Rey’s origins might be the biggest mystery in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, but Finn is almost as much of a blank slate. When we first met John Boyega’s character in The Force Awakens he was “FN-2187,” a stormtrooper on the run from the First Order, and that’s pretty much all we ever learned about him. Now, it turns out Episode IX will fill in the blanks of Finn’s traumatic past, though fans of the video game Star Wars: Battlefront II may already know most of the sordid details.
Possible spoilers for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker below.
In an interview published Monday by Vanity Fair, director J.J. Abrams confirmed that The Rise of Skywalker will explore, to some extent, Finn’s backstory.
“It is part of the story of this one,” Abrams said. “And it was alluded to in Episode VII, but there’s a bit more light shed on that in this one.”
So, by the time, the Skywalker saga ends with The Rise of Skywalker, we’ll get some definitive answers about how Finn was forced into the First Order. If you’d rather not wait, though, many of these answers can also be found in an expansion for Star Wars: Battlefront II that provided more details about the First Order’s “Project Resurrection” and how it factors into Emperor Palpatine’s plans.
All we really know about Finn from Episode VII is that he was abducted as a child and has no memory of his parents or his home. These sparse details were given in an early conversation between Captain Phasma and General Hux shortly after Finn defects with Poe Dameron.
Phasma and Hux note “no prior signs of non-comformity” and that this is his “first offense.” On the holo-screens in front of them, we can see FN-2187 as an infant, implying that he was very young when first conscripted into the First Order’s stormtrooper program. Finn was born in 11 ABY (two years after the events of The Mandalorian/), which means the First Order was already abducting children for their stormtrooper program by 12 or 13 ABY.
Rather than seeing this as proof that the First Order has been around for decades, it’s more accurate to say this was probably Palpatine’s intention for the future of the Galactic Empire — and his plans were set in motion long before his death.
The “Resurrection” DLC for Star Wars: Battlefront II takes place in 34 ABY, and it features an older version of the game’s protagonist, Iden Versio, investigating the disappearance of her husband Del Meeko. With the help of her daughter, Iden uncovers a vast conspiracy about about the covert Project Resurrection being conducted by Jinata Security (J-Sec). Led by an Aqualish named Gleb, J-Sec kidnapped children from Pillio, Athulla, and other outlying planetary systems and forced them into service as stormtroopers.
This was part of a much larger plan to expand the First Order’s military power, and while it’s never explicitly stated that Finn was a part of this, it’s pretty obvious:
Finn was abducted by J-Sec.
We also know from Battlefront II that J-Sec operated as law enforcement on the planet Vardos during the Empire’s reign. So it’s possible that they began abducting children far sooner.
Early in the game’s main campaign, Iden Versio is still on the Empire’s side. Her final mission before defecting to the Rebellion — given to her by Palpatine posthumously via a creepy droid — is to find and protect Gleb in the months following the Battle of Endor in Return of the Jedi.
Why was Gleb so important to the Emperor? Because Palpatine knew all along that whatever remained of the Empire following his death would need more soldiers, and he knew that Gleb was crucial to recruiting them. Palps may not have planned the First Order specifically, but it would seem that the First Order did follow through this particular part of the Emperor’s Contingency.
The in-universe art book called Star Wars Propaganda: A History of Persuasive Art in the Galaxy reveals that even though clones could be manually programmed for unconditional loyalty, the Empire (or rather, the Emperor himself) discovered that a more malleable soldier could be produced by indoctrinating the very young and manipulating them with fervent patriotism (essentially the equivalent of brainwashing the Nazi youth with propaganda). The comic Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith 16 includes details that the Kamino cloning facilities were shut down years before the original trilogy. So this particular part of his plan might even predate the original trilogy.
Every stormtrooper in the new era was abducted around 20 years prior to the events of the current trilogy. That’s years before the First Order was officially founded in the shadows of the Outer Rim. Project Resurrection was most likely coordinated by surviving Imperial officers who eventually helped to found the First Order.
By re-examining Finn’s backstory, The Rise of Skywalker could give us a fresh look into the origins of the First Order’s stormtrooper army. And with the Emperor making a comeback, don’t be surprised if the history of FN-2187 and Palpatine himself are closely intertwined.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker will be released in theaters December 20, 2019.