Meet Junior Lieutenant Nick "Goose" Bradshaw, Maverick's fun-loving, laid back radar intercept officer (RIO).
He's also Maverick's best friend, and the perfect counterpart. Maverick is cocky and sure of himself, whereas Goose is a little more go-with-the flow. Sure, Goose displays some of the same arrogance on occasion. For example, while looking at the Top Gun trophy he exclaims:
GOOSE: No no no, there's two o's in Goose boys.
But for the most part he gets along a little better with Iceman and Slider. It's clear during the nightclub scene that he already knows them, and Iceman seems to like him okay, even though he can't stand Maverick.
Unlike Maverick, Goose is a family man (he has a wife and son), and he's a little more grounded. He's a little more worried about getting kicked out of Top Gun than Maverick is. He also doesn't have a lot of control over things. When Maverick decides to buzz the air control tower, for example, or leave his wingmen, there's not a whole lot Goose can do about it other than try to talk him out of it.
Conscience and Confidant
Speaking of air control towers and wingmen, Goose is more or less Maverick's conscience. He's like the little angel on Maverick's shoulder, letting him know when he should and shouldn't do things.
After their first day at Top Gun, Goose visits Maverick and basically tells him to stop screwing around. Goose has a family, and he needs to do well at the school. During the first hop that Viper is a part of, Goose keeps telling Maverick not to leave Hollywood (Maverick's wingman), and yet Maverick still does it. Afterwards, in the locker room, Goose looks visibly disappointed, and Maverick knows he made a mistake.
It is because Goose is so important to Maverick that he (Goose) needs to die. That sounds harsh, we know, but Top Gun is a movie about Maverick's development, about his journey from being a maverick to being a wiser, smart pilot, one at peace with his past. Only by working through Goose's death, and learning to keep his demons at bay, can Maverick truly become the top gun.