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“This is the beginning” – Hera Syndulla, Alphabet Squadron, and the Road to Jakku

This piece contains minor spoilers for the novel Alphabet Squadron.

For folks who follow me on Twitter or know me from the Jedi Council Forums over at TheForce.Net, one of my obsessions…err…hobbies in the new canon has been trying to make sense of the final year of the war between the Rebel Alliance-turned-New Republic and the faltering remnants of the Galactic Empire. Four years ago this September, I started a discussion on this critical year, the “Endor to Jakku” period. Thanks to the ever-expanding new canon, we are slowly but surely filling in the gaps. We’ve come a long way since Lost Stars and Shattered Empire gave us our first hints at this period. Our first real deep dive was in the Aftermath trilogy, but even that created as many questions as it answered. This week’s release of Alphabet Squadron by Alexander Freed answers many of those questions, by hearkening back to the earlier reference in Shattered Empire of an Imperial counterattack after Endor: Operation Cinder. This galactic atrocity would have far-reaching repercussions, including one that was presumably unintended: the almost overnight growth in power, appeal, and reach of the fledgling government known as the New Republic.

Before jumping into the topic at hand, let’s remember the status quo immediately prior to the Battle of Endor. The Alliance to Restore the Republic was in dire straights. Despite victories at Scarif and Yavin, major losses in the Mid Rim Campaign, at Mako-Ta, and at Hoth had whittled the Alliance down and forced them to flee to the edges of the galaxy. They held no territory—major allied worlds like Chandrila and Mon Cala were under blockade and they were fighting a losing war of attrition against the Empire. The threat of the second Death Star was enough that the Alliance risked everything to take it down. The scattered warships and fighter squadrons were assembled at Sullust, concentrating the entirety (or nearly that) of the Alliance’s fighting strength. We all know the story of the Battle of Endor, so let’s now jump to the day after. The Alliance’s assets are still the same: a roving fleet and a quasi-government-in-exile. Admirals and generals are faced with determining their next military move, while Mon Mothma and her council of former senators are faced with the nearly impossible task of laying the framework for restoring democratic rule to a galaxy oppressed for two decades.

Let that sink in. The Alliance, without solid supply lines, a main base, or actual territory, needed to seemingly overnight start a campaign to liberate the galaxy and start a new Republic. If C-3PO was asked, I’m sure he’d say that the odds of success were almost incalculable. The next subsequent twelve months would be a whirlwind of events. The New Republic, for all it’s heroic ideals and victories, would benefit more from events outside of its control than those it dictated.

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Galaxy’s Edge: Exploring Unknown Narrative Regions

Part of the appeal of the Star Wars narrative is the fact that it tells a story too grand in scale to be limited to a single medium. While books, comics, video games, and even virtual reality experiences have already added to the vast and varied narrative tapestry that is the Star Wars franchise, Galaxy’s Edge represents a foray into uncharted narrative regions.

A Fixed Chronology

In most instances where a property has been adapted into a theme park attraction, it’s removed from the property’s narrative chronology. One example is Star Tours: The Adventures Continue, the previous Star Wars-themed attraction at Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

Each journey on Star Tours is unique, because the adventure is comprised of multiple randomized scenes that may take place in any corner – or at any period of history – in the Star Wars galaxy. Passengers on the Starspeeder 1000 might encounter characters and locations from any of the Star Wars eras, and they may be out of order: the first scene might take place with Finn and the Millennium Falcon on Jakku, while the next scene might occur during the events of The Phantom Menace on Tatooine. As a result, it is obvious that Star Tours is not “canon”, since characters and events separated by decades appear side-by-side or non-chronologically. Read More

Rules of the Game: The Malevolent Heart of The Phantom Menace

As The Phantom Menace turns twenty it has encouragingly ushered forth open reappraisal, new discussions, and even admiration for much of the creative work that went into one of the most accidentally incendiary films of the modern era. As someone who loved it as an impressionable, Anakin-aged nine-year-old in 1999 this is music to my ears. I have for much of its lifetime found it to be a curiously easy watch, rather than the repellent slugfest many of its loudest critics label it. As I’ve grown older I’ve appreciated more and more some of George Lucas’s flourishes that were imperceptible or just “part of the furniture” to my younger, less-developed critical faculty. I am also more than aware of the film’s many transgressions and faults. I understand completely why the film doesn’t work for so many, and why it was upsetting or frustrating.

In an odd way though, many of The Phantom Menace’s mistakes form part of its appeal now for me as an adult. While on the surface it is a children’s storybook of a film and is (relatively) less mature than what is to come, this belies a story that is steeped in some of the noir traditions that would become more obvious in Attack of the Clones, and as mentioned in Sarah Dempster’s excellent anniversary piece, is the beginning of the end of the galaxy far, far away’s Belle Epoque. Beyond that, with respect to what may be in store for us with The Rise of Skywalker, it is also the best showcase for one of the silver screen’s most diabolical and terrifying villains: Sheev Palpatine. Read More

The 20 Most Memorable Moments of the New Star Wars Canon, Part III

Welcome to the final chapter in Eleven-ThirtyEight’s 20 Most Memorable Moments of the New Star Wars Canon, as voted on by our entire staff! If you’re just joining us, be sure to check out Part I and Part II as well. Before we get to the main event please enjoy the last of our Honorable Mentions—moments that came up in voting but didn’t make the cutoff.

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Honorable Mention: Hera’s Code Switch, Star Wars Rebels (Mike Cooper)

I remember very clearly how strange it was when Aayla Secura first appeared in The Clone Wars and for some reason known only to the Creator, she had a French accent. It wasn’t just her, though—it was all Twi’leks, at least all that we got to see. I don’t know if it was intended to give the Ryloth arc a Les Miserable vibe or just a random whim on Lucas’s part, but having a distinct cadence—even one transported whole cloth from Earth—quickly set the Twi’leks apart from most alien species in Star Wars, who typically sound totally normal, totally alien, or, um, uncomfortable.

But Star Wars accents, even at their best, are almost always just for flavor, and trying to make sense of them is a fool’s errand. So when we met Rebels’ Hera Syndulla and she spoke with a normal American accent I thought very little of it—even after she was confirmed to be the daughter of French-sounding Cham Syndulla—and certainly never expected it to be addressed in the story. But late in season two they did just that, and Rebels was richly rewarded for it.

Cham finally made his way onto the show for a two-part arc in which our heroes attempt to forge a relationship between their own Phoenix cell and his Ryloth-based rebels. The arc was a great window into the growing pains of the eventual Rebel Alliance—do we fight the bigger fight or concentrate on our own backyards?—and Hera’s upbringing in particular. The well-worn nature of this debate becomes clear when, during a heated exchange with her father, Hera slips back into her native accent. Read More

The 20 Most Memorable Moments of the New Star Wars Canon, Part II

Welcome to Part II of our Memorable Moments feature–Part I can be found here! This thing is long enough already so let’s get right to it…

sloaneposter13. Admiral Sloane Orders the Retreat, “The Levers of Power” (Jay Shah)

Initially, my entire list of favorite moments consisted of key events from RAE SLOANE’s story across different media and throughout the timeline of novels in which we’ve seen her. That would have been a little silly for a list of moments, even though I believe RAE SLOANE’s journey through the new canon has been the most remarkable and every moment we saw her in another context was a surprise and a sheer delight. But if I had to pick a single moment, I would choose her appearance at the Battle of Endor in the short story “The Levers of Power” — it’s the pivot point around which her whole career orients and changes.

Before the Battle of Endor, RAE SLOANE is a dutiful Imperial true believer who does the right thing as she sees it but is unable to rise as far as she merits due to the Empire’s internal politics and her unwillingness to play those games. After the Battle of Endor, RAE SLOANE is one of the most powerful forces in the Empire and becomes the very face of its surviving military as a grand admiral (literally, in the case of propaganda posters).

“The Levers of Power” shows Admiral RAE SLOANE on the precipice, just as her Empire is. It is a harrowing story. The Battle of Endor felt like it could go either way, until disaster mounted on disaster and it couldn’t. We see all the classic hallmarks of RAE SLOANE: her tactical skill, her dislike for power games (exemplified by a particularly odious ISB loyalty officer), and her ability to cut through the expected to get things done. She does not suffer the loyalty officer’s second-guessing as she leads as ably as any Imperial officer could. More than that: when she has to make the key decisive call that the battle is lost and duty requires the fleet to be preserved, she shoots the loyalty officer dead and gives the order to retreat. She has to. Read More

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