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Star Wars Rebels’ Zero Hour and Season 3 Review

Wow. Just…. Wow.

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

It. Was. A. BLAST!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW! Read at your own risk!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Problem solved. 😉

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nope.

Is it still enjoyable?

Yes… more or less.

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

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

The Force will be with you, always!

The Mithril Guardian