Spotlight: Star Wars Rebels – Captain Hera Syndulla

Greetings from a galaxy far, far away! It has been a long time since this blogger posted anything on Star Wars Rebels. While part of that was due to the inherent busyness of the previous year another, greater part of it was the fact that the series ended on such a disappointing note. As mentioned previously, I was not pleased by the series’ finale and I still have not watched it. For this blogger, Rebels ended with season three.

Why has the Mithril Guardian suddenly returned to Rebels? Well, to be perfectly honest, she never actually left. She enjoys re-watching episodes from the first three seasons occasionally and often discusses the characters with friends. One of those chats led to the subject of this post: Captain Hera Syndulla, the mother-figure for the crew of the Ghost who later became a general in the Rebel Alliance.

To be perfectly honest, Hera never really won me over, and that always struck this author as odd. The reason this seemed strange to me is that there are many things to like about Captain Syndulla. For starters, she is a very good “space mom” to her crew. Her piloting skills are on par with those of Han Solo, Wedge Antilles, Luke Skywalker, Tycho Celchu, Corran Horn, and dozens of other original characters. She believes wholeheartedly in the Rebellion and the Force. She is capable, pleasant, and an all around good person…which should make me like her.

So why don’t I like Hera?

This has bothered me for some time, not as an issue to be remedied so much as a subject to be understood. And, after much thought, I believe I have found that understanding. This blogger has come to the conclusion that her biggest problem with Hera has nothing to do with the character herself. It does, however, have everything to do with what the writers did to her.

This is not meant to be an insult to Dave Filoni or his crew. They did a fine job with the show. But they were operating under some obvious handicaps, and a great many of the choices they made for the series demonstrate this, especially the ones involving Hera. Having watched a few Clone Wars episodes with a friend, the strictures holding Filoni down became a bit clearer. He and the other showrunners must have been told by the Disney bigwigs to make the women in Rebels outshine the men in every possible way and as often as they could manage it, something Filoni did not have to do in Clone Wars.

Sabine Wren | Star Wars Fanpedia | FANDOM powered by Wikia

This is why Sabine tended to show Ezra up even after his training and experience should have given him enough strength and strategic planning to match her. While some of this can be put down to her longer Mandalorian training, there are situations which occur during Rebels that do not account for or excuse the moments where the writers blatantly pander to the “I am woman, hear me roar!” crowd. Clone Wars kept a much more balanced view of the heroes and heroines’ separate biological, mental, and physical advantages in combat. Rebels was not allowed to do this with Sabine or, more importantly, with Hera Syndulla.

Allow me to explain. When we are introduced to Hera she is the unquestioned captain of the ship, heart of the crew, and mother figure to the younger members in the group (including Zeb, who is young at heart if not in actual fact). She is also the only one to have knowledge of and contact with the Rebel Alliance, a constraint which is meant to protect both her “space family” and the Alliance. Additionally, she is the only member of the crew totally committed to the Rebellion and the Force. Also, she alone has scars that do not begin bleeding at the slightest touch.

Portraying Hera this way makes a lot of sense. In a group of broken, battered, disillusioned people, you would want at least one member of the gang to have a level head and emotional maturity. This person would also have to have enough love in their heart to make everyone feel welcome and thus determined to stay, no matter what old wounds are opened or who steps on their toes. Hera fits the bill nicely and accomplishes her task very well – when she is allowed to do it.

This is where the problems begin. Hera Syndulla is rarely given permission to be herself in the latter seasons of Rebels. Rather than let her be the warm, gooey glue who holds the crew together and leads them down the path to healing, she is forced to “be more than the ‘space mom’ of the Ghost.” In addition to this potent place she holds in the story and the crew, she is forced to become a political firebrand and a general.

Hera Syndulla | StarWars.com

No one behind Filoni and his staff, it appears, ever thought to ask why she needed to be either of these things in addition to being a mom. Was it because the corporate suits thought she had to “be more powerful”? To “be stronger”? To show that “women are just as good as a man” in war? Begging your pardon, Disney/Lucasfilm, but I would like to see a man successfully hold the crew together the way that Hera Syndulla did when Filoni wasn’t forced to make her dance to your PC tune.

Before anyone makes the obvious point that men can hold together a “family” of this sort, too, permit me to say a few words on that. Generally, when men are put in a unifying position for a pseudo family, they do this job far differently than women such as Hera do it. Captain America is the grounding and uniting force for the Avengers, true, but his role is that of a “battle father.” And as a father, he has to be in the field, leading the charge, because that is what men do. They lead. They fight. They build. They sweat and toil, enduring deprivation and pain so that the rest of the family can stay home to make home a place worth fighting, living, and dying for.

Mothers do not do that. They cannot do it because they do not have time for it. They are too busy making sure the kids get to school on time, taking care of the house (or ship, in this case), not to mention keeping an eye on the money and food. These are all things that men can do, too, but they typically do not have time to do it because they are fighting off outside threats. Whether these threats are natural – i.e. storms and animals – or whether they come from other people like the Empire does not matter. What matters is that this is what they do while the moms stay home to keep the hearth fires glowing.

Notice I said moms do not fight. Women can and have led armies. They can and have entered combat. And when their family is threatened, moms will step up to the plate to defend those they love from harm. In each case, however, they have done so in small numbers or due to necessity rather than choice. This is because most women are much happier (and more comfortable) running a household than they are fighting on the battlefield or shooting bad guys from the cover of their living rooms.

Hera Syndulla | StarWars.com

While some missions would have called for Hera to leave the Ghost, the majority would have let her stay home and run the household, a.k.a. the ship. That was her primary domain, the place where she could do the most good – in no small part because it was her ship and she was the best pilot in the group. No one else could fly the Ghost or run the vessel the way she could because there she was the boss and her word was literally law.

She did not need to “be more” than the “mom” for the crew. Hera had more power in her pinky finger as mom and captain of the Ghost than Princess Leia or Mon Mothma had as leaders of the Alliance. She was also far tougher and more powerful than Sabine. Specter Five may have been able to go toe-to-toe with adult, fully trained Stormtroopers and Mandalorians, but Hera ran the ship twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Which job is harder – beating up bad guys, or getting everyone around the dinner table on time? (Hint: the answer is not smacking Stormtroopers.)

Hera’s place, to me, was always on the Ghost. I liked her best when she was at her most motherly and/or piloting the ship. That was when she was at her finest. That was when she was strongest. When she was allowed to be a woman and a mother, Hera absolutely fascinated this blogger. I would have followed that version of Hera from Lothal to Endor and straight into the old EU’s Yuuzhan Vong War arc (which, in case you who have only just discovered this site, is an arc I absolutely despise).

Unfortunately, Filoni and the other writers could not let her stay there. They had to put her in A-Wing, Y-Wing, and X-Wing fighters. They had to send her to make inspiring political speeches. They had to have her, a relative nobody in the Rebellion’s upper echelons (who remembers the Senator’s daughter?), tell off a bunch of politicians so she could lead an attack on the Lothalian TIE Defender factories. (With a handful of freaking fighters, NOT a detachment of cruisers and blockade runners that could at least hold their own with an armada of big bad Star Destroyers!!! Aargh…!)

The Disney bigwigs did not want to give Mon Mothma or Leia the floor. They did not even want to give a new female character made specifically for the moment the job of facing “the patriarchy.” No, they had to yank the “space mom” away from home and family to do a job meant for a stateswoman or – gasp – a man like Senator Bail Organa.

Bail Organa in 'Rogue One' - MediaMedusa.com

Senator Bail Organa

Seriously, exchange Hera for Bail in that rousing speech scene in episode eight of season four. I guarantee you the scenario works better with him telling the wishy-washy Senators to get off their butts and strike while the iron is hot than to have Hera do it. When this blogger heard Hera give her “stirring lecture,” she had to roll her eyes to avoid yelling at the screen. Hera’s speech sounded empty and flat, which it should not have. It was (a) not a bad speech and (b), she is a good enough character that she should have been able to make it work. She just could not make it work outside of the Ghost because, dang it, the ship is her province and main sphere of influence.

That ship and her crew are the ones who need to hear her speeches, not a bunch of sniveling political blowhards who haven’t got enough courage among them to fill a teaspoon. This is another problem with that scene:  we know that Bail Organa has a great deal of fortitude – he helped to found the Rebel Alliance, despite being from a pacifist world that has no weapons whatsoever. Why is he suddenly reluctant not to take a stab at the Empire? The Bail Organa of the original EU would have ordered the strike without a second thought. Why does this version suddenly start tiptoeing around the idea like a ballet dancer?

And whose bright idea was it to send the near-pacifistic Mon Mothma to tell Hera to go give the political leaders a tongue-lashing in her stead? For Pete’s sake, in previous season four episodes, Mon Mothma was all for running and hiding!!! Now she’s going to send another woman and to start a fight on her behalf?! In the name of Heaven, why?!?! (*author slaps head on desk repeatedly*)

Hera Syndulla - Star Wars Wiki Guide - IGN

It was choices like these which kept my admiration for Hera Syndulla at a moderate level. She was designed to be a mom and a pilot, but Filoni could not leave her there because Disney had to maintain the attack on the “evil patriarchy” no matter what. This meant that he had to attack the “patriarchy” or lose his job at Lucasfilm, along with his chance to maintain some sanity in a galaxy far, far away. Thus he had to essentially ruin a fine character who, while she was good, could have been truly great if he had been free to leave her on the ship.

Does this mean Rebels is not worth watching, or that Hera is a terrible character? The answer to both questions is no. Rebels’ first three seasons are good, and Hera is a fine character. But she and the series would have been much, much better if Filoni’s bosses hadn’t been such short-sighted twits. If they had left him alone, then Rebels would have been more fun than it already is.

In order to end this post on a positive note, I can say that the series is worth a go. I am really sorry they could not do more than they did, but what they pulled off during the show’s first three seasons was good. It is not bad entertainment and I recommend watching it when you get the chance. Just bear in mind what Disney/Lucasfilm did and recognize that it could have been better if they had left the writers alone.

          Until next time, readers –

“The Force will be with you, always.”

Why Captain Hera Syndulla Deserves Her Very Own Marvel Comic | The Mary Sue

To Despair…Or to Hope?

Amazon.com: The Two Towers: Being the Second Part of The Lord of the Rings eBook: J.R.R. Tolkien ...

“Now Théoden son of Thengel, will you hearken to me?” said Gandalf.  “Do you ask for help?”  He lifted his staff and pointed to a high window.  There the darkness seemed to clear, and through the opening could be seen, high and far, a patch of shining sky.  “Not all is dark.  Take courage, Lord of the Mark; for better help you will not find.  No counsel have I to give to those who despair.  Yet counsel I could give, and words I could speak to you.  Will you not hear them?  They are not for all ears.  I bid you come out before your doors and look abroad.  Too long have you sat in shadows and trusted to twisted tales and crooked promptings.” – The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Chapter Six: The King of the Golden Hall by J. R. R. Tolkien

Book Review – Forgotten Destiny: A Western Trio by Peter Dawson

Forgotten Destiny By Peter Dawson | Used - Very Good ...

Well, I said no more anthology reviews for a while. But a while has passed, and here we are again. I am just glad there are only three stories in this collection. The idea of writing about more than three tales is daunting!

Peter Dawson – real name Jonathan Glidden – was a pulp western writer in the 1930s and ‘40s. Though he was no Louis L’Amour, the three stories in this compilation prove the man could write. Each of the three novellas within this tome has a different cast of characters and a relatively unique plot. Yes, there are recognizable tropes or archetypes in these pieces, but that is part of what makes them appealing. Dawson did not fail to make his characters interesting or his plots intriguing. While I think L’Amour tends to do this better, the fact is that his stronger grasp of the Western might be due to his transcendental view of the Old West.

By this I mean that Louis L’Amour believed the Old West never died. No, we do not have gunslingers and greedy land-grabbers like those in the West of yesteryear. Yes, we cross the country in vehicles rather than by horse or horse and carriage. So what? The values that made the West such an exciting place still exist. In many places, the original settlers’ descendants continue to live and work on the land their ancestors’ paid for with cash, blood, sweat, and tears. How can such a legacy ever be truly erased?

Mr. Dawson’s writings lack this eternal view of the West. While not a detriment per se, they do make his stories feel…different. Speaking as a diehard Louis L’Amour fan, I know that I am always expecting that sense of the transcendental when I pick up Forgotten Destiny: A Western Trio. Not finding it is disappointing and tends to lower my enjoyment factor somewhat.

Nevertheless, A Western Trio is well worth reading. If ever this blogger stumbles upon some more works by Mr. Dawson, she will not be averse to picking them up. The man could write well and tell a darn good story. What more could a reader ask for?

All right, with those caveats out of the way it is time to get down to business. The first piece in this anthology is called “Brand of Luck.” Standing in front of his cabin, Hugh Conner glares down at the two men who have come to call. Having moved into the deserted building three months prior, Conner has worked hard to make the formerly desolate property his own.

The two men in front of him intend to change that fact. One of these two bullies is Wyatt Keyes, a man of ambition who has been buying up property in the area for reasons unknown. Just recently he bluffed the Chain Link outfit, the biggest in the area, into giving ten sections of good grazing ground over to him. Now he has come for Conner’s much smaller parcel of land, having already made offers on the land owned by the newcomer’s neighbors.

Image result for Forgotten Destiny: A Western Trio by Peter Dawson

With Keyes is his sheriff, Mace Dow. Formerly the ramrod of Keyes’ Key-Bar ranch, the man is a lean, mean hombre who has been enforcing his boss’ will throughout the territory. Although Dow has clearly been drinking, this does not mean he is not dangerous – perhaps as treacherous as Keyes.

Watching the two settle their hands on their gun belts, Conner realizes they have ridden in to shoot it out. As a newcomer and, essentially, a squatter on this property, they believe they can get rid of him without too much trouble. It will be their word against his dead body, and who can ask a corpse which man shot first?

Luckily for Conner, at that moment a wild dog races past the cabin in pursuit of a jack rabbit. Seizing the opportunity to make the men back off, Conner kills the creature before it can catch the rabbit. He is so quick that Dow is left gaping and Keyes’ cannot hide his surprise. But while the two men are convinced that leaving is in their best interests, Conner knows they will return. He also knows that they will bring reinforcements. Dodging trouble on his back trail, Hugh figures his best bet is to cut his losses and leave the territory – now.

But he doesn’t intend to let Keyes’ have the satisfaction of knowing he drove him off his property. After packing his belongings, Conner sets his own house on fire moments before he leaves. On his way out, he meets the daughter of George Baird, owner of the Chain Link outfit. Disappointed that he would leave without helping them, she admits that she came out to convince his neighbors to vote for a new sheriff to replace Dow. Seeing her so depressed and wanting to help the woman who has been such a good friend to him, Conner comes up with a plan…

“Brand of Luck” is probably my favorite piece in this book. It has just enough twists and turns to be interesting, while still feeling like a traditional Western that the style doesn’t jar the reader out of the story. Even if the other novellas were bad, I think I could recommend the collection based on this installment alone.

Fortunately, the next two tales are also good. “Death Brings in the Ophir” starts in court. Nick Treacher is ordered by Judge Byron Morgan to close down the Ophir Mine until he can make the property conform to regulation standards.

Nick Treacher’s response is for the regulations and their enforcers to go pound sand.

The “representative” for the minority stockholders in the Ophir Mine, Sam Poole, instantly jumps to his feet. He claims that Treacher is in contempt of court. Nick corrects him, saying he has no contempt for the law or the court. He has contempt for Poole, who bought the judge and has finagled the owner of the Ophir into this mess.

Although he doesn’t want to do it, Judge Morgan orders Nick’s arrest and the sheriff moves to do so. But since he is fat and out of shape, while Treacher is young and in shape, the owner of the mine is able to outmaneuver him easily. Jumping through the court’s window before he can be grasped, he fires a warning shot through the aperture when Poole jogs up to it and tries to fire after him.

Outside Nick meets up with his old friend, a cowpuncher named Ed Wright, who has been guarding his horse while waiting on his own steed. As the two head back to the mine Nick explains that he has put every penny he has into the Ophir. Many believed it to be played out, but he has discovered that there is still an active vein of silver ore in the rock. He is hoping to make back his money and more on by carefully mining this vein.

Poole knows all of this. And he wants the potential millions it could deliver for himself. With Judge Morgan on his side, he now has the means of getting it.

Nick then springs a surprise on his friend, offering Ed a share in the mine if he will stay and help him keep the property. Surprised, gratified, and excited, Ed is quick to agree. The two reach the mine and alert the men to what has happened. Having hired as many of the roughest, toughest, but honest miners he could find, Nick has a small army guarding the Ophir.

These men are also working the mine, however. And since they cannot increase their numbers, they have to be canny and careful. Poole has resources and can hire as many gunhands as he wants to get the Ophir. With his subversion of the law giving him cover, he can attack the mine at any time in any way he deems fit and – probably – get away with it.

So Treacher, Wright, and the miners settle in for the long haul. When the sheriff trundles up to the Ophir that evening to serve a warrant on Treacher, everyone is ready for him. Nick, Ed, and the men capture him (an easy thing to do) and they decide to holdthe sheriff for a ransom of five thousand dollars. Nick believes he can use that money to stall Poole’s legal beagles long enough to beat the other man at his own game.

Thus Treacher gives Ed the ransom note as the sheriff is hustled off to a cabin, where he can be held until the cash is delivered. In town, Ed posts the ransom note and stays to judge the reaction. While waiting for the townsfolk to notice the poster, however, he comes up with a corollary to Nick’s plan that should help put Poole on defense – if it works…

“Death Brings in the Ophir” is a good entry. It is more convoluted than “Brand of Luck,” but remains an enjoyable yarn nonetheless. The action ramps up quickly, keeping the tension without sacrificing the believability of the tale. For some reason, the ending never ceases to make me think of the film The Unsinkable Molly Brown. (If you have seen that film – shhh! No spoilers! 😉 )

Image result for Forgotten Destiny: A Western Trio by Peter Dawson

Finally, we have “Forgotten Destiny,” the story which gave this collection its title. Bill Duncan sets up camp in the desert a few miles from Halfway Springs. Four days ago he received a request for monetary aid from an old friend of his father. Though they have never met, Bill remembers his father speaking highly of one Tom Bostwick. And any friend of his father’s is a friend of Bill Duncan.

So he withdrew five thousand dollars from the bank and hightailed it for Halfway Springs. Now, less than a day away, he ponders what kind of trouble could force a man like Bostwick to ask for help. It would have to be big for him to request aid from his best friend and partner’s son. Worried, Bill stares into the fire, feeling the weight of the money belt around his waist.

Before he can turn in for the night, though, a shot rings out. Bill falls, apparently dead. A man walks up to him, taking the money belt and the horse. Then he leaves Bill for the vultures.

The next day, when Sheriff Ben Alcott is riding back into Halfway Springs, someone shoots at him. Diving for cover, Alcott finds himself face-to-face with a fevered, dehydrated stranger. The man passes out and collapses before he can fire again, giving the sheriff the opportunity to study him more closely. He has a head wound, one that isn’t deep but which has bled profusely.

Alcott brings the man in and sends for the doctor. Simultaneously, he tells someone to let his brother know he is back and wants to speak with him. During the brothers’ conversation, it is revealed that the two Alcotts are secretly trying to run Tom Bostwick off his property. They know Bill Duncan was bringing financial aid and, unbeknownst to his brother, Ben has seen to it that the money will not come through in time.

Or so he thinks. Not long after the doctor leaves, Ben’s deputy arrives with the cash. The younger man starts upon seeing the injured stranger in the jail. Frightened, he explains that the wounded man Sheriff Alcott brought in is the same one he wanted dead!

Things look bad for all concerned, until Bill wakes up with amnesia. Seeing an opportunity to get what he wants and keep Bill out of the way, Alcott decides to use him to capture Bostwick. Grateful for the help, Duncan is only too happy to oblige…

What follows is a rip-roaring good story that will leave a reader turning the pages. But you don’t need to take my word for it. Pick up Forgotten Destiny: A Western Trio, at your earliest convenience and see for yourself. Peter Dawson was not on L’Amour’s level, but he was a darn good writer. For that, he deserves to be remembered, readers.

‘Til next time, partners!

The Mithril Guardian

Image result for peter dawson western author

 

Coming West….

Everybody who came West was coming to build, some to build in the West, some merely to get rich and get out, but all were intending to do great things, to grow, to achieve.  She heard the talk of the stage passengers while they were eating.  None of them seemed to have any doubts; none of them seemed worried by Indians, by deserts, mountains, or the wilderness.

This was their land of Canaan, the land where dreams came true, but here there was a difference, for each one of them seemed sure that he had to make the dreams come true, that it would be the result of something he did. – The Cherokee Trail by Louis L’Amour

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

Interfaith Ramadan: The Nativity Scene Through Art History

NATIVITY

Immensity, cloister’d in thy dear womb,

Now leaves His well-beloved imprisonment.

There he hath made himself to his intent

Weak enough, now into our world to come.

But O!  for thee, for Him, hath th’ inn no room?

Yet lay Him in this stall, and from th’ orient,

Stars, and wise men will travel to prevent

The effects of Herod’s jealous general doom.

See’st thou, my soul, with thy faith’s eye, how He

Which fills all place, yet none holds Him, doth lie?

Was not His pity towards thee wondrous high,

That would have need to be pitied by thee?

Kiss Him, and with Him into Egypt go,

With His kind mother, who partakes thy woe.

Happy Christmas Eve!!!

“May the Father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, upon our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in His own due time and way, everlastingly happy.” – George Washington, Letter to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, 1790