Tag Archives: Ashley Eckstein

Star Wars Rebels, Season Four – A Review and an Opinion

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Okay, first things first. I have not seen the last six episodes of season four of Star Wars Rebels and, judging by the descriptions, I don’t think I want to see them – not any time soon, at least. I know I am a minority opinion in this regard, and if my decision upsets you, I am sorry for hurting your feelings. But we’re not responsible for the choices of others; my decision is my own, so don’t feel bad if you think I’m wrong. That is your decision, and I certainly don’t feel bad about it. Neither should you.

All right, let’s review some of the episodes I did see. I mostly enjoyed Heroes of Mandalore, with just a couple of minor points of reserve/annoyance. One, I would have preferred to see Alrich Wren in Mandalorian armor rather than normal attire. He is a Mandalorian, for Pete’s sake; dress him like one! He can be less severe than Ursa Wren all day long, but that doesn’t mean you have to make him look like a wimp. Two, if Ezra could have actually been there to watch Sabine decide to destroy the Duchess rather than show up and beg not to be shot, I would have been happier.

This was the biggest sticking point for me in these otherwise excellent episodes. Seriously, what is so bad about letting the guy help the girl? Could someone please explain this to me? You could have had Ezra show up and deal with Tiber Saxon’s backup while Sabine fixed the Duchess to zap Stormtrooper armor instead of Mandalorian armor, couldn’t you? Then Ezra could help Bo-Katan turn Sabine from a desire for revenge to choosing to do what was right. He’s a Jedi, and he’s been where she is, and so I would think that would add some weight to his advice.

All right, venting done. On the plus side, it was good to see so much more of Mandalore. It was also nice to watch Bo-Katan letting go of her past while helping Sabine see her future, just as it was nice to see the Wren family and Rau survive this battle. Mandalore isn’t free yet, but it is on the road to freedom, and that means the Empire’s in trouble here for the rest of the Rebellion. (Yay!)

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Next we had “In the Name of the Rebellion.” Now these episodes were more aggravating for me than the others, and that had less to do with the characters than it did with the way the Rebellion leadership behaved. In the original EU and film trilogy, the Rebellion was about doing, not talking. Whose bright idea was it to make the Rebel leadership so spineless in the new timeline, anyway? When we were originally introduced to Star Wars, the Rebellion was well past this political whining – if it had ever really had to deal with it. Watching them dither about committing troops to a fight or leaving their own bases absolutely grinds my gears.

That said, I agree that Saw Gerrera’s tactics are over the top and wrong. And I do agree with the writers’ decision to hammer this point home to Ezra and Sabine. Hitting the enemy hard does not mean you put innocent people in danger, which Saw was doing, and they needed to learn that truth.

However, Saw also had a valid point which the writers didn’t really do anything to explain; if you fight according to the enemy’s rules, you will lose. Because guess what, they are the enemy’s rules, and that means the enemy can change them any time they want. If you let the enemy do this to you, you won’t be able to adapt to the changes fast enough to survive, let alone win the fight. When you are fighting for freedom from tyranny, fight to win, dang it! Otherwise, get out of the way and let everyone else do their job.

As you can tell, this plot point really got under my skin, but there were things to enjoy here. Watching Kanan help Hera fly blind was great, and seeing a huge khyber crystal was very interesting. I also liked that these shows gave us a glimpse of the scientists the Imperials were using to make the Death Star. We rarely got to see prisoners being rescued by the Rebels in this series, so it was nice watching Ezra and Sabine work out how to destroy the crystal while protecting the prisoners at the same time.

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Bonus points, we got a new Stormtrooper scream out of this show. I always love those. 😉

The rest of the episodes were fun and artfully done, from the return to Lothal to the mission to make contact with the Rebellion. I had a few points of disagreement with the writers along the way, though. Watching the Rebellion leadership wimping out again was seriously aggravating, as was the lack of Kallus’ presence in these shows when he had promised to have such an interesting part in this season. The general trend in “girrrrrl power” at the expense of the guys’ characters and masculinity was another demerit for this season, too.

But I would have to say that “Rebel Assault” was the show I had the biggest problems with, and not just because of the warning about Kanan’s impending demise. No, my biggest problems here were how the Rebellion decided to handle this attack and how the writers showed Hera fighting Rukh.

First, we will deal with the Rebellion. In “Rebel Assault,” the mission is supposed to be an attack on what is, in essence, a war factory. But somehow Mon Mothma, Bail Organa, General Dodonna, and the rest send nothing more than a couple of measly fighter squadrons to destroy it.

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What the Sam Hill….? That makes no sense, even when you consider that Thrawn is the one directing the Empire’s defense. When we sent fighter planes over Germany and Japan, they weren’t carrying the bombs we dropped, the bombers were. Y-wings certainly have the capability to drop bombs, but they’re still, technically, fighters. Hera should have had at least a few corvettes and blockade runners backing her squadrons up on this mission, but that didn’t happen.

This mistake on the part of the writers immediately pulled me out of the story when I watched the trailers and led me to the conclusion that Hera’s attack was doomed to failure. No commander in their right mind, for a mission like this, would send in just fighters. The Death Star was so darn big that it had to be attacked by little bitty fighters, which it couldn’t swat as easily as it could have obliterated a bigger ship.

But in this battle, the Rebels were up against Star Destroyers. Yes, Star Destroyers are big, powerful, and scary. Unlike the Death Star, however, they can be challenged by ships of equivalent or smaller size with relative success.

Dodonna would certainly have known this, and I would think Mon Mothma and Bail Organa would know it, too. The fact that the writers did not send a support force with Hera’s squadrons shows me that they either weren’t thinking, they don’t have even a glancing knowledge of military history, or they were under pressure from their superiors. My money is on the latter, to be honest; these writers have shown a level of skill which makes it hard for me to believe they aren’t clever enough to think of these things or don’t know at least a bit about history. I can’t believe (not right now, anyway) that they would do this out of simple ignorance and thoughtlessness. They’re too smart for that answer to fly.

Now we come to Hera’s hand-to-hand battle with Rukh. I am sorry, Hera fans, but I had a major problem with this. In this episode, Hera crash lands in the capitol city of Lothal after her failed attack. Obviously, she has to escape back to camp so the Empire can’t interrogate and kill her. The main difficulty with this plan is that she faces a Noghri hunter – Star Wars’ version of a super ninja – who has been sent to bring her in for interrogation. Yet after crashing and being injured, she still manages to handle Rukh perfectly in close combat, despite having a headache and an injured arm.

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Sorry for the blurriness of this shot.

Pardon me, but whaaat….?

Leave aside for a moment the fact that the Noghri are invisible to Force-sensitives (they can’t sense them through the Force at all) and that they are good enough at combat to scare competent Jedi like Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa Solo, and Mara Jade. Leave aside as well the fact that Wookiees, impressive, massive warriors that they are, cannot bring down a squad of Noghri without suffering serious wounds and severe losses. Bottom line, Hera’s injuries should have been limiting factors in her fights with Rukh. She should have tried harder to avoid hand-to-hand combat with him because of her weakened state.

A Noghri’s size is extremely deceptive; they are strong enough to go hand-to-hand with full-grown Wookiees and match them in physical power. The fact that Hera can somehow, with a bum arm and a headache, throw and hold Rukh so easily shouldn’t be possible in-universe. And yet the writers had a wounded Hera Syndulla rather easily hold her own in battle with an alien whose people are veritable super ninjas, beating out the Jedi, Mandalorians, and Mistryl Shadow Guards in terms of skill and prowess. (Author glances from side to side.) Am I the only one who sees a problem here? I like Hera – even though she is not my favorite character – but come on. Am I the only one who looked at this fight and went, “Agh, here we go with the girrrl power motif again”?

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Yep, thought so. Told you I was the minority opinion. 😉

Speaking of which, now we come to the last six episodes of the season that I did not view. I missed the first two, where Kanan dies, and I avoided the other four or five in order to find out if they were shows I wanted to watch. From the descriptions I have read, I feel pretty safe in saying that I do not want to see the end of season four for Star Wars Rebels. There are several reasons for this, but to make sense of it, I am going to break it down into parts. Because everyone knows Kanan Jarrus was my favorite Rebel, we will start with him:

Kanan’s Death

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Yes, part of the reason I do not wish to see the last six episodes of Rebels is because Kanan dies. I had a feeling it was coming, and I knew it was going to be especially upsetting for me personally. HOWEVER; this is not the first time I have seen a major character I liked die, so it is not simply the fact that Kanan croaks which makes me desire to avoid these installments in the series. In fact, when I think of where he died, I dissolve into giggles.

Now you are thinking I am some kind of heartless maniac, right? I don’t want to giggle over this – seriously, the guy was my favorite character! I spent lots of pixels talking about and praising him.

But every time I think of him standing on a fuel tank when it goes up, I just start giggling. There’s something kind of – I don’t know, anti-climactic in picturing someone being blown up while standing on top of a fuel tank. I guess it makes me think of all the bad guys I’ve seen/wished to see blasted off into kingdom come by a big explosion, or all those idiotic side characters who choose to stand in the wrong place at the wrong time and get blown up. There’s also the whole “blow-up-the-fuel-to-save-the-environment-while-standing-on-the-fuel-tank” angle to consider. It’s just – it strikes me as a rather comical place to die. And yes, I am giggling while I write this.

Now if I had seen Kanan die, I probably wouldn’t be so cavalier about this scene. It sounds like a tear-jerker, which is another reason I want to avoid it right now. None of my friends need me breaking down on them when we’re supposed to be relaxing in front of the TV, after all. And if I watched it alone, I would be stuck dealing with me sniffling. That is not nearly as much fun as the movies make it look, readers.

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But the bigger reason is that I think that, if Rebels had been allowed to last longer, Kanan need not have died at all. We’ll delve into this a little more below, but does anyone else feel like the last six episodes were a bit rushed? It is as though someone told Filoni and the gang, “Season four is your last; kill the show. We don’t care how you do it – so long as you don’t kill the girls – but end this thing before 2019.” The last six episodes are jam packed, proceeding at a near breakneck pace I can sense just from the descriptions. There’s barely a pause for breath in each one.

Based on what I have read about these final installments, I think Filoni knew when he started this series that the higher ups at Disney/Lucasfilm wouldn’t like it due to their political leanings. He’s thrown some political bones into the mixture from time to time over the past three seasons, but on the whole, I would say he was telling a good story well here. There is nothing more aggravating to the “artísts” who insist that every piece of fiction should be a vehicle for one agenda or another. He knew he was on borrowed time, more or less, and that giving Kanan and Ezra their fair shakes would probably cost him in the end.

So when they told him to kill Rebels, he said, “Okay, but can I kill it my way?” They of course said yes, thinking he was being a good little drone doing what they wanted him to do. Personally, though, I believe he blew up Rebels rather than let them get their hands on it. This brings us to my next big problem with how the series ended….

Time-Travel…. Really? REALLY?!?

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When I read the description for “A World Between Worlds,” I handled it pretty well at first. But thinking back over it, I began to get more and more uncomfortable. Even in the old EU, I was not happy with the writers’ decision to add time-travel to the Star Wars universe. Star Wars, like The Lord of the Rings and other fantasy stories, has a fixed timeline. You may be able to view the past in some way in Star Wars through the Force, but the idea of sending people backward and forward through time in the mythos never sat well with me.

This is why I didn’t like the old EU’s penchant for messing with time-travel. The reason I don’t like it in Rebels is that it completely negates the ending of season two of the series. In essence, it saves Ahsoka by cheating; sending Ezra back in time to save her instead of letting the Force protect her in some more spiritual/physical manner, knocks everything in Twilight of the Apprentice into a cocked hat.

Now if the “World Between Worlds” had been more like the “Wood between the Worlds” in Narnia, where the spiritual and physical planes sort of “meet” each other more completely than they do anywhere else, I would have been happier. In a case such as this, I would think the writers could have had Ahsoka escape to the “World Between Worlds” from Malachor either on her own or with the help of the Force. While a year or so passed outside the Lothal temple, for her, minutes would have elapsed between her arrival there and Ezra’s journey inside.

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Because Ahsoka was here, and because this was a place where the physical plane and the Force sort of “touched” each other moreso than they otherwise do, the writers could have had the Emperor chasing the two down in an effort to convert/kill them and take over the place. Then, because this area intersected with the spiritual realm, the writers could have had Kanan’s spirit appear to help the two escape/thwart Palpatine.

Though not trained like Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, and Yoda in keeping his form when he became one with the Force, I don’t think Kanan would have needed such training to appear in a place where the Force and the physical plane meet. Writing the story this way would also have allowed him a chance to say good-bye to Ezra while still giving him his “last lesson” as a Jedi. To me, this would not have been nearly so much of a cheat as the story we did receive in “A World Between Worlds” was.

Now we come to the third reason why I will not watch the end of Rebels…

The Battle of Lothal

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I have two problems with this battle, and the first is the idea that the Empire left Lothal alone after the remaining members of the Ghost crew blew up all the Imperials on the planet. The idea that, one year out from the completion of the first Death Star and roughly five years before Endor, Rebels could throw the Empire off of a planet as valuable as Lothal and that planet would remain free until the final battle of Return of the Jedi is completely illogical. Anyone who knows anything about history can tell you this. For example, the Battle of Trenton did not free the United States from British tyranny, nor did it keep the British from coming back to Trenton. It took eight long years for us to boot them from our soil and guarantee the safety of all our citizens’ from English attack/retribution.

Likewise, the Rising of the Vendee against the revolutionaries who wrought such barbaric terror on France did not free their country. In fact, most of the Vendee fighters were slaughtered by the revolutionaries running the French Republic. The Cristeros in Mexico had it little better, which you will see if you watch the film For Greater Glory. Though the Mexican president was eventually forced to stop fighting them, the Cristeros were still being killed many years after the end of the Cristero War.

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The people of Zaragoza, a city in Spain, rose up against Napoleon’s army after he conquered their country and threw the best troops in the world out of their city. Months to a year later, however, the Zaragozans were defeated by the vengeful French and the few remaining inhabitants were marched out of a city that was in ruins. The same thing happened to the Tyrolese – twice – when they fought Napoleon’s forces in an attempt to rejoin Austria after he had annexed their district from their mother nation.

My point in bringing up these examples is that you do not bloody a tyrant’s nose and get off scot free, readers. You have to keep fighting until the tyrant is six feet under, no longer on your country’s soil, or you are dead. And at this point in the mythos, Palpatine is still alive. Even considering the destruction of the first Death Star, he should have had forces committed to Lothal to at least wreak his vengeance on that world. The war was touch-and-go from A New Hope up to the moment Luke decided not to kill his father on the second Death Star. Like the rest of the galaxy, Lothal should only have been freed by the Battle of Endor, when Palpatine was killed.

The fact that the writers didn’t do this is absolutely mind-boggling to me. It also helps convince me of the theory I mentioned before; the people above Filoni must have told him to kill Rebels but to make it “a happy ending.” So he gave them what they wanted, but not what would actually work, ala blowing up the story rather than letting them get their hands on it. I could be wrong of course, but that is why you are reading this as an opinion rather than as a stated fact.

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With regards to the splitting of the “space family” at the end of the show, it doesn’t sit particularly well with me, either. The whole point of the series seemed to be centered on this family holding together throughout the Rebellion. In keeping with that premise, I would have thought the writers would have kept the whole crew on or around Lothal for most of the Rebellion, until Endor put everything to rights (hence my belief that Rebels was killed early by the people running Disney/Lucasfilm).

If the writers had gone this route, it would have prevented the Ghost crew from running into Luke and the gang during the films, while not derailing Yoda’s line about Luke being the last of the Jedi. If Kanan was busy splitting his time between Rebel work and being a father, I don’t think Yoda would consider him much of a Jedi. The same would go for Ezra; with such an unorthodox teacher (and maybe a girlfriend of his own at that point), Yoda wouldn’t have thought of him as much of a Jedi in such a case.

And that brings me to my earlier point about Kanan not needing to die if the series had lasted longer. Even keeping his death in the story, the rest of this ending is too compressed and illogical to stand the way it is. This means that I think that if I tried watching these last two episodes alone, my head would explode from the sheer absurdity of the ending. It has to be the result, to my mind, of interference from the people running Disney/Lucasfilm. Filoni is too smart, from what I have seen, to do something like this and expect people to buy it.

In conclusion, I have to admit that the ending for Rebels has been a severe disappointment for me. But that is only in the ending. The first three seasons I will happily re-watch for many more years to come. I’ll probably watch season four’s first nine episodes again, too. And who knows? Maybe I will watch the last six shows at some future date.

For the time being, however, I am content not to watch them, due to the reasons listed above. Call me a coward or stupid or whatever you like, readers, but the fact is that, to me, these last six episodes are a non-ending. In my opinion they do not do justice to their characters, their story, or their audience. And right now I really, really do not need to deal with any of that.

Until next time, readers, may the Force be with you.

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My Favorite Lightsaber Duels in Star Wars Rebels – and the Scenes in Them Which Stood Out Most

Yes, I know this is a terrible title for a post. It was the best that I could come up with, however, so we are all stuck with it.

At the end of my post “Tribute to the Jedi,” I listed three of my favorite lightsaber duels in Star Wars Rebels. Discussing these battles with a friend some time ago, I recalled one I had forgotten, which will be mentioned below. During our chat I admitted something which still stands out to me in each of these encounters between the Jedi and the Dark Siders. As we go through them, I will make certain to mention what this recurring theme is.

Before we do that, though, I have something to admit: I do not like the new Star Wars timeline, especially the books. It does not jive with the original films, preaching rather than telling a story. Having read several novels in the original Star Wars Expanded Universe, along with a number of books in the new timeline, I find that the older ones (usually) fit better with the original trilogy than the new ones do.

The reason I bring this up here is because this series, to me, has always felt like it is part of the original Expanded Universe rather than the new timeline. Rebels and its tie-in media is, for me, the best thing to come out of the new Star Wars universe – which is why you are reading this post today. And so, without further ado, we turn to the battle which is still my top favorite:

Kanan Jarrus versus the Grand Inquisitor in “Fire Across the Galaxy”

I have said that the era of the original trilogy – the time of the Rebellion, for want of a better layman’s term – is my favorite in the Star Wars universe. My enjoyment of this period of the story explains why I gave Rebels a chance. I love learning about Jedi who lived through the Purge, especially if they played a part later on in Luke Skywalker’s New Jedi Order. Perhaps it was their surviving adversity for twenty years, or maybe it was just watching the transition to the Rebellion era. I don’t know how to explain it, or if I can, but anything that involves Jedi from the Old Order surviving to see the rise of the New just thrills and intrigues me.

So I wanted to know more about Kanan Jarrus before the series even began. I got excruciatingly little there for the first few episodes, which drove me half crazy and made every Jedi-centered episode a treasure. More than once I would leave the television feeling disappointed with an episode because it had not delivered the desired Jedi-fix.

“Fire Across the Galaxy” satisfied my wish for more Jedi stories with the amazing lightsaber duel at its climax. It is a spectacular fight that begins with Ezra helping Kanan – who has been undergoing Imperial “interrogation” – escape Grand Moff Tarkin’s Star Destroyer. For some reason I still do not understand, they decided to cut through the engine room to get to a fighter bay and freedom.

Naturally, the Grand Inquisitor is waiting for them there. Despite not being in top shape, Kanan takes his apprentice’s nifty lightsaber and goes after the Inquisitor. The battle becomes two-on-one when Ezra retrieves his Master’s blade from the Pau’aun’s belt and activates it.

But at this point, Ezra’s still not good enough at blade work to defend against the attacks of the more experienced Dark Sider. He tries Kanan’s baseball bat trick to deflect the Inquisitor’s thrown blade – and it works, in so far as the boy does not get cut in half. However, the spinning hilt does scratch his face, and it has enough momentum behind it that Ezra loses his balance and falls to another catwalk.

This is what Kanan has been afraid of from episode one of the season; that he will fail and Ezra will be killed. He already holds himself responsible, to some degree, for his own Master’s death; losing Ezra would be like going through that pain all over again. Only this time it would be worse because Kanan is not a kid. He is an adult who should be able to protect his apprentice as well as train him.

Sent sprawling by a Force push from the Inquisitor, not to mention still dealing with the aftereffects of the Empire’s torture, Kanan is not able to get up in time to prevent Ezra from tumbling to his apparent death. He ends up on his knees, looking down at the boy, whom he doesn’t realize is just unconscious.

What got me about the scene wasn’t simply the grief we see on Kanan’s face when he thinks Ezra is dead. That was to be expected. No, it is how his expression changes after this. Before he stands up, the grief and anger leaves Kanan’s face, to be replaced by calm acceptance.

This is important because, in this moment, Kanan stops fighting the Force and lets it come to him. He is still sad, he still believes Ezra is dead, and he is none too happy with the Grand Inquisitor. You can hear all those emotions in his voice when he addresses the Dark Sider in the next frame.

However, he doesn’t give in to these feelings or let them rule him. He just lets them go, allowing the Force to enter in their place. And so the Pau’aun does not realize he has just made, as his opponent says, a huge mistake. He thinks our resident Jedi is broken, an easy kill. But Kanan comes back with the response I really love, saying that now he has “nothing left to fear!

The rest of their duel is a beautiful thing to watch, but this particular part is my favorite scene. As we see later on, Ezra is right to say that Kanan is “better than okay.” Here he is, actually, better than okay.

Allow me to explain. Kanan’s entire struggle up to this point has been with his fear of discovery. He has also been afraid to accept his Jedi heritage and to return to the Jedi path. The only times he is really able to pull off feats of strength using the Force is when something frightens him more than this.

We see it in “Rise of the Old Masters,” when he throws the Inquisitor into the ceiling to save Ezra, and earlier in the same episode when he reaches out with the Force to keep the boy from falling to his death during a lesson. Each time, Kanan has to strain to use the Force. This is both because he is out of practice and because he has two fears vying for his attention at the same time: fear of failing Ezra and fear of being discovered.

But in this duel, he finally lets the fear go. And that allows the Force to enter him at last, making him a willing vessel for its designs. This is why he does an apparently inexplicable one-eighty degree turn in his skill level during the duel. While he still needs to practice his sword work the fact is that, here, Kanan is no longer alone. He is finally – finally – letting the Force guide him and act through him.

This makes up for his lack of training and experience, giving him the edge over the Grand Inquisitor. It is why he bests him. Kanan’s no longer fighting with his own skill and power here. He is in the same position as Chirrut Îmwe; he is one with the Force, as it is with him. And the thing which still gets me is that he is kneeling down when he lets the Force in. This is not a big deal, right? He got knocked over, so of course he would be on his knees when he lets go of his fear to allow the Force to enter him –

Whoa, not so fast there, Speed Reader! Let’s take a look at my second favorite battle on this list….

Ahsoka Tano versus Fifth Brother and Seventh Sister on Garel in “Future of the Force”

I have never seen more than a few clips of The Clone Wars. The poor direction of the prequel movies left such a bad taste in my brain that I could not stand the cartoons. And yeah, I was naïve enough at the time to think the series did not tie into the larger Star Wars universe.

Well, I eventually found out that Clone Wars WAS part of the Star Wars timeline even before the new trilogy arrived. This meant, naturally, that I needed to learn more about it. As I was digging through the archives about the series I stumbled on Ahsoka Tano’s file.

Everything I read about her made her sound interesting, to the point that when I pictured her being killed by Anakin Skywalker in Revenge of the Sith, I wished she didn’t have to die. I had not even seen her yet, readers, but I already thought she was a great character! So I was relieved to learn she left the Jedi Order before the Purge. That at least put off a confrontation between her and Vader, hopefully permanently. I really wanted her to survive to meet Luke after Return of the Jedi so we could watch her connect with her master’s son.

Learning that this amazing character would be reappearing in Rebels was very exciting. I would finally get to meet the famous Ahsoka Tano and see if she was everything I expected her to be. Her fans will not be surprised when I say she did not disappoint; I still do not like The Clone Wars, but I am definitely a fan of Ahsoka Tano….

…So I was rather irritated when she did not get to use her lightsabers immediately upon her appearance in season two of the show. We had to wait until “The Future of the Force” to see her draw her new white blades, let alone use them.

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But it was worth the wait. Watching Ahsoka hand Fifth Brother and Seventh Sister their fannies on a platter was amazing. She eventually managed to throw Fifth Brother into a column, briefly sending him to dreamland, before focusing entirely on Seventh Sister.

I will never forget what she did next because it was so unexpected. Instead of pressing her advantage with the remaining Inquisitor, Ahsoka shut down her blades. Then she put them away, knelt down on the ground, and held her open hands up to the air. Of course, Seventh Sister thought Ahsoka was an easy target. But without even opening her eyes, Ahsoka caught the other woman’s lightsaber hilt between her hands and, using the Force, shut the blade down before tossing it aside.

Notice we once again have a Light Side Force wielder kneel down before defeating her opponent. Coincidence? Maybe, but I don’t think so. Let’s press on to battle number three, the confrontation I forgot to mention until I was discussing these duels with my friend…

Kanan Jarrus versus the Sentinel Spirit in “Shroud of Darkness”

“Shroud of Darkness” was such a powerful episode that I did a post about it almost two days after it aired. Most of that article revolves around the shocker of who the Sentinel Jedi was, along with theories about how he got to the Lothal temple and the Light Side. As lightsaber duels go, this one didn’t really stick in my mind the way the previous two did.

Except for one scene, that is.

This scene comes when Kanan has been knocked down by the Sentinel Jedi. Two others have come to back the lead Sentinel up, and the Lothal temple has begun to collapse as Fifth Brother and Seventh Sister force their way inside. Kanan is once again on his knees. But here he is also surrounded and running out of time.

Having declared Ezra too dangerous to be allowed to live, the vision Jedi states that Kanan cannot protect his apprentice from the lure of the Dark Side or the Sentinels. “You’re right,” he replies. “I can’t protect Ezra, least of all from himself. All I can do is what I have done – train him as best I could.”

Since I knew this was a vision, I knew that Kanan could not truly be hurt here. So when the Sentinel raised his lightsaber, I was pretty sure Kanan was not going to die. I didn’t know he would be knighted, but I knew he would not be killed.

Again, though, in this scene Kanan is on his knees. He has been forced there by the fight, and because of time constraints, he does not try to stand up. He stays kneeling, fully expecting to be struck down. What is the significance of this? Why, other than the fact that he is officially knighted in the next moment, is Kanan again on his knees here?

Let’s look at the last battle on my list to find the answer to that question.

Kanan Jarrus versus Maul in “Twilight of the Apprentice, Part 2”

If there is one character in the Star Wars universe I despise completely, I would have to say it was Maul. Ever since I saw him in The Phantom Menace, I have hated him. Why Lucas made him and his species is beyond me.

For some reason, I thought we were done with this Zabrak even before the new timeline was announced. No such luck; Maul returned to plague us again in “Twilight of the Apprentice,” managing to hook Ezra with the lure of the Dark Side in the process. For a while he played he was on our guys’ side, but we all knew that he was tagging along for the ride. He wanted something, and he needed Ezra to get it. So while it was not a surprise when he attacked Kanan, I was not expecting him to blind my favorite Rebel Jedi.

Ahsoka went up about twenty more bars in my estimation for jumping in automatically to protect him, but it was still nerve-wracking to watch Kanan, on his knees once more, searching for his lightsaber. Seeing him best Maul in three short moves – perhaps a nod to the former Sith Lord’s later defeat by Kenobi – did not exactly ease my fears, but it certainly proved Kanan could still fight (and how!).

The main point, however, is – you guessed it – the fact that Kanan landed up on his knees again. By now you are furious at me for taking so long to get to this point. “Just what is it about Kanan and Ahsoka kneeling down or ending up on their knees in all these battles that has you so interested, Mithril?” you are snarling at the screen.

Well, we all know that Lucas borrowed elements of Christianity for his fantastic galaxy far, far away. When watching the Star Wars films or reading the books, the Christian aspects of the stories have always stood out to me – especially in Zahn’s novels about Star Wars (this is another reason why he is my preferred writer in the original EU).

So when I saw Ahsoka, in the middle of her duel with Seventh Sister, inexplicably put aside her blades to kneel down and raise her hands, I was immediately put in mind of the act of praying. The same impression hit me when I saw Kanan on his knees in “Shroud of Darkness.” I thought of it again, to a lesser degree, in his search for his lightsaber after Maul blinded him in “Twilight of the Apprentice, Part 2.”

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And I cannot watch him duel the Grand Inquisitor in “Fire Across the Galaxy” without thinking of it. For “perfect love casts out fear,” we are told, and Kanan’s fear has blocked him from the Force up to this point. Just so, our irrational fears block us off from God’s grace. (The same can be said about anger, of course, along with selfishness, pride, and the rest of the seven deadly sins, but that’s another story.)

Thus the small, seemingly inconsequential moments when the Jedi kneel down during these duels has far more meaning than most of us suspect at first viewing. Interpreted through the lens of faith, we can see a heartening message in these “pivot points” where the Light Siders put their faith in the Force to help them win the fight.

Does that mean the writers and Dave Filoni put these moments here on purpose? Perhaps they did. I do not know any of them, so I cannot say. And if they want to keep their jobs, then I do not think they can come out and admit that they even have faith of any kind. It is something of a taboo subject in the circles where they work these days (just look at how Marvel Comics’ roster of writers treats the subject).

In the end, though, it does not matter whether these moments are messages from Christian writers to Christian viewers. What matters is these scenes are present for an astute Christian to see, which is why I bring them up here and now. One of the reasons I started Thoughts on the Edge of Forever is because I believe God talks to us through the fiction we enjoy. Over the years I have come to see His Hand in more than one of my favorite stories.

Sometimes it is easy to know when He is there, as it is in the Chronicles of Narnia. But in other stories – like Tolkien’s Middle-Earth, Star Wars, Star Trek, and a multitude of different fictional universes – He takes us by surprise. This was the case with me when I went to see Marvel’s The Avengers. I had caught glimpses of Him in my research into the comics, but I really saw and heard Him in that movie.

Obviously, this is why I have taken such issue with Marvel Comics’ current course, not to mention attacked other franchises when they “play politics.” As Dean Koontz pointed out in his novel Ashley Bell, good fiction can heal souls. It can do this because, through the veil of the fantastic, God touches our lives and raises our minds to Him. So when authors and/or their employers begin to drag the focus of the story toward “representation for all,” “women’s rights,” “equality for everyone,” or they try to make their fiction “realistic,” they chase God out of their fantastic universes.

And a story without God in it, no matter how artistically done or how much time, effort, and money are lavished on it, fails to become a story at all. Why? Because God made stories, too, readers. He made our very lives, and what are they but stories?

He doesn’t make our choices for us, or push us to do things His way. Rather, as Star Wars Rebels: The Rebellion Begins puts it, He weaves a pattern through the universe. We are free to act in accord with that invisible web, to run away from it, or even to attack it. God doesn’t force us to take any one of these three courses, but it is His right as the Creator of the cosmos to fit them into the pattern He is weaving. Whatever we choose, we are free to choose it, as He is free to undo it or make it better.

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That, at its core, is the basis of Star Wars. Filoni and his crew – along with Zahn and other authors for the “old EU” – understand this very well, at least on an instinctive level. But many of the new authors for the franchise, either because they are blind to the Truth or because they fear the Emperors of this galaxy, are letting this understanding go. This is poisoning their new stories in the process and, while it does not mean the whole new timeline is worthless, it does make it inferior to the original in most cases.

While some will think this is reason for despair, I ask you to remain hopeful, readers. After all, God can turn even great sorrow to joy. He may have some great good planned which will upend the schemes of the Saurons, Sarumans, Gollums, Emperors, Inquisitors, and Mauls tearing apart story land – and Star Wars – today.

In which case, it is best we imitate Kanan and Ahsoka, metaphorically speaking, and open ourselves to listen to what He has to tell us. “For even the very wise cannot see all ends” – and when they try, they stop being wise. It is better, oftentimes, to wait and listen. He’ll tell us when the time is right to act. He always does.

May the Force be with you, readers, always.

More Fan Fiction: Star Wars Rebels

Hey, readers! Yes, this is another fan fiction story by yours truly. This one, however, is set in the Star Wars universe. Specifically, it is supposed to take place in the timeline of the animated TV series Star Wars Rebels.

I know not everyone likes the series, but the thing is that it has managed to catch and hold my interest for roughly two years. One of the things about the previous season which I liked was the daughter/father relationship exhibited by Sabine Wren and Kanan Jarrus in the episode “The Protector of Concord Dawn.”

It was so interesting and fun that I am hoping the writers give us another episode (or more) showing their relationship and strengthening it. But with Kanan getting blinded at the end of season two, I began thinking of what Sabine’s reaction to his injury would be. This little story is the result.

It is highly unlikely that this story will quite fit into the series’ line-up. But since when did fan fiction have to actually fit the narrative?

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this little jaunt into the Star Wars galaxy, readers!

The Force will be with you, always!

The Mithril Guardian

Sight in the Dark

Disclaimer: I do not own these characters.

“Kanan!”

With a gasp, Kanan Jarrus sat bolt upright in his bed, shivering. Ahsoka’s horrified shout, ringing through his dream into his waking consciousness, faded and died as he blinked to chase the nightmare away.

Or tried to blink. Ever since Maul had blinded him, even closing his eyes could be a bothersome movement. On the rare occasions his nightmares did not feature Malachor, Maul, or the Empire’s Inquisitors, they showed the last thing he had ever seen – a red haze, the blazing red of Maul’s lightsaber as it filled his vision and wiped it away. It had been the only thing he could ‘see’ for the first few days after the battle.

Now, all he ‘saw’ was darkness.

Throwing his legs over the side of the bed, Kanan sat up and tried to get the shudders under control. It’s lucky I don’t have much furniture, he thought, now I can’t trip on my way out of the cabin. It was also fortunate that Hera had decided they should begin living on the Ghost again, if only for a little while. Even without his sight, Kanan knew the ship so well he hardly needed help getting around. On Atollan, he would have needed a guide to navigate the Rebel base. Especially since it was still being built.

Rebel… The word bounced around in his mind. Did he even qualify as a Rebel fighter anymore? Despite his Jedi senses, a blind Rebel could never lead a mission into enemy territory.

Could he?

He couldn’t see. Although he could rely on the Force to get around, and to fight, didn’t Kanan need his eyes to assess a situation and make a plan? Thanks to Maul, he would never be able to do that again.

Without consciously thinking about it, Kanan drew his knees up to his chest and hugged them, trying to chase away the chill which suddenly assaulted him. How could he lead Ezra, Zeb, Sabine, and Hera on missions for the Rebels now? What use was he? He could barely copilot the Ghost these days.

Would he ever be able to pilot a ship on his own again?

They were the questions which plagued him day and night, making it hard for him to focus: on the Force, on learning to get around by touch and hearing, on his friends.

The principles of relying on the Force which Master Yoda had taught him and the other younglings years ago in the Temple – adding helmets with the blast shields down as an extra challenge – only carried him so far. Master Yoda had never taught them how to eat or plan a battle without being able to use their eyes.

Those REALLY should have been part of the curriculum, he thought sourly. It would have saved him so much trouble now.

With a sigh, Kanan realized he was giving into his fears. Again. Slowly, he fought to release the pain, fear, and self-pity frothing in his chest, threatening to swallow him up. He was beginning to notice a cycle in this: nightmares, then fears crowding in on his mind, followed by paralytic indecision as those worries overwhelmed him. As if I don’t have enough on my plate already, he growled to himself. Now he was trying to add to his troubles by chasing his worries in circles every day.

It was in that moment when a voice, gentle and serene, came into his mind out of the past: A Jedi acts when he is calm, at peace.

The familiar reminder from Master Yoda rose in his memory unbidden, but more than welcome. Kanan felt his negative emotions begin to subside, giving way to quiet and calm. “Thank you, Master,” he said softly. Despite being separated as they were by light years, the Empire, and ever present danger, the Ancient Jedi master still managed to have a word of comfort him.

Yes, his questions were valid concerns. But worrying needlessly about them would not solve them. If anything, his anxiety was bound to make things worse. What he needed to do was figure out how to deal with being blind. It was a limiting factor, certainly.

But Kanan had an asset others in his position rarely possessed. He had the Force.

He shivered again. The cabin still felt a little too cold. Maybe now’s a good time for an exercise, he thought suddenly.

Reaching out with the Force, Kanan searched for and found the barometer for his cabin. He located the switch easily thereafter and, counting quietly under his breath, turned the temperature up three degrees. It should warm him up without making him – or the cabin – uncomfortable.

As the temperature rose, the chill abated and faded away. Kanan released his hold on his legs and even let one dangle over the side of his bed, though he didn’t put his foot down on the floor. He chewed thoughtfully on his lower lip, pondering his options. If Hera was willing, and if they could find an asteroid belt where the Empire wasn’t likely to discover them, maybe he could get in some target practice on the gun turrets….

It would be tricky. The asteroids weren’t going to shoot back. Still, Kanan had no intention of becoming a passenger aboard the Ghost. He couldn’t afford to do that. The others still needed him; the Rebellion needed him. And to give up now would be to grant Maul victory.

Kanan’s hand balled into a fist without his conscious will. Maul had intended to kill him on Malachor, but Ahsoka had stopped him. Failing that initial attempt, the former Sith Lord would be quite happy to see Kanan a broken and defeated man.

Which meant that Kanan had to keep himself in one piece. So he was blind. That was just battle damage. “Okay, it’s rather significant battle damage,” he admitted aloud. And it was going to make fighting for the Rebellion hard. But if he gave up now, he would never be able to pull himself back together. If that happened, then Maul could waltz in at his leisure and finish him off, leaving Ezra in even worse straits.

Ezra.

He swallowed, his mouth having suddenly gone dry. Kanan had no idea why Maul had chosen Ezra as his Dark Side apprentice. The fact that the boy was convenient at the time was a deciding factor, of course. None of them knew how long Maul had been on Malachor, but it seemed that until landing on the desolate planet, the former Sith had not realized he needed – or wanted – an apprentice.

That wasn’t the case anymore.

There had been a darkness hovering over Ezra ever since they had left the dead world. Part of it was the fact that they had lost Ahsoka. Kanan wasn’t as sure now as he had been that she was dead. She wasn’t a Jedi anymore, but neither was she of the Dark Side. He wasn’t certain that her light had gone out, exactly…. But if she was alive, Kanan knew she had her reasons for staying away from the Rebellion. From all accounts, Vader wanted her captured pretty badly. If the Inquisitors had been able to track him and Ezra, Vader might have had a similar method that allowed him to follow Ahsoka. Of course, she might also be staying away to pull Vader’s attention from the two of them.

He brought his fist up and pressed it against his forehead, trying to think against the ache which was building behind his eyes. Whether Ahsoka was alive or dead, Ezra had been treading perilously close to the Dark Side since they returned to Atollan. Although he did his best to keep the boy from noticing his recurring nightmares, Kanan knew the youth should still have been able to pick up on them at least vaguely. If he had, he hadn’t mentioned it. Not to Kanan, anyway.

This was what worried Kanan most, along with his apprentice’s renewed, almost single-minded dedication to his training in the Force.  It had been bleeding over into his desire to fight on behalf of the Rebellion, too, and that was becoming cause for concern.

Ezra had lost his lightsaber on Malachor and was currently building a new one. But aside from the few lessons he had been able to squeeze into their time together, Ezra had been working on his Force abilities alone. And when Kanan did manage to get a session in with him, he could sense anger in his apprentice. Anger the youth was doing little to hide – or to control.

Kanan figured that was due to a combination of things: Maul’s influence, his own blindness, and Ahsoka’s apparent death. Unlike Kanan, Ezra was convinced that Ahsoka was dead. Though he had not yet managed to corral the teenager long enough to quiz him, Kanan was beginning to wonder if the former street thief would listen to any questions he asked – whether they were for directions, or simply to make him think about his position.

Try to fight, and you will die, the vision Sentinel in the Lothal Temple had said. The Rebellion will fail, and your apprentice will become a servant of evil.

I will not let that happen. Kanan frowned at the memory, transferring his fist from his forehead to the top of his knee. He had admitted that he couldn’t protect Ezra from everything during that vision, including his own folly or choices. But he had fought on Malachor, hadn’t he? And he had lost at least his eyes. What if he had also lost the Rebellion – and Ezra?

He had tried meditating on the matter. So far, he had had no luck in finding an answer. Probably because the very thought was more frightening than the idea of being useless to the Rebellion. It was too hard to meditate while swimming in his own fear.

Kanan hit his mattress with his other hand. He had lost so much already!! His master, the Jedi Order, the Republic – and now, his eyes… He might yet be able to survive being blind, but if he lost Ezra to the Dark Side, he would break. Down in the deepest recesses of his being, Kanan knew that was true.

I can’t lose him. I can’t! The thought had been a constant refrain since he had come to understand the full implications of Ezra’s danger. It never banished the fear, only heightened it. If he fought to protect Ezra and keep him as his apprentice, he might just lose him – and the Rebellion as well.

Before meeting Ezra, he had been a shadow. He had known it, but only in a vague way. It was during his time training him that Kanan had learned just how much he had been denying about himself. He was a Rebel, a space ranger, and Hera’s… copilot. That was true.

But he was, primarily, a Jedi. And up until Ezra had dropped into his lap on Lothal, he had been rejecting that fact out of fear. Without Ezra, he would still be living less than a half-life, because he would not have been living the truth. He would have been living a fear-filled lie.

Shaking his head, Kanan realized he had just torn down his Jedi calm for the second time since waking up. With a heavy sigh, he began the process of releasing his fears again.

He had just managed that feat when he sensed her headed down the hall. She was being quiet. Since the others were all supposed to be asleep, that made sense. Letting his feet fall quietly to the floor, he reached out to the door controls with the Force. He already had this technique down pat. It had been one of the first things he had practiced. And at this hour, it was better that he let her in without making her ask permission to enter.

As soon as she was in front of the door, he opened it. “Kanan?” Sabine whispered tentatively.

He gestured slightly and she stepped inside. “You’re up late,” he admonished mildly, shutting the door as he spoke.

“I was finishing up a project,” she said softly as she sat in the chair across from his bed.

Without thinking, Kanan raised one eyebrow. It pulled the skin above his eyes, which was uncomfortable. He could sense that was part of why Sabine was here – and whatever the project was, it had something to do with him. Otherwise, she would have countered with the obvious fact that, despite the late hour, he was also awake.

But there was something else in the back of her mind, too. An uneasiness she didn’t want to share with anyone else. Or which she felt she couldn’t share with anyone else. “What’s so important you couldn’t do it in the morning?” he asked quietly. “Did you paint your armor again?”

The giggle and the flash of mirth happened at the same time, and he nearly missed the first for the force of the latter. Kanan allowed a small smile to show itself. Getting a giggle out of Sabine was always a triumph, especially since they had returned from Malachor. She hadn’t quite been avoiding him, but she had been keeping him at arm’s length. Kanan supposed it was because she was absolutely determined not to pity or patronize him. If they were alone together for too long these days, she started to get nervous and ran out of things to say in minutes.

That was the case now. “I’m going to repaint it soon,” she answered. She paused awkwardly for a few seconds. “And my hair. I haven’t decided on a color yet.”

“As long as it’s not Imperial gray, I think we’ll survive the change.”

That got another giggle out of her. Then she again fell silent.

Kanan waited. Sabine would tell him what she had come for when she was ready. That was the way she always did things like this.

After a few moments’ silence, there was the slightest rustle of movement. She was too well trained to let her armor make contact with itself and raise a clatter. “I made you these,” she said.

Without thinking, Kanan put his hands out. Some sort of material landed in his outstretched hands and he fingered it. It didn’t take him long to figure out what it was. “Gloves?” he asked, frowning. There was something different about these; they weren’t smooth, but seemed to have some sort of raised material attached to the palms and the underside of the fingers.

“Here.” Sabine took them back and carefully put them over each of his hands. Kanan flexed one hand, then the other.   There was a tingle along his palms and fingers as he moved.

“I didn’t want to interfere with your Jedi senses, or…retraining,” Sabine began. He could tell she had prepared this speech in her head for a bit, and that she was trying not to rush through it.

Mandalorians, he thought, stifling an exasperated sigh. They placed high esteem on strength, courage, and honor, which was admirable. But they weren’t that comfortable with open displays of kindness or charity in circumstances like his. To them, it seemed too much like pity. And to the warriors of Mandalore, pity was a weakness.

“But I added some sensors in the palms and fingers of the gloves,” she continued. “And I covered them with a thicker material that would help you grip things. Like you lightsaber, or a drinking glass, or even the controls for the gun turrets. Once you’re used to – to how you have to do things now,” he felt mild embarrassment emanate from her, “you can take them off, because they’ll have helped you build up muscle memory you can use instead.”

Kanan smiled. “They’re great, Sabine. Thanks. You know, I was just thinking about asking Hera to find us a nice, quiet asteroid field where I could get in some target practice.”

“Why do that? I can reprogram some remotes, let them out of the Ghost, and give you a more realistic workout that way.”

“That’s an idea,” he conceded. It was good to hear the excitement in her voice. “Still, if we end up in an asteroid field someday, I may be needed on the turbolasers. So both practices would be useful. How soon can you have the remotes ready – tomorrow?” he added. Sabine was already up late. He didn’t need her awake for the rest of the night.

She caught the warning, and the command, in his tone. “If we’re not too busy, I should have them done before lunch,” she replied.

“That’d be great.” He cocked his head at her. Between the position of her voice and her sense, he didn’t need sight to make sure that his face was to her. And according to Hera, he could still level an imposing, daunting gaze, even with a bandage over what was left of his eyes. “So what else is bothering you?”

He had to wait longer for her to respond to that question. “I’m worried about the kid,” she muttered.

Ezra? He thought. “Why?”

“He hasn’t been the same since you came back,” she said slowly. “It’s like – I don’t know, he won’t let us get close anymore. I think he was more friendly when we first picked him on Lothal than he is now, in some ways.”

“And then there’s Maul.”

Kanan frowned. He had had to tell Hera, Sabine, and Zeb what had occurred on Malachor after Ezra had refused to do so. He hadn’t wanted to tell Sabine about Maul at first, considering the former Sith’s involvement with Mandalore’s past. The last thing they needed was a repeat of Sabine’s performance on Concord Dawn. She had proven her capabilities in that fracas, but Maul was far more powerful than she would ever be.

And Sabine knew it. Despite the anger he could sense in her, Kanan also sensed fear, caution borne of what she knew Maul was powerful enough to do. “I don’t see how we can fight him, Kanan. I don’t think he’ll just let us go.”

“Not likely,” Kanan agreed. “We’ll be seeing him again, sooner or later.”

“I wish I could just…shoot him,” she growled.

He couldn’t suppress a smile. “Maul’s survived too much for a blaster bolt to take care of him, I’m afraid.”

“He still has to pay,” she replied fiercely. “For Mandalore, for Ahsoka, for Ezra, and – ”

She cut herself off, deep shame coloring her sense. Kanan guessed she was blushing. It felt like the kind of embarrassment that would make someone blush. Either way, it was definitely a rare emotion for Sabine Wren, daughter of a Death Watch warrior from Mandalore, to exhibit so deeply – under any circumstances.

“Nice to know I make the top four.” Unconsciously, Kanan leaned back and crossed his arms. “Maul will die one way or another, Sabine. Even if Ezra or I don’t best him, he’s not likely to last long.”

“What makes you so sure?”

“Vader,” he replied quietly. “Maul’s stronger in the Dark Side than any of the Inquisitors ever were. He’s stronger, at least at the moment, than Ezra or I. Only Ahsoka was able to hold him at bay in a duel.”

“You beat him.”

Kanan shrugged. “Not soon enough. The thing is that Maul had an Inquisitor hunting him, too. As long as Maul’s alive, he’s a direct threat to Vader’s position. While you can have a thousand Jedi and more Padawans than they know what to do with, you can only have two Sith.”

“Why?”

“Because those who use the Dark Side are always vying with each other for more power,” he explained. “Jedi don’t seek power for itself. The Force is our ally, not our servant. The Sith desire to be all-powerful. That’s why there can only be two Sith at a time; one master, one apprentice. Eventually, the apprentice kills the master and takes his place. Maul doesn’t fit into that equation. Not anymore, anyway.”

Sabine muttered something under her breath in Mandalorian. Kanan wasn’t sure if it was a prayer or a curse. Considering the tone it was uttered in, it could have been the former. But that didn’t guarantee it. “Sounds like a very strict type of politics.”

“It does, now that you mention it.”

They were silent again. “Is that why Ezra won’t talk about him?”

“I don’t know,” Kanan admitted. “I hope so.”

He felt apprehension touch her emotions. “You hope so?”

Kanan sighed. “Ezra’s going through a rough time right now.”

“So are you.”

He huffed out something like a chuckle. “It’s not the same, Sabine. Not for the most part. My training was more thorough than Ezra’s ever will be, even if he were to be trained by a Master. And the temptation to join the Dark Side is something we all have to face, Jedi and non-Jedi alike.” He sighed. “Ezra has to find his own way through this. I can guide him, and stay close … But he has to make his own choice.”

“About joining Maul?”

“About choosing to be a Jedi,” Kanan replied softly, “Or choosing the Dark Side. At this point, Maul hasn’t got much to do with it. Unless as the catalyst for Ezra’s journey into the light… or fall into the Dark.”

Sabine was very quiet for the next few minutes. In that hush, Kanan realized that for the moment, he was at peace. He wasn’t going to try to fight Ezra or Maul to prevent his apprentice’s fall to the Dark Side. But that didn’t mean he had to abandon the boy, either. He was never going to do that.

“Have you told Hera?” Sabine asked at last.

“We’ve talked about it, off and on.” Kanan sighed. “But you know how many supply runs we’ve had to do this week. We haven’t had time to really sit down and think it through together.”

“Hmm.”

Stillness descended on them again. Then Sabine stood up. “Is there anything I can do?”

Kanan thought about it. “Just stay his friend,” he said at last. Then, with a small smile, he added, “And if you’re up to it, how ‘bout we try out these gloves, see how well they work on the gun controls?”

Sabine laughed lightly. “Mind stopping at the galley on the way? I could use a drink.”

“Works for me,” Kanan answered, standing up and using the Force to open the cabin door. They left the cabin together. Just to see if he could, Kanan reached out and slapped at the barometer’s controls on the way out. If he had done it right, then the temperature should drop back to its previous level while he was gone.

Sabine had noticed his movement and watched him slap the controls. He sensed surprise from her as the door closed behind him. “You hit it right on the mark,” she said, sounding impressed. “How..?”

“Jedi hunch,” Kanan replied with a mock-serious shrug.

“Uh-huh.”

“Well, I did hit it. Somehow.”

She giggled. “I guess it’s as good an answer as any!”

Kanan chuckled, putting his arm over her shoulders and giving her a half hug. “Galley, gun turret, then sleep.”

“Deal,” she replied.

THE END

Star Wars Rebels Season 3 Trailer Is OUT!!!!

YEAH-HOOO!!!

The Star Wars Rebels season three trailer is out, people!!!  The Rebels will be going up against Mandalorians who work for the Empire, helping TIE fighter pilots defect, and facing Darth Maul yet again!  It is going to be more The Empire Strikes Back than season two was!!!

And it looks like Kanan may just regain his sight – but will he lose Ezra in the process?!

Check out the trailer here:

Oh, and the blue faced guy?  Yeah, that is Grand Admiral Thrawn.  His voice actor has a higher tenor than I would have chosen for the character, but hey.  If we get Thrawn, then maybe the writers will give us Mara Jade Skywalker, too!!!!!  Ooooh, cross your fingers and hope!

The Force will be with you, readers, always! 😉

The Mithril Guardian

Spotlight: Star Wars Rebels – Jedi Knight Kanan Jarrus

Kanan

I have always been fascinated by stories of Jedi Knights or Masters who survived the Great Purge in the Star Wars universe. Light-side Force-users who were recruited to the Rebellion around the time of the original trilogy and who rose to prominence in the new Jedi Order afterward also intrigue me.

I do not know why I find them so interesting. But when I read the character profiles of Corran Horn, Kyle Katarn, and Kam Solusar, I was fascinated. I wanted to get to know these guys, to see more of their adventures with Luke and his new Jedi Order. Reading Jude Watson’s Last of the Jedi series also introduced me to an intriguing straggler from the Jedi Purge: Ferus Olin.

Of these four, though, I know only Ferus Olin really well. Corran Horn has starred in a couple of Timothy Zahn novels which have fallen into my hands, so I have ‘seen’ enough for me to decide I enjoy him. But Katarn and Solusar I have not yet been able to track down. I intend to read the books they have a part in sooner or later. Later just looks to be a more likely time than sooner! 😉

Anyway, this fascination with Jedi closer to the original trilogy in part explains my affection for the lone Jedi Knight in Disney’s Star Wars Rebels. Kanan Jarrus – formerly known as Jedi apprentice Caleb Dume – survived the Jedi Purge. That immediately turned my head. Another Jedi survivor of the Clone Wars fighting in the fledgling Rebellion, I thought. This is interesting. Where did he come from? How did he survive? Who was his master? What is he like? …. Etcetera, etcetera, ad infinitum.

Rebels and the stories in the paraphernalia attached to it have done an admirable job of answering some of those questions, but I am still eager to learn more. Hopefully the writers will not keep us waiting too long on that score!

But let us begin with what we know. Despite being raised by the old Jedi Order, it is clear Kanan does not keep with all of their customs. His relationship with Hera blatantly breaks with the Jedi ban on romance. And, counter to the stereotypical Jedi of old, he is also cocky, a smart alec, and rather cynical.

As I said before in other posts, this is what makes him interesting. In part, Kanan’s cynicism is due to the fact that he has seen so many hopes and dreams destroyed, as well as many fears realized. He has also suffered a great deal, first when his master was killed and the Jedi Order he knew and loved was obliterated, then in surviving in an unfriendly galaxy under Imperial rule for fifteen years. And this from the time he was fourteen!

That tends to take the rose glasses off of someone’s eyes in a hurry, does it not?

As for his cocky attitude and tendency to throw wisecracks around, that is also partly due to past bad experience. In addition it is, initially, a shield that keeps people away. It makes the snoopy Imperials write him off as a brash, riff-raff space ranger. Meanwhile it keeps the nice, kinder people in the galaxy from getting too close and becoming friends – friends he could later lose as he lost his master.

This shield does and does not change at the beginning of the Rebels TV series. Though his crew knows he is a Jedi, Kanan keeps his heritage hidden to protect them, rarely using his Force abilities even when there is no apparent danger of his being discovered. It is dangerous enough that they are going up against the big, bad Empire – if the Imperials found out Kanan was a Jedi, then the hunt for the Ghost crew would be redoubled.

Kanan and Ezra

This, as we know, changes when he meets Ezra Bridger. I have often wondered just what it would take to make a Jedi in hiding accept a Force-sensitive youth as an apprentice. From my perspective, the Rebels series answers this question well. Through the events of the first season, Kanan is brought to the realization that he is not hiding simply to protect his friends. He is hiding because he is afraid, and this means he is denying the Force’s guidance of the galaxy and his life. Avoiding being murdered is one thing; refusing his Jedi heritage, as he had been doing, is something else entirely.

At the beginning of the first season he runs into Ezra, a boy who can touch the Force. Although he does not want to admit it, Kanan is instantly drawn to Ezra by the age-old compulsion of the Jedi to train an apprentice. He fights the instinct for a while, not because he dislikes Ezra but because he is afraid of revealing what he is himself.

However, leaving Ezra untrained puts the youth in more danger. Eventually, his sensitivity to the Force would be recognized and the Empire would catch him. Then they would either turn him to the Dark Side or kill him.

Kanan cannot sit by and allow that to happen. To do such a thing is criminal, and despite his spiritual injuries, Kanan remains too good at heart and too morally-minded to abandon the boy. Over seasons one and two, their master/apprentice rapport strengthens into a fraternal relationship. By now, it is not quite a brotherly bond, from this writer’s point of view. Kanan has grown beyond that and is now experiencing being a true Jedi master governing an apprentice. In many ways, he has become Ezra’s surrogate father.

Up until Twilight of the Apprentice, Ezra responds to him in a duly relatable, filial manner. But in the second season finale, he is “feeling his oats,” as it were. This convinces him that Kanan is trying to keep him from growing up, when in actuality the older Jedi is trying to prevent Ezra from walking off a cliff the boy does not even realize he is heading toward.

Sabine has a similar understanding with Kanan, albeit less firmly established, since she is not Force-sensitive. Part of the strength of Kanan’s connection with Ezra is that they are bound together through the Force as teacher and student. Ahsoka and Anakin had a similar friendship in The Clone Wars TV series.

In the case of Rebels’ star Mandalorian, Sabine lacks that particular link with Kanan. Their friendship is all too similar to the one some real fathers and daughters share. After a point, they can only understand so much about each other, before giving up and simply trusting that the other one has a plan. This means their relationship can get a little stormy, as we saw in The Protector of Concord Dawn. Still, Sabine is loyal to Kanan, else she could not have controlled her warrior instincts in that same episode to satisfy and please her father figure. As she said, she has “been raised right.”

It is hard to quantify Kanan and Zeb’s friendship. The simplest way to explain it is to relate it to Cap and Thor’s rapport. Zeb follows Kanan out of respect for the cowboy Jedi, while Kanan chooses a mission and delegates how it is to be accomplished; with emphasis on the way the Lasat is to play his part. Even when the two disagree, as they did in Droids in Distress, they tend to do it quietly. Zeb rarely loses his temper with Kanan the way he will with Ezra or Chopper. He will grumble, fuss, and snarl, but he will give his all to the plan just the same.

Chopper’s friendship with Kanan, at times, seems to be non-existent. Kanan appears to find the cranky astromech unit an annoyance best gotten rid of, while Chopper takes any and all opportunities to snipe at him in binary – or with his tazer appendage. Still, the two seem to have some sort of esteem for each other. Though Chopper annoys him, Kanan relies on the droid as much as the rest of the crew does. And the fact that C1-10p was good enough to quietly see a blinded Kanan to Ezra’s side in the Sith temple on Malachor hints the independent bucket of bolts places some value on Kanan.

Kanan and Hera

As I said above, it is noteworthy to me that Kanan and Hera are “together.” Put aside for a minute the fact that they are totally different species, Kanan definitely knows the Jedi were never supposed to marry or get romantically attached to someone. Perhaps part of the reason he broke with this tradition is, well, there is no Jedi Order to enforce the rule any more.

Besides which, he and Hera are not starry-eyed kids, as Anakin Skywalker and Padmé Amidala were. If things go wrong and either of them is hurt or killed in the fight against the Empire, those are the fortunes of war. No matter how much pain that is going to cause them, they have still accepted the possibility that it will happen. From what I remember, Anakin did not intend to do that – which sort of led to the Empire being established in the first place, right?

This is something I have admitted before, but I shall say it again: I enjoy Kanan’s wisecracking abilities a lot. And this is not just because I always like it when the good guy scores a couple (or several dozen) verbal hits on the bad guy. Kanan’s quips are usually funny remarks or spot-on points which echo what the audience is thinking. Not only are they amusing, but this witty banter is also a good distraction or a way of prodding the villain to admit something. A well-phrased, well-placed verbal jab can upend a baddy’s plot in a snap. Just ask Spider-Man. Or Hawkeye. Or Tony Stark. Or Mara Jade Skywalker. Or Han Solo.

A good number of other Jedi from the prequels were characters which I never really saw. I did not watch the Clone Wars TV series, but it struck me that most of the Jedi in it had very little which distinguished their personalities from those of their peers’. Ahsoka had a sense of humor and fun, of course, which made her stand out to me when I looked up the series later on.

And yes, I know Anakin had a sense of humor. It was rather hard to miss! But his quips were often tainted by the Dark Side’s influence, and they therefore left me feeling uncomfortable more often than not. Obi-Wan’s wit in the films was rare and dry – not really worth an audience response of loud laughter or grins and giggles. The Jedi of the old Order all seemed too serious and expressionless, for the most part, to this writer.

Kanan is definitely not like that. Even when he is being serious he can be amusing, such as when he tells Darth Maul that he and Ezra “come as a set.” We see the situation in Twilight of the Apprentice just as clearly as Kanan does. Ezra is in danger of being corrupted to the Dark Side by Maul. The guy is treacherous, no doubt about it. But Kanan’s snappy “we’re a set” comment eases the tension and makes the audience smile or grin.

Because with that retort, we understand Kanan is not going to roll over to the former Sith Lord without a fight. If Maul wants Ezra, he will have to go through Kanan to get him. Even though becoming a Jedi or becoming one with the Dark Side is ultimately Ezra’s choice, Kanan is not going to give up on his apprentice. In a situation like this, that is a comfort.

Most of what I like about Kanan, however, is how he got to be in Rebels at all. After the downfall of the Jedi Order and the Old Republic, Kanan had to work hard to get by while hiding what he is. Everything looked grim and sad to him during this time – and even after he joined Hera on the Ghost, he was not prone to an overly hopeful outlook on the future of the galaxy. They were five individuals against the Empire. Those are pretty rotten odds!

And he was also constantly reminded of who and what he lost. Kanan admitted at the end of the first season that he literally wakes up every morning remembering his master’s last order: Run. Jedi are not supposed to run and hide. That was not what Master Depa Billaba was training him to do. But she told him to do it.

And he did run. More to the point, Kanan did not stop running, despite joining the Rebellion as part of Hera’s crew.

Forget the prestige and power he may have wielded as an adult Jedi in the Old Republic. Kanan lost not only his friends and that future during the Purge; he lost his purpose. There can be no Jedi serving the Light side of the Force under a Sith controlled Galactic Empire. A Jedi works to protect all life in the galaxy, and if the Empire kills a Jedi as soon as he shows his face, the Jedi can hardly do his job, now can he?

So Kanan was reduced to hiding. He is, at the beginning of Rebels, the scraps of the person he once was. He has to hide in the galaxy’s underworld fringe lest he be caught and murdered. Hiding and running are not the way of the Jedi…. but neither is getting oneself killed for no reason. In between this rock and hard place, the only thing Kanan thinks he has left to do is to find a way to survive as something he is not.

Then Kanan senses that the tide has begun to change as the Rebellion against the Empire grows and gains more strength. Suddenly, the future of the galaxy does not seem so dark and bleak anymore. The Dark Side looks like it can be defeated. Finally, the hope to become a servant of the Light side of the Force again returns.

Kanan’s first inkling of this comes when he figures out that Ezra is Force-sensitive. All at once, he sees hope again, even though it takes a while for him to admit it. This kid can touch the Force. And, like Kanan, his devil-may-care attitude is just a shield he uses to protect himself. They are more similar than they first realize.

This is what helps Kanan make his decision to step out of the shadows and ignite his lightsaber again. Yeah, it is going to make life for him and his friends tough in the days ahead. But all of a sudden, the future really is worth fighting for, no matter how harsh the battle becomes. The future actually is something to look forward to, for once. The Force has not changed. Kanan can still fight. He can still be a Jedi. Not the one he would have been under the Old Republic, but a Jedi all the same.

Kanan realizes in Spark of Rebellion that the Jedi do not have to die out, that they can be brought back. That he can still fight for the Light. He does not have to hide anymore – from himself or from the Empire. And Ezra does not have to hide or steal to survive, either. They can both be more than what the Dark Side-controlled Empire thinks they are.

And that is something worth fighting to achieve, no matter the cost.

Kanan knows Jar'Kai

This is a good part of why I like Kanan so much. He is not fighting to prove a point. He is fighting for his freedom, the freedom of his friends, and his apprentice’s freedom. Not their freedom from economic tyranny, but their freedom to choose who and what they want to be. The Empire is trying to control those choices through its power over the galactic economy and the planets the galaxy’s inhabitants call home.

The whole point of being a Rebel is to tell the Empire to butt out of the minds and hearts of the people of the galaxy, and to continue telling the Leviathan to keep its grubby fingers to itself rather than retaliate in anger. Governments do not have free will; people have free will. And when the Empire takes that away, it commits a very serious crime against the inhabitants of the galaxy. Kanan decided he was not going to stand for this when Rebels started. He was going to fight the Empire the best way he could – as a Jedi.

I am really hoping Kanan survives to be part of the celebration in the end of Return of the Jedi. If the writers of Star Wars Rebels do not reveal his fate within the series, though, it may be some time before I know what happens to him. Still, I am rather hopeful that he and Ezra will live to hear from Luke when he begins to rebuild the Jedi Order.

In the non-canon novels, Ferus Olin did not make it. But others did. If Kam Solusar, Corran Horn, and Kyle Katarn could be Force-users during the height of the Rebellion who later became new Jedi Knights, then I see no reason why Ezra could not follow suit. A handful of stragglers from the Jedi Purge also lived to see the rise of the new Order in the novels. So I think Kanan could still make it to the shindig at Endor.

But that, of course, is up to Lucasfilm/Disney, not me. I would hate to believe they wasted all this time and money just to kill Kanan and Ezra off at the end of Rebels. Wouldn’t you, readers?

The Force will be with you, always!

The Mithril Guardian

Star Wars Rebels Season 2 Review

 

SPOILER ALERT!!! MEGA SPOILERS FOLLOW! READ ON AT YOUR OWN RISK!

Season two of Star Wars Rebels ended March 30, readers. Whoa!! It was an amazing ending!!! Ahsoka managed to walk away from a battle with Darth Vader (though she was limping), Ezra was bewitched by Maul (yes, that nasty dude has returned to plague us again), and Kanan was blinded. I have to admit, that punch hit harder than I would have thought – but at least he is still alive.

Obviously, this cannot simply be a review of Twilight of the Apprentice. It has to be a review of the whole season. Season two was much longer than season one, in part because the characters needed to stretch their wings more. So that is where we will begin.

We will look at Sabine Wren first. Of the Rebels cast, Sabine’s history will probably have the most impact going forward. It was revealed in season two that she is “Clan Wren, House Vizsla.” Yep, you read that right. Sabine’s mother was Death Watch, and this has led many to suspect that her mother could be Bo-Katan, Duchess Satine Kryze’s sister. While this is certainly possible, I looked up Pre Vizsla’s death scene and found there were several female Death Watch Mandalorians present when he was killed. So Sabine’s mother could have been any one of them.

Throughout this season, Sabine’s greatest growth has been with regard to Ketsu Onyo, Hera, Kanan, and perhaps Ezra. In Blood Sisters, Sabine forgave Ketsu for leaving her to die some time prior to the beginning of the series. It is no mean feat to forgive an injury, especially one as terrible as being left to die. But Sabine did it.

She also seems to be friendlier with Ezra now, looking at him as something of a kid brother. He still has a blatant crush on her, but so far she has not openly reciprocated. Given that she will have a greater role in season three, “putting her on a level with Ezra,” there is certainly potential for a romance between the two to kick into gear. Call me optimistic, sentimental, whatever – I actually would not mind it if they fell for each other.

With regard to Hera, Sabine’s daughterly love for the Twi’lek was a prime motivator for her actions in her star episode. In The Protector of Concord Dawn, Sabine and Hera visit Concord Dawn, a Mandalorian colony whose people Hera hopes to recruit as allies. But as things turn out, the Protectors living on the moon already agreed to work for the Empire. Hera’s fighter is nearly destroyed as she buys Sabine and the rest of her fighter squadron time to escape. Sabine takes this turn of events very personally. It is extremely frustrating, but we still do not know precisely what happened to her real family. The fact that Sabine shows such strong daughterly attachment to Hera, though, suggests that her real mother may be dead.

In the same episode, Kanan and Sabine get some great interaction time. Kanan is suffering as much anguish over Hera’s injuries as Sabine is, but he holds the pain in check. Their father/daughter relationship is shown to be strong in this episode. Interestingly, when Hera comments that Sabine is “sounding more like a Jedi than a Mandolorian” at the end of the show, Sabine comes back with: “Well, I guess I’ve just been raised right.” For a girl who is so competent and self-sufficient, she has an extraordinarily emotional reliance on these two characters. Clearly, Sabine considers Kanan and Hera to be parental figures.

Sabine Wren is a very interesting character, and I cannot wait to see what she will be doing in the next season. It will also be interesting to see how she reacts to Kanan’s blindness. We have already seen how she responded to Hera’s injuries earlier in season two; it would be odd if she did not have some sort of negative reaction to what Maul did to Kanan.

Next we will look at Captain Hera Syndulla. Hera’s episodes revealing her back story were rather…um, serene, in my book. Wings of the Master, where we see her love of flying, really did not have any emotional kick to it. Homecoming had more pep, but the writers lost me at the end. Something about Hera’s speech to her father just did not hit home with me, which is unfortunate.

These disappointments aside, there was a lot more for Hera to do this season. She helped liberate (at least temporarily) her homeworld of Ryloth, became Captain of Phoenix Squadron’s starfighter pilots, and piloted the first B-Wing into battle. As a side note, I think it is safe to say now that her relationship with Kanan is definitely more than friendly.

People have complained about their relationship a fair bit, which I find a little strange. There are viewers who apparently want Hera and Kanan to come out and say, “I love you,” to each other publicly. Quite frankly, I am beginning to suspect Hera and Kanan have moved beyond admitting that in public – they have already admitted it privately, or so it seems. Most of the way they show their love for each other is in little moments, or through snappy banter – not to mention arguments! They do not need to gush in front of everybody, and they are certainly not being coy with each other. They are simply being discreet and sensible.

Next we have Zeb. The big bruiser got two episodes to himself this season. The first was Legends of the Lasat, where the Rebels rescue two Lasat refugees trying to reach their species’ fabled new world, Lira San. The show had a great music score and revealed that Zeb held the rank of captain in the Lasat Honor Guard before the fall of his homeworld. He was also responsible for protecting the royal family of Lasan, and his failure in that area is one of the reasons he is so bitter towards the Empire.

The second Zeb-centered episode was The Honorable Ones. In this show, Agent Kallus and Zeb end up stranded on one of Geonosis’ ice moons and have to work together to survive. Typical plot device, it is true. But the episode is still ripe with exciting possibilities, the biggest of which is: Will Kallus turn against the Empire?

I think it is likely. In fact, I have thought so from the beginning of the series. Kallus is not a clean-cut Imperial. He has a strong sense of honor – even if he keeps it under wraps more often than not, in order to maintain his allegiance to the Empire. The fact is, though, that the Empire values honor about as much as it values the Jedi. This is something Kallus will eventually have to recognize. And the friendship Zeb and Kallus develop in this episode opens the door for that recognition and character expansion on Kallus’ part in later shows.

This episode also reinforces Zeb’s place in the pecking order of the Ghost crew. Sabine and Ezra look up to the Lasat brawler as an older brother – in separate ways, of course. Sabine has known Zeb longer than Ezra has, but in the end, the two youths make it clear they would be devastated if they lost the big guy.

Kallus has no sort of family group in the Empire. He was expecting a warm welcome back after the Empire rescued him from the Geonosian moon. What he got was a distracted acknowledgement – basically, “I’m working right now; see you when you’re being all nasty and scary again later on.”

Yeah, the Empire is so much better than the Rebellion. Let’s see how long Kallus keeps thinking that, shall we? I bet by season three’s finale he will seriously be considering how honorable the Empire really is…. and whether or not it deserves his undying allegiance.

I will get to our three Jedi momentarily, but first I want to make an honorable mention. Captain Rex, Anakin Skywalker’s clone captain in the Clone Wars TV series, returned as a grizzled veteran in the first episodes of Rebels’ second season. Having never seen The Clone Wars, the second season of Rebels managed to introduce him very well.

But his presence actually caused some friction in the Ghost crew at first. Kanan, remembering his master’s death at the hands of her clone troopers, was none too pleased about finding and adding Rex to the rebel cell. This hostility between the two would occasionally blow up into explosive arguments, irritating Ezra so much that he did whatever he could to get away from the two until things had quieted down (hence his meeting with Fifth Brother and Seventh Sister).

This antagonism from Kanan ended, however, in the episode Stealth Strike. When Rex was captured and tortured during a rescue mission, Kanan went back to get him. That was a very powerful scene, and I really enjoyed it. Rex’s faith in the Jedi and the Ghost crew has never faltered, though with Ahsoka’s disappearance at the end of this season, he might be the one who becomes aggressive toward Kanan for part of season three. Maybe. We will have to wait and see.

Now we come to our Jedi. Well, sort of. Ahsoka is no longer a Jedi – she has not been since she left the Order in The Clone Wars. Ahsoka was not around the Ghost crew 24/7 through season two, and so there is little to see of her. But it is clear that she likes the crew, especially their resident Jedi. While Kanan defers to her greater experience and knowledge, Ahsoka is much less formal toward him than he is to her.

Her friendship with Ezra is like looking in a mirror. She looks at him and she can see some of herself when she was Anakin Skywalker’s apprentice. Ezra is impetuous, brash, and does not always think before he acts – or speaks. She was like that, once upon a time, before age and experience tempered her recklessness. Well, mostly tempered her recklessness….

Ahsoka, it appears, survived her battle with Vader on Malachor. Though they both came out of it the worse for wear; Vader was noticeably limping and having a hard time even standing up, let alone putting one foot in front of the other. According to some reports, Ahsoka was also limping badly. We may see her again in Rebels, or we may only see her in the Star Wars comics. Her story, from what Dave Filoni says, is not the story of the Ghost crew. Even though she is still alive, she may not appear again on screen.

Now we come to Ezra. I have been worried about our street-urchin-turned-Jedi-apprentice since A Princess on Lothal. Losing his parents was a blow, especially when he learned that his transmission in Call to Action – a first season episode – inspired their prisoner revolt… which led to their deaths. The loss hurt, and pain often leads to anger. “Anger, fear, aggression – the Dark Side of the Force are they…”

Master Yoda’s warnings fell on predictably deaf ears. Up until facing Vader on Lothal, the Ghost crew’s missions were largely fun and games. Get in, get the merchandise, cut things close, then escape the Empire and make the Imperials look bad in the process. This, naturally, could not last forever. In the folly of youth, Ezra did not put two and two together. Or if he did, he somehow managed not to come up with four.

More to the point, his ability in the Force has been growing all season. He has learned he has a real talent for sensing life and communicating with animal life forms through the Force. As Spider-Man knows, with great power comes great responsibility. Winning all the time means that the first loss stings one’s pride. And when stung pride is added to grief, which can snowball into anger, you have a problem.

Ezra’s talents have clearly gone to his head. But that is not how Maul got his talons in him during Twilight. He took a different tack, going after something which made the young apprentice much more vulnerable: Ezra’s grief over his parents’ deaths and his fear that he will lose his “second family,” the Ghost crew, to the Empire.

As of Twilight of the Apprentice, Ezra is skirting dangerously close to the Dark Side. The next season, it has been hinted, he will be fighting with that lure a whole lot more. With Maul scheduled to reappear as the main Dark Side antagonist in season three, that is not going to be an easy battle.

Maul and Kanan are both going to be tugging on Ezra’s loyalties, and Ezra will be drifting through dangerous waters by his own volition. This will also lend the show a darker air – which some fans have been all but begging the writers for since the series started. (Be careful what you wish for, guys.) Season three may be more The Empire Strikes Back than season two was.

Lastly, we come to Kanan. I have to admit that Kanan Jarrus has been my favorite character since Rebels hit the airwaves. I enjoy watching him, so seeing Maul blind him hurt. It hurt a lot. Luke lost a hand in The Empire Strikes Back; so of course, someone in Rebels had to lose something. Eventually. Everyone would have been expecting a hand. For cryin’ out loud, Marvel made that a shtick of their Phase Two films!

But still…hitting him in the eyes… That bites. It bites badly.

Going back briefly to happier times, Kanan has grown quite a bit since season one. Over season two he had to learn to accept Rex as a member of Phoenix Squadron. He watched clones kill his master – and then try to kill him. Those memories made him hostile to Rex and his fellow clones, Wolffe and Gregor, in the early episodes. It was a great moment to see him turn and go back for Rex in Stealth Strike, while admitting to Ezra that he considers the old clone a friend.

The most notable thing to happen to Kanan in season two was his Knighting by the spirit of the Grand Inquisitor in Shroud of Darkness. You probably recall that slapped-together post I did about the episode the day after it aired, readers. I covered a lot of things in it, but missed a few others. For instance, although the Grand Inquisitor is “saved” – that is, he is within the Light side of the Force – he had not yet become one with the Force as of Shroud. Not completely, anyway. His statement to Kanan, “I wondered when you would return,” implies that he had been waiting in the Lothal temple for the cowboy Jedi’s arrival for some time.

This suggested to a friend of mine (and, belatedly, to me), that the Grand Inquisitor is in a sort of Purgatory. Other writers on the Internet also made this connection. He is still paying for abandoning the Jedi path – the show producers and directors confirmed the Grand Inquisitor was a former Jedi Knight. In fact, they say that he is one of the Temple Guards who helped arrest Ahsoka and Barriss Offee in The Clone Wars. Apparently, Barriss’ little speech at the trial made him reconsider the Jedi Order’s position. At some point after this he fell to the Dark Side and became the Grand Inquisitor.

This makes Kanan groping around and eventually putting on a Temple Guard’s mask in Twilight of the Apprentice very interesting. I know there is some kind of symbolism or hint in this scene, but I have no idea what it could be.

With his sight reft from him, Kanan is going to have to make some changes to his tactics. He is still a capable lightsaber fighter, as he proved when he bested Maul and threw him down the side of the Sith Temple. (Seriously, somebody kill this guy already!!! Or let someone attach a bomb to his body so that – wait for it – BOOM!! No more Maul! I would be unbelievably happy to see the back of that devilish jerk once and for all!!!) As hard as it is going to be for him to adjust, it will be almost as hard on those who love him – Hera, Ezra, Sabine, and Zeb. Chopper, too, will have to think about how much grumbling he wants to do about Kanan now….

Nah.

Kanan’s blindness may not be permanent. But even if it is, it will not stop him from worrying about Ezra. At the end of Twilight, he cocks and turns his head as if he has heard something. That is when Ezra opens the Sith holocron.

Whuh-oh.

So, readers, this is my (sort of) review of Star Wars Rebels’ second season. With that in mind, I would like to ask the show writers a few questions. If any of you happen to have a Twitter account and wish to forward these queries to @STARWARS #REBELSRECON, feel free to do so.

First and foremost, I would really like to know more about Kanan. He is going to have an interesting character arc in season three, to be sure. But I would still really like to know if he has any family in the wider galaxy which he does not know about. He said he never knew his parents in Legacy, which is true – most Jedi never knew their parents, since they were taken into the Order as infants. I would think it would be interesting to see where Kanan came from, and that it would add more emotion to the coming conflicts. What if his family is loyal to the Empire? What if the Dume family is split – one faction has Imperial ties, while the others are staunch rebels? It just seems like a good plot avenue to me.

Can we please stop beating around the bush and find out about Sabine’s past? What happened to her parents? Were they killed? Is that why she is so attached to Hera and Kanan? And is it at all possible for her to tangle with Boba Fett? And by the way, it would be nice to see a little more of Ketsu, too!

What about Agent Kallus? How much longer will he remain loyal to the Empire? What would it take to make him switch sides – or at the very least abandon the Empire? I do not think he cares much about what happened to the Geonosians, and he has a grudge against the Lasat, even if it has softened a little since he met and befriended Zeb. Just what will it take to break his allegiance to the Empire?

Can we get a few more episodes with Hera that are less…serene? Wings of the Master and Homecoming were important episodes. But maybe there could be an episode or two with just her and Kanan in the future? Those would be pretty cool – and they may satisfy the fans who still are unsure about the nature of their relationship!

Can we stop dancing around the Maypole with Sabine and Ezra? Are they going to become a couple or not? If Ezra manages to wrench himself away from the Dark Side, getting Sabine as a girlfriend would be a neat reward. If Ezra needs to be pulled away from the Dark Side, then Sabine has the next best shot at accomplishing that feat after Kanan. Ezra has a crush on her, after all.

As a final note, I am still hoping that Kanan and Ezra – along with the rest of the crew – can survive to see Return of the Jedi’s big “the Emperor is dead!” party. Other Jedi in the “Legends” comics and books did it. (Remember Kam Solusar? Master Ikrit? Vima Da-Boda? They lived to see the post-Jedi galaxy, didn’t they? And Ahsoka may yet survive that long as well – as she said herself: “I am no Jedi!”)

It just seems so POINTLESS to spend all this time and money telling the crew’s story only to kill everybody in the final season. That is a cop out, not an ending!!

Anyway, readers, this is my take on season two of Star Wars Rebels. I can handle season three getting darker and more dangerous. At least as long as there is still that glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel…

And as long as the core Ghost crew makes it out alive.

May the Force be with you, readers!

The Mithril Guardian

Star Wars Rebels: Shroud of Darkness – A Review

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SPOILER ALERT!!! SPOILER ALERT!!! READ FURTHER AT YOUR OWN PERIL!!!

WHAT AN EPISODE!!!!   From the lightsaber duel at the beginning, to our heroes’ return to the Jedi temple on Lothal, to the arrival of Darth Vader at the end of the show – WHOO!! This episode was great!!!

I am going to begin this review in reverse, readers. Please bear with me.

Kanan’s vision trial in the Lothal temple is the talk of the Internet – among other features of the episode. Searching for a way to defeat Vader and the Imperial Inquisitors, Kanan faces off against a Temple Guard (from the main Jedi Temple on Coruscant) in his vision. The Sentinel warns him that he cannot protect Ezra forever, and that if he tries to fight, he will die and the boy will fall to the Dark Side.

He and Kanan end up in a duel, which ends when Kanan admits the Sentinel is right: he cannot protect Ezra from everything, least of all can he protect Ezra against himself. He can only do what he has done – train Ezra as best he could. Bowing his head, Kanan clearly expects to be struck down….

Instead, the vision Sentinel knights him!

If this news was not enough of a surprise, Kanan gets a second shock when the guard removes his ceremonial mask/helmet – to reveal the face of the Grand Inquisitor, the Dark Side Adept who was hunting him and Ezra in Rebels’ first season!

I think my jaw actually dropped when the Pau’an took his mask off. Certainly, Kanan was not the only one left speechless with surprise! The astonishment is still reverberating through the ethereal currents of the Internet. Boy, did the writers keep this bombshell well-hidden under their hats!! (Or would that be “under their storm trooper helmets”?)

This scene is flabbergasting. The last time we saw the Grand Inquisitor, he was falling into an exploding reactor core. How in the galaxy did his spirit end up helping Kanan on a vision quest in a Jedi temple?!? He was a Dark Side Adept, one of the bad guys!

Well, according to the Grand Inquisitor’s own admission, he did not start out as a Dark Side user. He started life as a Jedi, specifically a Knight – and considering his ceremonial garb and lightsabers in this episode, it seems safe to think he was originally a Sentinel Jedi, one who took time to play Temple Guard at some point. This would explain why he and the other Inquisitors use double-bladed lightsabers. If the Grand Inquisitor was a fallen Sentinel Jedi, then it makes sense that he would train the rest of the Inquisitors in the lightsaber skills he was accustomed to using. And double-bladed lightsabers are very effective weapons!

It also explains how he figured out who Kanan’s master was. The Grand Inquisitor probably dueled with Depa Billaba a few times during training sessions while he was a Jedi Knight. He would recognize her influence on Kanan’s sparring skills after a few blows and make a mention of it to throw Kanan off-balance. (The tactic worked pretty well, too.)

A lot of viewers who saw Shroud of Darkness are a bit puzzled by the Grand Inquisitor’s appearance as a Sentinel spirit in Lothal’s Jedi temple. We knew that after falling to his death in the reactor core in Fire Across the Galaxy last season, he had become one with the Force. But most of us figured he had become one with the Dark Side.

Now, we know he became one with the Light-side of the Force!

This leads us to an interesting question: How did he pull that trick off? I have been racking my brain since viewing the episode, trying to remember the details of the Grand Inquisitor’s death from the final show of season one. From what I can remember, Kanan could have killed the guy while he was clinging to the catwalk. As a Jedi, of course, Kanan was not going to do that.

However, I seem to recall that I could not place the expression on the Grand Inquisitor’s face. He looked afraid, yes – who would not be in that situation? There just seemed to be more to it. Watching that scene several times since season one’s conclusion (the lightsaber duel really was amazing!), I got the impression that there was more to what the Grand Inquisitor was feeling than met the eye.

It has bothered me ever since, on and off. For a start, there seemed to be some remorse in the Grand Inquisitor’s features, as if he was sorry for wasting his life in service to the Empire. And what Dark Side Adept would so politely – almost sadly –state that Kanan and his apprentice were in for a harder time of it, now that they had defeated him, blown up Governor Tarkin’s Star Destroyer, and sent a message that would ignite a galaxy-wide rebellion against the Sith Emperor?

That speech seemed especially out of place. It would hardly have been surprising if the Pau’an had cursed Kanan and the other rebels, sneering that they were now in for more trouble than they could possibly imagine. Instead, he seemed almost sorry that they were going to face worse odds in the future.

That scene was very complex. Even with the adrenaline flowing through my system after seeing the Grand Inquisitor get his fanny handed to him on a platter by Kanan, I thought, “Wait. There’s something more to this. Something doesn’t feel like it should.”

Now I know why I felt that. Somewhere on his way down the reactor core – heck, maybe before he had even let go of the catwalk – the Grand Inquisitor returned to the Jedi path. It is the only explanation that logically answers why he was able to test Kanan in the Lothal temple. No Dark Side user – whether they were flesh or spirit – could hope to enter a Jedi temple without having a nasty greeting waiting for them.

Fifth Brother and Seventh Sister found that out the hard way. From what I remember of the Star Wars novels (now non-canon “Legends”), anyone entering a Jedi temple would run into visions and illusions. For Jedi, this was a testing ground. A place where they had to overcome their fears, or could get answers to important questions – as well as gain insight on a variety of issues, theirs or another’s. Non-Force users entering Jedi temples would be disoriented by such visions. I doubt they would survive very long after entering a temple, unless they were good people who had become seriously lost. Or very desperate.

A Jedi temple infiltrated by Dark Side Adepts or a Sith would react with extreme prejudice toward them, if not to protect itself, then to protect the Jedi inside it. This is what happened in Shroud of Darkness. One of the reasons the Grand Inquisitor’s spirit was waiting for Kanan in the Lothal temple, I think, is because his ghost would scare the daylights out of Fifth Brother and Seventh Sister.

The two Inquisitors had to know they were facing visions which could not really hurt them when the phantom Jedi Sentinels appeared. So the sight of their old master’s ghost – dressed in a ceremonial Temple Guard costume and wielding a Sentinel’s blades – had to have been a shock. It certainly seemed to discombobulate Fifth Brother! That gave the temple the edge it needed to buy Kanan, Ezra, and Ahsoka the time to escape Imperial pursuit. It seems the temple could not really hurt the Inquisitors – it could only stall them. The Grand Inquisitor’s ghost was certainly an effective presence on that account!

There is something this writer has to admit here, readers. Seeing the Grand Inquisitor again was a shock for me. No question. But at the same time, it was also a hopeful scene which kind of gave me the warm and fuzzies.

It reminded me that we never really know what is in another person’s heart. Kanan and the rest of us assumed the Grand Inquisitor was lost to the Dark Side completely. Then he pops up in the Jedi temple, not as an enemy but as a friend!

Who are we to say where someone should or should not be after they die? Who are we to say, upon the death of another person, whether they made it to eternal reward or were sent to eternal punishment? “Consumed by the Dark Side were the Jedi,” Yoda said in Shroud. Depa Billaba, Mace Windu, and other Jedi of the old order probably became one with the Light-side of the Force after Order 66.

But it is doubtful that all the Jedi killed in the Purge earned that reward. Some probably fell to the Dark Side before – or at the moment of – their deaths. Just as the Pau’an Grand Inquisitor became one with the Light-side of the Force before – or at the moment of – his death in the reactor core on Tarkin’s ship.

Certainly, this is no excuse for going over to the Dark Side in the first place. The remorse-filled expression on the Grand Inquisitor’s face as he tells an astounded Kanan that the other is now an official Jedi Knight says it all. The Pau’an is looking at what he once was when he looks at Kanan. He is seeing a Jedi filled with the light of the Force. And he is remembering how he, who once had the same light in his soul, turned his own back on the Jedi way, walking in darkness in service to the Sith. Until a young man, who only had the training of a Padawan, bested him in a lightsaber duel aboard an Imperial ship.

*Sniff.* It really was a beautiful scene, readers. Can we have a round of applause for Rebels’ writers here?

Thank you.

*Deep breath.* Okay, on to the rest of the episode! Ahsoka has finally accepted the fact that her beloved master, Anakin Skywalker, became the black-armored terror Darth Vader. But she seems unwilling to give up on him, muttering, “There is still a way,” before racing out of the temple. It is hard not to think that she will try to turn him back to the light. Why in the name of the Force would she not try to do that?

We know her attempt will fail. It is Luke who will save his father’s soul, not Ahsoka.   Most everyone is saying Tano will bite the bullet in season two’s finale: Twilight of the Apprentice, Part 1 & 2. These episodes will play back-to-back on March 30, and while I agree that the odds are not in Ahsoka’s favor, I am not sure the writers will kill her off in these episodes. They could still get a lot of mileage out of a long, drawn-out conflict over season three between Vader and Ahsoka. That she will die before A New Hope I am sure. Will she die in the season two finale of Star Wars Rebels…? Eh, I am unconvinced. It could happen, though.

Of greater concern to me is Ezra’s fate in the season two finale. He is the only other apprentice in Rebels. Kanan just got knighted; he no longer counts as a Padawan. There have been hints that Ezra is skating near the Dark Side throughout the series so far. The first was at Fort Anaxes in season one.   And in Shroud of Darkness, it is shown that Ezra has begun to get cocky as his Force abilities have grown. He practically brushes off his and Kanan’s encounter with Fifth Brother and Seventh Sister at the start of the show, kicking back and relaxing as his teacher mulls over the Inquisitors’ apparent power to track them.

This probably would have happened to Ezra even if the Jedi Order had not been exterminated. Kids get cocky. It happens.

It also means that when they get knocked off their high horses, their first reaction is anger. Ezra is human, and anger is one of our big problems. As a Jedi apprentice, the risks to Ezra’s soul are even greater. Twilight of the Apprentice may not refer to Ahsoka at all. It may in fact refer to Ezra.

The Grand Inquisitor’s statements in Kanan’s vision quest, and the fact that Darth Maul will return in Apprentice, have done nothing to ease my mind about the question. Kanan, while not knowing about Maul, is doubtless worried as well. As the newly minted Jedi Knight pointed out, though, he cannot protect Ezra from everything for all eternity. Ezra has to grow up – and if he falls on his face in the process, well, that is what is going to happen. And it could have the wonderful effect of making him a better Jedi.

It could also, of course, have the undesirable effect of driving him toward the Dark Side – and Darth Maul. It is a good thing I have no nails to bite. My fingers would be bleeding otherwise!

As for Ahsoka’s inability to help Kanan open the temple on Lothal, it makes sense. She is no longer a Jedi. Though still a Force-user, her blade color – white – marks her as a neutral party/retired Jedi. She is not of the Dark Side, but neither does she serve the light as the Jedi did/do. It would be improper for her to enter a Jedi temple like the one on Lothal without permission – something Kanan apparently knew, as he was unsurprised when Ahsoka told Ezra she could not help open the temple.

Finally, readers, I have to say that I am rather fed up with people saying Kanan and Ezra have to die before the time of the original trilogy arrives. Seriously, does no one remember the novels?! Yes, they are no longer canon storylines (thanks so much, Disney/Lucasfilm …grrr). Nevertheless, in these novels there were other Jedi who lived to see the Rebellion arise. Some of these were new Jedi, like Kyle Katarn and Corran Horn. Others were survivors of the Jedi Purge: Quinlan Vos, Ferus Olin, and Kam Solusar.

It is true that Ferus Olin died before Return of the Jedi. But, in the books, he did cross paths with Luke and Leia before Vader killed him. Kam Solusar escaped to wild space at the time of the Purge, returning later on – where the resurrected Palpatine caught him and enslaved him. Luke was able to turn him, and Solusar became one of his best Knights in the new Jedi Order afterward. Quinlan Vos, a Jedi whose story was unfinished as of the advent of The Force Awakens and its new timeline (to the best of this writer’s knowledge), may have also lived to run into Luke Skywalker.

Kyle Katarn and Corran Horn were both Force-sensitive men who joined the Rebellion at the time of the original trilogy. Katarn joined up somewhere between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, while Corran appeared either between Empire and Return of the Jedi, or after the latter.

And then there is Mara Jade, Emperor’s Hand. Her official appearance was five years after Jedi, but books written prior to The Force Awakens showed her running around the galaxy on missions for Palpatine during the original trilogy. Each time, she and Luke almost met, but never quite managed to actually come face-to-face. This strategy of writing kept the timeline of the original trilogy intact, while adding to Mara’s history in the Star Wars Expanded Universe.

I do not see why Kanan and Ezra could not have fates similar to Solusar, Vos, Katarn, and Horn. Admittedly there is nothing to prevent them from dying, as Ferus Olin did. In his case, though, he had the same problem Ahsoka does: Ferus knew Anakin Skywalker personally before he became Darth Vader. The writers could not resist ditching him to ensure Luke would never know his heritage before The Empire Strikes Back.

Of course, those who think Kanan and Ezra have to die will cite Yoda’s line from Return of the Jedi: “When gone am I, last of the Jedi you will be.” Well, pardon me, but what about the five guys I just listed here? According to these other writers’ logic, Kam Solusar, Kyle Katarn, Corran Horn, and Quinlan Vos should all have died to make Yoda’s statement a hundred percent true.

There are reasons why Yoda would say this to Luke. 1) Back when Return of the Jedi was released, there were probably not that many novels focusing on other Force-sensitives in the same time-frame as Luke. This makes Yoda’s statement in the film a hundred percent true.

2) With all the new stories that have come out since Jedi, we need another explanation as to why Yoda would say this. The fact is, Yoda was nine hundred years old, sick, and dying in Return of the Jedi. He died hours after Luke returned to Dagobah to finish his training. Who says that he was still able to see and sense the other Jedi or Light-side Force-sensitives running around the galaxy? I mean, Yoda was strong with the Force, but he was hardly omniscient! It stands to reason he might miss somebody – or several somebodies – fighting for the Rebellion by using the Force as a Jedi would.

3) Solusar and Vos would not have been considered true Jedi by Yoda. Vos married a woman and had a son with her. He was going to leave the Jedi Order once the Clone Wars had ended. Order 66 did that job for him. Solusar, the son of a Jedi Knight who had wed against the Jedi Order’s strict ban, would not have been considered a real Jedi by Yoda either. While I doubt Yoda was a very prejudiced person, the fact is that there would be ample reason for him to consider Kam Solusar a non-Jedi Force-user. Kam became an official Jedi only after training at Luke’s Jedi Academy, anyway.

4) As for Corran and Kyle, who were both Force-sensitive, if I remember correctly they had some guidance from Jedi spirits on how to serve the Light-side of the Force. This was not, however, a substitute for real master-apprentice training, which Obi-Wan and Yoda had given Luke. At best, Yoda would have considered the two men maverick Force-users. They would not have qualified as Jedi in his opinion – though I doubt he thought they were evil.

5) Of course, Ferus Olin was dead by Return of the Jedi in the old canon order of the novels. He Yoda would definitely have considered a Jedi. Even though Ferus pulled an Ahsoka, leaving the Jedi Order after a mishap that ended with the death of another apprentice, he remained a Jedi at heart. Ahsoka did not. This would have been enough for Yoda to consider Ferus – and other stragglers from the Purge like him – as real Jedi. With Ferus and most of the other survivors of Order 66 dead, Yoda would have considered Luke the last of the rightly trained Jedi Knights in the galaxy.

I know this makes Yoda sound a little heartless, not to mention senile, mean, and bigoted. But by all the standards of the Old Jedi Order, this is probably what he would have thought. The main reason for this diatribe, readers, is to point out that Kanan and Ezra could very well survive to see the original Star Wars trilogy. Neither of them have to die – and unless the third season of Rebels will be the series’ last, there is no reason for the writers to kill either of them.

Ezra is the main protagonist of Star Wars Rebels. Killing him at the end of the series would be bad taste – killing him in season two’s finale would be a suicidal writing device. Kanan is not much more expendable; at the moment, as Ezra needs a mentor. And, when Ezra finally graduates to Jedi Knight, I still see no reason for the writers to eliminate him or Kanan.

Kyle Katarn and Luke Skywalker crossed paths at least a couple of times between the original films in the Expanded Universe novels without interrupting the saga’s timeline. Ezra could do the same thing. Ferus met Luke several times without revealing his true heritage to him. And Ferus knew Anakin was Darth Vader. If Kanan were to cross paths with Luke, I see no reason for him to let the young Jedi in on his heritage – especially since even Ahsoka never figured out that Padmé and Anakin were married. If she could not figure it out, how the heck would Kanan?

At most, Kanan could honestly repeat what Obi-Wan told Luke in A New Hope: Anakin Skywalker was a great Jedi Knight and, however improbably (from Kanan’s point of view), he was Luke’s father. That is all Kanan is ever going to know about the subject. Why in the galaxy would Ahsoka ruin his opinion of Anakin by revealing her former master had become Darth Vader? There is no logic there.

This is not much protection for Kanan, after a point, but there is even less excuse for the writers to kill Ezra. He is Luke and Leia’s age, born the same day they were. He has been a rebel on the front lines for years longer than either of them by A New Hope. When Return of the Jedi rolled around, he could be on Luke’s short list for recruits for Knights for the new Jedi Order. If Kanan survived the Rebellion as well, then he would be invaluable to Luke as an instructor for the new order of Jedi. The Force Awakens says Luke trained a new generation of Jedi.

It never said he didn’t have help doing it.

Besides, even if Kanan and Ezra refused to join or help found the new Jedi Order, that hardly means they would have to die. If Disney follows through on a rumor I heard a while ago, they will probably make a TV series based on the new Star Wars film trilogy. Doing that would be a great way to reintroduce us at least to Ezra and Sabine, with flashbacks to Rebels thrown in for good measure.

I really see no reason for Kanan or Ezra to bite the dust. That does not protect them being killed – I am simply saying that, from these arguments, it appears foolish to talk about the writers killing them. The people out there spreading rumors of Kanan or Ezra’s demise might want to take their foot off the gas pedal long enough to think things through a little more.

That being said, I have no crystal ball. We will know nothing until March 30. So, until then…

May the Force be with you, readers!

The Mithril Guardian