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“Who’s Ever Ready?” – Poe’s Leadership Development in the Sequel Trilogy

As someone who works with college students through a campus ministry, my favorite part of the job is leadership development. Every year I try to guide students to take steps forward along a leadership “pipeline”: taking risks, sticking with commitments, inviting others into a vision, being honest about past mistakes, and dealing with failure—all while doing so with a measure of humility. That’s why I’ve loved the recurring theme of leadership development in the Star Wars sequel trilogy, particularly as it relates to passing the baton to the next generation. There are many ways that we see characters grow in this trilogy, but perhaps the clearest development arc of a leader is that of Poe Dameron.

Whether it’s his risk-taking in The Force Awakens, his lessons learned the hard way in The Last Jedi, or his final maturation in The Rise of Skywalker, we see a continued path of development for Poe into a leader far beyond just another stereotypical flyboy or lone ranger. Poe’s steady growth as a Resistance leader, under the guidance of Leia and other mentors, is a stirring model for anyone looking for a clear picture of a leadership pipeline in action.

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The Saga Concludes – The Minority Report, Year Five

Welcome, one and all, to the final Minority Report, my annual(ish) update on diversity in Star Wars’ screen and printed content. As discussed in my last report, I’ve reached the conclusion that this new era of the franchise has brought us to a point where it’s better that the raw numbers, which have been my bailiwick for more than ten years now, take a backseat and that representation—what types of characters we’re seeing and how they’re used—becomes the primary focus of these conversations. While I still plan on running said numbers for my own edification, I’m going to refrain from these regular updates and save my commentary for when and if something really noteworthy happens.

I first took on this project way back in the days of the Expanded Universe, where most new characters were coming from books and their demographics were both more uniform and harder to notice; now that movies and television are steering the ship, Star Wars has responded to this increased scrutiny with a boatload of new female characters, characters of color, and even a small but not insignificant population of queer and nonbinary characters. But while the weight of focus has shifted drastically away from the usual parade of white guys, there’s still a lot to discuss about exactly how characters like Rey, Finn, Poe, Rose, Holdo, Val, and L3-37 are used, how they intersect, and what messages their stories are sending.

The thing about that, though, is that I see my own role in those conversations to be much more that of a listener—and ideally, a promoter of great voices from within the relevant communities here at this blog. When I started tracking diversity it felt like no one else was paying attention to it at all (at least in the not-very-diverse forums I was hanging around in back then), so having real numbers to throw around was my way of holding up a flashing neon “PROBLEM” sign. Now that diversity and representation are a huge, flourishing topic of discussion, I see how much I still had to learn, and while I still believe sheer volume is a big part of the solution, this is about much more than which types of people we see walking by in the background and who they happen to be kissing.

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Shadow Fall: Where Will Alexander Freed’s Starfighter Story Go From Here?

The novels of Alexander Freed focus on the trials and tribulations of frontline soldiers in the Galaxy Far, Far Away. Both his original works and his novelization of Rogue One center on characters’ experiences on the periphery of main galactic events. His latest novel, Shadow Fall, Part II of the Alphabet Squadron trilogy will be released next month. This piece will take a dive into what I’m expecting from Shadow Fall based on the contents and themes of Freed’s previous novels, Twilight Company and the original Alphabet Squadron.

Alphabet Squadron, as the first novel in a planned trilogy, is a bit hampered by the need for setup; some of the things that Freed did best in Twilight Company were therefore not expressed in Alphabet Squadron. For Shadow Fall, my hope is that Freed will more fully realize his vision of the galaxy at war. The post-Operation Cinder, pre-Battle of Jakku timeline that Freed is exploring contains vast narrative possibilities. With the Empire reeling as it loses control of the galaxy, there is massive room for conflict.

In Twilight Company, Freed deftly balanced between covering events around Hoth and telling new stories. I expect Freed will continue to cover his niche of the galaxy, while also tangentially including Chandrila, Kashyyyk, and perhaps eventually Jakku. One of Freed’s major strengths is how he tells established stories from new perspectives.  Part of Twilight Company covers the fall of Echo Base from the trenches, and I would be pretty excited to see the battle of Jakku from a similar perspective. 

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Ended, The Clone Wars Have

What a journey we’ve had from 2008 to now! Through a cancellation, a surprise release of a sixth season and story reels, and a few arc adaptations to comics and books, The Clone Wars has at last reached the finale that we’d been teased about for years. Staff writers Ben Wahrman, Sarah Dempster, and myself (Abigail Dillon) got together to talk about following the show over the years and how we felt it ended.

Sarah: Hilariously, what got me to actually watch TCW was learning that Maul was coming back. I loved the character but didn’t want to jump in in the middle of Season Three so I figured I should start from the beginning. I was in high school when the movie came out and I mostly ignored it; I was in a lull in my Star Wars fandom and some random cartoon movie didn’t interest me. And I regret to say that I was definitely one of those “too cool for school” fans who thought Ahsoka was annoying, the show was dumb because Anakin had a Padawan, etc. etc. It wasn’t until the whole show was on Netflix (and had been canceled in the wake of the Disney acquisition) that I really started watching it while I worked on costumes in the lead-up to Celebration Anaheim in 2015. But I still think it’s funny that my interest in it started out purely because of Maul; my brand is strong!

Abigail: Look, if fandom isn’t about being On Brand, then what actually is its purpose? For me, getting into TCW was a way for my brothers and I to reconnect when they came back from college over Christmas. We set up a laptop to watch the show on StarWars.com as we built a blanket fort and played with LEGOs. That’s really my earliest memory of watching it, and while I liked it, liked Ahsoka and Rex, and caught up with it all when it was on Netflix, I didn’t become a massive fan until “Twin Suns”. That got me back into Star Wars as a whole in a big way and turned me into a Maul fan so…I guess Maul’s to blame for two of us being here.

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“Die Well, Mandalorian” – The Chance of Escape That Maul Didn’t Take

If there is one thing that Maul cannot shut up about, it’s Obi-Wan Kenobi. If there are two things that Maul cannot shut up about, it’s Obi-Wan Kenobi and Maul’s abandonment by Darth Sidious.

It was one of the first things he discussed upon regaining lucidity, “…such is how you found me, brother. Discarded! Forgotten!” And it’s the story he draws from to gain Ezra’s trust on Malachor:

The Sith took everything from me. Ripped me from my mother’s arms, murdered my brother, used me as a weapon, and then cast me aside. Abandoned me! Once I had power, now I have nothing…nothing…

Maul, “Twilight of the Apprentice”

He snarls at Sidious directly for it in the Son of Dathomir comic, and in the latest episode of The Clone Wars, “The Phantom Apprentice”, Maul makes sure to work it into his monologues, both overtly and as subtext. He will bring it up to anyone who will listen – and those who won’t, he will make listen.

Beyond his ongoing monologues on the subject, we do see that abandonment is a constant theme in Maul’s arc, and I appreciate what “The Phantom Apprentice” adds. It makes explicit Maul’s complicity in the cycle of his own abandonment.

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