Monthly Archives: March 2017

Book Review: The Menagerie Trilogy by Tui and Kari Sutherland

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Did you know that unicorns and mermaids actually have superiority complexes and are mega-jerks?  If you have read the Sutherland sisters’ The Menagerie trilogy, then you know that and more!

Logan Wilde and his father moved to Xanadu, Wyoming, back in the summer.  After his mother sent them a postcard saying she has left them for a new job opportunity, Logan’s dad packed them up, quit his well-paying legal job in Chicago, and moved them to Xanadu.

It is October now, and Logan has yet to make any new friends in school.  His father also has yet to find his mom.  So it is a big zero all the way around for the two Wilde men.

One morning, Logan wakes up to find feathers scattered all over his room.  His first thought is that his cat, Purrsimmon, had a midnight snack on the floor of his bedroom.  Except his cat is hiding on the top shelf at the back of his closet, and she shredded his sweaters while she was up there during the night.  His betta fish and pet mice are similarly distressed; the mice are hiding in a corner of the terrarium, and the fish is swimming madly about the tank.

Confused, but in a hurry to get to school on time, Logan changes and grabs a Pop-Tart on his way out of the house.  But he never checks under his bed to see if there is anything there….

On his way to school, Logan sees more feathers, along with damage caused by something all over town.  To add to the perplexities of the day, he meets two of his classmates on his way to school:  Blue Merevy and his friend Zoe Khan, the weirdest girl in school.  Zoe looks like she is in the middle of a panic attack she is desperately hoping no one will notice.  Blue, in contrast, is as cool as a cucumber.  Logan asks what the problem is and Zoe says she has lost her dog.  Logan offers to help her find it, but she dismisses his offer as politely as possible.

The day gets weirder when he learns someone ate all the food in the school cafeteria.  (Except the lettuce – that is virtually untouched.)  But the day takes a turn for the magnificent when Logan gets home and finds a griffin cub hiding under his bed!!!

Logan soon discovers the cub’s home is behind Zoe’s house.  After sneaking in, Logan finds the place is a big zoo filled with mythological creatures:  dragons, unicorns, griffins, hellhounds, a yeti – and a whole lot more!

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Zoe, however, is somewhat horrified to find the new kid from school has gotten into her family’s top-secret Menagerie.  A bad experience with her older sister’s boyfriend has made her family crack down on absolutely ever letting anyone know of the Menagerie’s existence.  The rules were already strict before this fiasco, but afterward, they are even tighter.  How is she going to explain this to her parents?!

The return of the griffin cub mollifies her somewhat, but it does not solve the problem entirely.  See, Logan is only part of the problem.  The bigger problem is that there are six cubs missing from the Menagerie.  If any of the other five are spotted in town, the secret is out.

And that will be THE ABSOLUTE END OF HER WORLD AND THE MENAGERIE!!!!

One of the wonderful and frankly unexpected things I found enjoyable in this trilogy is that all but one of the characters comes from an unbroken family.  Blue’s parents are divorced, but Zoe’s and Logan’s parents remain true to each other throughout the trilogy, as do their friends’ parents.  Since one of the writers is the author of the Wings of Fire series, where almost none of the main characters have an intact family, this is something of a happy surprise.  It is nice to know the broken family cliché can actually be tossed aside by modern writers.  It is a bit of an over-relied upon plot device in my opinion.

These are all the tantalizing tidbits that you are getting out of me today, readers.  If you want to learn more, grab The Menagerie and its sequels – Dragon on Trial and Krakens and Lies as soon as you can.  You will want to borrow all three books at once, because you will not be able to put these books down of your own free will.  They are gripping!

Happy Griffin Tracking!  ; )

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The Arsenal at Springfield by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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The Arsenal at Springfield

This is the Arsenal. From floor to ceiling,
      Like a huge organ, rise the burnished arms;
But from their silent pipes no anthem pealing
      Startles the villages with strange alarms.
Ah! what a sound will rise, how wild and dreary,
      When the death-angel touches those swift keys!
What loud lament and dismal Miserere
      Will mingle with their awful symphonies!
I hear even now the infinite fierce chorus,
      The cries of agony, the endless groan,
Which, through the ages that have gone before us,
      In long reverberations reach our own.
On helm and harness rings the Saxon hammer,
      Through Cimbric forest roars the Norseman’s song,
And loud, amid the universal clamor,
      O’er distant deserts sounds the Tartar gong.
I hear the Florentine, who from his palace
      Wheels out his battle-bell with dreadful din,
And Aztec priests upon their teocallis
      Beat the wild war-drums made of serpent’s skin;
The tumult of each sacked and burning village;
      The shout that every prayer for mercy drowns;
The soldiers’ revels in the midst of pillage;
      The wail of famine in beleaguered towns;
The bursting shell, the gateway wrenched asunder,
      The rattling musketry, the clashing blade;
And ever and anon, in tones of thunder
      The diapason of the cannonade.
Is it, O man, with such discordant noises,
      With such accursed instruments as these,
Thou drownest Nature’s sweet and kindly voices,
      And jarrest the celestial harmonies?
Were half the power, that fills the world with terror,
      Were half the wealth bestowed on camps and courts,
Given to redeem the human mind from error,
      There were no need of arsenals or forts:
The warrior’s name would be a name abhorred!
      And every nation, that should lift again
Its hand against a brother, on its forehead
      Would wear forevermore the curse of Cain!
Down the dark future, through long generations,
      The echoing sounds grow fainter and then cease;
And like a bell, with solemn, sweet vibrations,
      I hear once more the voice of Christ say, “Peace!”
Peace! and no longer from its brazen portals
      The blast of War’s great organ shakes the skies!
But beautiful as songs of the immortals,
      The holy melodies of love arise.

Star Wars Rebels’ Zero Hour and Season 3 Review

Wow. Just…. Wow.

It appears that Star Wars Rebels’ writers have begun to specialize in flash-bang season endings. The two part ending of season three, Zero Hour, premiered as a one hour episode Saturday March 25, 2017.

It. Was. A. BLAST!!!

I will delve into that episode later on. This is a season review, so I cannot concentrate simply on this slam dunk of an ending, no matter how much I wish to do just that. I would also like to ask in advance that anyone who reads this, if they have a Twitter account and are following the Rebels writers or the Rebels Recon Twitter accounts, could post a link to this article there. I want to see a lot of things in future Rebels seasons, and they are mentioned at the end of this post. Problem is, I do not have a Twitter account. However, as Reagan once said, “There’s no telling how high you can go as long as you don’t care who gets the credit.”

I do not care who gets the credit. I just want the Rebels’ writers to know about these questions and requests.

Okay, so, season three kicked off with a one hour, two-part episode called Steps into Shadow. In that debut, we saw Kanan adjust to his physical blindness with the help of the enigmatic Force-sensitive known as the Bendu (voiced by Tom Baker). Meanwhile, in this same show, Ezra “stepped into the shadow” of spiritual blindness as he skated close to the Dark Side.

Many fans leapt off of the deep end and said that Bendu showed Kanan a new way of looking at the Force. I think what actually happened is that Bendu just reminded Kanan he had the Force as an ally. He lost his physical sight, but not his ability in the Force, when Maul blinded him. The latter can and has often been a suitable substitute for the former, but Kanan’s training was not complete. If he had been a full Jedi Knight when the Order fell to the Empire, he probably would not have needed Bendu’s help to learn to “see” using the Force.

I also believe, contrary to the hype on the Internet, that Bendu taught Kanan as a wielder of the Light Side of the Force would. Could Bendu use the Dark Side of the Force – oh, yes, he certainly could. We saw the proof of that in Zero Hour. But if he had tried to teach Kanan Dark Side techniques, Kanan would have recognized that and had nothing more to do with him afterward.

Quite frankly, I think that Bendu was in fact a creature of the Light Side, something he did not want to admit. His ancient, almost primeval connection to the Force meant that he could access or be aware of the Dark Side without giving into it on a day-to-day basis. After all, if he was evil, Bendu would have made a power grab for the galaxy thousands of years ago. Dark Siders are absolutely unable to sit on the sidelines of the universe, as Bendu apparently did for millennia, meditating on the Force. That is a Jedi – or Light Sider – practice, not a Sith custom, from what I know of Star Wars lore.

The most touching part of “Steps into Shadow” was Kanan’s reestablishment of his connection with Ezra. Blaming himself for Kanan’s blinding at Maul’s hands and feeling rejected because Kanan would not adapt to this handicap, Ezra gave into his anger and began listening to the Sith holocron in search of answers. It nearly got him killed. Only by reconnecting with Kanan did he have a prayer of being saved.

And this leads us to the next episode, The Holocrons of Fate. When Maul kidnaps and threatens the Ghost crew, Ezra’s immediate instinct is to rush in to help, to use the quick and easy way to save Hera, Zeb, Sabine, and Chopper. Kanan, with Bendu’s help, manages to calm him down and show him that the harder way can be and usually is the better way.

But Ezra still had to learn patience, as displayed in The Antilles Extraction. In this episode, he has to wait for Sabine to call him and his crew to get her and defecting TIE pilots Wedge Antilles and Hobbie Klivian. The show is also a good one for Sabine, as she gets to use her Mandalorian infiltration skills for the first time on camera.

The episode reveals, too, that the new Fulcrum is none other than Agent Kallus. Those with an ear for voices immediately picked out his identity when he contacted the Rebel base. His terms of speech betrayed him as well. No Imperial but Kallus ever spoke with that particular edge and bite to his words. The fact that he did his best throughout the show to help Sabine, Wedge, and Hobbie escape was also a dead giveaway.

Hera’s Heroes and The Last Battle were interesting installments. Heroes, aside from its homage to the comedy Hogan’s Heroes, showed more emotional depth for Hera and raised the stakes for her. It also managed to shine a light on her motherly affection for Ezra and his filial love for her, something no other episode previously spent much time demonstrating.

It also set up the fascinating grudge between her and Grand Admiral Thrawn (Lars Mikklesen), who lived up to Zahn’s characterization during season three’s run. Ezra grew further (with Zeb’s input) when he helped Rex and a group of Separatist battle droids realize that they had been pawns in a civil war which was nothing more than a means to overthrow the Old Republic and the Jedi Order. It is about time someone in-canon pointed that out. It was so painfully obvious to the audience in The Clone Wars TV series and prequels that some of us could not help wondering why no one – except a few characters who were knocked off – put two and two together in the storyline. But then, politics can blind almost anybody. At least Ezra finally said it!

Next we had Imperial Supercommandos. The episode showcased Mandalorian culture and answered several lingering questions about what became of Mandalore and its sectors when the Empire took power, as well as giving us a very necessary and interesting back story on Sabine. Adding Fenn Rau to the Rebellion’s cause was the icing on the cake.

Iron Squadron was a good episode for Ezra, showing how much he has changed since the first season. Much like Sato’s nephew Mart, he was cocky and reckless at the beginning, though in Mart’s case these traits are due to his desire for revenge against the Empire that killed his father. The quiet hint that it was Thrawn who killed the Rebel cell commanded by Sato’s brother, Mart’s father, added another dimension to Sato and set up the potential for a confrontation between the two in the future – one which proved to be more final than this viewer expected.

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The Wynkahthu Job lightened the mood with a hilarious pirate excursion led by that old scalawag, Hondo Ohnaka. Adding Azmorigan to the crew, whom Hera wanted to blow out the airlock on sight, was a stroke of genius. Then we had An Inside Man, which showed Thrawn’s brutal methods of discovering Rebels in the TIE factories on Lothal. The show was most memorable, though, for its confirmation that Kallus was the new Fulcrum. Kanan and Ezra’s distrust and dislike, fueled by their years of combating him and the continuing loss of their rebel compatriots down below, added light to an otherwise grim episode. Ezra’s promise that Kanan could throw Kallus through the next glass map was only outdone by the duo’s piloting of an AT-DP to escape the factory. It just goes to show, the Empire has no imagination. Their pilots very rarely display the ingenuity that the Rebels do in combat.

After this we had the creepy but essential Visions and Voices. This episode was spooky, very spooky, but also well animated and plotted out. Ezra’s connection to Maul is weakened but not severed in this episode, as we had hoped. However, he does learn here that there is no way he can ever trust the former Sith apprentice as an ally against the Empire.

The two part Ghosts of Geonosis, with Forest Whitaker returning to voice Saw Gerrera after playing him onscreen in Rogue One, had its perks. It started out like a typical horror film, and watching Saw and Rex share Clone Wars memories about the Jedi was a great deal of fun. Sabine and Zeb’s scavenging the shield generator was another excellent, near-horror film caliber escapade. The ending for the show felt a little watered down, though. Something about Saw simply handing over the Geonosian egg felt too easy, as did his forgiveness of the Geonosian drone “Click-Clack.” Even so, it was not a bad ending. His hinting about the Death Star was good, too.

Warhead was a cute episode, but Trials of the Darksaber blew it and several other shows out of the water when it came to emotional impact. Sabine’s training in the use of the Darksaber and Kanan’s forcing her to face the pain of her past hit this viewer in all the right emotional places. But what also got to me was Kanan’s caution, his wariness about letting her use the saber. Though a capable warrior he would trust with a lot, Kanan knows there is a deep, coiled pain and anger buried behind Sabine’s façade of unconcern. Her reluctance to use the saber only makes this worse, and he does not want her to get hurt out of anger.

And this nearly happens. Sabine has never physically mixed it up with any of the crew. Her knocking down Ezra is natural enough; he is used to handling a lightsaber and he had never beaten her at anything before. Because he could outdo her in lightsaber practice, he started to swagger a bit. It makes sense that Sabine would want to knock him down and remind him which of them was older, had more training, and more battle experience.

But going after Kanan, taking her frustrations out on him – this we have not seen before. Even Rau was surprised that she would go after Kanan with such ferocity. The episode strained their friendship near the breaking point, but the two of them got past it when Kanan finally decided to push and not coddle Sabine. She pushed back, and in doing so, she faced her pain and anger, finding solace on the other side.

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Legacy of Mandalore did not feel like it delivered on the emotion promised at the end of Trials of the Darksaber. Of course, Darksaber was so emotionally loaded that it would make sense for almost any follow-up show to dial back the intensity a bit. You do not want to leave your audience an emotional wreck, after all, or they will be wiped when you show them something else important. Legacy fleshed out the picture of Mandalore under Imperial domination, too, adding more to Sabine’s back story by introducing her mother and brother (is he older or younger than her?). Having Ursa Wren shoot Gar Saxon to save her daughter was a good touch, as it winked to her name sake. You do not go after a mother bear’s cubs if you want to live. Saxon, it appears, had a death wish.

Of course, all of this ignited another civil war on Mandalore, and we have yet to meet Sabine’s father. I, for one, want a whole lot more of Mandalore in the next season and any following seasons. Speaking of, Ketsu Onyo has been absent for all of Season 3. Where did she go? Has she joined Clan Wren in their war against the factions allied to the Empire? Or is she bounty hunting again?

That will have to wait for the questions/speculation half of this post. After this show we had Through Imperial Eyes, which showed Kallus spying on the Empire. Hearing that Fulcrum might soon be discovered as a spy, the Rebels decide to get him out. Therefore Ezra, Chopper, and AP-5 infiltrate the Star Destroyer which Kallus is aboard to do the deed. Kallus demonstrates that he is as smart, in some ways, as Thrawn in this show. But he is not smart enough to realize that Thrawn has had him figured since An Inside Man, and he accidentally reveals himself to Thrawn completely in this episode.

After this we have Secret Cargo, a bang-up episode in its own right, followed by the lighthearted Double Agent Droid and the amazing Twin Suns. For a full review of that episode, just type “Star Wars Rebels Review: Twin Suns” into the search engine on my blog.

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Finally, we have the explosive Zero Hour episodes. Wow, wow, wow, wow! Thrawn springs his trap on Kallus and locates our heroes’ Rebel base on Atollon, which has Commander Sato’s and General Dodonna’s starship fleets overhead in preparation for an assault on Lothal’s TIE Defender factories. The episodes are high intensity, and there is a lot to cover in them. In the interest of time, I will just hit the highlights.

Kanan goes to Bendu for help, provoking the ancient creature into a fury by pointing out that his neutrality, his standing in the middle between the Light and Dark Sides of the Force, is in essence cowardice. He is willing to sit by and let others die above his world for no other reason than to preserve his position as a practitioner of the “middle way” between the Light and the Dark.

This is good point in the story because Kanan is right; there is no middle ground in the war between good and evil. Good will eventually win, but that does not mean evil should not be resisted, spiritually on all occasions, physically when the battle moves to the material realm. To stand aside, to try and sit on the fence, at those times, is foolishness. For one thing, a fence is usually higher than the surrounding landscape. That means that sitting on it makes you a great target.

For another thing, sitting on the fence is like sitting in a corner during a play. If your part in the play, originally, was as one of the characters who did something, but you chose to sit in a corner onstage and pout for some reason, then the play will go on without you and the audience will laugh at you.

Kanan forces Bendu to get out of the corner and join the play by his accusation of cowardice. Bendu does not like it, and his zapping the Ghost – not to mention at least one A-Wing – as the Rebels escape Atollon shows this. But for the most part his ire is turned toward Thrawn and the Empire. Whether or not he will ever return to mentor Kanan and Ezra from the other side of the Force remains to be seen. I’m kind of hoping he does not get to do that. I would not trust him not to steer them into trouble they might not be able to walk away from as payback for what happened in Zero Hour.

Another great thing about Bendu’s part in Zero Hour is that it makes Force-generated storms canon again. Anyone who encountered the Witches of Dathomir in the now “Legacy” stories knows that the Nightsisters on that planet could and would drum up such storms using the Dark Side of the Force. In his anger, it seems Bendu went the same route.

His prophesying Thrawn’s defeat before the Grand Admiral shoots him in the head was great, too, as was his body’s disappearance into the Force. I have only heard of Jedi or Light Side Force wielders having this occur when they had gained a strong connection to the Force. I suppose Dark Side users or Sith could have it happen, but it seems unlikely. They use the Force instead of letting it guide them; I have never heard of a Sith or Dark Sider becoming one with the Force in body and spirit. It gives me hope that Bendu melded with the Light Side and won’t be a problem later on.

But I am not laying all my chips on that bet.

Ezra, Sabine, Tristan, Rau, Chopper, and Clan Wren Mandalorians riding to the rescue of the Rebels on Atollon were also very cool. Just in case I did not make it clear before, I WANT MORE MANDALORE IN UPCOMING EPISODES!!!   YEAH-HOO!!!

Sato’s kamikaze run into Admiral Konstantine’s Interdictor cruiser nearly started this viewer crying. It was a touching moment, but I sure hope someone is able to collar Mart before he runs off after Thrawn to get revenge.

It was nice to hear Hera call Kanan “love” again, too. She seems to have gotten out of the habit lately, and we have not had as many Kanan/Ezra interaction episodes as we once did. Kanan’s worry about having nothing left to teach Ezra is disconcerting; I am hoping he will be around for a long time yet, even when Ezra becomes a Knight himself. They both have a lot more to learn about the Force, and a lot more to do as Rebels. I would like to see them both make it there in one piece.

At last, we come to Kallus. Though his appearances this season have been sparse, Zero Hour made up for it all. From his epic fight with Thrawn in Ezra’s old home in the Lothal comm. tower, to their interaction aboard the Chimera, Kallus shows he has “turned Rebel” completely. The most interesting part of this transformation is when he starts to laugh as Thrawn prepares to head down to the surface to destroy our heroes. Kallus’ warning that the Rebels are smarter than Thrawn thinks is based on experience; as he admitted, he tried to catch them several times and almost had them at his mercy. But they still escaped him. They still beat him. And eventually, they won him over without even trying to do so.

In many ways, I think that Kallus is what Thrawn could have been if he had joined the New Republic – or, in this case, the Rebellion. Kallus is very smart, shown by how he dodged discovery for so long and by how quickly and thoroughly he reprogrammed the assassin droids Thrawn uses for combat practice. He has an intellect that almost matches Thrawn’s, but he also has something else I pointed out long ago, something which Thrawn does not have: he has a sense of honor. You cannot have a sense of honor without some heart, readers, and Kallus’ survival trip on the Geonosian moon with Zeb brought both to the fore. Kallus started asking questions – and he did not like the answers that he found. So he did something about it. He joined the Rebels.

Incidentally, if the writers want to keep Kallus’ hair the way it was while he was aboard the Chimera, I would not say no. It gave him a roguish look quite fitting for a Rebel. He ought to keep it that way. 😉

Now to those questions and requests I mentioned above. As stated, I want more Mandalore in the upcoming season, but I suspect that the writers will deliver this whether I ask for it or not. I want to know what Sabine’s father is like, I want to know where Ketsu is, and I want to know if Mandalore is Thrawn’s next target. It would make sense if it was. Mandalorian dissidents helped the Rebels beat his master scheme to bring them down. This would make Mandalore Thrawn’s next objective, so he can defeat them and they will never be able to help the Rebels again. Mandalorians have been the best warriors in the galaxy for millennia, excepting the Jedi. You would need a super genius such as Thrawn to overcome them, simply because they are so determined, strong, and refuse to bow to anyone outside their own clan-oriented political structure.

I also want to see how Kallus adjusts to the Ghost crew and how he fixes in his mind the logistics of being part of a Rebellion. He had unlimited resources while with the Empire, but the Rebels routinely have to steal fuel just to keep their ships going. He will not be able to simply snap his fingers and get what he needs for a mission or a plan as a Rebel, and that might irk him. It would also be nice if he could get a girlfriend. Maybe she could be a Mandalorian (and no, I am NOT suggesting Sabine be that girl!). His character arc in season four is bound to be interesting.

I want to see some more Kanan/Ezra, Hera/Ezra, Sabine/Ezra centered episodes, with a few Zeb centric shows as well. There have been hints all this season that Sabine and Ezra are closing in on a romantic relationship. I would like to see the ball rolling on that before the series ends, whenever that will be.

This brings up my next request: I want a season five for Star Wars Rebels. I would also like a season six, seven, eight, and maybe even a nine. To infinity, and beyond! We have three year intervals between each of the original trilogy movies and, no thanks to Lucasfilm’s decision to scrap the “Legacy” novels, we now have no idea what happened between those films. The adventures the Ghost crew will have throughout the Rebellion after the Alliance is firmly established would be a great way to explore these years between Episodes IV, V, and VI.

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This segues nicely into my next request: can we have Kyle Katarn, Dash Rendar, Syal Antilles (Wedge’s actress sister), Mara Jade, Corran Horn, Admiral Gilad Pellaeon, Tycho Celchu, Winter, Talon Karrde, Kam Solusar, Baron Soontir Fel, Ysanne Isard, Admiral Daala, Kyp Durron, Borsk Fey’lya, 4-LOM, IG-88, Jerec, Booster and Mirax Terrik, the Dark Woman, and several other “Legacy” characters returned to the franchise through Rebels? Thrawn has been successfully reintegrated into the timeline through this series, so why not at least some of these characters?

They were great and good characters, after all. Lots of people like them. And I mean lots. Winter, Celchu, Pellaeon, Syal, and Rendar would probably be some of the easiest characters to reintroduce to the franchise here.   With Konstantine dead, Thrawn is going to need a new Admiral under his command, after all. There is now plenty of room for Pellaeon to become part of the franchise.

And none of these characters would have to be explored onscreen in Rebels. All they would need is a reintroduction, however brief it might be. Then the novel and comic book writers could expand on these characters for the new Star Wars timeline. Timothy Zahn would love to rewrite Mara Jade, Talon Karrde, Borsk Fey’lya, Admiral Gilad Pellaeon, and several of the other characters he created into the new timeline, I am sure. If Rebels were to fill in the blanks between the original three movies, there would be plenty of room for these characters to pop in and out of different episodes and missions.

This would also leave open the door for appearances by such canon characters as Aurra Sing, Quinlan Vos (who survived the Purge for a while in the old timeline), Admiral Ackbar, Bossk, Dengar, Jabba the Hutt and other original characters. If Boba Fett entered the series – whew, what an antagonist he would be! Han and Chewie could even drop into an episode or two. We have had Threepio, Artoo, Saw Gerrera, Maul, Darth Vader, Tarkin, Lando Calrissian, Ahsoka, Princess Leia, Mon Mothma, and now Obi-Wan Kenobi show up, for Pete’s sake! Why not these characters?! They are all great, popular personages, and we would like to have at least some of them back!!!!

I would still like to know more about the Dume family, too. If Kanan never knew his parents, then he might have an entire extended family he does not know about. That is a plot twist that could be worth exploring. It would be nice if Zeb could get a girlfriend or find more Lasat to join the Rebels as well. He did not get much time in the limelight this season. Hera is growing into quite a leading figure in the Rebellion, and seeing her relationship with Ezra and the rest of the crew expand would be great.

Finally, since the “Legacy” novels loved to bring in surviving Jedi or new Force wielders, this means Kanan and Ezra could stick around for most of the Rebellion. They would not have to meet Luke during the Rebellion (they have already met Leia, for Heaven’s sake!), but they could still be there when he jumpstarts a new Jedi Order. It happened with Vima da Boda. Who says it cannot happen with Kanan and Ezra?

This brings up something else which was great about the “Legacy” stories, and which I would like to see in the new storyline: what about the other Force-sensitive youngsters who may be floating around the galaxy? Jedi Sentinels could spend years on certain planets carrying out deep cover missions, which means a few might have escaped the Purge. What would happen if one of them joined the Rebellion? How would Ezra and Kanan handle, say, Kyle Katarn, Corran Horn, or poor Kam Solusar? He would be an interesting character to reintroduce, as would Kyp Durron.

And what would happen if a Mandalorian fighting alongside Clan Wren and the Rebels discovered she or he was Force-sensitive? Does the Rebellion get recruits and surreptitious help from Naboo, like they do from Alderaan? Would our Rebel crew ever need to go to Kashyyyk for something and meet Wulfwarroo and Kitwarr again? It would be nice to see some more Wookiees – better animated than in Spark of Rebellion – in the series. There must have been at least some besides Chewie who wanted to bring down the Empire, and joined the Rebellion as a result! Heck, maybe Maz Kanata and her cantina castle could be featured in an episode or two!!

The possibilities for such ideas in this series are endless. Since it is set in the five years before A New Hope, I would be surprised if the series did not have a five season run. I would be most pleased if the show ran through the years including and between A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and the Battle of Jakku. The Ghost crew would not need to be in the Battle of Yavin or the Battles of Hoth and Bespin, although they might be brought into the Battles of Endor and Jakku. As Dave Filoni himself points out in a recent IGN interview, Star Wars is a big galaxy. There is room for plenty of stories involving characters – Jedi, Force-sensitive, scoundrel, Rebel, and Imperial – that can be explored without interfering with the original films. The books and comics of the “Legacy” years did this and got off Scott-free. Why can’t Rebels?

Will it happen?   That is up to Filoni and Lucasfilm’s Story Group. I only know that I really, REALLY wish it would happen. I would dearly love to see the intact Ghost crew celebrating above Endor. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think Hera would be able to keep her spunk if she lost Kanan and Ezra. They are two of the people she fights for and loves most. She loses them, and there may not be much of a “General Syndulla” to get excited about in Rogue One.

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That is my opinion, anyway. I really hope that our Rebels’ Jedi survive the Rebellion, that we can see Ezra and Sabine in whatever series fills in the blanks between the new films, and that we can return some of the best “Legacy” characters to the new Star Wars timeline. It is a big wish list, but it is what I want for this franchise right now.

But if wishes were horses, then beggars would ride. We shall have to see what happens, readers! May the Force be with you! (Lightsaber ignites in the background.)

Book Review: The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz

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Did you know that fairies make bad parents?  Neither did I until I read Miss Schlitz’ The Night Fairy.

The Night Fairy revolves around Flory, a Night Fairy who loses her wings to a bat when she is three months old.  And these are not ordinary wings, like most night fairies’.  They usually have nondescript, bland wings.  Flory’s were like a Luna moth’s wings, which is why they got bitten off by the bat.

Without her wings, Flory has to make do walking.  Also, without her wings, she has to be even more careful of the large animals in the woods that can hurt her.

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Eventually, Flory sets up shop in an abandoned birdhouse.  She makes herself a set of clothes and befriends a squirrel named Skuggle.  Using Skuggle’s weight, Flory helps him to get seeds from the local “giantess’s” birdfeeder.  In exchange, he lets her have some of the seeds for her food stores.  In order to get these seeds, Flory has to learn to work in the day time, going between the day-lit and moonlit worlds, unlike most Night Fairies.

But the big change comes when she sees her first hummingbird.  From then on, Flory wants nothing so badly as to ride a hummingbird, entranced by their beauty as she is.

However, hummingbirds are not the nicest, most friendly birds in the air.  Flory can hardly get any of them to talk to her, forget about giving her a ride.  By the time she actually gets to make a complete request of a female hummingbird, she is firmly and sharply rebuked, since the hummingbird has no interest in being the slave of a fairy, night or day.

Things sort of grow from here, readers, but this is all I can tell you.  The Night Fairy is a short children’s story, and if I say any more I will tell you the whole adventure – and that would never do!

Pick up The Night Fairy from your local library when you can.  It is a relaxing read, and any young girls you know are sure to love it!

Later,

The Mithril Guardian

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To the Dandelion by James Russell Lowell

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Dear common flower, that grow’st beside the way,
Fringing the dusty road with harmless gold,
First pledge of blithesome May,
Which children pluck, and, full of pride uphold,
High-hearted buccaneers, o’erjoyed that they
An Eldorado in the grass have found,
Which not the rich earth’s ample round
May match in wealth, thou art more dear to me
Than all the prouder summer-blooms may be.

Gold such as thine ne’er drew the Spanish prow
Through the primeval hush of Indian seas,
Nor wrinkled the lean brow
Of age, to rob the lover’s heart of ease;
‘Tis the Spring’s largess, which she scatters now
To rich and poor alike, with lavish hand,
Though most hearts never understand
To take it at God’s value, but pass by
The offered wealth with unrewarded eye.

Thou art my tropics and mine Italy;
To look at thee unlocks a warmer clime;
The eyes thou givest me
Are in the heart, and heed not space or time:
Not in mid June the golden-cuirassed bee
Feels a more summer-like warm ravishment
In the white lily’s breezy tent,
His fragrant Sybaris, than I, when first
From the dark green thy yellow circles burst.

Then think I of deep shadows on the grass,
Of meadows where in sun the cattle graze,
Where, as the breezes pass,
The gleaming rushes lean a thousand ways,
Of leaves that slumber in a cloudy mass,
Or whiten in the wind, of waters blue
That from the distance sparkle through
Some woodland gap, and of a sky above,
Where one white cloud like a stray lamb doth move.

My childhood’s earliest thoughts are linked with thee;
The sight of thee calls back the robin’s song,
Who, from the dark old tree
Beside the door, sang clearly all day long,
And I, secure in childish piety,
Listened as if I heard an angel sing
With news from heaven, which he could bring
Fresh every day to my untainted ears
When birds and flowers and I were happy peers.

How like a prodigal doth nature seem,
When thou, for all thy gold, so common art!
Thou teachest me to deem
More sacredly of every human heart,
Since each reflects in joy its scanty gleam
Of heaven, and could some wondrous secret show,
Did we but pay the love we owe,
And with a child’s undoubting wisdom look
On all these living pages of God’s book.

– James Russell Lowell

Captain America: Civil War – Vision

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Sometime back I was watching Captain America: Civil War – again. During this viewing I noticed something very interesting and rather disturbing.

At the beginning of the movie, as the battle in Lagos ends, we watch Crossbones blow up three floors of a skyscraper. We are treated to a view of citizens huddled in the bazaar in terror, while Cap and Wanda gaze upward in horror as they realize that people have died in a blast which was much bigger than they anticipated. Steve calls Falcon and tells him to get emergency responders on the scene as fast as possible, while Wanda collapses to her knees in grief…

And then we cut to Tony having a public therapy session with a room full of his best friends – and however many people are watching his speech on television, youtube, facebook, snapchat, and I have no idea what else.

It hit me while watching this that these scenes are very jarring in the way that real life actually is. Here, Cap and Wanda are standing amidst Crossbones’ explosive carnage. Then we cut to Tony, who is having a public psychotherapy session with thousands of his closest friends. The two scenes are light years apart. One shows mourning for the loss of life while the other demonstrates an intellectual distance from real mourning, real sorrow, and real death.

Now, Cap and Wanda did not intentionally kill twenty-six people in Lagos. This is something which no one in the movie – and no one reviewing the film – pauses to note. It was an unfortunate, heart-wrenching, horrible accident. Miles and miles away, physically and mentally, Tony is mourning a mistake he made in his teens. He did not say good-bye to his mother the day she died. There is no real comparison for the two scenes.

Allow me to explain. There is no one in that MIT auditorium – or very few people – who have dealt with what Cap and Wanda are dealing with in Lagos. This includes Tony. I do not mean that he has never seen anyone die before. He has, and he has helped some of those people die. And I mean the terrorists and HYDRA agents when I say this, not the innocents caught in the crossfire during a battle. [Author rolls eyes at the insinuation of the pack of idiots who believe otherwise.] Tony actively avoids killing innocent people on purpose, just like the rest of the Avengers do.

What I mean is that Stark has not dealt with death. He has not accepted it. This is made manifestly clear by the fact that he is still not reconciled to the deaths of his parents. He has not “processed [his] grief” over his losses. Translation: he does not want to admit that he was a total brat to them on the last day they were alive, when he could have treated them with love and respect instead. Well, yeah, Tony, you could have done that throughout your entire life, too!

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This leaves him at a distinct disadvantage when dealing with the deaths of others, such as the son of the woman who emotionally ambushes him in the back hall of MIT. Tony is insulated, just like those kids in the auditorium, from facing reality thanks to the belief – which they and Tony share – that technology can cure every problem and conquer every aberration. This includes, naturally enough, death. It is the one thing which we all run from on a daily basis. Most of us do not admit it, realize it, or are really prepared to face it someday. Only the very, very lucky are capable of these things.

Cap and Wanda do not have this cocoon. Thanks to Crossbones and other villains, they have both seen death before. Wanda lost her parents at age ten, a more tender age than Tony’s presumable sixteen, when HYDRA murdered the Starks. And she sensed her twin’s death in Age of Ultron. She has seen death up close and personal throughout her young life and properly mourned for those she has lost.

Cap fought in World War II. He saw the Grim Reaper in action plenty of times during that conflict, and he has seen him in the battles from Loki’s invasion attempt onward. He has mourned his losses and accepted the deaths of his friends, just like Wanda has. This means that neither Cap nor Wanda is insulated from death. They have seen it too many times not to know what it looks like. And so they are not insulated from the pain and sorrow that come with it, either, two other things which Tony and the MIT students have never truly faced.

I bring this all up in relation to Vision for the simple reason that, like Tony and these MIT students, he is insulated. Unlike Tony and many others in that auditorium, he is not willfully insulated. He is a new being, a child genius living in a synthetic adult body. He is, in a word, innocent, and this is because he lacks real-world experience.

This is why he backs the Accords. Having no human experience prior to this past year of his life, he has no frame of reference for such mysteries as sorrow, love, death, grief, and pain. He also has no firsthand experience with these things. The only way he understands them is through science, mathematics, theory, and the reports of others.

The former do not get you very far in this fallen, mysterious world, readers. Reports are not equivalent to personal experience, either. They are simply that – arid, dusty records.

Yes, there are things that can be scientifically identified and defined and mathematically calculated in this world. We also have theories of all kinds coming out of our ears. But – as a for instance – can you seriously look inside yourselves, readers, and say that all your thoughts are the results of chemical reactions in your brains? That the reason you are thinking about a great piece of art, a wonderful song, or this very movie we are discussing right now, is all the result of a series of chemical reactions in your bodies/brains?

That is utterly impossible, and if you are honest with yourselves, you will see that. One can say they feel hunger because the body’s chemical reactions are telling one’s brain that the stomach is empty and needs filling. But one cannot say he is contemplating a movie simply because a series of neurons are firing in his brain. The neurons firing are only an indication that he is thinking. They do not prove what he is thinking about, and anyone who claims otherwise is either being extremely unreasonable or making a complicated sales pitch.

Vision, however, has not recognized this truth. He is a totally synthetic being. His body is made of vibranium, so all its components are mere mimics of the human body. His brain and personality, although based off of the previous Stark butler, the human Edwin Jarvis, were once a computer system named after said butler. Nothing about him is natural, physically speaking. He is a synthetic, not a “real,” person.

But this does not prevent him from wanting to become a real person, just as the Velveteen Rabbit wanted to become a real rabbit. Vision is trying to learn how to be human. This is proven when he phases into Wanda’s room, thinking that the door being open is a sign that she is not in the room, is open to having guests, or something like that. He never does get to explain why he thought that, because the door was open, it was okay for him to ghost straight into the room.

Whether or not Vision picks up on Thunderbolt Ross’ thinly veiled threats is hard to tell. One would think he would have detected the belligerence in the man’s tone, but without any previous experience with bullies, it must not have clicked that the Secretary of State was being a controlling jerk. So it is not surprising when Vision decides to support the Accords, citing the modern philosophy that “strength incites challenge, challenge incites conflict, and conflict…breeds catastrophe.”

If that were the case, then no one would ever get anywhere. You cannot live without some inherent strength, readers. Babies cannot grow up to become children who become adults if they do not get stronger as they grow. The fact that some are born physically stronger than others is irrelevant; true strength comes from the will, a product of the mind, not the body.

This makes conflict an inescapable fact of life, since we are fallen creatures prone to sin. Pride, the root of all the world’s ailments, is always one of our weak points – especially if we believe ourselves “the best and the brightest” person/people in the room, and that we “know what is best” for everyone else.

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Vision has never been sick in his short life, nor has he ever been proud. And the only one he knows of who could directly challenge his strength was Ultron. Thor, along with the Hulk (possibly), might have been threats to him. No one else on Earth, normal human or otherwise, can hold a candle to him, physically speaking. Aware of this, Vision does not want to use his strength for the wrong things. That is why he is an Avenger, after all.

He also understands that not everyone trusts him. The Avengers are the exception because they know him. They may have their issues with him, but they do trust and appreciate him. The rest of the world…not so much.

This is the other reason why Vision accedes to the Accords. In order to convince the public that he is not evil, he agrees to be shackled to the U.N. as a lapdog. What he and none of the other pro-Accords Avengers realize is that he is not a lapdog. None of the Avengers are. They are all individuals with free will. They have all made a commitment to, as Vision so eloquently stated in Ultron, defend life. They are the good guys, and Vision seeks to mollify the suspicious into believing this truth.

He needs to brush up on his Tolkien. With the notable exception of T’Chaka, almost everyone behind the Accords is a Saruman. They want to control everything, to be worshipped in place of God. Some are trapped in their own rhetoric while others are megalomaniacs hiding behind the cloak of rationality. Like Saruman, they do not impose their collective will on the Avengers by absolute force at first. They impose it by traitorous whisperings through their own version of Gríma Wormtongue, a.k.a. Thunderbolt Ross. And because Vision is completely innocent, he falls for the lies because they appear coherent. They “look fair and feel foul.” (The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.)

Vision is not big on feelings right now, as he still relies on science to understand the world around him. The arguments for the Accords are not sane, of course. Evil never has been sane. And do not gasp in surprise that I said evil in relation to Thunderbolt Ross and the U.N. Was or was not Saruman evil? He had his puppet Wormtongue poison the mind and will of King Théoden of Rohan and his niece, Éowyn. Then he invaded and tried to destroy Rohan when his attempt at subtlety was foiled by Gandalf. He tried to kill Frodo after the hobbit spared him, despite the damage the fallen wizard had wreaked on the Shire.

Saruman. Was. Evil. So are many of the bureaucrats and politicians behind the Sokovia Accords. So is Thunderbolt Ross.

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The next time we see Vision, he is trying to cheer Wanda up while keeping her confined in the Avengers’ Compound. The scene is cute on a number of levels, not least for those of us who know the history of the romance the two shared in the comics. (They were married for a couple of decades in the books.) In a way, this scene is reminiscent of many a high school drama story: Vision is the typical geeky science whizz kid trying to impress the most beautiful girl in school. He absolutely adores Wanda, who does not seem ready to reciprocate his budding feelings, although she definitely likes him and considers him a good friend. He did save her life, remember. It is hard not to like someone for doing that.

After this awkward, then sweet, then awkward moment, Vision disappears for a while. When Clint arrives at the Compound to pick up Wanda and take her to Germany to meet up with the rest of Team Cap, his distraction interrupts Vision’s version of sleeping. Turns out androids can sleep standing up. Or, in Vision’s case, he sleeps by hovering above the floor in an upright position.

Suitably distracted by Clint’s explosives and the resulting fire, Vision leaves to see to the problem – allowing Clint to enter the room, set up a trap for him, and try to get Wanda out of the building as fast as he possibly can.

Vision is understandably unhappy about this. I mean, friends do not set off pyrotechnics outside their friends’ house in order to lure them out on a wild goose chase. And friends’ do not steal their friends’ crush.

Without doing a full review, we already know that Clint has no romantic inclination toward Wanda at all. They are friends; mentor and student. Her brother died to save Hawkeye’s life, and he owes him for that. The best way to pay the debt is to take care of his sister. Plus, Hawkeye convinced her to become an Avenger. That makes her his responsibility in situations like this.

I am not entirely sure that Vision sees it that way. He is learning to be human by degrees, and I think part of the reason he got a little testy is the same reason that a jealous teenager with a crush would. Wanda is his idol, and that means NOBODY ELSE gets to touch her, even if she lets them.

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Getting trapped in an electromagnetic field probably did not help his mood. So when Clint has to give Wanda another pep talk, Vision has time to escape his trap and turn the extraction into a fight.

It is actually a bit terrifying – and I am not saying that simply because Hawkeye is one of my favorite Marvel characters. If Vision’s manner of stopping a friend is this harsh, then I would really hate to see him pull out all the stops in a fight with normal humans. The results would definitely not be pretty.

Vision incapacitates Clint easily, of course, stating the obvious fact that the archer is no match for him. “I know,” Hawkeye answers. “But she is.”

This makes Vision look at Wanda, who is drawing up quite a bit of power in her hands. “Vision, let him go,” she says, “I’m leaving.”

“I can’t let you do that,” Vision replies, totally ignoring the fact that Hawkeye is very close to falling unconscious in his tight, though not life-threatening (presumably), grip.

Wanda is not going to ignore that. And she shows it by making Vision drop him.

Vision is literally shocked by this. To his mind, Wanda has done the inconceivable by challenging him. Her ability to commandeer his powers notwithstanding, she has turned her back on the Accords he swore to uphold. It is likely that he feels she is turning her back on him by doing this as well, not to mention throwing away any chance of convincing “the public” that she is not dangerous. She is manifestly dangerous.

But so is Vision. So is Hawkeye. So is Captain America. So are Tony, Natasha, Scott Lang, Spider-Man, War Machine – all of the Avengers are dangerous. As Gandalf pointed out to Gimli in The Two Towers, they are “beset with dangers” because they are so perilous in and of themselves. It is the when and the where and the how they choose to be hazardous which makes them a different kind of dangerous than HYDRA, Zemo, or Ultron. They only become dangerous when it is necessary to save the lives of others or to protect their own lives. That is why Wanda decides to be perilous here and now. Vision was seriously hurting Clint, and she was not going to let him be hurt any further than he already was.

She is also done with letting “the public,” Ross, the media, and the U.N. hurt her. In his attempt to make her turn away from her choice and back (he thinks) to him, Vision tells Wanda, “If you do this, they will never stop being afraid of you.”

Wanda has one of the best comebacks I have heard out of a character in years: “I can’t control their fear, only my own!” Vision is letting the fears of others control him.

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Okay, you say, but what about Wanda going all-out in the airport battle? She does go all-out, but she does not go wild. She fights in a very controlled, methodical manner. This is because she is done being afraid of herself and what she can do. That does not mean she is going to go completely insane using her powers. If that were the case, she would have done more than throw Natasha into a trailer. She would have hauled off and seriously injured her. She did not.

As for her attacks on the other members of Team Iron, let’s face it: metal suits are great protection. That means the bar for causing actual damage to the person wearing the suit is pretty high. Remember, ten cars landing on his body only gave Tony “multiple contusions.” Those are not broken bones, those are bruises. They might be big and painful, but they are not going to rob him of life and limb. They just make it uncomfortable for him to move, as he is left really sore by the hits.

None of Wanda’s tactics when she fought War Machine, Iron Man, and Black Panther qualified as deadly because they were wearing very good protective suits. She could throw plane parts and cars at them all day long, and all they would have afterward were A LOT of big bruises. And equally sore egos.

But Vision cannot really claim the same thing, now can he?

We will get to that in a moment. For now, let us inspect the minutiae of the fight after Vision joins it. Is it not interesting that, in order to bring Team Cap to a halt, Vision ends up drawing the proverbial line in the sand? “I dare ya ta cross this line!” Bugs Bunny used to say.

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“Captain,” Vision says after lasering a line in the concrete, “I know you believe in what you are doing. But for the greater good, you must stand down.” Okay, Vision, but who decides what the greater good is? You, or the U.N.? I would think that, if you could have your druthers, you would let Cap and the others go stop Zemo. Right?

Oh, but wait. You signed away your right to choose when you acquiesced to the Accords. So I guess that means you have to do what you are told, even when it is something you do not want to do. Hmmm. You did not factor that into your equations, did you?

One of Vision’s first acts after Scott Lang grows to Giant-Man is to save T’Challa from a bus the big guy kicked. Very cool move and reminiscent of the comics, where Vision could and would use his density shifting ability to block such attacks. I always thought that was a neat power to have. But he later uses this same ability on Giant-Man’s ribs. Ow, that is kind of mean. After disorienting Scott in this way, he flies through him and out his back. Seeing Bucky and Cap running toward the jet, Vision decides to stop them by dropping a control tower in their path.

The most interesting thing here is the look on his face. For the first time ever, Vision actually looks angry. Why is he angry? And, more to the point, does he even realize he is experiencing a human emotion?

It does not appear that he does realize this. Following this attempt by Vision to stop the guys Wanda, in an astonishing display of strength, holds up the tower so that Cap and Bucky can get to the jet. For those of you wondering why she could handle this and not Crossbones’ Viking funeral, the tower was collapsing, not exploding. There is a BIG difference between those two things. Then War Machine hits her with his sonic and she lets go of the tower, which collapses all the way.

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But why was Vision angry when he shot the tower’s base?

There were probably several reasons. For one, Cap is among the most reasonable people that Vision knows. That he should persist in what Vision believes is an error to the point of engaging in combat with his pro-Accords teammates must have made the android pretty cranky. Like a teenager insisting his father is wrong, Vision lashes out at Cap without seriously examining his own position to see if he actually is in the right.

It is somewhat similar to Vision’s own comparison of the Accords to an equation. Say someone asks you to add ten and fifteen. But instead of hearing the person say ten and fifteen, you hear ten and sixteen. You therefore add these two numbers together and get twenty-six. The person who asked you to add the numbers hears your answer and says, “That’s not right.” You say it is, but you forget to mention that you added ten and sixteen, which makes twenty-six. The person who asked you to add the numbers looks at you like you are crazy and maintains that you have the wrong answer to his question.

So you do the equation again, without changing the numbers. You get the same answer and tell it to the person who gave you the equation. He still says the answer is wrong. Now you start to get mad as you redo the equation, still using ten and sixteen instead of ten and fifteen, as you were asked. The entire scenario devolves into a vicious argument as you continue to claim that twenty-six is the answer, while the other person continues to say it is not.

This is Vision’s problem right here. Although Cap states the parameters of the Accords in the plainest language possible in the Compound, Vision turns the simple addition problem into a far more complex equation. He does not do this on purpose; he does this because he is following the modern idea of rationalism. This rationalism is a false equation. But because it adds up, Vision does not realize this. He is adding ten and sixteen, not ten and fifteen, and does not see his mistake.

So the fact that Cap and the rest of the Avengers on Team Red, White, and Blue keep insisting he has the wrong answer makes Vision angry enough to stop being careful. This is why he knocks over the control tower. Although he does not realize it, Vision is acting like a young child who is too angry to listen to the teacher explain to him why he got the equation wrong.

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Next we have the scene of Vision touching down beside Wanda as she recovers from War Machine’s sonic blast. It is obvious here that the writers are going down the same road as the comics. Comments from the Russo brothers about Avengers: Infinity War have confirmed that Vision and Wanda are going to be doing the Romance Two-Step in the next film. This scene could not be a clearer hint.

Then we come to War Machine yelling in Vision’s ear, telling him to get Sam off his back. Vision turns and looks up. He sees Sam, focuses visually on the wing pack, and fires his laser.

But even before Falcon dodges the shot, Vision’s aim is off. Instead of hitting Sam’s wing pack, he shoots higher than Falcon’s previous position and hits Rhodey’s arc reactor. This results in Rhodey tumbling out of the sky to land in the dirt two hundred feet below. The impact shatters several vertebrae and leaves Rhodey at least partially paralyzed.

Vision, we notice, looked pretty angry when he fired that shot. And War Machine was the last one to attack Wanda. Was this a case of unconscious payback?

I highly doubt it, for one reason and one reason only: Vision was looking at the thrusters on Sam’s wing pack when he fired. He was not looking at Rhodey at all. So why did he miss? His concern and budding love for Wanda? That was part of it. Another, bigger part was simple irritation. How do we feel when we are getting yelled at and told to do something right now?

Here is another teenage allusion: Mom asks teenage daughter to take out the trash. Teenage daughter is on the sofa texting her BFF. She says she will get the trash in a minute. Two minutes later, Mom reminds daughter to get the trash, since daughter has not done what she was asked. Daughter shouts back that she will. Five minutes later, Mom is yelling at the daughter to get off the phone and take out the trash right now.

Furious, teenage daughter jumps up off the couch, goes to the kitchen, yanks the bag out of the trash can, ties it up, and heads outside. She wrenches open the back door, stomps outside, and slams the door shut behind her. Later, a crack is found in the older, weather-beaten door jamb, and it is deduced that the teenage daughter put it there in her fit of pique when Mom told her to take out the trash. Does that sound like what Vision did after having Rhodey snarling in his ear two or three times?

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Yep, it does.

In this scenario, Vision missed for the same reason the teenage daughter in the hypothetical scenario above cracked the door jamb. He was focusing on Wanda, on being there for her in her injured state. Then Rhodey begins yelling at him to take out Falcon. Of course, being occupied with Wanda, Vision does not automatically turn and fire at Sam. So Rhodey yells again, louder and more insistently. Like an irritated teenager, Vision turns and shoots in Sam’s general direction. It was a close shot. But close only counts with horseshoes and hand grenades. And in combat, close in not always good enough – especially where the lives of your teammates and friends are concerned.

There is also this to consider: up until Rhodey told Vision to take out Sam, Vision had not shot anyone in the battle. He had not shot anyone in any previous battle in the movie, either. He shot the concrete, he knocked over the control tower, he rammed Ant-Man, whom he could have shot when the other was ant-sized….

But he never actually shot any of the members of Team Cap. Then Rhodey tells him to make Sam’s wing pack a glider. He was telling Vision to actually shoot someone, and shoot to harm.

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Vision has never shot at another human being before. The only other person Vision ever shot was Ultron, and he does not count because he had no soul. He was an inhuman monster that needed to be destroyed. Sam is neither inhuman nor a monster. He is an Avenger and Vision’s friend. How are you supposed to be okay with shooting down a friend – a friend who did not attack you at any time during the battle?

This is probably one of the other reasons Vision missed. He was either planning to miss and make Sam pull away, or he had one moment of conflict in his mind about the morality of shooting down a friend. That one moment of doubt, combined with his concern for Wanda, was enough to throw his shot off course so that it hit Rhodey’s arc reactor and knocked him out of the sky.

Not long after Rhodey hits the ground, Vision flies over to see if he is all right. He is obviously shocked and horrified by what he has done. Vision really was not aiming for Rhodey, and he certainly did not mean to hurt him. But he has, just like that teenage girl did not mean to damage the door jamb, but she did.

This is Vision’s first real lesson in the fact that actions have consequences. And it is a pretty hard lesson. He has severely injured a man he considers a friend, a man who was his teammate. The fact that he did not mean to do it does not change what has happened. Vision’s concern for Wanda, his reservations about shooting down Sam, distracted him in a very human way. And that threw off his extraordinary calculating abilities, leaving Rhodey very badly hurt.

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When we last see Vision, he is sitting at the lounge table in the Compound, playing with a chess piece and staring off into the distance. Chess is a game of strategy. It is very good for the mind. There are even programs for veterans suffering from traumatic memories and battle shock – known these days as PTSD – using chess to help them get back on their feet. (Totally cool idea!)

Vision’s mind does not need improving or bringing back into balance. What he is doing here is trying to figure out where in the Sam Hill everything went wrong. Having him playing with a chess piece, a game of clear strategy with lucid moves and end results, shows that Vision is trying to retrace his steps and understand his mistake.

Now you and I, readers, could tell him that it all went wrong when he sided with Tony and signed the Accords. This is because the Accords were designed to split the Avengers down the middle and destroy them from their inception; they were never about saving anyone or preserving people’s safety. If that was the case, then German Special Forces would not have sent in a chopper with a mini-gun to turn Bucharest buildings into Swiss cheese. They did.

The Accords were never for the good of the Avengers or the human race. The Accords were designed so that the Avengers who signed them would be the only Avengers, while the rest got swept under the rug and forgotten. That was the U.N.s plan. That was Ross’ plan.

It is not working very flawlessly, is it?

The fact that this was the intended design of the Accords does not make Tony a villain. It makes his decision to sign them stupid as hell, but nobody’s perfect. And this is what is really bothering Vision; he was designed to be perfect. But he is not. And he has to come to face that fact in the most uncomfortable way possible – by hurting a friend.

So, readers, there is only one question left to ask now. Which side will Vision join before helping the Avengers gang up on Thanos in the next Avengers films?

We will have to wait and see!

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Star Wars Rebels Review: Twin Suns

The Star Wars Rebels episode “Twin Suns” was teased just a wee bit too much as the final confrontation between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Maul.  While they did indeed confront each other and Maul, as expected by most of us, died, their battle was very brief.  If you watch the above Rebels Recon show, they explain why.

I admit that I thought the fight would last longer than it did.  However, I also see the wisdom of the writers in keeping it so short.  Maul and Obi-Wan dueled for years during The Clone Wars series, and so it makes sense that this battle would be quick.  For one thing, Obi-Wan was in better physical condition than Maul was.  At the beginning of the show it seems that Maul’s been wandering around Tatooine searching for Ben Kenobi, and from what I saw of him, he did not have a pack full of water and food on him.  This indicates to me that he’s been wandering around in the desert heat hoping to pick up some sense of Obi-Wan’s location through the Force.  Not a particularly smart move, in my opinion, but despite Maul’s animal cunning I do not think I would ever label him as brilliant.

All this means that Obi-Wan was fresh and able when he faced Maul beside the campfire.  On the other hand, Maul had been weakened by his wanderings through a strange, harsh environment while he was looking for Ben.  So physically, it makes sense that Obi-Wan would be able to best him so swiftly.  Also, he had what Maul lacked –

Hope.

We will go back to that momentarily, but for the moment, I want to discuss Ezra’s part in this episode.  IGN’s Eric Goldman (and doubtless others as well), thinks that having Ezra take center stage for the majority of the episode was a mistake.

I disagree.  The reasons why Ezra was central to “Twin Suns” are manifold:

First, as the writers pointed out, Ezra was the one that got the Rebels involved with Maul.  His determination to find a way to bring down Vader – “to destroy the Sith,” as he put it – left him open to Maul’s manipulation, which Obi-Wan pointed out.  Ezra’s desire to stop the Sith was morphing into an obsession.  If he did not let it go, it would eventually have gotten him and his friends – along with possibly the entire Rebellion – killed.  Someone had to snap him out of his fixation on annihilating the Sith.

That someone turned out to be Obi-Wan.  This makes a lot of sense and leads to the second reason for Bridger being central to the story.  When a person becomes obsessed, even in the less-than-maniacal way that Ezra was, interventions by close friends and family can be less effective than those done by total strangers.  Kanan and Hera stage an intervention of sorts for Ezra at the beginning of “Twin Suns,” but he ignores their reasonable arguments and runs off anyway.

Obi-Wan, a master Jedi he has heard of and admires, points out that he really, really should not have come to Tatooine.  Maul was using him to find the man he hates more than anyone but the Emperor.  Ezra’s determination to find Obi-Wan himself in order to find the “key to destroying the Sith” blinded him to this fact.  Kanan and Hera did not have this blinder over their eyes (pun intended; even though he is physically blind, Kanan smelled a trap), and so they saw the danger in following Maul’s breadcrumbs.

Of course, Obi-Wan also deflects Ezra from discovering the truth about the fact that he is, actually, guarding the key to wiping out the Sith.  This is both to protect Luke, who is not yet ready to fight in the Rebellion, and also to protect Ezra.  Luke still has some growing up to do, and the fact is that the Rebellion is not nearly ready for him yet.  They are still in the building-up phase.  If Luke were to join them now, and the whole thing collapsed under its own weight (or Thrawn’s), then all hope of defeating the Emperor disappears with him and the Rebellion.

We know that this is not going to happen, but Obi-Wan does not know this.  He only knows he has to keep Luke safe.  And, if things were changed here in this interim between Rebels and A New Hope, the TV series would qualify as fan fiction, not a tie-in series.  And that would never do.

As for Ezra, if he were to learn about Luke, he would begin trying to recruit him into the Rebellion.  Obi-Wan cannot let that happen.  He shoos Ezra off so that the boy will not recruit Luke too soon.  This will also, hopefully, keep Ezra safe.  As long as he remains oblivious to the fact that Vader is Anakin Skywalker, when he later meets Luke, he will not be able to reveal anymore about Luke’s heritage than Obi-Wan already told him.  In fact, he will be able to reveal even less.

This appears to be a sort of backhanded indication that neither Ezra nor Kanan has figured out that Vader is Anakin Skywalker.  This is in spite of Ezra being present when Ahsoka let slip her suspicion, to his mind, that her old master had become the Emperor’s apprentice.  Whew!  😉

Also, as the writers pointed out, Ezra naturally feels responsible for leading Maul to Obi-Wan.  He goes to Tatooine to make up for his mistake, but he nearly makes it worse.  This is why he has to be present throughout so much of “Twin Suns.”  Ezra has to let go of his need to kill Vader, or it will destroy him and his friends.

Interestingly enough, Ezra is forced to do this in a desert, a very dry and tough place.  The hermits in ancient times and even during the Middle Ages who lived near or traveled to arid regions would retreat into the desert or some other desolate place to remove all distractions.  Obi-Wan does this when he moves to the cave a few hours travel from Owen Lars’ moisture farm; Yoda does this by retreating to Dagobah – and Luke, it seems, did the same thing before The Force Awakens.

Ezra’s journey is more reminiscent of a spiritual retreat than going into a hermitage, naturally, and it fits the episode nicely.  Lost in the desert – more so perhaps than even Maul is – Ezra must confront not only the former Sith’s evil in a manner similar to the way that Christians must face the temptations of the devil, but also his own obsession with destroying the Sith.  It is a journey of purgation for him, leaving him a stronger, more clear-headed Jedi apprentice by the episode’s end.

Now we will go back to the battle between Obi-Wan and Maul.  It is a brief battle, but a loaded confrontation all the same.  Maul states that he has come to kill Obi-Wan, then suggests that his revenge might be better served by letting him live in the “squalor” of Tatooine’s desert instead.  Obi-Wan calmly points out that Maul’s jab shows how spiritually empty he is.  He has traveled around the galaxy for years seeking to destroy the Sith, to possess power, and to become “great” according to the Dark Side’s standards.

The pursuit has left him an empty shell.  At the beginning of the episode, according to Mr. Goldman, Maul seems dangerously close to slipping into the madness Savage Oppress first found him in during The Clone Wars series.  Having never watched more than a few episodes of that series, I cannot confirm this.  But it makes sense.  Maul has been consumed by his hatred, not fed by it.  It has destroyed him, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  Though he expresses contempt for Obi-Wan’s style of life, the former Jedi Master is actually far better off than he is in all the categories which I just mentioned.

This infuriates Maul.  His hatred reacts violently to Obi-Wan’s calm tranquility.  He has no such peace in his own soul, and for that reason he seeks to destroy it in Obi-Wan by digging for the reason that Ben would come to the desolate world of Tatooine.  He gets close, of course – too close to be allowed to live.  Obi-Wan knew that would happen.  Plus, he has already lost two people very dear to him to Maul.  He cannot and he will not lose Luke to the former Sith apprentice.

And before you ask, no, Maul would not kill Luke.  He would do something far worse, and Obi-Wan knows it.  We saw how Maul tempted Ezra to court the Dark Side at the end of Rebels’ season two and several times throughout season three.  If he had killed Obi-Wan, he would have found Luke, and he would have taken him as his apprentice to teach him the ways of the Dark Side.  Thus Maul would have destroyed all hope of building a new Jedi Order and a New Republic in the future.  That is a threat which Obi-Wan must stop.

But even after he permanently neutralizes Maul, Obi-Wan does not gloat over his victory.  Instead, he holds Maul as he dies.  Considering the Zabrak killed his Master and the woman he loved, his showing compassion and pity toward his old enemy shouts volumes.  Obi-Wan did not have to stay with Maul until the end.  He certainly did not have to tell him Luke was actually the Chosen One foretold in the prophecy (apparently).  But he did it anyway.  Not because Maul deserved it, exactly, but because he felt compassion and pity for this creature that had been destroyed so thoroughly; first by the Emperor, then by his own hatred.

For his part, Maul seems to have some regrets about his life.  But if he had the chance to live it over again, I think the only thing he would do differently was avoid getting cut in half, if he could.  Maul is totally committed to the Dark Side.  He is ruined.  Asajj Ventress may yet have been redeemed by her love for Jedi Knight Quinlan Vos, but the fact is that Maul has had no such opportunities to reform.  He has hated for so long, too, that it is doubtful he would have accepted such prospects for redemption, even if they had been handed to him on a silver platter.

So he dies reiterating the Dark Side’s will to vengeance.  What is interesting is his use of the word “us” when he says this.  It is possible he means the entire race of Dathomir and, most specifically, his mother and brother.

But personally, I think he may have meant himself and Obi-Wan.  After all, Obi-Wan would not have cut Maul in half if he had not killed Qui-Gon Jinn.  Maul would not have done that if his mother had not handed him over to the Emperor to be trained as a Sith instead of a regular Dark Side wielder.  If he had not been cut in half, Maul would not have gone on to wreak such sorrow on the galaxy in general and Obi-Wan Kenobi in particular.  It sounded to me as though this was the implication behind Maul’s line that Luke “will avenge…us…”  I might be blowing smoke, of course, but there is always the possibility that I could be correct.

Now, Mr. Goldman points out that the manner of Obi-Wan’s kill strike does not show the appropriate level of contact for such a maneuver.  While he is equally quick to mention that Rebels is not as flexible as The Clone Wars when it comes to realistic death scenes, the fact is that this is a kid’s show.  It would not do to show Obi-Wan cutting Maul in half vertically instead of horizontally.  Doing that also would have spoiled the ending we all enjoyed so much.

That being said, the implication that Obi-Wan gutted Maul is quite clear.  And remember, readers, that he is half-droid.  There is not much to gut; slicing through what is left of his torso and the droid part of his body would certainly finish Maul for good.  I, for one, am quite satisfied that the Rebels writers went this route.  It is not a graphic death scene, but it still fulfills the Internet meme showing Obi-Wan moaning, “I should have cut him in half the other way!”

The last thing to address is the fact that Ezra doesn’t tell the Ghost crew or the rest of Phoenix Squadron that Obi-Wan Kenobi is alive.  At least, he does not do so on camera.  It is possible that he will tell Kanan and the others in a more private setting.  It is just as possible that he will not, though I think that Kanan will want to know whether or not Ezra killed Maul.  Ezra will have to tell him no, because even if he fibs – or were to attempt to fib – Kanan should be able to sense that he is fudging the truth.  Or he will at least be able to sense that Ezra is not telling him everything.

Mr. Goldman points out in his article that we never see Obi-Wan telling Ezra to keep the fact that he is alive a secret.  For starters, I think Ezra would be smart enough to realize that, if Obi-Wan wanted to avoid a fight with Maul, he does not want anyone to know he is alive.  It is also possible that Obi-Wan saw Ezra and Chopper off of Tatooine.  He is (presumably) riding the same Dewback he lent them when he approaches the Lars’ farm the next evening, after all.  I do not think the animal would just wander back to Obi-Wan after Ezra and Chopper had dismounted and climbed aboard Maul’s ship to take off.  He had to get it back.

If that is the case, then Obi-Wan might have taken the opportunity to tell Ezra, “I’m here because I don’t want to be found.  Best not to mention me to anyone when you get back.”  We do not know if this is what happened, but it seems to be a logical assumption.  The fact that Obi-Wan’s mount at the end of the episode is the same one he loaned to Ezra and Chopper before the fight strongly implies this theory.

Another thing to love about this episode is all the little tweaks and nods to A New Hope buried in it.  Ezra and Chopper setting out together is quite the nod to Threepio and Artoo’s journey across Tatooine before they get picked up by Jawas.  The attack by the Sand People is somewhat spooky for me, since I recently acquired and began playing Knights of the Old Republic.  I did not quite have flashbacks of all the times the Sand People killed me and my team, but I have begun to find their honking cries rather annoying.  Their Gaffi sticks are equally irritating.  But I did not celebrate when Maul killed them all, as you might have expected.  He set them up to die.  It is not something to cheer over.

Obi-Wan’s fatherly (or is that grandfatherly?), kindness and admonishments to Ezra reflect how his teaching tactics have changed since he lost Anakin to the Emperor.  He is now well prepared to take on the fatherly role of mentor when he leads Luke to make the fateful trip to Alderaan.  This could be seen as a dry run for his mentoring of Luke two years hence.

His subtle deflection of Ezra from the truth is also reminiscent of how Luke later confronts him about the fact that he hid Vader’s true identity from him, although he did not quite lie about it.  Both times Obi-Wan stretches the truth to protect the young fellas, and I doubt that Ezra would – or will – be any happier than Luke when he finally learns that Obi-Wan fibbed to protect the two of them from Maul, Vader, and the Empire at large in this episode.

The kicker, though, is when Obi-Wan stops within hearing of Beru Lars’ call to Luke to come in for supper.  As she does this we get to see his shadow as he races indoors in answer to her summons.  This scene is magnificent, and if I am not mistaken, they took the voice of the actress who played Beru Lars in A New Hope and used it for this episode.  She called Luke in exactly the same way before she reminded him to find a droid that spoke – I believe it was Bocce.  And when I say she called him the same way, I mean exactly the same way.  They clipped out her call from A New Hope and put it in the ending for “Twin Suns,” if I am not mistaken.  As a final note, Stephen Stanton’s imitation of Alec Guinness could not be better.  I am amazed and impressed.  Well done, Master Stanton.  (Author bows respectfully.)

Well, readers, this is my take on the third last episode of season three of Star Wars Rebels.  It was a good episode and I enjoyed it.  Marvelously animated and masterfully told, “Twin Suns” is an episode we are all going to want to show our children at some point in the future.

Remember, readers:  the Force will be with you.  Always.

References:

http://www.ign.com/articles/2017/03/18/star-wars-rebels-twin-suns-review