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Rebels Revisited: Part of the Family

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Mike: Well, you can debate whether or not this was inevitable—lord knows we have—but you can’t debate that it’s happened: Kanan Jarrus is no more.1 There are two angles, I think, from which to discuss this development—did it really need to happen, and did they handle it well? I reject the notion that it was absolutely necessary from any sort of continuity standpoint, but I do think in the context of this story it’s dramatically justified. And since fans have been perfectly happy to spend the last few years debating whether Kanan should die, I’d rather not rehash that again here, and instead focus on how he died, and whether Star Wars Rebels managed to earn this moment that, arguably, they knew all along was going to happen.

Just in terms of the artistry involved, the score, the pacing, the characters’ reactions, I thought it was beautifully and naturalistically done rather than some kind of idiot-ball situation where the plot gods reached down and smooshed him because they wanted to (though okay, I could argue that his eyes randomly healing for two seconds was a smidge over the top). But while I never didn’t like it, the more I think about it the more I appreciate how it seems to fit into not just Rebels‘ larger narrative but the overall Star Wars story at this point in time.

In the heat of the moment, and with a couple months off between this episode and “Rebel Assault”, it’s easy to forget how important the TIE Defender factory has been to the last couple seasons, and underestimate how big a deal it is for Pryce to effectively destroy it just to take Kanan down. Both “Jedi Night” and “DUME” even take the extra step of establishing a competition for resources between Thrawn’s Defenders and Krennic’s Death Star project, meaning that the films could have gone very differently with that factory operational and Thrawn coming out on top. And speaking of Thrawn, it sure looks like his and Pryce’s happy working relationship has come to an end—once again, he’s undone not by his own failure but by the rash decision of an underling. Whether Thrawn or Pryce emerge from this mess intact remains to be seen, but unless Rebels gets too wrapped up in Mortis shenanigans to give this plotline a satisfying payoff, I suspect Kanan’s messy demise will prove to be one of the most important events the show has portrayed—and thus, I’d call it very much earned. Read More

  1. Okay, this is Dave Filoni and it’s possible he’s a wolf now, but that’s beside the point. []

Skippy the Dianoga? A Deeper Dive Into From a Certain Point of View

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Mike: Last week we ran a guest piece from Abigail Dillon discussing her love of the From a Certain Point of View story “The Baptist”, focusing specifically on Omi the dianoga’s status as one of the very few “monstrous” female characters in Star Wars. In our earliest discussions of the story, Abigail had a more expansive analysis in mind, having been taken not just by Omi but by how Nnedi Okorafor “ascribed meaning” to A New Hope‘s trash compactor scene. I was just starting FACPOV myself at the time, so I jumped ahead to “Baptist” in order to more fully imagine what sort of material might be written about it—and I was, frankly, less impressed than she was.

Don’t get me wrong, I thought it was an excellently-written story and I loved the picture Okorafor paints of dianogan psychology and culture, and Omi’s perspective in particular. But at the titular baptism, she lost me. I’m keenly aware that this reaction was borne out of my own history with Star Wars as much as the work itself (and seems to be the minority opinion within my circle of fandom), but as soon as I realized the significance of what was happening all I could think was “Skippy the Jedi Droid”—the old Legends comic story in which R5-D4 is secretly a Force user and fakes his malfunction so that R2-D2 can continue his mission. While it was nothing more than a silly little tale that served to underline Star Wars Tales‘ non-canon status, over the years Skippy became a poster child for the Expanded Universe phenomenon of ascribing outsize significance to every little thing that happens in the original trilogy.

So with the reboot clearing away Jedi aspirant BoShek and Death Star IG-88, I went into FACPOV expecting more emphasis on basic storytelling and less on “the tallest Jawa is really Boba Fett”. And by and large, I got that—but even now that I’ve read the whole book, Omi still stands out to me. As I said in our group piece on FACPOV, some of my favorite stories were the ones in which a bit player furthers the heroes’ quest not because the Force demanded it but out of a simple act of kindness (which from a certain point of view is the Force’s way of demanding it). As it happens, the new R5-D4 story, “The Red One”, is maybe the perfect example of this: Arfive is hinted to have some rebel connection in his past, but he isn’t anything special, and he doesn’t receive any visions that convince him to let Artoo take his place; indeed, to do so almost certainly means consigning himself to the scrap heap. Nevertheless, Artoo makes his case and Arfive simply chooses to believe him—and is rewarded for it with at least a slim chance of survival. Read More

Rebels Revisited: What We Must Do

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Ben: Two major things happened “between” this episode and the last episode: Hera apparently got a promotion after basically cussing out Mon Mothma and the other Rebel leaders, and a squad of X-wings came out of nowhere. I understand the need for narrative velocity in a show that only lasts twenty-two minutes and has a cut-down episode count for its last season, but c’mon. It’s been almost a year since we learned that Hera was even getting a promotion, and now that the show has reached that point it happens off-screen?

It’s pretty obvious at this point, and should have been obvious before, that they’ve had to trim a few corners narratively to get to the finale at the end of this season. Again, this is a trimmed-down season as it is, and they’ve already crammed a lot in. But some of the corners that they’ve cut are the wrong ones, in my opinion.

On the other hand, this episode gave Thrawn a pretty solid victory, which I think has gotten lost in a lot of the discussion about it. He successfully predicts not only the attack, but that the Rebels would be tenacious enough to pierce the blockade despite everything, so he kept most of his fighters in reserve and then slaughtered the Rebels when they thought they had already been through the worst. He even had Rukh capture multiple downed pilots, including Hera herself. That visual of seeing all of the X- and Y-wings raining down on the city was really, really nice. Read More

Rebels Revisited: Homage or In Name Only? – EU Purge Survivors in Star Wars Rebels

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Call it a reference, call it stealing, or lazy, or being “inspired by”, one fact cannot be denied: Star Wars loves its homages. From whole plots, to character archetypes, to vehicle designs and dialogue, you can see the collage of homages built into Star Wars’ DNA right from the first frames of the first movie. As time has gone on, those homages have expanded to include Star Wars material itself. The breadth of Star Wars material is so vast, that it can successfully draw from other places within the multimedia empire to lend inspiration, or just pirate ideas wholesale. So, in lieu of doing a deep dive into Kanan and Hera’s ever-evolving relationship or how the Loth-wolves represent the same mystical elements of the Force that the Bendu did last season, we’re going to talk about something everyone loves to debate: whether the homages within these last two episodes are valuable, or just creative ripoffs used to get old-school fans to sit up and take notice.

Star Wars Rebels is an odd show from a creative standpoint. The creative team is made up of people who grew up watching and reading about Star Wars rather than creating it themselves, so of course they try to slip in references both direct and indirect to stories and characters that they grew up with but, until now, haven’t been elevated to the same level as the film canon. We see this most blatantly with Thrawn’s inclusion, but once Thrawn is in the mix it’s only a matter of time before other elements of his trilogy begin to creep their way into the show as well. Ladies and gentlemen, from stage left and voiced by the fan-favorite Warwick Davis, please welcome Rukh to the spotlight.

Now, let’s make one thing clear from the outset: the Rukh from Rebels is not the same as the Rukh from the Thrawn trilogy of books. For one thing, the Noghri are a very different race in the show than they are on paper. Gone, for instance, is their comic book-level ability to smell all the way back through people’s bloodlines just by sniffing their hand, replaced with a heightened sense that is believable but still alien. Rukh from the books was a personal bodyguard of the Grand Admiral who never left his side, while this Rukh (from what we’ve seen so far) is more of a freelance assassin and tracker, the sort of troubleshooter that someone in Thrawn’s position might use to do the dirty work he can’t put on the books. Read More

Rebels Revisited: The Natural Conclusion

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The common parlance (taken, of course, from a line the first film and applied liberally by fans) for the period between the fall of the Republic in Revenge of the Sith and the rise of the Rebellion in A New Hope is “the dark times”. This is when the Empire is at its zenith, with the Jedi long dead and any other opposing forces deep underground to avoid being summarily crushed. For many, especially when Star Wars Rebels was first announced, having a kid-friendly show about the adventures of a precocious teenager set in a time that should be the hallmark of an oppressive authoritarian regime was a perfect example of the “Disney-fication” of Star Wars as a whole. A show like Rebels, with such a light, comedic tone, would never be able to properly show the extent of the Empire’s oppression.

How easy it is to forget that when the Rebels media blitz was getting revved up and the series itself was finding its sea legs, we got a glimpse of the future, of how the show would handle that very subject. Various supplemental sources, like the Servants of the Empire series, hinted that the Empire was going to start to strip-mine Lothal for its natural resources, turning it from its idyllic pastures and rolling hills into yet another cog in the Imperial war machine. As Rebels itself left Lothal in the second season, we lost sight of that vision a bit. On periodic return visits, everything seemed relatively fine aside from the gradually increased Imperial presence, though sources outside of the show like the Thrawn novel touched back on the planet’s mining riches as general background.

Now, though, after the time-skip between the second and third seasons of the show, we’ve finally returned to Lothal proper in “The Occupation”. We go back to familiar locales first glimpsed all the way back in the show’s pilot shorts, now seeing the wind-swept McQuarrie-inspired grassland covered in heavy industrial smoke and dust. We hear that the friendly Ithorian bartender Old Jho, an early ally featured across multiple episodes of the show and even some of the books, was evicted from his establishment and summarily executed by the Empire for treason. The once-friendly locals don’t even dare brave the streets after dark anymore, with all motorized transports impounded and Imperial patrols everywhere. Lothal may have been under Imperial rule before, but now it is under true Imperial occupation, with all efforts being taken to stamp out any further potential rebellion. Read More