stalwart band of Rebels all falling under the Empire’s brutal boot, Rogue One makes sure that Baze and Chirrut’s deaths are connected in the most painful and emotional way, with Chirrut dying in his anguished partner’s arms, whispering, “Look for the Force and you will always find me.” Gutted, Baze takes up Chirrut’s mantra as he dives in for one last skirmish. And when he, too, is cut down, he looks to Chirrut one last time. They lived together. They die together. Because Chirrut is one with Baze, too. Baze is with him, too.
If that’s not an official love story, I don’t know what is—and I know I walked away from two viewings of Rogue One mourning these two men, their passion, and their sacrifice. Look for the Force, and you’ll always find them.
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Mala Bhattacharjee is a longtime pop culture writer and the former News Editor of Soap Opera Weekly magazine. She also writes contemporary romance as Suleikha Snyder. She loves romance, genre TV and movies, Bollywood and single-malt scotch. Follow her on Twitter @badnecklace.