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Spotlight: Star Wars Rebels – Agent Kallus

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You may or may not have seen my post “Star Wars Rebels’ Zero Hour and Season 3 Review.” It was a long post. In that article, one of the things about Rebels’ season three which I noted was Agent Kallus’ defection to the Rebellion from the Empire. Some people were surprised by his change of heart this season, and I admit to being taken aback that he became the new Fulcrum.

However, I was not in the least bit astonished that he turned Rebel. If you are in the mood to look up my previous posts on Rebels, you will find in one or two of them that I mentioned a belief that Kallus would change sides. I knew right from the start that Kallus had “the heart of a Rebel.”

Of course, this begs the question: How did I know?

A friend asked me that a little while ago. It is a good question, one I cannot answer in a scientific manner. I knew when I saw the first advertisements for Rebels that Kallus would be an Imperial goon; that he would be an antagonist. I knew that his name comes from the word callous, which means “being hardened and thickened…feeling no emotion; feeling or showing no sympathy for others: hard-hearted.” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)   But even as I watched Spark of Rebellion, I looked at Kallus and thought, “You’ll be a Rebel someday, pal. Just you wait and see!”

How did I know? There were lots of little giveaways, I think. Not many people would notice them, especially among the show’s target audience. I have been a child before. I know how they see things. I gave up on lots of characters fighting on behalf of evil as a kid, only to be blindsided with shock when they became good guys later on. It is totally understandable that kids would see Kallus as nothing but a hopeless baddy, irredeemable and undesirable. One even gave him the nickname WAFAR: Walking Advertisement for a Razor, in reference to his huge sideburns.

Despite helping to create the moniker and adopting it myself, I did not see Kallus as a hopeless villain, and below are some of the reasons why.

From the get-go, I noticed that Kallus did not mind going into battle at the head of a legion of Stormtroopers. When Vader steps on the scene, he is usually the central point of the conflict. He is neither with the Stormtoopers nor goading them on from behind. If there are Stormtroopers present when Darth Vader enters the scene, they are in the background, firing at the heroes. Vader takes center stage whenever he shows up.

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Kallus was different. He was not in front of the Stormtroopers, like Vader typically is, he was in the front line with them. This is also a departure from the aloof attitude demonstrated by most Imperial officers. They are all safely behind the Stormtroopers when they appear on screen. We have never really seen an Imperial officer, agent, or other bigwig dive into the thick of a fight against the Rebels. The obvious reason for this is that the Imperials are perfectly willing to dish out the pain, but they are not willing to experience it themselves.

Kallus is different. He is willing to fight. He is willing to brawl. Whether he is using a blaster, his Lasat bo-rifle, or his own fists, he enjoys the thrill of combat. He is not afraid of getting hurt, though he is not reckless and does not wish to get himself killed. Nevertheless, from the start it was obvious that he enjoyed a good scrap.

This, I think, was my first hint that Kallus had the makings of a Rebel. Another hint was that he was not prone to preening, as most Imperials in Star Wars are. I do not recall seeing Kallus boast over anything he did while with the Empire, even his successes as an ISB agent. One Star Wars encyclopedia claims that he turned down numerous offers of promotion in order to stay on the front lines. So he did not have an unhealthy, inflated opinion of himself. Hmm, not your typical Imperial reaction to success, eh, readers?

To the observant viewer, this shows that Kallus is not interested in power or advancement in the Imperial bureaucracy. He is interested in his job as an ISB agent because he enjoys it. He wants to be on the front lines, fighting what he thinks is the good fight. His scrupulous attention to his job, his lack of interest in prestige and power, his love of combat because he is at his physical peak, hinted that he had a sense of honor. Though he kicked a Stormtrooper down a Kessel mineshaft and did some other, similarly nasty things, Kallus definitely possessed an aura of real dignity which is lacking in most of Star Wars’ Imperial characters.

Hint number three about Kallus’ eventual change of heart was that he was smart. Most Imperials are so busy trying to “get ahead” in the Imperial power structure that they have lost whatever imagination they had before they became part of the Emperor’s machine. You watch them while they are working on the bridge of a Star Destroyer or some such place, and they are all vying for “their fair share” of the glory. This means that they never look beyond their own nose. Because they are so busy looking out for good ol’ Number One, they do not understand the Rebels.

The Rebels would never leave a man behind if they could find a way to save him. Kallus realized this at the start of the series and, like Grand Admiral Thrawn, he began to profile our heroes. He did not do it through studying art, as Thrawn does, but by assessing their actions in combat.

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There are benefits to both kinds of deduction, obviously. Thrawn’s fascination with art and what it shows about a particular artist’s or species’ mindset is a superpower all by itself. It is what allows him to make such great, overarching plans. If there is one thing Thrawn is proud of it is his intellect, the fact that he is the smartest man (or Chiss) in the room, and so he holds all his subordinates and enemies in contempt. Kallus’ understanding of the Rebels is based more on their performance in combat, and so he never held them in complete contempt.

Kallus is not a genius, like Thrawn, but he is intelligent. He analyzed the Ghost crew’s patterns of attack and would be ready to meet them when they came running to the bait he had set up. His hand-to-hand battles with the Ghost crew, particularly Zeb, taught him their personal strengths and weaknesses.

In a way, this knowledge gave him a more realistic and basic picture of the Rebels than the one Thrawn has drawn up. Thrawn understands how they think; Kallus knows why they think the way they do. Thrawn is detached from his knowledge of the Rebels. With very, very few exceptions, he has not engaged them in personal combat. He has studied their tactics, yes, but he has done so through secondhand reports. Though thorough, these reports do not equate to actual experience.

Kallus has not engaged the Rebels simply with his head but by fighting them physically. He knows, therefore, that they will do the totally unexpected, not because of a picture they painted on a wall or a mask they left lying around. They will do the totally unexpected because they are determined to survive long enough to get a Rebellion against the Empire up and running. If someday they have to die so that a Rebellion can be born, then they will do it. But if they can find a way to survive they will take that chance, however slim or insane it seems to be. That is all there is to it.

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Thrawn thinks he can synthesize thousands of years of art and battle tactics into an efficient metric by which to plan out the perfect battle. To an extent, he is right. But what Kallus knows and what Thrawn has not recognized is that heart beats brains every time. The Ghost crew’s determination to win, to look out for each other, trumped his every plan to bring them to face what he believed was justice. And all of his plans were remarkably neat, for an “average” Imperial. So how can someone so smart get beaten so often by people who, logically, should be easy to defeat?

The writers finally answered Kallus’ question in The Honorable Ones. After bushwhacking the crew in an Imperial factory orbiting Geonosis, Kallus follows Zeb as the Lasat tries to return to the Ghost via an Imperial escape pod. The two end up fighting while the escape pod jettisons, damaging the controls in the process and landing on an ice moon as a result. Zeb is knocked cold by the landing while Kallus breaks his leg.

The episode is actually nothing special, from the point of view of the plot. Two enemies who hate the other end up stranded together and have to work with one another if they hope to survive to rejoin their respective forces. We have seen this device used time and time again. It is not a particularly spectacular plot and, if handled badly, it leaves an awful taste in viewers’ minds.

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But The Honorable Ones pulls it off very well – and not just because of all the “freak-out noises” Kallus makes. Having watched Zeb for so long, we know how he is going to react when he realizes that Kallus cannot fight because of his busted leg. Kallus, however, believes that Zeb will take the first opportunity to kill him. He repeatedly tries to get his hands on a weapon, but Zeb disarms him and does not hurt him, in spite of pointing out how easily he could kill the ISB agent.

Zeb then makes a crack about how Geonosis is supposed to be a desert planet. He knows very well that they are on one of the planet’s moons – a frigidly cold one, at that. But in order to ease the tension of their situation, he makes a joke about it. Kallus misses the joke and takes him seriously. He lectures Zeb as though the Lasat was a child, asking how he could be bested time and again by an ignoramus like him.

Zeb’s curt reply – “Get a sense of humor, Agent!” – must have surprised him. Due to a bad experience with a Lasat mercenary some years before, Kallus held all Lasat in contempt. Because of this past encounter with a member of Zeb’s species, he probably knows more about the Lasat as a race than anyone but Zeb and Thrawn. This hatred of his for the Lasat blinded him to their better qualities.

So Zeb pointing out that he was joking and Kallus not grasping it is one of the things that makes the Imperial agent sit up and pay attention. Zeb is not a genius but neither is he stupid. He was having a bit of fun at their expense, like any soldier who still held hope of rescue would. If Zeb had been a human or a fellow Imperial, Kallus might have understood that his comment was a joke. Instead, his bias blinded him to Zeb’s sense of humor.

Throughout the episode Kallus slowly learns to take off his dark glasses and look at Zeb as he is and not how his hatred has painted him. What he finds is an intelligent, honorable Lasat who is tactically bright. He also realizes that Zeb has something he does not. Several somethings, actually…. He has friends. Friends he believes in and trusts to come for him no matter what. Friends he knows will risk their lives for him because they have done it over and over again. Friends he will in turn risk his life to protect and help.

Kallus has no friends, not because he does not want them, but because they do not want him. With the Imperials, friends are extra baggage. They can get you demoted or put you on the chopping block for their mistakes. The Galactic Empire of Star Wars reminds me a great deal of Lewis’ description of Hell in The Screwtape Letters. Almost everyone in the Empire loves nothing greater or better than himself. They all hate each other to some extent and cannot wait to show up the person sitting next to them so they can climb the ladder to the Empire’s upper echelons.

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And in The Honorable Ones, this is what Kallus finds out. He finds out that he has not been fighting for the right side at all. He has been working for an evil Empire, doing evil deeds in its name.

The way this is shown in the episode is when he apologizes to Zeb for what happened on Lasan. The initial mission statement was not to massacre the Lasat. At least, this was not the mission statement that Kallus and everyone below him saw. The Empire meant it to be a massacre from the beginning, but they knew that not all of their soldiers would gleefully agree to exterminate an entire species. So the Empire had to feed them this idea that they were fighting just one little battle but it spiraled out into an inevitable world-clearing assignment.

Kallus bought the lie hook, line, and sinker because he already hated the Lasat. Though he admired an individual Lasat’s honor and courage by accepting that warrior’s bo-rifle before the latter died, he did in general despise the species. It made him willing to listen to and obey the Empire’s lies even when part of him balked and said, “Maybe this isn’t actually the right thing to do.”

The real clincher comes at the end of the episode, when Kallus watches Zeb’s reunion with the Ghost crew from a distance. The kids rush up to Zeb, shouting with relief, while Hera offers the milder, “You had us worried,” line. Kanan’s brash, “I told you he was all right,” is the more manly way of expressing relief. It is clear that the crew is genuinely happy to see Zeb, that they love him as part of their battle family.

Kallus’ reception aboard the Imperial Star Destroyer is the exact opposite. No one rushes up to see if he is okay or even to take him to sickbay for his broken leg. The one man aboard whom he knows by name, Admiral Konstantine, has his nose in a datapad when Kallus tries to get his attention. Konstantine’s brush-off is totally at odds with the Ghost crew’s joyous discovery of Zeb, alive and well, on that Geonosian moon.

Disappointed and shocked that no one aboard cared whether he lived or died, Kallus limps to his austere quarters and sits down on his bed. The one colorful thing he has is a meteorite Zeb found and gave to him because it generated heat, which Kallus needed more than he did because he could not walk. Somehow, I think Kallus realized then that, if he and Zeb had been friends and he had been lost, the big Lasat would have welcomed him back to the ship heartily.

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Though he always respected the Rebels’ fighting abilities, Kallus finally realizes after this episode that they are in the right and he has been wrong this whole time. It must have hit him hard; finding out that you have been fighting for and doing the work of someone evil is pretty awful. But the interesting thing is that Kallus does not let his feelings overwhelm and destroy him. Instead of staying in bed, wracked with guilt, he follows Zeb’s advice: he starts asking questions, looking into what the Empire is actually doing, not what it says it is doing.

The answers he finds spur him to join the Rebels as a spy, feeding them vital information from the first episode of season three onward. Despite not being a hundred percent successful in helping the Rebellion all the time, Kallus’ information comes in handy more often than not. It is so valuable, in fact, that when the Phoenix cell gets word he might be discovered, they try to get him out of the Empire.

In this way, they recognize Kallus’ true value more than he does. They see Kallus as more than a useful tool that can get them intelligence which could mean the difference between life and death. They see him as he is: a man of inestimable worth in and of himself, a man who does not deserve to be murdered by the Empire. They are willing to sacrifice any future lifesaving intel he could gain to save his life.

But Kallus’ more practical, Imperial-tinted view of his role in the Rebellion means he is not yet ready to break away from the Empire. He stays behind to keep feeding the Rebels information, feeling he can do more good from the inside than from without. A noble idea, certainly, but in the end his decision is almost disastrous. Thrawn uses Kallus’ next transmission to find Phoenix Squadron’s base, methodically destroying the Rebel fleet assembled overhead to put a halt to the TIE Defender factories on Lothal. Kallus’ warning barely alerts the Rebels in time, allowing them to mount a defense against the attack.

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It is, however, a costly defense, with many Rebels lost in the battle, along with most of the supplies they stored in the base which they are just able to abandon. Kallus is forced to watch the people he decided to help get killed before his eyes, held as he is aboard the Chimera’s bridge, powerless to act on their behalf. Though he eventually manages to escape it is clear he is not very happy with the day’s events at the end of Zero Hour, Part 2.

It is not too hard to guess why. Kallus thought he could be of more help to the Rebels from inside the Empire, that he could be useful to them as a spy. Instead he got them discovered, which led to many of their men being killed in action and lost them a well-stocked hidden base. He is lucky that they decided to take him in despite all that, which is why he thanks Kanan for accepting him.

Kanan, through his Force-sensitivity, must sense what Kallus is feeling. He also knows the man will not accept coddling. He cannot. He is a grown, responsible adult, which means he has to deal with his feelings as an adult should.

This does not mean that Kanan cannot tell him how much the risks he took on behalf of the Rebellion, on behalf of the Ghost crew, mean to them. He thanks Kallus for risking so much for them, for doing the right thing.

Kallus’ expression after Kanan leaves is very interesting. In fact, it is comparable to Ezra’s expression after he helps Sabine and Zeb take crates of food to feed hungry Lothal refugees in Spark of Rebellion. After one of the denizens of Tarkintown thanks Ezra for the food, thinking he is part of the Ghost crew, Ezra’s face falls with shame. “But I didn’t do this,” he mutters. “I didn’t do anything.” He was looking out for himself when he got caught up in the Ghost crew’s raid, but the people in Tarkintown did not know that. To them, he is a new member of the crew of benefactors that supplied them with the necessities they could no longer acquire themselves. This leaves Ezra feeling guilty, a guilt which helps spur him to join the Rebellion because it helps bring him out of himself, showing him that there is a larger battle to fight. That he can, in fact, make a difference and help people in a way that matters.

From Kallus’ expression, it is clear he is running up against the same feelings Ezra did. He does not think that he risked much, not the way the rest of the Rebels have been for years. He is a Johnny-come-lately to the Rebellion; it has been building for years, and he never considered it anything less than evil until recently. In fact, he actively worked to destroy it. Kanan, Hera, Ezra, Sabine, Zeb, and even Chopper saw this evil for what it was from the beginning. Kanan has paid for his Rebel service with his eyes, for Pete’s sake, yet he is thanking Kallus for risking his life as a mole in the Empire! They have been fighting it, risking their lives to defeat it, far longer than he has. “But I didn’t do any of this,” he is thinking as Kanan leaves. “I didn’t do anything.”

Kallus is a big boy, and sooner or later he is going to realize that this assessment is not entirely true. Yes, he was not an enemy of the Empire from the beginning. Yes, he fought and killed Rebels before he joined their fight. Yes, he will be making up for lost time now that he has become a Rebel.

But he did risk his life to give the Rebels important, lifesaving information. He did warn them in time, not just in Zero Hour but in Warhead as well. He did throw off Governor Pryce’s command capabilities by upsetting her, reminding her of the consequences of failure in the Empire. He did, at last, escape the Empire’s clutches and join the Rebellion. He is, finally, becoming more of the person he was meant to be.

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That makes him pretty darn important. It makes him worth thanking. It makes him worthy of the Rebels’ respect. And it is going to make him a heck of a Rebel, readers. I cannot wait to see him kick some Imperial backside in season four!

Journeying with Kallus has been almost as much fun as following along with the Ghost crew. I hope he gets to the party on Endor at the end of Return of the Jedi, where our Phoenix Squadron friends can slap him on the back and offer him some of the local cocktail. Maybe, in whatever series follows Rebels, we will get to see more of Kallus. He is an intriguing character I would hate to lose as a viewer. As a writer, I would have to have a pretty good reason to kill him off.

But we will have to wait and see what Dave Filoni and his crew have in store for our heroes. The final season of Star Wars Rebels is going to big and probably painful on a series of levels. As the song says, “We may lose and we may win/But we will never be here again/So open up, I’m climbin’ in.” I’ve followed the Ghost’s hyperspace vectors this far, readers. I cannot turn back now. If you have come this far with us, I know it is the same for you.

So…may the Force be with you, readers and Rebels alike!

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Book Review: The Reb and the Redcoats by Constance Savery

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If there is one thing I love more than a good story, it is history. Notice, readers, what that word is made of: his and story. His story – the story of man.

And oh, what a palette history is! Great heroes, megalomaniacal villains, comedy, tragedy – history has it all. Every fictional story draws something from history. Star Wars draws a great deal from the Japanese style of swordsmanship. It is hard not to see how the Nazis inspired the Galactic Empire, or how the gunfighters and gamblers of the Old West inspired Han Solo and Lando Calrissian. Without history, we would never have fiction.

This brings us to the topic for today, one of my favorite novels of all time. I have been meaning to write about it for some time, and at last I shall do what I have wished. The historical novel I present to you today, readers, was written by Constance Savery. The Reb and the Redcoats is set during the American War for Independence. But it comes with a twist – the entire story takes place in England!

Charlotte Darrington and her siblings – Joseph, George, and Kitty – are met one day with an old friend come back from the war in America. An injury has laid him up, and he will not be fighting in any more battles. The man has brought along a box of gifts from the children’s father, as well as letters written by him for their mother, since Mr. Darrington is an officer in the British army fighting for his country against the American rebels.

But Old Harry, the soldier returned home with an injury, has a special present for Charlotte. According to George, she was always his favorite among the Darrington children. He has brought along a child’s doll he discovered when he and the British contingent with him raided an American plantation in Virginia. The doll has a little American flag pinned to her chest with a poem on the back. The poem names the doll and her former owner as Patty, and so Patty is what Charlotte calls the doll.

Later on word comes that the children’s uncle, Laurence Templeton, needs their mother’s help to nurse their ill grandparents at the White Priory. For a while it seems the children will have to be left in the care of the girls’ governess. The boys quickly blame the rebel doll for the trouble. They claim that she is full of black magic and set a trap for her so that she will not be able to cast spells on them in the middle of the night.

Unfortunately, the trap catches the governess – who quits in an absolute fury after having a bucket of water land on her head!

With no one else available to mind the four, Mrs. Darrington must take her children with her to the White Priory. This decision is cemented that night by the appearance of a young prisoner of war looking in the window. Charlotte only catches a glimpse of the man’s countenance before telling her mother to run. With rebel prisoners on the loose in the area, Mrs. Darrington decides emphatically that she will not leave her precious young alone with a few servants to guard them.

All five depart for the White Priory the next day, where they meet their Uncle Laurence. Laurence, an officer in the British army, has been sent home on leave to convalesce after an injury to the leg during the war overseas. The children once got on famously with him, as he was always cheerful and fun-loving. But since his return from America, Uncle Laurence has been grim, stern, and temperamental. None of the children know why; one day he was their friendly uncle, the next he was an old ogre.

Anyway, as they settle in to the White Priory, someone mentions the escaped prisoners in the vicinity of the Darrington home. Laurence happens to know something of the affair. It seems there is a prison near the White Priory full of American POWs. There have been several escape attempts from the place led by a young soldier, one Randal Everard Baltimore.

This young man has helped his fellows to escape the prison camp time and again. The only reason he has not escaped himself is because of one of his friends, Timothy Wingate. A complete klutz, Wingate is always messing up the plan somehow. Oh, he does not do it on purpose – the poor young fellow simply cannot help himself. He trips and breaks his leg, makes a noise when all are supposed to be quiet, and before you can say Jack Robinson, the entire crew is running for their lives and leaving him to face the British alone. Randal is the only one who ever stays behind to take care of him after these blunders, since the two have been friends from boyhood and are accustomed to taking care of each other.

The children learn that because Randal has been such a nuisance to the camp, the commander of said camp has given him to Laurence to guard. Laurence seems to take a fiendish delight in tormenting the young Reb, as the children call him, offering a half crown to whichever one of the little ones can guess his name. When George tries, he insults the young officer so badly that Charlotte and Joseph, the oldest of the Darrington children, try to make amends for the slight their brother has given.

But in trying to do this, they accidentally help the Reb to escape again. He is eventually recaptured, along with Wingate, and locked in the penance cell beneath the White Priory. (The White Priory, in centuries past, was a monastery or an abbey; now it is a manor house.) Though the servants have been ordered to treat him well, Charlotte and Laurence discover that they have not done what they were ordered to do at all. His escape in the midst of winter and his confinement in the cold cell have made the Reb terribly sick…

And now, readers, it is your turn to read the novel! I will say nothing more about this touching, sweet story. Find yourself a copy and read the book in your own time!

Constance Savery wrote something on the order of fifty books and died at the age of one hundred one years old in 1997. I have read only one other book by this magnificent author, but you will have to stay tuned to learn which one that is. I hope someday to read more of her books – she wrote very well.

Until next time!

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Star Wars Rebels’ Zero Hour and Season 3 Review

Wow. Just…. Wow.

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

It. Was. A. BLAST!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spotlight: Strong Women – A Return to the Question

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We had met as equals, rarely a good thing in such matters, for the woman who wishes to be the equal of a man usually turns out to be less than a man and less than a woman.  A woman is herself, which is something altogether different than a man. – (Emphasis added.)

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This quote is from The Walking Drum, written by Louis L’Amour.  While Mr. L’Amour is best known for his Western fiction, the truth is that he wrote a great many other stories as well.  He served in World War II and “yondered” much of his early life.  He was many things and he saw many things.  The Walking Drum is a novel he wrote – and it is set in the twelfth century.

Why start a post off with this quote?  Because it is a timely admonition.  A woman ends up being less than herself when she is trying to be something she is not.  And yet we have no end of “experts” proclaiming that women are equal to men.  It makes the observant wonder just what they are selling.

The research I did for the post “Offended, Insulted, and Not Shutting Up” is what got this article rolling.  And before anyone asks, no, I have not shifted my position on Marvel’s decision to make Jane Foster the latest version of “Thor.”  It is a stupid decision which they will soon learn is not helping them.

My research into the opinions of others regarding “Thorette” allowed me to find comments and articles that expressed what I have thought for some years.  They were not all as delicate in their statements as I would have been but, to borrow a line from Mr. Spock and the Vulcans, that is part of the wonder of living in a world of “Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations.”  With this research tumbling around in my head, I began to think not only about “Thorette” but about what the intelligentsia says we are to praise in the female characters being created these days.

This brings us back to the question I asked in the previous “Strong Women” post.  Just what makes a strong woman?  Looking at “Thorette,” it seems safe to say that many writers and artists think a woman is only strong when she has an above-normal muscle structure.  This sort of physique also happens to look good in some form of armor-plated swimsuit or underwear, which conveniently guarantees a male audience of some size.  (These are probably not the guys a girl should accept the offer of a date from, by the way.)

Being a curious observer, I have a question to ask the writers and artists at Marvel and elsewhere.  Do they know how many female fans Carol Danvers has?  Do they know how many women are in Thundra and “Thorette’s” fan clubs?  Has anyone taken a poll of female Marvel fans to ask them what they think of these characters – not to mention what they think of all the other heroines on Marvel’s roster?

If Marvel were to poll its female fans, I believe that they may get answers like mine.  For instance:  I have never liked or admired Carol Danvers.  And I cannot seriously contemplate Thundra, a character from an alternate dimension where women are the dominant sex, without stifling the reflexive urge to throw up.  She has to be one of the few characters Marvel has created which I find utterly repulsive.  I know and prefer her only as a convenient villainess.

My opinion of Jane Foster/“Thorette” is well documented.  Jane Foster has been warped and nearly destroyed as Marvel’s writers, editors, managers, et al attempt to gain fashion and political points from her “new look.”  But what they fail to comprehend – or perhaps to admit – is that she looks horrible!

Now, does everyone feel this way about these characters?  Hardly.  But in my humble view, these female characters do not appeal enough to be worth any kind of money.  Judging by “Thorette’s” anemic reception and the letters Marvel received about Carol Danvers years ago, I do not think I am that alone in disliking them.

What kind of female characters, then, impress me?  Allow me to pull out another quote from Mr. L’Amour to illustrate my answer:

 

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A man you can figure on; a woman you can’t.  They’re likely either to faint, or grab for a gun, regardless of consequences. – from Chancy

 The Cherokee Trail

These are the kind of women who fascinate me, and whom I wish to emulate.  Remember, fainting can easily be faked.  How is a man to know a real faint from a false one without putting himself in danger?  Louis L’Amour’s female characters are like this.  They are iron-willed women who have bones of steel.  They can handle a pistol, a rifle, or they can use some other object as a weapon.

You will not find any of L’Amour’s female characters holding up stages, taming broncos, or riding the range as cowgirls, it is true.  But you will find women in his stories that are leading cattle drives, managing ranches, and defending their homes from Indians or bandits.  And plenty of his women are quite happy to back up their men in a fight by holding a shotgun on the group of ruffians looking to make trouble.  The women in L’Amour’s novels of seafaring and in his football stories are no different.  Admittedly they do not carry guns in the vicinity of a football game, but they are just as determined and forceful as the frontier women who were their ancestors, in spirit if not in fact.

What does all of this have to do with Marvel?  The comic book company already has a Rolodex of formidable heroines.  To name a few, there is the Wasp, the Black Widow, Mockingbird, Wanda Maximoff, Silverclaw, Jean Grey, Rogue, Storm, the Invisible Woman….  The post “Offended, Insulted, and Not Shutting Up” has a more comprehensive list, if you would like to learn of more heroines in Marvel’s Universe(s).

The fact is these women can all hold their own in a fight.  Yes, these characters have an extra asset of some kind during combat.  Mockingbird and Black Widow have extensive hand-to-hand combat training, while Storm, Rogue, and Jean Grey have mutant powers.  Many other female characters within the Marvel brand also have superpowers.  But a pistol or a rifle is an asset, too, and no frontier woman who wanted to survive would shun either weapon because it was not natural to her.  It was often the only thing standing between her and harm – or death.  You respect that kind of tool; you do not toss it aside.

So do any of these Marvelous assets cheapen who these women are as characters?  No, they do not.  Nor do they enhance their characters; they are simply stand-ins for the rifles, pistols, or the various weapons women have used throughout the centuries.  Sometimes they are even extensions of the abilities women have always had:  intelligence, mental agility, and outright strength of will.

As a result one never knows just what any of these heroines are going to do in a given crisis.  One can never know just how they are going to play the game, how they are going to react to the villain’s bait.  They may play on his arrogance or they may pretend to be simpering, frightened damsels.  Whatever they do it is bound to be interesting and exciting, for the simple reason that it has the potential to be totally unexpected.

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Carol Danvers or Thundra, in comparison, can always be counted on to hammer at a problem until it goes away.  Why is this so?  It is so because they are women who are less than women.  The writers have decided to make them something they are not.  As a result, they have personalities that are as stilted as a puppet’s limbs, making them very uninteresting.

The other heroines do not have this built-in handicap.  They are women who are not afraid of being women.  This means that they do not think like the men around them.  This gives them their edge in a battle.  It is not their superpowers, skills, or weapons.  It is who they are as people, as women.

When these heroines are safely captured, they are often deemed by the villains as no longer a threat because they cannot use their powers, kung fu, or technology.  With Danvers or Thundra this is usually a true assessment.  They are not used to thinking outside the box – or thinking much at all, from what I have seen.  In a pitched battle they simply react.  This makes them relatively easy for their opponents to overcome or dispatch.

Many of Marvel’s other heroines, however, never stop thinking.  They are always watching, listening, assessing, and working out a plan of some sort.  If the only possible plan they can make is to wait for back up, then that is what they have to do.  Their male counterparts have experienced similar crises, though you will not hear these mentioned by very many critics.  If they could survive the wait and not be diminished by it, then why can’t their female counterparts?

From Marvel to DC, from Star Trek to Andre Norton’s Witch World series, from Star Wars to Howl’s Moving Castle and its sequels, there is no end of proof that women can be as bold and brave as the men in their lives – and they can be as bold without compromising their womanhood.

This is what modern writers, filmmakers, and artists no longer consider.  In fact they are actively running away from this truth because it has become passé to portray a woman as she actually is.  Instead a fictional heroine must be displayed as something other than a woman.  You go to the theaters to see the latest films and most of the women in these movies have no problem cutting off men’s heads or disemboweling them.  Not only do they have no physical problem doing it, which many of them should, but they also have no moral qualms about doing it.

Image result for wonder woman filmThe Wonder Woman movie out next year promises to be a case in point.  I was once a big fan of Wonder Woman.  This was not because of her strength or because of her Lasso of Truth.  No, I liked her because of these things and the fact that she was still a woman.  Throughout her adventures with the JLA, Diana learned to respect and like her male teammates, to appreciate their abilities and welcome them as friends.  Later series even had her dating Batman!

But recent rewrites by DC Comics have turned Wonder Woman into a bloodthirsty man-hater.  It is true that in the coming film she is going to fall in love with Steve Trevor (portrayed by Chris Pine).  While she is doing that, though, she will also be happily carving men to pieces and telling women that being secretaries is the equivalent of slavery.  You would think she came from an alternate universe and not an island inhabited by Greek warrior women.

All of this detracts from the real power of women.  By portraying a woman as what she is not, these writers and artists are not elevating women.  They are demeaning and demoting them.

The fictional heroine who easily encapsulates what a real warrior woman can and should be is Éowyn of Rohan from The Lord of the Rings.  Secretly joining the Rohirrim’s army as it marches to battle in Gondor, she is the one who defeats the Witch-king, the leader of the Nine Ringwraiths or Názgul.  Merry, taken into Gondor by her when she wore the guise of a male Rider, helps her with a well-placed sword-thrust.  But it is Éowyn who ultimately strikes the fatal blow and wins a great victory in the glorious Battle of the Pelennor Fields.

Still, many Feminists go into apoplectic fits over Éowyn’s role in The Lord of the Rings novels despite her amazing display of courage and fighting skill.  Why?  They do this because Éowyn leaves war behind forever when she decides to accept Faramir’s proposal of marriage after recovering from her battle with the Witch-king.  That particular passage reads thus:

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Then the heart of Éowyn changed, or else at last she understood it. And suddenly her winter passed, and the sun shone on her.

‘I stand in Minas Anor, the Tower of the Sun,’ she said; ‘and behold! the Shadow has departed! I will be a shieldmaiden no longer, nor vie with the great Riders, nor take joy only in the songs of slaying. I will be a healer, and love all things that grow and are not barren.’

Image result for eowyn and faramirThe thing Feminists do not understand – or the thing which they absolutely refuse to accept – is that Éowyn’s triumph in battle does not define her.  She did an amazing, wonderful thing, which most other people could never accomplish.  Her decision to marry Faramir does not render her defeat of the Witch-king any less; rather, her decision to marry is the reward she earned in that fight.

Éowyn’s part in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields does not define her identity, and most Feminists want that stereotype to define and limit her.  This is most of Éowyn’s own problem in the trilogy until she falls in love with Faramir.  Up to that point, she believes that battle will give her satisfaction.  Poisoned along with Théoden by Wormtongue’s whisperings, in her confusion and slow descent into despair Éowyn decides that only death in battle will give her a chance at glory and renown.

Now, readers, the fact is that death is not a fulfillment of life.  It is the end of life, and if you ally yourself with death, you are allying yourself with the Enemy.

In Minas Tirith – originally named Minas Anor or ‘Tower of the Sun’ – Éowyn finally comes to see that battle is not where she can be most useful when she is at last confronted by Faramir’s genuine love for her.  Being a warrior is not her calling, although she can certainly wield a sword as well as any man.  Her vocation in life is being a woman, a wife, and eventually a mother.

Through Éowyn the author of the trilogy, J.R.R. Tolkien, demonstrates that a woman is not made by her fighting ability.  She is distinguished by her will, her womanhood and – if she is lucky – by her motherhood.  “For the hand that rocks the cradle is that hand that rules the world.”  Mothers shape their children, daughters and sons both.  These daughters and sons will grow up to change the world through the things they do, the things they create, and the children they bring into the universe.

Modern media has largely forsaken this understanding of womanhood at the behest of the Hegelian/Nietzschean complex, the modern incarnation of Sauron.  There has been a war going on for the past century or three which most have not paid heed to.  This has led to nothing but a lot of pain for women, who have been persuaded as a group to throw away the knowledge that they once possessed. Their honor is their womanhood and it is our societal honor to know them as such.

Mockingbird

This is why I have taken issue with Jane Foster’s identity change, not to mention the identity change of several other formerly male characters.  This is why I have written two posts on strong women.  It is an attempt to remind women of what we truly are and what we can actually achieve.  For when women stop valuing themselves as women, society stops valuing them as well, and then that society sooner rather than later treats them like chattel.

ISIS does this on a daily basis.  Slave traders and sex traffickers rely on such attitudes to do “business.”  The shout of “I am Woman, hear me roar!” has led to nothing but pain and sorrow for millions of women.  They have chosen to debase themselves.  This means they are no longer worthy of special respect and value to men.  For if women do not value themselves as women, as potential wives and mothers, then why should men?

Does all this mean that a woman cannot fight?  Pshaw.  Éowyn fought, did she not?  It is not possible that she forgot how to swing a sword after marrying Faramir.  She simply did not make a living fighting – and for the record, neither did he!  The heroines of Marvel Comics fight; the women in Star Trek and Star Wars fight.  The will to fight is the influential factor.  Just ask the mothers and wives who grabbed a gun to help defend against Indian raids or bandits back in the Old West!  Or those that defend themselves and their families similarly today.

But if a woman wants to make a career as a warrior, she cannot try and be the equal of the men.  This can never be, for the simple fact that no amount of human interference – psychological or scientific – can overwrite what she is.  And if a woman decides she wishes to be a “shieldmaiden,” then she had better be prepared for what could happen to her on the field of battle.  Torture, the loss of life and limb, rape – these are just some of the risks which I can see ahead of a female soldier.  An enemy who does not value life – and there are many of those today – can be abominably creative in the management of prisoners.  Just ask Dean Koontz.

Han and Leia

Does all this mean that I believe a woman should not be prepared to fight?  Civilization is a very, very fragile construction.  One small thing goes out of whack and entire nations fall to their knees.  Women definitely need to know how to defend themselves.  They have always needed to know this.

But what women need to relearn is that it is not battle which will define them.  Battle does not define a man, so how can it define a woman?  A man or a woman is defined by who and what they are.  A man is defined by his manhood, a woman by her womanhood.  That is all there is to it.

This is not weakness.  It is not slavery.  Knowing who and what you are is not a defect; it is a strength.  Being proud of being a man or a woman is what gives one the will to fight, to protect oneself from those who do not appreciate you for who and what you are.  Muscles, weapons, skills – these are the tools.  They are not the determining factors.  We, men and women, are the weapons.

Until writers at Marvel, DC, Star Trek, and elsewhere figure that out, though, we will have to endure continuous watered-down portrayals of heroines in many stories.  Until these “artists” ask themselves, “What really makes a strong woman?”, they will continue coming up with the wrong answers.

Readers, I will give Mr. L’Amour the last word on this subject:

Image result for the warrior's path by louis l'amour

She’ll stand to it.  There’s a likely craft, lad, and one to sail any sea.  You can see it in the clear eyes of her and the way she carries her head.  Give me always a woman with pride, and pride of being a woman.  She’s such a one. – from The Warrior’s Path

Amen, readers.  Amen!

The Mithril Guardian

Book Review: The Thrawn Trilogy by Timothy Zahn

One of this blogger’s worst fears about Lucasfilm’s decision to dump the now “Legends” timeline is that I was afraid they would throw author Timothy Zahn out with the bathwater. However, this is not the case. If you have kept up with the news for Disney’s TV series Star Wars Rebels, you may have heard a lot of fuss about a new character named Grand Admiral Thrawn. Well, Thrawn is not actually a new character. He is from the Expanded Universe novels and the creation of one Timothy Zahn.

With Thrawn’s reintroduction to the new Star Wars timeline, the bosses at Lucasfilm/Disney decided they needed a book explaining where this Chiss tactical genius came from. And who better to write that book than the man who created Thrawn in the first place? Timothy Zahn’s new Star Wars novel, titled Thrawn, comes out in 2017.

It is sooo good to know my favorite sci-fi writer of the current era is back in the Star Wars business! I thought he was going to be shut out completely, but happily the people running the Star Wars franchise seem to have heard Gibbs’ rule about “wasting good.” Timothy Zahn is back, people!

This brings us, rather neatly, to today’s subject. This is Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy, which he wrote for Lucasbooks in the 1990s. This trilogy consists of Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command. Despite Lucasfilm’s decision to scrap the first Star Wars Expanded Universe timeline, Timothy Zahn’s Star Wars novels are still astounding pieces of literary work. Hopefully they will not go out of print, but I have no idea what plans Lucasbooks has for them.

Before The Force Awakens was even thought of, many Star Wars fans considered Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy to be the last three episodes of the original Star Wars saga. They were so in-depth, so well written, and they answered so many lingering questions that the fans could not help falling head-over-heels in love with them.

And now Star Wars Rebels is picking up on this esteem. While it remains to be seen how much Thrawn in the cartoon will resemble Zahn’s characterization, the fact that he will be in the series at all is exciting. For one thing, it gives us Mara Jade Skywalker fans hope that she will somehow make it into the new timeline!!! Oooh, cross your fingers and hope for the best, readers…!

Okay, fan rant over. Now we go back to the books.

In Heir to the Empire we see Grand Admiral Thrawn, one of the alien Chiss and the only alien in the entire Imperial Fleet, sending TIEs and other Imperial ships out to do reconnaissance on the “Rebels.” They are not really Rebels anymore, in our view, having re-established the Republic. But it is not like the Empire cares about that, right?

Captain Pellaeon, the commander of the Star Destroyer Chimera, is Thrawn’s second-in-command onboard the vessel. While he has his doubts about the Admiral’s ability, Pellaeon knows there is no one else in the military the Empire can turn to at the moment. The Empire’s territory has been drastically reduced and the “Rebel scum” are “taking” that territory through alliances with the local planetary governments. The only powerful leader the Galactic Empire has left is Thrawn.

And he soon proves he is as fearsome, in his own way, as were Vader or the Emperor.

Meanwhile, on the capital world of the New Republic, Luke Skywalker awakens from a dream. In the dream, Obi-Wan Kenobi tells him it is time for him to pass on. Luke feels in his waking mind that this truly makes him the last of the Jedi. But Ben’s kindly old voice remonstrates gently: “Not the last of the old Jedi, Luke. The first of the new.

Feeling melancholy, Luke goes onto the balcony attached to his room with a mug of hot chocolate and city gazes for a while. He then notices that Leia has become aware of his mood through the Force, made plain when C-3PO arrives with a message from her. Luke kindly tells the droid he is fine and sends him off with a message to Leia, reminding her that in her condition, she should be asleep.

What is Leia’s condition, some of you ask? She is expecting twins! That is her “condition”!

Leia is also missing Han, who is away trying to convince his old smuggler buddies to run legit freight for the New Republic. He even has Wedge Antilles and some Rogue Squadron guys helping him on the mission. But other than the camaraderie from the Rogues, Han has not gotten much out of the jaunt. None of the smugglers are interested in doing “respectable” runs because they figure it is bait to get them captured by the New Republic. And since they do illegal runs into Imperial territory, they do not want to be known for hauling “Rebel” freight.

It is not long after this that Thrawn’s great campaign against the New Republic begins. The Empire’s forces become even more formidable when Thrawn recruits the Dark Jedi Joruus C’baoth to his cause. Through the Force, C’baoth can keep the Imperial fleet officers and crewmen focused and on the alert. Thrawn contends that this was the secret of the Emperor’s power, back when he was alive; something Pellaeon wants to deny – and in fact does deny – but which he knows is actually the truth.

The problem in getting C’baoth’s help is that the guy is a lunatic. A raving madman, he makes the Red Skull seem just this side of good-naturedly goofy. Insane Force-users are dangerous, of course, but this man takes the cake!

And, in his private office, smuggler Talon Karrde is waiting to spring a surprise on one of his crewmen over dinner. The door to his office opens and in walks Mara Jade, eying Karrde as he finishes cutting the main course and starts doling it out. Not long after they have begun eating, he tells her that he wants to start grooming her as his second-in-command for the organization.

Mara is surprised by the offer, seeing how it would benefit Karrde and herself. For the first time in five years, she has a purpose and a home. It is nothing compared to her old life, true… but it is better than scrounging to survive in the dregs of the galaxy, as she has for the previous four and a half years since the Empire died.

Or, more accurately, since the Emperor died.

The Thrawn trilogy is a spectacular adventure, readers. I highly recommend it! If you do not love either Star Wars or Mara Jade and maybe even Thrawn by the end of book one, then I guess nothing about Zahn’s works will satisfy you. If you are already a fan of Star Wars, this trilogy should appeal to you on one level or another. I still love it, and I have reread it many times over the years!

May the Force be with you, readers!

The Mtihril Guardian

A Review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens – More or Less

Good day, Star Wars fans! Well, I got to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens some time back. This post is way overdue, huh? I know it is, but life is like that. Some things take a little extra work before they are presentable. This post is one of those things.

The Force Awakens was better than I had expected it to be. While I do not like the film nearly as much as I enjoy the original trilogy, I did like it more than the three prequels we saw ten years and more ago.

That being said, like some people, I had a few issues with The Force Awakens. Not just the fact that the previous films were a complete set already (Lucas has been promising us a much longer saga for years), once Disney bought Lucasfilm, they would have been stupid not to run with its storylines. It was not necessarily something I was looking forward to – it was more something I could understand them doing. They bought a money-making machine. Why on Earth would they not run with it?

And I have to admit, I kind of missed having Star Wars in the theaters. Marvel, Star Trek, and the other franchises can only fill so many holes in the modern cinemas, after all.

While I do not think Disney did a bad job with The Force Awakens, it is possible that they could have done better with it than they did. Below I will endeavor to get the issues I have with the film out of the way, before going on to what was enjoyable in the movie.

WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW! Read at your own risk!

First up, Kylo Ren. Why in the galaxy did Leia and Han name him Ben?!? Han and Leia were not that friendly with Obi-Wan Kenobi – Luke was!!! That is why his son in the books was named Ben! Now I am not saying the writers should have called the Solo heir Anakin – that is just poor imagination. Even the Expanded Universe writers waited to do that. But, come on, did they have to use Ben?!?! Jacen was a viable option, was it not?! If not, there were other alternatives, people!!! Ugh!

Second – who cast Adam Driver as Han and Leia’s son? He looks nothing like either of them!!! I can forgive the long hair, but he has the wrong face! How in the name of the Force can he play their son?!? They should have been able to find someone in Hollywood who looked like Leia or Han – and could play the part as well!!!

BB-8 was more impressive than I thought he would be, admittedly. Since he is positioned to take R2-D2’s place, I was quite prepared to hate him. However, “Billiard Ball” 8 managed himself quite well. The scene where he is rolling down the staircase in Maz Kanata’s castle is especially good. I admit that R2 could not have done that. However, I will not, under any circumstances, accept this Wookiee soccer ball with a head as a viable replacement for R2-D2. R2 is my favorite droid, and I will not be swayed to love BB-8 more than I enjoy R2. So there!!!

How can Ben Solo be a Dark Side user and not a Sith? Is he like the Dark Side Adepts – strong with the Dark Side, but unable to become a full-fledged Sith Lord? If that is the case, then no wonder he is not as powerful as Vader! The Sith were always more powerful than the Adepts. Everybody – inside and outside of the Star Wars universe – knows THAT!!!

Who – and what – is Supreme Leader Snoke? Seriously, they could have just made him a creepy old bald human in dark robes, and that would have been enough. Andy Serkis is terrifying in his role, but his character looks more like a monstrous, damaged version of Gollum than somebody new to the Star Wars mythos. Knowing our luck, he will probably be an alien who is smaller than Yoda when we get a good look at the real Snoke later on.

And that speech of General Hux’s before he blew up the New Republic Senate and the Hosnian system? LAME!!! They went too far with the Nazi nods for the First Order. Honestly, we will hate them no matter how they are dressed up, or what they say they believe! They are the heirs to the Empire – the bad guys!!! Their whole purpose in the films is to be hated!!! Do the writers not understand that?!?!?

To quote Charlie Brown and the Peanuts Gang: “AUGGHHH!!!!”

And we have another super weapon capable of causing galactic destruction in this trilogy…? It was not that bad, as super weapons go, but really? I mean REALLY?!? *Smacks forehead and whimpers in exasperation.* I never liked this trope, even when they did it in the books. Do Star Wars writers really need to revisit this story gimmick over and over again? Bad enough we had the Sun Crusher device in the novels, now we have Starkiller Base! *Slaps forehead on the desk several times, moaning in aggravation.*

(Okay, yeah, I am not going to damage my desk. But you get the idea!)

Now we come to Rey. I have mixed feelings about her Force usage in this film. I can buy her having a Force vision in Maz Kanata’s cantina castle after touching Luke’s lightsaber – you do not need training to have Force visions. And I can buy her having Force-dreams about the island where Luke is hiding, since you do not need training for those, either.

I can even buy her resisting Kylo Ren’s mind probe. The novelizations for the original trilogy hint that Leia’s ability to resist Darth Vader’s interrogation was possible in part because she instinctively used the Force in a small way. This hint is not exclusive to new novelizations of the old films; the original novelizations included this speculation as well. So, thinking about it, I can actually acquiesce to Rey’s ability to tell Kylo to butt out of her brain and her ability to keep him out. Her getting a glimpse into his mind in the process is also something I can buy, after a little thought on the matter. When she pushed him out of her head, she probably pushed into his mind in the process.

Rey pulling off a Jedi mind trick on the trooper guarding her – that takes a little too much suspension of disbelief. One could say that, as a scavenger, Rey has trained herself to pick up and learn skills fast in order to survive. And at least they had her fail to trick the trooper twice before she managed to pull it off properly. Still, this incident seems to have been added to the film solely to make her the Amazon warrior who can save herself. She does not have to wait to be rescued, like the damsel in distress, but can rescue herself. All well and good… but she could just as effectively have gotten out of her situation with a feigned medical emergency. This would get the trooper to open her restraints, allowing her to grab his blaster and bludgeon him with it.

Problem solved. 😉

Instead the writers had her use a Jedi mind trick to get out, something an untrained Force-user should not be able to do. Ezra Bridger, the fifteen year old hero of Star Wars Rebels, who is still training, took a long time to learn how to pull off a mind trick!

The writers really should have done this scene differently. It was cute to see the trooper drop his gun on the floor at her command, but continuity wise, her ability to pull off a Jedi mind trick after accepting her Force-sensitivity is rather suspicious. Did they actually confirm that Anakin Skywalker was the Chosen One in the prequels? ‘Cause if they did not, then that prophesied position might just belong to Rey at this rate!

As for Rey Force-grabbing the lightsaber and her skill with the weapon later on, that is easily explained, even if it is not a satisfactory explanation. One can do many things when she makes a concentrated effort at it, which explains how Rey called the lightsaber to her. (And it was “calling” to her, so that might have had something to do with it, too.)

As for her “skill” with the lightsaber, we see early in the movie that Rey is good with a quarterstaff. Staff fighting and sword fighting actually have a lot in common, according to a friend of mine who saw the movie with me. This means that, after a while, Rey can figure out the rudiments of lightsaber fighting. Her switch from defense to offense after she “opens herself to the Light” side of the Force, while not extremely satisfying or believable, is meant to be reminiscent of Luke’s letting go and trusting his feelings when he fired the torpedoes that destroyed the Death Star in A New Hope.

This explains Rey’s switch from defense to offense; her skill with a quarterstaff explains her ability to defend herself with the lightsaber in the first place. Not a perfect answer, but… *Shrug.* As a final note on this subject, Daisy Ridley’s stunt trainers need to work on her choreography – or they should get her a new outfit without tassels that can get in the way and trip her up. Some of her footwork in that duel with ‘Kilo’ looked too slow to match his attacks. It was obvious he was waiting for her to get back up and turn to fight him a couple of times. Not something you want in a film like this.

One last issue I have with Rey is this: the way her name is spelled is wrong. Rey is Spanish for king; the way it is spelled, her name should be a boy’s name (tell me that does not seem suspicious and silly to you). Rae, the feminine form of the name, would have been a better and more proper spelling for the writers to use. But they did not do this.

I found Kylo Ren’s temper tantrums completely scoff-worthy. The kid loses his temper far too easily. He is right to be afraid of not living up to Vader’s legacy. Darth Vader, even when we saw him as an apprentice in The Clone Wars, was more intimidating and deadly than ‘Kilo’ Ren. Ren’s just a whiney crybaby who breaks stuff when he cannot get what he wants. Yeah. I have seen four year olds do that, too. Totally scary. *Insert eye roll here.*

Of course, the point of these tantrums is in part to show that Ren is simply a Vader wannabe. He is not Darth Vader – he is not even a Sith! His heart’s not really in it, not the way Anakin’s was. Ren is an open and shut case of the quintessential copycat. He is fascinated with the power of the Force and his grandfather’s use of it. He wants that power and to be feared like his grandfather, and he wants it yesterday.

Whoop-dee-doo, I am so scared. (NOT!!!) Can I please haul off and slap this kid? He needs some sense knocked into him.

And did anyone get a look at that dress Leia was wearing at the end of the film? Ow, it resembled one of Padmé Amidala’s dresses!!! For some reason, seeing Leia wearing that dress just hurt. I do not know why, but I hated it. It seemed so wrong on her. That was not the type of dress she would wear. Why not put her in something more her style than her mother’s? Ouch….

Poe Dameron did not come out so well in the later scenes in the movie. In contrast, Finn actually did pretty well. He seems to have been handed Han’s role from the original films. In the original trilogy, Han was the one who wanted to run out on the Rebellion. In this film, Finn is terrified of the First Order and wants to disappear into the galaxy’s dregs to escape it. The interplay between him, Han, and Chewie was some of the funniest and best in the movie.

Speaking of our “scruffy-looking,” nerf-herding rogue, Han had some great time in this film. It was wonderful to have him, Chewie, the Millennium Falcon, Leia, and Luke back. And it was awful when ‘Kilo’ Ren killed him.

Something about that scene makes me think it did not need to happen. I suspected the writers would begin killing off the original characters in this new trilogy, but I thought for sure Luke would be the one to die in The Force Awakens. I was probably not the only one who thought this, which means that, to be unpredictable, the writers decided Han should be killed first.

All I have to say about this is – ow, Ow, OW, OW!!! I read spoilers on the film for a friend not long after the movie came out, expecting to find that Luke had died. So when I learned it was Han who was killed, the news was something of a shock. I never realized how much affection I had for our cocky smuggler until the news that he had died came out. I almost broke down and cried on the spot.

This part of the film – pardon my uncouth language, readers – really sucked. I am glad that Chewie shot ‘Kilo’ in the side and that Rey slashed him across the face, not to mention put a hole in his shoulder. Let him bear the wounds for the shameful atrocity he committed!

And I have a warning for the writers of the film: they had better watch their shins. There is someone I know who wants to “put a foot to J.J. Abrams’ shin” for Han’s death. Myself, knocking Ben Solo down and beating him up very badly is a more appealing option. Failing that, I hereby challenge J.J. Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan, and Simon Kinberg to each dump a BIG bucket of icy water over their heads. It is the least they can do in penance for killing Han!

Ranting and personal feelings aside, the scene was a poignant one for Han, who showed Ben he loved him no matter what he did. Ben came out the loser in that conflict – as he did in his fight with Rey, and the destruction of Starkiller Base. Some Vader he is turning out to be!! *Add derogatory snort here.*

Now we come to the parts of the film I enjoyed and promised to talk about above. Rey is a very interesting character. We do not know her last name as yet, and her history is barely given the light of day in the movie. We know she was left on Jakku and grew up there on her own, scavenging parts from downed Imperial and Republic ships in order to survive.

But who would leave their child on such a world? This is not something we have seen in the Star Wars mythos before. Luke and Leia were hidden on Tatooine and Alderaan, as Rey was apparently hidden on Jakku. But they each had guardians to love and care for them. Rey, in contrast, was left to fend for herself.

That does not sit well with the previous stories in the Star Wars’ saga. From what we can see, Rey’s heritage is related to the original trilogy somehow. She is Force-sensitive, and that is not an accident. Hints are scattered throughout the movie that she is somehow related to Han, Leia, and Luke. But the clues are proposed in such a way that we cannot be sure just how she is related to them.

‘Kilo’ mentions while interrogating Rey that she considers Han to be the father she never had. Rey learned to be a pilot by using a simulator she scavenged from a downed Y-wing; she learned the droid language (binary), and Wookiee tongue from a translator device she repaired. Besides these languages, Jakku’s populace uses many different languages, which Rey is well versed in, too. Wookiees sometimes dropped by Niima Outpost while she was growing up, and she had experience talking to them. That was where she heard stories about the Rebellion, Han and Chewie, Luke, Leia, and Darth Vader.

The point here is that her skill flying the Falcon and her knowledge of machinery seem to point to her being Han and Leia’s daughter. At the same time, though, she is drawn to and makes use of Anakin and Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber. Not to mention she refers to the Falcon as garbage, a notable homage to Luke’s description of it as a “piece of junk” in A New Hope. She also grew up on a desert world, and she puts on an X-Wing pilot’s helmet near the beginning of the movie. We all know that neither Leia nor Han flew an X-Wing!! Plus, Rey “opens herself” to the Force to beat ‘Kilo’ Ren, the way Luke made use of the Force to destroy the first Death Star in A New Hope.

Also, Rey has green (others say hazel) eyes. Han and Leia both have brown eyes, as did Padmé Amidala. Shmi Skywalker’s eyes were brown, but Anakin and Luke both had/have blue eyes…

Mara Jade, notably, had green eyes. If they bring her into the new Star Wars timeline (and since Mara was the only Expanded Universe character who ever made it into the top twenty favorite Star Wars characters’ list, I think they would be nuts not to bring her back), then she might have married, or at least fallen in love with Luke in this new timeline as well.

In which case, Rey’s mother may be/may have been Mara Jade, and she left their daughter on Jakku to keep her safe. Add to this the fact that when Maz says the belonging Rey desires is not behind her but before her, Rey responds by saying Luke’s name. All at once you have a very convincing case that argues the heroine of The Force Awakens could be the new Skywalker in this trilogy.

This suspicion is only compounded by her meeting with Luke on the island on Ahch-To. Luke was not at all surprised to see Rey. He looked like he was seeing someone he had expected to see for a long time. And he looked like it made him happy while at the same time it caused him enormous pain. (And did anybody else notice the headstone-like rock at his feet? Oooh! Is it Han’s or Mara’s, I wonder?)

Now, all of this is pure conjecture, readers. We have no idea how Rey is related to the Solo-Skywalker clan. We only know that she is related to them, somehow, some way. Her use of Luke’s old lightsaber is the proof of the pudding. Whether she is a stolen or hidden daughter/niece, she is related to Luke Skywalker and Anakin before him. That much we can be absolutely certain of. The rest will be revealed as Luke’s and Leia’s heritage was in the first trilogy: bit by aggravating bit.

Let’s try not to grind our teeth while we wait, shall we?

On the subject of pluses for The Force Awakens, as I stated before, Finn was a winning character. Though the scenes which suggest he is falling in love with Rey – and she with him – occasionally seemed forced and flat (to me), their friendship was definitely genuine. And Finn got some of the best lines in the movie, such as when he mentions that Chewie has nearly killed him six times. Chewie’s response is to grab him and roar in his face, making Finn say, “Which is fine!” John Boyega has a real sense of fun, and he obviously made the most of the part given to him in The Force Awakens.

Speaking of great lines, Han was the other character who got grand zingers and dialogue in this film. This is no surprise – in the original trilogy, he was always shooting his mouth off in an endearing, funny way. It was a real pleasure to see him and the Falcon again. It only got better when he reunited with his wife. He and Leia had some great moments together, such as when Han says, “I’m only trying to help…”

“When has that ever helped?” Leia retorts tartly, adding, “And don’t say the Death Star!”

Oh, it is so good to have them back, if only for a little while!!! I missed the original heroes sooo much over the years – I never realized just how much I actually wanted to see them onscreen again!

Leia herself seemed more tired than anything in The Force Awakens. But the nice thing is how readily she and Han got back together. Even after all the pain they have been through, those two still love each other. The way they forgave each other for splitting up was good, considering how badly things ended up for them.

Maz Kanata was also a real winner. She is not only a Force-sensitive voice of wisdom; she has a sense of humor! After a thousand years of living, watching evil come and go, that is no mean feat!! I liked her a lot more than I thought I would.

And of course, we have X-Wings and the Millennium Falcon back!! YEAH-HOO!!! I have ached to see those ships again!!!

Oh, and we cannot forget Chewie! That “walking carpet” is a great big teddy bear (with a temper) and almost all Star Wars fans love him to bits! It is so nice that he is not dead in this timeline!!!

There are just a few more things I have to mention before I sign off here. One, though Rey never changes her desert garb until the end of the movie (at which point she simply exchanges it for a grey getup of the exact same style), she really was not given a chance to get changed until then. Even Han barely had time to get a jacket before heading out to Starkiller Base.

However, Finn came through in the pinch. He gave Rey the jacket Poe let him keep. It was a nice touch – maybe chivalry is not dead after all. It is hardly Finn’s fault that Rey took the jacket off at some point and gave it back to him. (Can a few more guys in the movies be that thoughtful of the girls? It would be great to see more scenes where the guy treats the girl like she is worth a million dollars!) Admittedly, seeing her breath steaming up or a few shivers would have at least let us know she was dealing with the cold.

As for Ren’s ability to read the minds of others against their will, that is a tactic straight out of the now non-canon Expanded Star Wars Universe. However, the whole problem with making the Expanded Universe non-canon is that it took around thirty years to build it up in the first place. Scrapping all that work and building from the ground up again will take way too much time.

Plus, the Expanded Universe stories are extremely popular. Mara Jade’s solid fan base (which includes me), is confirmation of this. The stories may now be non-canon, but Disney knows that making a whole new universe from scratch will cost them a lot of time and money… and they know that Star Wars fans are heavily invested in what has come before. Why waste precious time and money making “a new universe” (to quote Erik Selvig), when they can simply pilfer from the treasure hoard of the Expanded Universe, tweaking it to fit the new timeline they are making?

Star Wars: The Clone Wars TV series already did this – though they were operating off of canon novels at the time. They brought Force-sensitive bounty hunter Aurra Sing into the series from the novels. The TV show also featured the Force-sensitive witches of Dathomir, specifically the Dark Side sect of Adepts known as the Nightsisters. These were mentioned extensively in the original Expanded Universe. Dathomirian witch Teneniel Djo married Prince Isolder of the Hapes Consortium and had a daughter with him, Tenel Ka. Tenel Ka became a Jedi Knight and Jacen Solo’s girlfriend, eventually giving birth to their daughter, Allana.

Rebels (which serves a similar purpose to The Clone Wars), is following the same pattern, albeit they are pulling things from stories that are now non-canon. There are creatures and weapons that come directly from the Expanded Universe in the show. Characters may follow as well – Agent Kallus, the ISB agent hunting the Ghost crew in the series, was almost a Chiss warrior before the writers decided he should be a Human. And there were rumors running around for a while that the writers might bring Grand Admiral Thrawn in during Rebels’ third season. (That would be interesting, to say the least!)

The writers had already set a precedent for this by adding Inquisitors to the Rebels series. The Inquisitors were also part of the pre-original Star Wars trilogy Expanded Universe novels. Dark Side Adepts working for the Emperor, their purpose was to hunt down stragglers from the Jedi Purge and Force-sensitive youths or infants. They would destroy the stragglers and the children who refused to turn in the books, while taking the infants to mold as future Inquisitors – something the Dark Side users in Rebels are doing as well.

Is this cheating? Yes, in a way. Is this contemptible, underhanded treatment of the fans? Some will find it so. But it makes money, as well as keeps a full-blown riot from hitting the fan and ruining Disney and Lucasfilm’s bottom lines. And the writers for Rebels and the new trilogy love Star Wars as much as the fans. They will want to salvage as much from the “Legends” novels as they can, because they like it as much as the fans do.

It is also, basically, the only thing they, Lucasfilm, and Disney can do. They cannot make films from the novels. Even the Legacy novels and comics, which were opening up new territory for the Expanded Universe (some of it rather bizarre for Star Wars), are things they could not film. Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill are not able to run around and do that kind of legwork anymore. It is too hard for them.

Hamill has been voice acting since at least the 1990s. This is the first time he has been in front of a camera in years. (As far as this writer is aware, anyway.) Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford have kept in front of the camera, but Ford is the only one now who is still capable of running around and shooting people up. How much longer that will last, we do not know. Disney does not know, either; and they cannot take chances with an acquisition as big and lucrative as Star Wars is. This meant that they had to make the books non-canon. But they still own the rights to these novels – and that means they can filch from them any time they want.

This handicap also means that they had no choice but to remake Star Wars IV: A New Hope when they wrote the script for The Force Awakens. There was no other way to get kids who never saw the prequels and who may never have seen the original trilogy interested in the franchise.

Could they have made The Force Awakens a less politically correct remake of A New Hope? Absolutely. This is nothing against Finn or Rey, but the fact is this political correctness was not needed to revitalize the story. The writers could have made as good a film – or a better one – without all the political posturing. The first three films did it, the prequels avoided it (more or less?), and The Force Awakens could have done it.

However, Disney has done what it has done. J.J. Abrams has reinvigorated the series as best he could, the way he did with the Star Trek film franchise. (Don’t worry, I am not rescinding my ice bucket challenge to him! I am simply according him the credit that is his due – little as it may be in the eyes of some.)

Does that make The Force Awakens and the new saga perfect?

Nope.

Is it still enjoyable?

Yes… more or less.

However, until episodes VIII and IX somehow manage to blow The Force Awakens out of the water, I will stick with the original trilogy, Star Wars Rebels, and the non-canon novels. I enjoy them more than The Force Awakens – so far. I am not averse to going to the theaters to see the new Star Wars films, but I do not yet like them as much as these older stories. And the fact is that this attitude may not change.

Well, readers, this is my long-winded opinion of the opening salvo for the new Star Wars saga. Take it or leave it, as you like. Until next time –

The Force will be with you, always!

The Mithril Guardian

Star Wars: A Family Torn Apart

Han and Leia

Hello, Star Wars Writers!

I can hear the groans now.  I know.  First the Marvel Comics writers, then the Transformers writers, now you guys.  My interests are rather wide.  So it’s not hard for somebody, somewhere, to irritate me.

Reading my notes to the Marvel Comics writers, I’m sure you have some idea of what it’s like to tick me off.

You have landed on that list.  I am very upset by what you have been doing of late.

So.  Let’s get started, shall we?

A family torn apart.  What do I mean by that?  I mean the Solo clan, which has been all but shattered through the events of various novels.  We’ll start with Chewie’s death.  Yeah, I can see why the original characters would begin to die off; time passing and all that.  That doesn’t mean I have to like it, though.

So in this R. A. Salvatore and I agree: killing Chewbacca was wrong.

Killing young Anakin Solo, who was not yet out of his teens, was even worse.

What was the purpose of that?  I don’t think Han and Leia ever earned that stab in the gut.  Anakin certainly hadn’t had time to earn it.  He was a very interesting character.  It would have been fun to watch him go gallivanting across the galaxy (preferably with Tahiri) being the Jedi his grandfather could have been.  The galaxy would not have been the only group of people cheering him throughout.

But that’s not going to happen now.

Next we come to Jacen Solo.  Jacen was supposed to be the gentlest of the three Solo children, the one most attuned to living things.  Well, that got turned on its head after Anakin died, didn’t it?  That must be why the youngest Solo child got the axe.  One, or more, of you wanted to see a descendant of Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader “come full circle” and repeat his grandfather’s mistakes.

There was no way that fans were going to let you do that to Luke.  Even Lucas wouldn’t let you do that.  Anakin Solo was too obvious a choice; he had been named for his grandfather.  If you used him, it would be expected.  Yet another reason to “strike” him out of the expanded universe.  Any children Luke had would have to continue his legacy, not Vader’s.  That left Jacen.

To complete the “full circle” angle, a member of his family had to face off with Jacen and either turn him back to the light or kill him.  You opted for the latter.  Seriously?  But I guess you thought that your “circle” had to end differently than it began, didn’t you?  Luke turned his father.  It would be too cliché to have Jacen turned to the light the way Vader had been.

So you sent his older twin Jaina to take him out.  When she does Jacen “makes amends” by warning his girlfriend Tenel-Ka that she and their daughter, Alanna, are in danger from poison gas.  We’re never even told for sure which side of the Force Jacen joined in death.  You made it pretty clear which side he was on in life.

You never read any of the other writers’ stories before starting your own, do you?  Did Jaina even cry, at least in private, after killing her brother?  More to the point, the whole incident seems to put her in the territory of the Dark Side, but she doesn’t act like she’s turned away from the Jedi order.  Yet.  I’m sure that someone has a plan to change that soon; what with her starting a resistance movement against Galactic Alliance ruler Daala (did the galaxy get amnesia?  I don’t see them exactly jumping to elect her in a landslide considering how she nearly wrecked the New Republic).  Is Jaina even going to live long enough to have children of her own?  Aside from Alanna, it appears that the Solo line is pretty well sunk.

This is preposterous to me.  Killing Jacen and Anakin robs readers and fans of a lineage of heroes continued from their original favorites.  The Solo family had a great chance to grow and expand.  As for the stories that could have followed the extended family – talk about endless possibilities!!

But now that’s practically gone.

Han, Leia, and most importantly Luke (since he’s the one who taught all three Solo children how to be Jedi and Jacen repaid him by killing his wife) didn’t deserve this.  We, the readers and fans of the expanded universe, didn’t need this.

This was unnecessary, fellow writers.  Totally and completely unnecessary.

Sincerely,

Mithril (A Deeply Disappointed Fan)

(L to R) Anakin, Jacen, and Jaina Solo

(L to R) Anakin, Jacen, and Jaina Solo