Tag Archives: Hera Syndulla

Spotlight – Zoids: Chaotic Century – Moonbay

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Here we again return, readers, to the burning deserts of the planet Zi! Although there will be more Zoids posts coming out next year, this will be the final one until 2019. I wanted to cover the main cast for the show before the year was out, so it seemed best to shift my earlier plans around in order to give Moonbay her dues today. There will be more and different Spotlight! articles forthcoming in January, however, so don’t think I have forgotten any of my promises! 😉

That being explained, let’s stop beating around the bush and get to business. First encountered by Van and Fiona in the episode “Sleeper Trap,” Moonbay serves as the mother figure of their group during the first half of the season. In this way she is a little like Star Wars RebelsHera Syndulla. But where Hera is relaxed and laid back, Moonbay is feisty, fiery, and more than willing to tell off her hotheaded young charge, Van Flyheight.

Sharp-tongued and flirty, Moonbay has a good head for business and brooks no nonsense she herself does not commit. Though she can strike viewers as a bit greedy in her business dealings, the reality is that Moonbay is not a mercenary. Because she loves to travel and wants to preserve her independence, she needs to acquire a respectable influx of cash whenever she can get it. After all, it isn’t easy maintaining a zoid or buying supplies that will last over the course of long distance trips.

This is especially true after she hooks up with Van, Fiona, and Irvine, whom you can read about here, here, and here. Once she joins their party, Moonbay has three other mouths to feed and two extra zoids to maintain. Since the distances between villages and cities are rather long, that means more food has to be bought so the gang doesn’t run out of chow in the middle of nowhere.

The episode “Moonbay’s Waltz” demonstrates clearly that Moonbay is not the mercenary she first appears to be. In the course of this episode, Moonbay runs into an old sweetheart, a millionaire known only as McMan. McMan reveals he previously asked Moonbay to marry him, inviting her to a ball to introduce her to his family, but she never showed. Moonbay eventually admits that she ran away because she believed they were so different that a marriage between them would not work.

Thus one can see that the reason Moonbay is always looking for a big score isn’t because she loves money. She could have had more than enough if she had married McMan. The reason she is always bargaining for extra cash or, sometimes, swindling money from someone is so that she can support her footloose lifestyle. Being a carefree “transporter of the wasteland” is what she wants to do, and she will do whatever she must to ensure that she can keep going in this profession. Now that I think about it, she and Lando Calrissian would probably get along very well, not to mention have bucket loads of fun together.

In terms of fighting skill, Moonbay is actually pretty good at hand-to-hand combat. She does not do it often and, in a straight up physical competition, she would lose to a man in a few seconds. But when push comes to shove, she can and will fight. In the episode “Jump! Zeke!”, she took a Republican soldier by surprise, disarmed him, and held his arms pinned to his sides. Since he was about a head and a half to two heads taller than she was, not to mention broader, it is unlikely that Moonbay could have kept him prisoner for very long.

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But as she proved in the next scene, she only had to hold him for a few seconds. What she lacks in terms of physical fighting power Moonbay more than makes up for in her wits. Keeping the soldier’s arms pinned to his sides, she managed to broker a deal to help the Republican Army defeat an incursion attempt by the Imperial Army in the following installment, “The Battle of Red River.” The deal paid well at the same time it got her, Van, Fiona, and Irvine out of trouble for blowing up a Republican sleeper trap. Using her business sense, wits, and the element of surprise, Moonbay hauled the entire gang out of a nasty bit of legal trouble.

These particular skills extend to her piloting abilities as well. Moonbay’s primary zoid throughout the series is her fuschia Gustav which, though it has thick armor, is not much of a fighter. Moonbay was only able to install one set of twin cannons beneath an armor joint between two of the shell’s plates. Though Irvine once told her she should install more weapons on it, Moonbay pointed out that the zoid would be too heavy to travel if she did that. So she sacrificed greater firepower for mobility.

Age: Unknown

As she proved, however, the Gustav can do plenty of damage when no one sees it coming. Using the zoid’s thick armor and hidden cannons, Moonbay could achieve a variety of attacks in combat. These ranged from bowling over two-legged opponents to firing two precise and incapacitating shots into an enemy zoid, disabling it at once. There were other occasions when Moonbay used the Gustav as a shield to protect herself and others from deadly explosions or shots as well.

Moonbay also became an excellent Pteras pilot. (More on that zoid next year – I promise!) She literally learned that skill on the fly, but proved to be a quick enough study that she and her passengers survived the experience. Due to her transporter skills, she also mastered the enormous Ultrasaurus later on in the series. A huge zoid that was basically a walking city/military base, once she was in the cockpit Moonbay grabbed the controls and didn’t let go. Despite constant reminders, she loudly and publicly proclaimed the zoid was “her” Ultrasaurus. Since she was the one piloting it ninety-nine point nine percent of the time, no one could really argue with her on that one.

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Moonbay in her “Legendary Fireball” attire.

Though it was only revealed in the standalone episode “Phantom,” Moonbay also had a “need for speed.” She was once a champion racer known as the Legendary Fireball. Eventually, she quit the racing circuit for some unknown reason, only to return to the track briefly in “Phantom.” Due to a mistake during the race she lost the competition and, as far as I know, that was the last time she raced.

When it comes to relationships, in the first half of Chaotic Century Moonbay is definitely the mother figure for the younger members of the gang. This is most apparent in her relationship with Van; as noted previously, she will happily tell him off when he misbehaves or does something foolish. Occasionally she adds force to her lessons, punching, elbowing, or shoving Van around to get her point across. The reason for this is because she is trying to drive home the point that he has to “look after [him]self,” as there will come a time when no one else can or will take care of him.

Age: Unknown

Although their relationship is fraught with these kinds of confrontations early on, the fact is that the two do care about each other a great deal. Moonbay is not one to wear her heart on her sleeve, but she does admit that Van is “a pretty good kid,” and that she admires his determination to succeed no matter what. Even when he is older and more able to manage his own affairs, Moonbay still appears to consider him “her boy.”

This may have been shown best when she interposed her Gustav between Van’s downed Blade Liger and Raven’s resurrected Geno Saurer. Despite the fact that this resulted in a grave wound for her zoid, Moonbay didn’t regret the sacrifice when Van apologized in the next episode. While her reassurances didn’t alleviate his guilt, the fact that Moonbay blew off the severe damage showed she considered it a small price to pay for protecting him.

Her relationship with Fiona was less motherly and more sisterly. During the first half of the series the younger girl’s naïveté meant that she had to be watched over and protected more than a normal girl her age. When not “flying RIO” with Van in combat she remained with Moonbay, who took her under her wing. Slowly, through her time spent with the older girl, Fiona became assertive, gaining a decisiveness she had not demonstrated beforehand. Although she never became as feisty or fierce as Moonbay, the older woman did help instill in Fiona a strength of will that aided her later in life.

Forgotten Toon Girls: F is for Fiona

Moonbay also helped the girl relearn her way around zoids. As the go-to mechanic in the gang, both Van and Irvine relied on Moonbay to keep their zoids healthy. This was due not only to the fact that she was a good engineer, but because she knew a technique that would help zoids to “self-recover” faster than normal. Fiona often helped her on these occasions, giving her the opportunity to become Van’s personal mechanic later on. This skill also allowed her to aid scientists in upgrading his Blade Liger when she was older, which impressed Moonbay a great deal.

Another area in which the two were connected was in the way they worried over their men. As Fiona grew, she worried about Van more frequently because he began facing stronger and more deadly opponents. Knowing worry was useless, despite the fact that she often engaged in it herself, Moonbay did her best to support Fiona and help her relax before every big battle. The two were really close, shown by the fact that the only one Moonbay worried about more than Van was Fiona. If the younger girl was kidnapped or put in danger, Moonbay was instantly on the alert. Though she wasn’t much of a physical fighter, she would do her best to go after and rescue Fiona, no matter the danger to herself.

Finally, with regard to Irvine, Moonbay sincerely respected and liked the mercenary. Throughout the series they flirted with and teased each other; their behavior was so natural that sometimes a viewer could almost swear they were married. Being somewhat older than Irvine, she had more experience in certain matters than he did – namely the management of funds and the foresight necessary to finance a group that included herself, two growing kids, and one eighteen year old man who was used to living and fighting on his own. Where Irvine acted as the voice of combat experience during the first half of the series, Moonbay maintained the group’s social order and discipline. She made sure everyone ate on time, slept on time, and kept a tight rein on the way money was spent.

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This meant that the two rarely argued or interfered with the other’s role in managing the kids, especially Van. When Irvine told Van off for wallowing in self-pity or blaming everyone except himself for a mistake, Moonbay held her peace and let him do it, recognizing he was more effective in this area than she was. But when it came time to let the boy alone to think things through or to tell him the hard truth about how the world worked, then the mercenary would let Moonbay do the talking since she was the one who had more experience in such matters than he did.

None of this is to say that their relationship was without its rough patches. Irvine had to repeatedly tell Moonbay to jettison her cargo of Imperial ammunition in “Sleeper Trap,” since her pride in never failing to deliver goods to an employer was putting them all at risk. In turn, she had to verbally slap him upside the head after his Command Wolf was wrecked by Raven later on in the series.

These instances of violent disagreement were rare and brief. Moonbay and Irvine made a good pair, shown by the fact that together they “raised” Van and Fiona right. To be perfectly honest, I’ve always suspected that they married after the series ended; they clearly cared about one another a great deal. During battles where Irvine was thrown around or injured, Moonbay often shouted his name, the way that Fiona would cry out if Van was injured. And while the mercenary often stated that Moonbay could “take care of herself” and was “pretty good in dangerous situations,” he didn’t appreciate it when she was threatened.

A future romantic relationship between the two is conjecture on my part, though, since the series leaves their relationship openended from start to finish. But while the writers may not have intended for them to be more than friends, I prefer to think Moonbay and Irvine became a couple at some point. She certainly couldn’t get away with saying she and he were “too different” to make a good match – not after everything they had been through together!

The more I write about these characters, the less I am able to think of actors, actresses, and directors who could ably bring them to the silver screen. It’s more than likely that an attempt to put them in a live action film would fail completely. They’re perfect the way they are.

If a competent, respectful group of creators could be found to make a solid, beautiful film (series) out of the show, then I might be more hopeful. But as things stand I am much happier to have the anime than a film (series).

Which reminds me: if you want to see this great show yourselves, readers, it is available in its entirety on Amazon.com. For those of you who want to test the show out before laying down hard-earned cash for it, check out the English dub of Zoids: Chaotic Century here at www.watchcartoononline.com. Don’t quit if you find the first two episodes a bit draggy and boring; wait until you reach “Sleeper Trap,” “Jump! Zeke!,” and “The Battle of Red River” before you make a decision. I doubt you’ll be disappointed. 😉

‘Til next time, readers:

“See you on the battlefield!”

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Book Reviews: Star Wars Rebels – Ezra’s Gamble and The Rebellion Begins

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“Thanks for doing the heavy lifting!”

As you know, readers, Star Wars Rebels was a dark horse for this blogger. I figured I would watch the first episodes and be so disgusted, upset, or unimpressed with it that that would be the end for me. Watching it wouldn’t bother me any faster than ignoring it would.

However, my early assessment of the show could not have been more wrong. I quickly fell in love with this series, primarily because of the two Jedi who formed the core of the story. Han Solo is great, Mandalorians are cool, and Wookiees are wonderful, but the Jedi are the pièce de résistance of the Star Wars universe for me. I cannot say why the Jedi are my favorite part of this mythos. All this blogger can say for sure is that she loves ‘em. So the fact that we were getting two new ones in my favorite era of Star Wars – that period around the time of A New Hope – was the hook which pulled me into the series.

Since the show has concluded, I thought it best to review these two short children’s novels which tie into the series. If you are not a die-hard Star Wars fan bent on satiating a hunger for new fare, you probably will not be too interested in them. I like the series enough that it does not matter to me if the books related to it are churned out for children. Yes, they have their limitations; but they are also well written and they satisfy my desire for decent stories starring Jedi. I will take what I can get, especially since this new timeline offers us precious little in the way of enjoyable stories – particularly about the space knights I love so much.

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The first novel is Ezra’s Gamble, by Ryder Windam. This author is a “hired gun,” if you will. He has written several different novels in franchise universes for kids. The ones I remember off the top of my head were related to the Transformers films. Those were not books I would describe as great, but that may have been due to intereference from the people running the franchise rather than poor writing on the author’s part.

Ezra’s Gamble is much better than his Transformers books, which felt more stilted than the first three movies in the franchise. I would guess Mr. Windham is a Star Wars fan and possibly an afficianado, since he writes in a style similar to Timothy Zahn’s. I did not sense our time and place intruding on his story at any point in the narrative, either, which made the book far more enjoyable than Star Wars: The Lost Stars. (There will be more on that travesty of a novel below.)

A prequel to Star Wars Rebels, Gamble begins with Ezra selling tickets to an illegal gladiator fight on Lothal. He manages to fleece his customers of the valuables on their persons while he does this. But said items – and the cash he receives for the tickets – are lifted from him by his mentor and the man who got him involved in selling the vouchers. This would a Xexto by the name of Ferpil Wallaway.

Meanwhile – and you bounty hunter fans will love this – Bossk is approaching Lothal in the Hound’s Tooth to collect a reward for a gambler named Shifty. Turns out that Shifty jumped bail on another planet and fled here for some reason. The Imperial on duty at the spaceport, who calls himself Lieutenant Herdringer, gets Bossk an unwanted escort to the surface. Before terminating their conversation, Herdringer adds that he does not want any shooting when the hunter goes after Shifty.

Well, the Hound’s Tooth lands, and Ezra takes a peek at the ship. This gets Bossk’s attention, leading to a conversation between them. Smelling a chance to make some extra money, Bridger offers to be the bounty hunter’s local guide, since Shifty is supposed to be at a place called Ake’s Tavern and the Trandoshan has no idea where that establishment is. Bossk hires him after some haggling and fussing, then acts like he forgot Shifty’s name in order to make Ezra enter the building ahead of him.

Bossk does this to distract the assassins hired to protect Shifty. Apparently, someone has a lot to lose if the gambler is caught and taken back to face the music. In the ensuing chaos, Shifty is killed. After this, Ezra and Bossk are forced by circumstance – and the future apprentice’s good heart – to work together to find out who set the bounty hunter up.

This is a good book, one that speed readers, afficianados, and most people who love reading can race through in a day. The fact that it is written for children really does not diminish the quality of the story. Mr. Windham studied up on his setting very well, melding the Bounty Hunter part of the old Star Wars EU seamlessly with Rebels. He also tosses out words from the old EU like “ferrocrete,” which made reading the novel a lot more fun.

Best of all was Windham’s handling of Bossk. I have never “met” this bounty hunter in the original EU novels, but I have read about him in my New Essential Guide to Characters. From what I can tell, fans of this Trandoshan will not find fault with his depiction in Ezra’s Gamble. He seems almost unchanged from his previous deportment here.

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Next we have the novelization for Star Wars Rebels’ introductory film/episodes: The Rebellion Begins, written by Michael Kogge. This book is not quite as good as Ezra’s Gamble, but it is not bad because of that. It starts out in a different place than the show does; there is a build-up to the opening scenes viewers of the show saw when Spark of Rebellion first aired, adding context to the story and characters.

Since I do not want to spoil the beginning, all I will say is that you have to go through a prologue and two chapters before reaching the point where Spark of Rebellion officially begins onscreen. Ghosts are a motif throughout the book, and Agent Alexsandr Kallus gets some interesting moments here as well. By far, I like this novel most for how it deals with Kanan, showing his reticence and giving us a good idea of why he is so afraid to use the Force.

Hera comes through this novel well, as does Ezra. Zeb is presented in a good light, along with Sabine, though there is not as much depth for her as I would like. This is probably due to the fact that the book was written before her history was revealed, which means that Mr. Kogge did not have enough info on her to give us hints about her past. So while the story is quite satisfactory for someone just coming in to the series, it is rather annoying for a reader who has watched the show from the beginning to roughly half of its final season.

I wish they had more books like Ezra’s Gamble and The Rebellion Begins out on shelves. Mr. Kogge and Mr. Windham proved here that they can write good Star Wars fiction. I think that, if they were turned loose on this era of the mythos, they would do the prior EU writers proud – more so than the authors of The Lost Stars and the new novelization of A New Hope have. These writers did little for the franchise except to wrap current political arguments in Star Wars dressing, which is NOT what authors are supposed to do.

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An author’s job is to entertain his or her audience by telling great stories about good beating evil, not stories where a Rebel and an Imperial can fall in love and yet remain divided by one’s firm adherence to her oath to the Empire. Even Rebels’ writers had Kallus change sides when he learned the truth about the Empire, for Pete’s sake! Stories like The Lost Stars are supposed to end with the guy getting the girl, but this is not what happened in that “novel.”

(Warning for Younger Readers: The Lost Stars includes three completely unnecessary sex scenes. One of these practically qualifies as a rape, in my opinion, despite the fact that the woman involved told the man, “Don’t you dare stop.” I have never heard of a pre-Disney Star Wars story which approved of such behavior, as The Lost Stars seemed to do. Such books may have been written in the old EU, which means that I missed them. However, my impression from studying up on and personally reading older Star Wars fare was that even in a galaxy far, far away rape was rape, period, and that it was not to be accepted or approved of. EVER.)

Also, in my opinion, the latest junior novelization of A New Hope all but ruined Princess Leia for the next generation of readers. For some reason, the author of that book spent paragraph upon paragraph having Leia whine about how everyone expected her to be a demure little princess who could not take care of herself. Pardon me, readers, but that is pure Bantha fodder. Yes, Leia surprised everyone when she snatched the blaster rifle from Luke to shoot at the Stormtroopers in A New Hope. There is, however, a perfectly logical reason for that which has NOTHING to do with Luke, Han, or any other man believing she could not take care of herself because she was a woman.

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Remember that Luke lived a sheltered life on Tatooine. He had no more idea that princesses were trained to fight than Han had any idea of how to run a moisture farm. As it is, Han had been around the block many times, so he knew women who could and would fight. He just did not stop to think that anyone would take the time or have the inclination to teach a princess to fight, anymore than most of us automatically expect rich or important people in today’s world to pay for their children to be trained to defend themselves.

We do not expect this because most of these people do not insist their children learn self-defense. It is not because we think their children – both sons and daughters – could not be taught to fight. It is because so very few of them are taught the art of combat that we therefore expect so little of them. The same applies in this case to Han and Luke. The precedent for rulers of any kind teaching their children – whether they are princes, princesses, lordlings, etc. – to fight is so low that even in a galaxy far, far away, a farmboy and a smuggler can be taken by surprise when a noblewomen picks up a blaster and starts shooting with the skill of long practice.

Luke and Han’s surprise does not make them misogynists. It shows Luke’s naïveté and Han’s lack of refinement. Neither of these things makes them evil members of the patriarchy bent on keeping women down. It shows them being human, being men – something which is particularly interesting in regards to the scruffy scoundrel most people would automatically write off as a bad guy.

But now, in the New Order of the Cosmos, we cannot have men being gallant to women for the sake of their womanhood or even for the sake of the men’s own sacred honor. Nooo, we have to have female characters fuming about being “patronized” and “dominated by the patriarchy” before “overcoming it and proving” that they are just as good as men. That is all Leia does in the latest junior novelization of A New Hope – and it is absolutely infuriating.

Ezra’s Gamble and The Rebellion Begins do not have such stupidity in their narratives, which is another reason why I enjoy reading them. These books tip their helmets to the EU writers who kept Star Wars alive after Return of the Jedi left theaters, and they do the new characters in Rebels immense credit. Despite their limitations, I find these short novels worthy reading when I need good entertainment and a Star Wars fix.

If you do not like them, or they are not to your taste, I am sorry to hear that –although I accept the fact that they will not appeal to everyone. I thought it worth mentioning them, however, since they pay tribute to Star Wars instead of dishonor. Too much of the new material does the latter these days, which is why it is good to spotlight the better media produced for fans. Despite the ending for the final season, I think Rebels – and these two books preceding the series’ start – fall into that category.

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

Spotlight: Star Wars’ Forgotten Heroines, Part 1

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One of my first thoughts when I heard the announcement for the new Star Wars timeline was, “What about all the characters in the old EU? Are they going to bring them back? It should be easy to do – and really cool. Then we could ditch the stupid Yuuzhan Vong War and a lot of the ludicrous events which followed it while keeping all the good stuff.”

Even as I thought that, however, I knew the new owners of Star Wars were not going to do this. It makes a certain amount of sense for them to wipe the slate clean, of course; Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill are not young enough to translate the Thrawn Trilogy to the silver screen, and we have already lost Carrie Fisher. It would be foolish to try and film movies where Han and Luke would have to run around like they did in the original trilogy. This I can readily understand and accept.

What I cannot comprehend is the owners’ decision to scrap all the valuable Expanded Universe characters developed through hundreds of Star Wars novels and memorabilia over the last forty years. Marvel has been around almost twice as long as Star Wars and we are still running off to theaters to watch several of their original heroes in action. If Marvel can do this, why couldn’t Star Wars?

None of this is not to say that I wish Rey and Finn were not present in the new Star Wars films, or that we had not had Star Wars Rebels. My only point is that the original timeline, up to the Yuuzhan Vong War, could have been maintained. This would have allowed a new sequel trilogy to be filmed using characters from the Expanded Universe while permitting the additions of Rey, Finn, and the Rebels crew to the canon.

This is most true with regards to the heroines in Star Wars. Many critics are thrilled with all the women being shown in the new films; everyone who is anyone in the big media/academic circles is yowling, “YAY, a galaxy far, far away is now finally run by women!” What they miss (or ignore) is the fact that a galaxy far, far away never actually lacked for strong female characters in the first place.

And yes, I do have proof to back up this assertion. Below is the first half of a list of the heroines who could have been part of the new timeline, if the people in charge of Disney/Lucasfilm had wanted them to remain therein. Along with the biographic information on these heroines, I have included a few words about how the women could have been used in The Force Awakens, Episode VIII, Star Wars Rebels, and Rogue One. First up on this list is none other than…

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Jaina Solo Fel: Han and Leia’s only daughter and oldest child, Jaina was a fun, magnetic, amazing character. Named for her paternal grandmother, Jaina was five minutes older than her twin, Jacen. Described as having her mother’s looks, her father’s confidence, and the family’s innate piloting skills, Jaina was said to have taken after her Uncle Luke the most.

Having read The Crystal Star and two sets of collected Young Jedi Knights stories, I can say that I see the resemblance. Jaina was as beautiful as Leia and had her father’s tendency to overconfidently say things she later regretted, but the member of her family whom she really took after was Luke. Stubborn and strong-willed, she displayed early on a sense of responsibility and idealism that matched her uncle’s. Good with machines and possibly the best of the three Solo children at flying, Jaina eventually achieved the rank of Jedi Knight in the old EU. She also became a member of the prestigious X-wing fighter contingent that her uncle and Wedge Antilles founded: Rogue Squadron.

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Jaina possessed a lightsaber with a purple blade like her aunt, Mara Jade Skywalker. This color of lightsaber, according to the video here, means that the Jedi holding it can use both Light Side and Dark Side techniques without going over fully to the Dark Side. I do not see why the writers behind the new Star Wars trilogy couldn’t have had Jaina shooting down TIEs over Takodana while flirting with Oscar Isaac, who should have been cast as her love interest Jagged Fel, not Poe Dameron.

Now, this does not mean that Rey would have had to be replaced with Jaina; she could have remained the lead character while Jaina could have been a secondary character in the story. Jaina could have been fighting the First Order with the rest of the Jedi and New Republic forces as a Knight and an X-wing pilot while Rey was revealed to be Luke’s long lost daughter or something. Along with Isaac’s character, Fel, Jaina could have been a member of the new Rogue Squadron, with her nickname of “Sticks” being used several times during the dogfights.

Doing this would have allowed other writers to create spin-off films and books focusing on Jaina Solo, broadening the Star Wars franchise and winning new fans for it. I cannot understand why no one in Hollywood thought to keep Jaina and her two younger brothers for the new timeline, since it would have given them so many golden opportunities to (a) tell good stories and, (b) make boatloads of money off of old and new fans. *Sigh.* Oh, well…

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Winter Celchu: Winter was introduced to Star Wars fans in the Thrawn Trilogy. A childhood friend of Leia Organa while the princess was being raised on Alderaan, Winter had long white hair and enough regal bearing that she could easily pass as the X-Man Ororo Munroe/Storm’s sister from another mother.

Growing up with Leia in the palace meant that Winter was often mistaken by visitors for the real Princess of Alderaan. This was because she lacked Leia’s fiery, rambunctious nature. Where Leia would flare up and fight, Winter would stand by and stay quiet, acting more like a model princess than her best friend did. She was a calm woman who never let on what she was thinking to most people. Only Leia could read her accurately ninety percent of the time – and that was without relying on her Force sensitivity!

The one character I know of in Star Wars with a perfect – a.k.a. photographic – memory, Winter went to work for the Rebellion along with Leia. But because of her memory, she rarely engaged the Empire in combat; most of her service was done in acquiring supplies or information for the Rebels. She only had to enter a warehouse or see a file once to remember it clearly for the rest of her life, allowing her to tell the Rebels which crates to grab or to accurately recite the information they needed. Winter had several codenames during this time, but her most famous moniker while she worked in Rebel Supply was Targeter.

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Because of her job in the Rebellion, Winter was not on Alderaan when it was obliterated by the first Death Star. More than any other survivor of that doomed world, however, its destruction pained her constantly. With her infallible memory Winter could recall every detail of her homeworld’s annihilation, along with all her feelings about it and the approximate number of people who were on the planet when it blew. No one ever meant to twist the knife further into her heart by bringing the planet up, but even casual mention of Alderaan would cause a flicker of pain to cross Winter’s face, which was otherwise a mask of tranquility.

When the Rebellion became the New Republic, Winter returned to become Leia’s aide/lady-in-waiting. While fulfilling her duties as an assistant (and secretly recording every conversation or meeting Leia had to sit in on for her), the two maintained their old friendship. When the Solo twins and Anakin were born, Winter fostered them at hidden locations until they were about two years old, so that the children could not be taken and corrupted by Dark Siders or the Empire. For this reason Winter was loved as much by the Solo heirs as by Leia and Han.

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At some point, Winter married fellow Alderaanian survivor and Rebel fighter pilot Tycho Celchu. Tycho flew with Rogue Squadron as late as the Hand of Thrawn Duology, and he may have married Winter because she soothed his heart. Tycho’s fianceé died along with his family on Alderaan, leading him to join the Rebellion. Sometime after Return of the Jedi, he was caught by the Empire, which tortured him in an attempt to break and brainwash him.

Though Tycho never cracked under the pressure and eventually escaped to rejoin the New Republic, no one trusted him for a while. In fact, he was put on trial when his friend and squadron mate, Corran Horn, was shot down by the Empire in such a way that it appeared Tycho had murdered him. Only Corran’s reappearance a little later, alive and unharmed, saved Celchu’s career. The man had a lot of anger issues, which may be why he was paired off with Winter.

While she probably would not have fit into Rogue One, I think Winter could have appeared many times in Star Wars Rebels. Her perfect memory would have provided the Ghost crew with ample help stealing supplies. It would also have been fun to see someone calmer and harder to rattle than Hera sitting beside her in the cockpit during a chase scene. 🙂

Sadly, as far as I know, Winter was thrown out of Star Wars canon when the new timeline was created. Apart from the Thrawn Trilogy, you can find more of her in Timothy Zahn’s novel Scoundrels. There she has a big part and a point of view you can follow along with. She really is a worthwhile character, readers, and I wish they had not removed her when creating the new timeline.

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Mirax Terrik Horn: Mirax was the wife of a former Corellian Security agent and Rogue Squadron pilot Corran Horn. Corran was a Jedi Knight descended from a long line of Corellian Jedi who consistently and repeatedly broke the Order’s ban on marriage without trouble. Mirax Terrik Horn may have been slightly less well-known than her husband in the old EU, but she was no less of a fighter.

It is probable that Mirax never dreamed she would marry Corran, since he was the son of the man who sent her father – smuggler and known Rebel sympathizer Booster Terrik – to the spice mines of Kessel for five years. Booster never thought his daughter would marry Corran, that’s for sure. But when the Force-sensitive Horn began flying with Wedge Antilles and the Rogues, he met and became close to Mirax Terrik.

Outside of the Hand of Thrawn Duology, I have never really “met” Mirax. But from what I have read about her, she struck me as a no-nonsense, tough-as-nails woman who was even more sympathetic to the Rebellion/New Republic than her father. She and Corran married before the Thrawn Trilogy, when he was just beginning to learn about his Jedi heritage. More battles elapsed before he could go back to home to her, so Corran was sincerely looking forward to the peace of being with his wife. This made it a nasty shock when he discovered that, during his absence, Mirax had mysteriously disappeared.

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In order to find her, Corran threw himself into Force training at Luke’s new Jedi Academy on Yavin IV so he could acquire the skills he would need to locate Mirax. Needless to say he was successful in recovering Mirax, and the two went on to live quite happily together, running around the New Republic on separate missions between their times at home. They had two children – a son named Valin, a family name for Corran, and a daughter named Jysella – who followed in their father’s footsteps and became Jedi Knights.

Disney’s erasure of the old EU sadly prevented Dave Filoni from bringing Mirax, Booster, and the rest of their crew into Rebels. I think there would have been plenty of story material for the writers here, as the Ghost crew worked with pirates and smugglers who were actually in the fight more for the cause than for the money. I would have loved to have seen Mirax, Booster, and crew rushing around to help the fledgling Rebellion get up and running in Rebels, dang it, and so would a lot of other people!!! Rrrgh….

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Iella Wessiri Antilles: Iella Wessiri’s career started in Corellian Security. Married to a man named Diric Wessiri, the two were partners with Corran Horn in “CorSec,” and all three were fine agents. They were so fine, in fact, that when Imperial pressure on CorSec became too much for them, they escaped Corellia together and joined the Rebellion.

But unlike Corran, Iella and Diric did not become part of a fighter squadron. I don’t think they even joined the ground troops. No, they put their CorSec training to more immediate use as Rebel/New Republic agents (spies). Wedge Antilles first ran into Iella while undercover in Imperial City, where she was also spying for the nascent New Republic.

If you are wondering how Iella could have married Wedge when she was already married to Diric, it is a heartrending story. Diric and Iella’s jobs for the Rebellion/New Republic often separated them. More to the point, while they were loyal to each other, the fact is that their marriage was not very strong. Their love was not particularly deep, but that did not mean they fooled around with other people (though Iella came close once).

On one of his missions, Diric was captured and brainwashed by Ysanne Isard, the former head of Imperial Intelligence. After this, she had him work against the New Republic he had sacrificed so much to enter. Worst of all, Diric was completely aware of what he was doing while being absolutely unable to stop himself.

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Ysanne “Iceheart” Isard

This situation could not go on, and it didn’t. Diric was eventually ordered to kill an Imperial officer captured by the New Republic – one whom his wife had been assigned to guard. He pulled the mission off, hiding his identity under a hood that prevented Iella from recognizing him. She shot her husband through the heart after he killed the Imperial, discovering her fatal error moments later, when she pulled his hood off.

Iella was naturally distraught and tried to apologize, but Diric used his last breath to thank her for freeing him from Isard’s brainwashing. This meant, naturally, that Iella had quite the bone to pick with “Iceheart,” as Isard was known. When the wannabe Empress tried to retake her captured Star Destroyer/prison-and-brainwashing center, the Lusankya, Iella was waiting for her. She shot Isard dead, bringing the former director of Imperial Intelligence down for good.

After this, Iella kept working for New Republic Intelligence, until she met up with Wedge Antilles again at Adumar. It was during this mission that they decided they were a good match, leading them to tie the knot a little while later. From what I can tell, Iella really loved Wedge. Their marriage was much stronger and better than her marriage to Diric had been. They had two children together, both girls: Syal and Myri, named for Wedge’s older sister and his friend Mirax Terrik Horn.

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Myri was groomed by Iella to follow in her footsteps as an Intelligence officer. She went on to become a freelance investigator who made a fortune gambling daily on the casino deck of Booster Terrik’s ship, the Errant Venture. Meanwhile, Syal followed her father and became a top X-wing pilot. Despite the fact that he could not be around a lot while they were growing up, it appears both girls knew and dearly loved their father. Even after becoming a pilot and serving under Wedge for some time, Syal continued to call him “Daddy” – no matter who was around to hear her do it.

I have not managed to “meet” Iella yet, which really bugs me. If they had been able to include her in Star Wars Rebels I would have been ecstatic; she is an amazing character who could have done a lot with the Ghost crew. I have hoped to run across a story in which she has a part for years, but so far I still have not had that luck. Can anybody point me to a novel or comic book wherein she has a part, please?

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Syal Antilles Fel: Syal was older than Wedge Antilles by ten years. Their parents ran a refueling platform above Corellia, but it was a job that Syal considered boring. So when Wedge was seven years old, she left home – without saying a word to her parents or her brother – to become a holofeature actress. She used the stage name Wynssa Starflare and created quite a career for herself in the holofilm industry, prior to and during the Rebellion era.

This meant, naturally, that she wasn’t home when a CorSec patrol spooked a smuggler who had just pulled up to the family refueling station. Wedge was with family friends Booster and Mirax Terrik that day, so he wasn’t home, either. But he got to watch the smuggler disengage from the station prematurely in order to escape the CorSec patrol, which resulted in the entire complex exploding. Both of Wedge’s parents, Jagged and Zena Antilles, died in the blaze while evacuating people from the platform.

After this, Wedge became a member of the Rebellion while Syal remained an actress. She had intended to return home at some point to visit her family, feeling bad for running out on them with no explanation. But she never got back to apologize to her parents; though the tragedy had little effect on her career, it naturally upset her a great deal. This is probably one of the reasons why she became so devoted to her own husband and children after her marriage.

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Some time before Endor, Syal met Imperial Major and Baron Soontir Fel. The “Red Baron” for the Galactic Empire, Fel’s flying and fighting skills were already legendary when he met his future wife. A year after they first began dating, Fel proposed to Syal, and they got married a little while later. But before they wed she told Fel her true name, adding the fact that she was the sister of a Rebel currently serving in the fight against the Empire’s tyranny.

Instead of telling the Empire about her, Fel helped Syal set up a contingency plan which would allow her to safely disappear if her connection to Wedge should ever be discovered by Imperial authorities. After the Battle of Endor, when Ysanne Isard took over the Empire and allowed corruption to run rampant in the government, “Iceheart” sent Fel and his squadron to defend the Imperial world of Brentaal. It was a hopeless battle for the Imperials and Fel knew it. His paramount sense of duty, however, led him to fly the mission anyway.

Fel’s squadron was decimated in the fighting, and he himself was finally shot down by his brother-in-law’s fighter squadron. The Rogues took him into custody only for him to say something along the lines of, “You can’t capture me – I’m joining you!”

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The minute Fel switched sides, Syal went into hiding with their two sons, Davin and Chak. They fled moments before Ysanne Isard’s agents could grab them in order to use them against the Baron. Fel and the Rogues spent ages working to find her and the boys, which they eventually managed to do. This allowed Wedge a chance to get to know the sister he barely remembered, since his parents did not want to discuss Syal after she left.

Unfortunately, their brother/sister reunion was short-lived. Syal’s husband proved to be such an annoyance to Isard that she went to Thrawn and asked him to get the Baron out of her hair. Thrawn wanted Fel’s tactical genius and flying skills for his own reasons, so he formed the plan Isard used to eventually capture the legendary pilot.

With Thrawn’s help, Fel then arranged to have Syal join him in the Unknown Regions. The two went on to have six – yes, six – children together. The oldest were Davin and Chak; then came Jagged, who was named for his maternal grandfather. Jagged eventually married Jaina Solo in the old EU and became the head of what remained of the original Empire. His descendants maintained control of the Empire for three generations after his and Jaina’s reign.

It makes no sense to me why Jagged, Jaina, and their marriage were not kept for the new Star Wars films. Keeping this relationship in the universe would have allowed for an abundance of stories for the Antilles, Solos, and Fels, along with a lot of material for Rebels. It would also have been interesting – and fun – to watch Hera matching her skill with Soontir Fel’s. That guy could fly!

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Shada D’ukal undercover in the Mos Eisley Cantina.

Shada D’ukal: Alongside the Noghri and the Mandalorians, in the old EU there is a lesser known – but no less impressive – warrior group that is made up entirely of women, as far as I know. Hailing from the burned out world of Emberlene, the Mistryl Shadow Guards work as bodyguards and assassins in order to feed and clothe the millions of refugees who scrape by amidst the ruins of their destroyed homeworld.

Shada appears briefly toward the end of The Last Command, but she has a much bigger role in the Hand of Thrawn Duology, and gets a few mentions in Survivor’s Quest as well. Her first appearance, however, is in one of the short story collections under the lable Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina. I have never read those – but that doesn’t mean I do not know how Shada’s history with the Rebellion predates our glimpse of her in The Last Command. 😉

In the Thrawn trilogy, Shada had just begun her bodyguard assignment to a smuggler chief named Mazzic. Apparently the Eleven (the rulers of Emberlene and the commanders of the Mistryl), thought Mazzic’s organization would bring them more opportunites in the future. Shada did her duty and stuck by the man for twelve years, despite the fact that she hated the fringe in general and, by the Hand Duology, believed that she had wasted the past dozen years of her life in service to a crook.

None of this meant, however, that she wanted him to be murdered. So when her old friend and fellow Guard, Karoly D’ulin, caught her taking up a position to protect her employer while he cut a deal with another smuggler, Shada was surprised and suspiscious. She went from suspicion to disappointment when Karoly explained that Mazzic was no longer her concern, then added that he wouldn’t be anyone’s problem in a little bit. Turns out, Shada’s old partner and a number of other Mistryl had been hired to help kill Mazzic.

Unlike the rest of her fellow Guards, though, Shada still believed in right and wrong. She defeated Karoly and killed the assassin, saving Mazzic’s life. But this act of justice and honor put her in the Eleven’s crosshairs, since doing the right thing meant she had defied their direct orders. Disobedience only had one punishment in the new Mistryl order: death.

Shada is a very interesting character. Though cynical and jaded, she did not lose her firm appreciation for principle and her determination to be virtuous. Even after twelve years “wasted” serving a no-good smuggler, Shada continued to believe in the values which first attracted her to the Mistryl’s service twenty years prior. She does not abide by wrongdoing or vengeance, even when it could save her life.

And boy, can she kick butt, readers!

If you want to know more about Shada D’ukal, pick up Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina or the Hand of Thrawn Duology today. I wish the writers for Rebels or Clone Wars had included the Mistryl in some of their stories. This is an organization I want to know much, much more about!

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Tenel Ka Djo: Tenel Ka hails from two original EU cultures which are matriarchal, but that’s about the only similarity between them. The daughter of Prince Isolder from the Hapes Consortium and the Dathomirian Force-witch Teneniel Djo, Tenel Ka was technically a princess of higher galactic standing than Leia Organa Solo. The Hapes Consortium, a matriarchy run by their Queen Mother, consisted of sixty-three planets. That’s right; I said planets – sixty-three (63) of ‘em. Everything important on these worlds was run by women. Men were second class citizens/slaves in the Consortium.

That was roughly the same case on the primitive world of Dathomir, which in the old EU books is entirely different from the one seen in The Clone Wars TV show. In the original Star Wars EU, Dathomirians were close enough to human that you could not tell the difference between them on sight. In fact, the original Dathomirians were probably fully human. They were also able to use the Force to tame the Rancors that lived on their world so they could use them as war mounts. Yeah, they were a very tough bunch. 😉

Dathomir in the old EU was run by matriarchy, as it was in The Clone Wars. But in the old EU, not all the Force-sensitive Witches on Dathomir were Dark Siders. Only the Nightsisters specifically used the Dark Side. The rest of the witches were either Light Side users or they did not tap into either side of the Force enough to qualify as servants of the Light or the Dark side.

Tenel Ka would never have been born if, five years after Endor, Leia Organa had not traveled to Hapes to negotiate their entrance into the New Republic. Having grown apart from Han Solo at that time, she opened the negotiations with the Queen Mother’s younger and only surviving son, Prince Isolder. Isolder grew fond enough of Leia that he was about to propose marriage to her when a jealous Han Solo intervened. He kidnapped Leia and ran off, Prince Isolder hot on his heels. The three ended up lost on Dathomir not long after this, where Han’s harebrained scheme to rewin Leia’s affections actually worked. The two were married not long after this.

Before that happened, though, Luke followed the three of them to Dathomir and was “captured” by Teneniel Djo. On Dathomir, when a woman “captured” a man, she did not just physically detain him. That was usually a precursor to marrying said man! Luke managed to wriggle out of this trap when Isolder somehow arrived. It was love at first sight (or something like that) for Isolder and Teneniel, and he took her back to Hapes. He then had to put his foot down when his mother, the Queen, tried to talk him out of the match. (Not an easy thing for a man to do in a matriarchy, that’s for sure.)

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You now have some idea of Tenel Ka’s origins. The product of two matriarchies with radically different technological levels, Tenel had the deadpan attitude of Hapan royalty mixed with the fierce strength and warrior spirit of her mother’s homeworld. She split her childhood between Hapes and Dathomir, adopting the customs of her mother’s people rather than her father’s. She liked to wear a lizard scale shirt and pants and she wore her red hair in elaborate Dathomirian braids. When she went to Luke’s Jedi Academy on Yavin IV, Tenel would do calisthenics in the morning before going indoors to listen to the latest lesson.

Jaina and Jacen fell in with Tenel when they arrived on Yavin, and it was soon apparent to anyone with eyes that the older Solo boy was head over heels in love with the princess. He would tell bad pun jokes in her presence to try to make Tenel loosen up and smile, since she kept herself outwardly impassive. For her part, Tenel kept her royal heritage a secret from the twins and their other friend, Chewbacca’s nephew Lowbacca, up until the four built their first lightsabers. Tenel took some shortcuts in the manufacturing process, which allowed her saber’s blade to die in the middle of her practice fight with Jacen. As a result, he accidentally cut off her left arm above the elbow.

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Tenel was immediately rushed home to Hapes to be outfitted with a cyborg prosthetic, which she Force-fully refused once the shock finally wore off. She got by, as far as I know, with her left arm ending in a stump for the rest of her life. Tenel Ka eventually made a new lightsaber with a turquoise blade and learned to use that effectively with only one hand.

Years later, after the Yuuzhan Vong War, Jacen and Tenel Ka finally became an item. This resulted in Tenel giving birth to a daughter, Allana, about the time Jacen went over to the Dark Side. He redeemed himself somewhat after his death by appearing to Tenel as a Force ghost, screaming a warning about a poison someone had set off to kill both her and Allana. Tenel and their daughter escaped the poison, but she decided that the life of a Hapan heir was no life for Allana. Before the old timeline was cut off, their daughter was living happily aboard the Millennium Falcon with her grandparents, Leia and Han Solo. To date, she is the only grandchild I know they had by either of their sons in the old EU.

I don’t see why the writers didn’t keep Jacen’s descent into the Dark Side a part of the new timeline. That way, instead of having Ben Solo/Kylo Ren, we could have had Jacen Solo/Kylo Ren. Tenel could have appeared in Episode VIII with the Hapan navy to help the Resistance/New Republic forces escape the First Order. Like in the books, the writers could have had her give Allana to her grandparents for safekeeping, as they all did their best to keep the New Republic from burning down around everyone’s ears. But unfortunately that is a story for an alternate universe, not for this one.

Whew! Well, readers, I am wiped. Tomorrow I will come back to finish telling you about the some other heroines from the original Star Wars timeline. I really, truly do not understand why Disney’s leaders condemned them to “Legendary” status for the rest of time; they could have gotten so much mileage out of these heroines, inside and outside of the new film trilogy…..

Oh, well, what’s done is done. Until tomorrow, readers, may the Force be with you all!

Spotlight: Star Wars Rebels – Sabine Wren

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About four years ago, I heard through www.borg.com that Disney was going to produce an animated Star Wars series. It was to be set five years before A New Hope, and it would star a Jedi who had escaped the Purge along with a Force-sensitive boy who would become his apprentice. I have said elsewhere that I love Jedi, so it is no surprise that they were the “hooks” which got me interested in this story. For me, they at first overshadowed another great character in the series: Sabine Wren, the sixteen year old (at the beginning of the story) Mandalorian on the team.

Now, discussing Sabine Wren means mentioning the “Strong Female Character” stereotype Hollywood and the usual suspects are praising these days, because that is what too many people want to see in her. I have maintained in my “Strong Women” posts that what really makes a woman powerful is her ability to think on her feet. She cannot always be physically stronger than the guys; in real life, it is very rare to find a woman who could match a man in hand-to-hand combat – let alone beat him.

Just consider Natasha Romanoff from Marvel Comics/Marvel’s films. Even with the combat training she endured from childhood and her variant of the Super Soldier Serum, Black Widow relies on speed, stealth, and surprise when she fights. The whole reason she yells “Hang on!” into her comm piece during The Winter Soldier is to surprise the pirates and get them to come to her. She does not beat the men with her superior strength; she beats them by being faster and fighting smarter, thus proving my point that it is not physical strength which allows a woman to fight. It is how a woman uses her own innate strengths – willpower, intelligence, speed, and doing the completely unexpected – which make her strong.

This brings us back to Sabine, who had the benefits of a Black Widow’s training without the bad elements. Aside from the fact that she is allowed to be kind and retain her femininity, she never physically overpowers her opponents with superior strength. More often than not she uses speed and creative thinking to take down her enemies – most of whom are taller and stronger than she is – keeping them off balance and doing her best to avoid giving them an opening to grab her. Sabine also knows how to shoot; when physical speed and prowess are inadvisable, she goes for her blasters, which she can use very effectively.

One of the episodes where Sabine best demonstrates my point about strong women is “The Antilles Extraction.” In that episode, Sabine has to fight Governor Pryce, the Imperial ruler of Lothal, to escape captivity. Pryce is taller than Sabine, more muscular, and completely lacking in any kind of feminine grace or charm. (She quite frankly strikes me as ugly, face on or in profile.) Despite this, Sabine manages to defeat the older woman by outthinking her.

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There is something else worth mentioning here, a contrast of characters which will illustrate the difference between real strong women and the modern academy’s idea of what they want you to believe makes a “strong woman”: during their brawl, Pryce brags about her Imperial training, showing the depth of what she has sacrificed to become a part of Palpatine’s machine.

By this I do not mean the fact that she is willingly subjugating and destroying her own homeworld (Lothal). That is certainly part of it. But what I mean is that Pryce has sold her soul to the Dark Side. In so doing she has erased every mark of femininity from her bearing and visage, becoming less of a woman in the process.

Think about it, readers. Pryce does her best to look like the men she serves beside. Her manner is little different from Tarkin’s – colorless, stiff, cold, and distant. It is as though she does not want to be recognized as a woman. In fact, she does not; Pryce wants to be seen as a bigger, more important cog in the Emperor’s atheistic governing system. She has done everything but actually change her gender to look less like a woman and more like a man.

Sabine has done the exact opposite. Her armor is not designed to hide her femininity; on the contrary, it practically screams it to the galaxy. And, despite the fact that she keeps her hair short to fit under her helmet (and probably to keep people from grabbing it), she colors and cuts her hair in ways that make her stand out as a young woman (even that hairdo we see her wearing at the end of the series didn’t really undermine her femininity). Unlike many modern “examples” of so called “strong women” Sabine actually fits the role, demonstrating that a woman fights not out of anger or hatred, but to preserve the beauty and wonder she sees and loves around her. Truly strong women resemble Sabine, while faux strong women more often than not look like Pryce.

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This brings us to another point I want to make about her. While I am not a fan of abstract art – modern or in a galaxy far, far away – Sabine’s painting and artistic side have never bothered me the way they have other viewers of the show. Instead of following the “Strong Female Character” template demanded by the academic/journalistic complex, the Rebels’ writers created a heroine who is unafraid of being “girly.” This adds to her character and personality; she may make her living fighting, but being a warrior does not define who and what she is. It is a valuable part of her, but it is not the whole of her.

What really intrigued me about Sabine Wren, however, was her implied vulnerability. From the beginning it was clear that she ached with some past wrong, and I wanted to know what it was. We got some hints but they were frustratingly inconclusive. I nearly went nuts trying to figure out her past, but my sanity was saved with the knock out episode “Trials of the Darksaber.”

Still, Sabine’s speech in this show about how her family abandoned her bothered me a fair bit. Part of the rallying cry which nearly destroyed Western culture and the United States in the 1960s, and is being reprised yet again today, was that young people knew how to heal the world and all its ills better than their elders. The implication in this thought was that the youths of the time were being prevented from showing their brilliance and making the world a better place by the adults in their lives. A well-known catchphrase from the period states that teens and twenty year olds must “never trust anyone over thirty.”

Unfortunately, this attitude is still alive and well, reverberating down through the years into today in our culture. It is also present in a lot of modern literature, film, and television stories. So I worried at this problem in Sabine’s speech for the week leading up to “Legacy of Mandalore,” which gave me the missing puzzle piece for the answer to her explosive outburst during “Trials.”

Allow me to explain: Imperial cadets, according to Rebels, are accepted into Stormtrooper and officer’s training as young as fourteen. Sabine had to have been fourteen or even thirteen when she entered the Imperial Academy on Mandalore. This meant that she was suffering from a case similar to the one running rampant in the 1960s.

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One of the things every boy and girl, no matter how bright and talented, has at the age of thirteen/fourteen is a rather simplistic view of life. They are still young enough at that age to believe in their family and friends, wholeheartedly. They are also naïve enough not to recognize all the dangers lurking in their society and in the world outside of their culture.

Sabine was young enough to think she could run to her parents and tell them what the Empire was doing, thus spurring them to fight against it. If they did not listen to her, then she would start a glorious revolution against the Imperials with other young Mandalorians to free her people from their tyranny – which is, sadly, what many youths in the ‘60s and today are trained to imagine. Like these misguided young people, Sabine failed to realize up until “Legacy of Mandalore” that things do not work out so easily in real life.

Mandalore was thirteen or fourteen years past its last internecine conflict and a galactic civil war when Sabine broke the news to her people about the Empire’s treachery. Too much of Mandalore’s already limited population had perished in that pointless conflict and, on top of this, a Galactic Empire powerful enough to wipe out the Jedi Order – roughly a thousand knights strong – had just taken over the galaxy. Furthermore, said Empire had also easily commandeered Mandalore’s government, essentially conquering them without firing a shot. The Mandalorians who did not bow to the Empire in their hearts looked around at their losses, saw that more would result from another fight, and said, “We are not going through that hell again. Not now.”

Ursa and Alrich Wren knew this. Many of Sabine’s friends, who may have agreed with her, realized they were not going to get support from their clans or anyone else on Mandalore to start a fight with the Imperials. Sabine did not realize any of this – not completely, at least. She certainly did not see any of these things the way an adult would. Or she thought these obstacles could be overcome more easily than they were. After all, what is pain and loss to someone who is motivated by justice?

Sabine failed to realize that even those who love and respect justice can be tired or frightened. I think that, when she told her parents about the weapon she had created for the Empire, they believed her story. They knew she was telling the truth, that the Empire did not just want to rule them, it wanted to eradicate them. But they did not have the power to act on Sabine’s warning, so they tried to tell her to stop talking about it and wait for a better time to act.

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Naturally, their daughter would not and could not do that. Already guilt-ridden over the Mandalorians she had helped the Empire murder, the thought of staying silent long enough for the Empire to kill more of her people probably made Sabine sick. So she kept talking, leaving her family with no way to protect her while she stayed on Mandalore. That meant their only recourse was to force her to run away by calling her a traitor and a coward. Because she was so young, Sabine perceived this as “abandonment” when it was actually a last-ditch effort by her immediate family to protect her the only way they could.

I believe that if the Wrens had had a better way to protect her and begin a resistance to the Empire, they would have taken it. But their choices were to let the Empire kill Sabine or, almost as bad, make her run away from home. At least if she ran, she would be alive. Letting the Empire and the other clans kill her would mean they would never get their daughter and sister back.

And that, readers, is where “Legacy of Mandalore” comes in. Here Ursa practically admits to her daughter that she pushed her to run away to save her life. Countess Wren could protect Tristan and their clan with some fancy political maneuvering, though that meant her husband would have to go to Mandalore’s capital as a veritable hostage to ensure their good behavior. The only member of her family she could not protect if she remained on Mandalore was Sabine.

For five years, however, her daughter did not see this. Maybe she did not see it until her mother shot Gar Saxon to save her life. This is why she is so distrustful at the beginning of Rebels. It is also why she adopts Hera, Kanan, and Zeb as her surrogate family.

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In some ways, it is funny how Sabine’s adoptive family/crew is different from her real family. Hera, obviously, has been the mother for the crew from the beginning. Although the Twi’lek is “forged” for and by war, her general deportment is warm and nurturing. Even when Hera has to get sharp or shout, her voice lacks Ursa Wren’s steely bite and commanding snap. Their attitudes could not be more different, but Sabine loves and respects both women equally.

Zeb is not at all like Tristan Wren. I still do not know if Sabine is younger or older than her brother, but the impression I have is that Tristan is not her kid sibling. Zeb early on showed an older brotherly protectiveness for the young Mandalorian girl, usually by pulling her toward him in order to shield her from explosions. When the crew temporarily lost the Lasat in “The Honorable Ones,” both Sabine and Ezra ran up to him with the excitement which youngsters show when they greet an older brother feared lost forever. So Zeb has definitely filled the role of brother for her for five years.

Most impressive to me, if only for the fact that it was never shown enough, was the father/daughter connection between Sabine and Kanan. While it was nice to learn that Alrich Wren was responsible for his daughter’s interest in art, I was rather disappointed that he was never shown wearing Mandalorian armor. I could certainly see Alrich “fighting using his art” and being less severe than his wife but, to me, it would have been more fitting if he had been wearing armor upon his reunion with Sabine. The fact that he was not dressed for combat made him look a like a sap, which was highly unsatisfactory. (Of course, it’s not like the Empire would allow him to wear his armor on the way to his execution…)

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Kanan and Sabine’s relationship struck a better balance with me. I detailed my opinion of “The Protector of Concord Dawn” in previous articles about the series, and it still stands as one of my favorite episodes. Kanan, like Alrich, is willing to try things the “easy way” before resorting to shooting. However, when the blaster bolts start flying, he is equally ready to fire and fight back. This is something Sabine respects and loves him for.

The next time we see their rapport in a palpable way is during “Trials of the Darksaber.” Where “Dawn” showed the two working past their differences in order to understand each other better, “Trials” shows them at odds once again. Here Sabine is being asked to go to her people to win their support for the Rebellion. But this time, it is not a small band of Protectors or outlying clansmen she is being sent to recruit. This time, her “battle family” wants her to bring Mandalore and all its colonies into the Rebellion.

Sabine does not want to do it. She still feels abandoned and betrayed by her family; even though she wants to go back, she knows her people despise her as a traitor and a coward for running away, thinking at the same time that her family believes the same lie. But Hera insists she go, and in order to do that, she has to take the Darksaber with her.

Fuming over the order, Sabine nevertheless holds her hand out for the weapon, which Kanan refuses to give her. Though she states that she knows how to use blades, he insists that there is a difference between using a lightsaber and a regular sword. Before he will let her use the Darksaber, he wants to train her to use a lightsaber.

This increases Sabine’s anger. Not only does her biological family think badly of her, apparently so does her surrogate father. He does not believe she can handle a lightsaber, even one as old and storied as the Darksaber, without going through the baby steps first.

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And this is where Sabine’s youth shows itself again, tilting her attitude in favor of that misguided sixties mentality I mentioned earlier. Like Ezra in “Twilight of the Apprentice,” Sabine thinks Kanan does not believe in her and is trying to hold her back. In the folly of youth and the pain of her past, she does not realize Kanan is trying to protect her from herself. He can sense the pent up anger and pain she is feeling because, as he explains to Hera, the Force flows through everything and everyone – whether they can use it or not. If Sabine gives in to her dark feelings she will slip over to the Dark Side, perhaps becoming lost to them all forever.

Hera’s answer to his explanation and fears irked me somewhat, since she also played the “you don’t believe in her” card. That was not what was happening; Kanan believed in Sabine wholeheartedly, trusting her with more than he even trusts Ezra in some cases because her fighting skills and knowledge are sharper due to her lifelong training. His “problem” is that he fears to push her so far into the darkness inside her that neither he nor anyone else can pull her out of it again.

Nevertheless, Hera did have a point. The writers did not express it the way I would have, but she did have a point. What the writers were trying to have Hera say is: “I understand your worries, but that’s not what Sabine sees. She thinks you don’t believe in her, that you don’t believe she can handle the Darksaber. The only way she’ll stop thinking that you’re holding her back is if you push her. I’m sorry, but that’s what you have to do, for her sake. Forget about Mandalore for a minute, Sabine needs this. And you’re the only one who can give it to her.”

Sabine, of course, needs a wake-up call here as well. Ezra has to point out to her that she’s being stubborn; no one on the Ghost believes she is a coward or that she cannot handle herself. They have seen her in action and relied on her to watch their backs in battle. They know she is brave, honorable, and a true daughter of Mandalore.

What she has to do is stop thinking no one believes in her, while also acknowledging the fact that she’s lucky she has a real blood family left. Hera’s mother is dead, Kanan lost his Master and the entire Jedi Order, Zeb lost Lasan, and Ezra’s parents were murdered by the Empire. Considering all the pain and suffering she sees around her, she should be happy she has any family left – whether they believe in and love her or not.

Recognizing that Ezra is right, Sabine goes back to apologize to Kanan for her earlier behavior. When she does, he hands her the Darksaber, proving he is ready to do what he has to do to help her heal.

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An emotionally charged duel follows. Instead of supporting Sabine the way he normally does, Kanan hardens his attitude toward her, using the barbs he does not even throw at Ezra on her. To emphasize the taunts, he easily ducks and dodges her wider swings despite his blindness, tossing in some pointed shoves for good measure. If Sabine wants him to prove he believes in her, he is going to do it – by acting like he doesn’t.

Of course, all of this nearly does push Sabine over the edge. This is the same kind of treatment she got from her family. These are the same jibes and snide comments she hears in her head when she thinks back to her escape from Mandalore. These are the same lies she has had to live with for five years on a repeating circuit in her head. And they are coming out of the mouth of someone she trusts and loves.

Naturally, she blows up; flying at Kanan in fury as the pain, anger, and doubt she has held inside for so long finally bursts out of her. But before she completely loses herself to blind fury, Sabine stops. Some part of her recognizes that Kanan has purposefully given voice to the self-doubts which plague her for a reason.

That, I think, is why she halted when she did. With her anger and pain released the doubts fall silent, and she is no longer standing over an enemy. She is standing over the man who had to hurt her so she could let go of a past she was holding on to in order to avoid, essentially, growing up and letting go. The man who has, she now realizes, never done this to her before – and who did not want to do it to her – because he loves and believes in her as if she were his actual daughter.

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This is why Kanan can tell Ursa Wren she cannot see the woman Sabine has become. Like all mothers, Usra still sees her daughter as the baby she held in her arms, the toddler she took out for walks, and the child she had to protect with all the fierceness of the bear for which she is named. In part, she does not see Sabine’s maturity because she has missed five years of her daughter’s life. However, the main reason she does not recognize this fact is because she still looks at Sabine and sees her little girl, not a grown woman.

Kanan has watched Sabine grow over the years she has been away from her family. He has been her support – her surrogate father – since she left home. And even though he is blind, he saw Sabine change from a broken, haunted girl into a true woman and warrior in the space of a moment back in “Trials.” Ursa does not have that perspective until the end of “Legacy,” when she watches Sabine take on and defeat Gar Saxon in combat before honorably refusing to murder him even when he declares he will not yield to her.

This all adds up to make Sabine Wren one of the best characters in the new Star Wars timeline. It is also the reason why she is my third favorite character from the Rebels’ crew. I think she is a good addition to the Star Wars canon and that she would have fit nicely into the old EU. I rather wish we could have had her meet and befriend such original characters as Mara Jade, Mirax Terrik, and Iella Wessiri Antilles (what a girls’ night out that would have been!). Even so, I am glad to have “met” Sabine Wren. She is a heroine worthy of admiration and respect – a rare find in today’s fiction market.

Well, readers, that is all I have to say for now. Until next time, may the Force be with you!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sorry for the blurriness of this shot.

Pardon me, but whaaat….?

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

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

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

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

Kanan’s Death

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time-Travel…. Really? REALLY?!?

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Battle of Lothal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Happy St. Valentine’s Day!!!

Happy St. Valentine’s Day to all those who follow Thoughts on the Edge of Forever!! Here are some clips and photos to make the day a little more romantic…. 😉

First up, the theme music from one of the best romance films ever…!!!

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Wedge and Iella Antilles

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Jagged Fel and his wife, Jaina Solo Fel

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Marriage of Luke Skywalker and Mara Jade

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Jessica and Luke Cage – plus their daughter, Danielle

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And now, the piece de resistance….

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HAPPY ST. VALENTINE’S DAY!!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Except for one scene, that is.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May the Force be with you, readers, always.