10:52am PT by Graeme McMillan
'Star Wars': BB-8's Evil Twin Represents a Moment of Genius
Forget Phasma, Snoke or even Rose Tico — the Force Friday II rollout has already revealed who the biggest breakout star of December's Star Wars: The Last Jedi is going to be, and it's BB-8 gone bad … Well, almost.
BB-9E, a First Order astromech droid that looks like a particularly goth BB-8 — all-black paint job, with a more severe flat head in comparison to the bubbly BB-8 — has been unveiled by Sphero, the company behind the popular app-controlled BB-8 toy beloved by fans around the release of The Force Awakens in 2015. Although it is, in essence, little more than a repaint of the existing BB-8 — even the body markings are identical, albeit silver instead of BB-8's orange; only the head is different — BB-9E represents a moment of genius in the character creation department.
What is better, after all, than the evil twin trope? It offers fans the chance to see an alternate side to their beloved favorites, without having to taint them with permanent "problematic"-ness; it teases the allure of the "bad boy"/"bad girl" without committing to forever doom the lovable and heroic nature that fans responded to originally, and it can suggest a darker nature to the character themselves through implication — if Evil Twin feels this way, isn't there a chance that there's something in Character X that feels it, too? — without actually having to sacrifice anything noble in the source character themselves. It's a win/win option for fans and creators in offering up a new look for a favorite character, and that's even before you get to the facial hair possibilities.
BB-8 is the ideal character to put through this process, as well — he (she? it?) was the first fan-favorite of the new cast of The Force Awakens, the one who broke out before the movie was released based on appearance and cute sound-effects alone. That's as it should be: BB-8 is almost unspeakably cute and lovable, as was necessary for the movie on both a textual (Rey needs to want to help the droid in order for the plot to progress) and subtextual (the audience needs to love the droid in order to have emotional buy-in to the movie and relaunch of the franchise as a whole) level. Which is what makes the prospect of an evil BB-8 so "wrong" that it's so, so right.
Taking a longer view, BB-9E fulfills a destiny for the movie's treatment of droids — that we get to spend some time with some "bad" ones on-screen, finally. For eight movies, we've seen droids that have been morally neutral to morally good, with occasionally glimpses of something darker, whether The Empire Strikes Back's bounty-hunter IG-88 or knowing that K-2SO in Rogue One was a reprogrammed Imperial Security Droid. But we've never actually had an evil movie droid, before now. In ancillary material, fans have already had this particular pleasure — Marvel's first Darth Vader series introduced psychopathic versions of C-3PO and R2-D2, memorably — making the debut of an evil droid on the big screen just a matter or time, and now, with BB-9E, it appears that we've finally hit that point.
BB-9E, then, is primed to be the Boba Fett of The Last Jedi — a character so inherently, implicitly cool from his appearance that fans will eagerly embrace him (her? it?) and spend years writing fanfic explaining that adoration in slavish, intricate detail. If there's one thing wrong with BB-9E (and I'm not saying that there is, I'm just making an observation), it's that the nickname for the character didn't make it into official canon.
Just be thankful we didn't stick with his obscenely adorable on set nickname, BB-H8— Rian Johnson (@rianjohnson) August 31, 2017
Oh well. Nobody's perfect.