Tag Archives: Sabine Wren

Spotlight: Star Wars – Wedge Antilles

Haiku 04.17.14 – Star Wars Anonymous

Forgive the numerous Star Wars posts, readers, but the franchise has been on my mind quite a bit lately. My posts about the forgotten heroines from a galaxy far, far away and subsequent interactions with the young ladies who run The Elven Padawan have re-ignited my hibernating interest in these stories. And once my interest in a story has been reawakened, it is hard for me to get it under control.

This is why I began thinking quite a bit about Wedge Antilles, the focus of today’s Spotlight! article. In my early days as a Star Wars fan I was always impressed when, after Wedge’s X-Wing is damaged during the trench run on the first Death Star, Luke told him to break off before he got killed. In marked contrast to his relationship with Biggs Darklighter, Luke barely knew Wedge before going out to attack the giant battle station. They hardly met before being thrust into combat together.

Still, despite their short acquaintance, a viewer can hear the genuine concern in Luke’s voice when he tells Red Two to bail out of the trench run. That scene always stuck with me; in spite of the fact that they didn’t really know one another, Luke Skywalker truly cared about protecting Wedge Antilles. Considering he lost his childhood friend not long afterward, that says a lot about the budding Jedi Knight’s character.

My regard for Wedge in the films at the time was, clearly, less about him and more about Luke. Thinking back, this blogger really only “met” and came to like Wedge Antilles during her first read through of Timothy Zahn’s novel Vision of the Future, from the Hand of Thrawn duology. During Vision, Antilles’ character was on full display. His dry humor, his dislike of politics mixing with military matters, and his leadership and tactical abilities caught my attention at once. Through Zahn’s writing this blogger also came to admire Wedge for his loyalty, his strong sense of right and wrong, and his genuine concern for those under his command.

I also appreciated the fact that Wedge hadn’t lost his optimism. Despite everything he had been through, in the old EU Antilles still believed in and hoped for happy endings. He had far more depth and personality in the books than the films had suggested. Subsequently, he stopped being just a face in a cockpit when I watched the movies. In that strange way all good fictional characters have of endearing themselves to audiences, he became something close to a real person for me.

Wedge Returns in New Star Wars Rebels Season 3 Clip

Obviously, this blogger has not lost any respect for his character over the years. Hearing that he would appear in Star Wars Rebels, I was glad to know that at least this old favorite, unlike several others, wasn’t going to be completely forgotten in the new timeline. However, my enthusiasm for his presence in the new stories was tempered by the fact that so much from the first EU had been discarded. I sensed that the people running Disney/Lucasfilm weren’t going to let Filoni and crew bring the Wedge I knew into the new Star Wars timeline.

That isn’t to say that Wedge’s appearances in Rebels weren’t enjoyableHe sometimes came across as a bit foolish in certain scenes, but there were other times when some of the Antilles I knew shone through the changes. It was still Wedge being Wedge (for the most part), and this blogger could like his animated representation for that. The only thing I would have tweaked in Rebels was his brief career as an Imperial pilot. If the Rebels writers could have written Wedge as an undercover agent and recruiter who needed extraction, the episode would have made more sense to me.

The reason I say this is that, in the original stories, Wedge casually hated the Empire and wanted to keep off its radar. Due to the insurance payout he received after his parents’ deaths aboard the family refueling station, he was able to do this by buying his own ship. For a couple of years following the loss of his parents, Wedge ran legal freight around the galaxy. But because of the Empire’s economic stranglehold, finding legitimate, good paying jobs was hard work for independent freighters – especially young ones like him.

Wedge Antilles - Wookieepedia, the Star Wars Wiki

In the old timeline, Wedge would cite this economic hardship as his reason for joining the Rebel Alliance. The truth, however, was far different. While working as a cargo pilot Wedge fell in love with a girl named Mala Tinero. She supported the Alliance along with her father and, though Wedge agreed with their ideals, he wasn’t inclined to join the fight against the Empire just yet. That only happened after Mala, her father, and the village where they lived were bombed to atoms when their link to the Rebellion was discovered.

Due to the fact that he was making his first delivery in months that week, Wedge wasn’t with Mala and the others when this occurred. He got back in time to find the Imperials still swarming over what remained of the village. Infuriated and heartbroken, he shot down several TIEs before spending the next few days dodging patrols while trying to find Mala. But it soon became clear that his sweetheart was dead. Devastated, Wedge finally joined the Rebels on Yavin IV, becoming roommates and good friends with Jek Porkins and (drumroll, please) Biggs Darklighter.

From there, Wedge proved his capabilities as a pilot. Han Solo, Tycho Celchu, and Baron Soontir Fel, all legendary pilots in their own rights, recognized Wedge as a skilled flyer. One of his commanders even went so far as to say that Wedge flew “as crazy as Solo,” a high compliment indeed. These combined skills earned him more and more responsibility, meaning that Wedge unintentionally climbed through the Rebellion’s ranks faster than a man his age would have. This put him in position to found Rogue Squadron – a starfighter group that became the troubleshooters for the Rebellion and New Republic – later on with his new friend, Luke Skywalker. It also sharpened his skills as a leader and tactician.

After Luke left the military to restart the Jedi Order, Wedge remained a fighter pilot, refusing promotions in order to stay on the front lines so he could command the Rogues. This meant that most of his subordinates also refused to move up the ranks, since they wanted to stay with their commander. On one occasion, in order to avoid being promoted, Wedge actually engineered his own demotion so he could keep leading his squadron. That can’t have been easy – or particularly safe. But he did it and got away with it. 😉

Star Wars 101: Rogue Squadron & Rogue One - Everygeek

L to R: Wedge Antilles, two unidentified (to this blogger) Rogues, Corran Horn, and Tycho Celchu.

While the original Wedge Antilles was generally willing to obey orders, he wasn’t afraid to break with the New Republic when he thought the leadership was being stupid. After Ysanne “Iceheart” Isard took over the bacta-producing world Thyferra, the New Republic hierarchy refused to move against her. Corran Horn, who flew under Wedge’s command as Rogue Nine and had been a captive of Isard’s, quit the military to go after her. This wasn’t because he wanted revenge on her but because he had promised the other captives she was holding – one of whom was General Jan Dodonna – that he would come back to rescue them.

Seconds after Corran quit, Wedge resigned his commission as well. It’s a mark of his character that all but one of the Rogues immediately followed him out of the military and into the fight for Thyferra. (The lone hold out wanted to join them but couldn’t due to politics and family ties.) Appointing Wedge as their leader, the Rogues hooked up with the anti-Isard resistance on the planet and recruited other rebels to help them oust her from power. The campaign took some time – I’m not really sure whether it was an intense few months or a couple of years. In the end, though, the Rogues successfully freed Thyferra. Upon winning the “Bacta War,” as Wedge had dubbed it, Antilles and the rest of the Squadron were allowed back into the New Republic military.

Image - Wedge Antilles by Brian Rood.jpg | Wookieepedia ...

A couple of original Expanded Universe writers mentioned that Wedge’s morality was something they liked about him, and I have to say that it impressed me, too. Though prone to explosive bursts of anger and inclined to take revenge on those who harmed him or his friends/family, Wedge didn’t let pain, grief, and anger rule him completely. Yes, he chased down and killed the pirates who murdered his parents by disengaging prematurely from their fueling station. And, yes, he did kill the TIE pilots who murdered Mala in anger. There were other instances where he took similar actions against different villains, too. But in each case, Wedge didn’t let his desire for vengeance completely control him, showing honor and mercy in his dealings with the enemy even when he didn’t necessarily feel like offering either to them.

In many ways, Wedge had a sense of honor and morality that was in line with the Jedi code. As Wedge once explained it, he killed not because he enjoyed it, but because by “burn[ing] down” the Empire and other enemies, he ensured that innocent people got to “stay happy.” This attitude made it very hard for him to accept unavoidable collateral damage caused during big battles. It also left him feeling guilty when he had to watch members of both Rogue and Wraith Squadrons fly to their deaths.

Looking at him now, I think that one of the reasons why I like the original Wedge Antilles so much is that he was a Jedi Knight at heart. The fact that he stood out to Force-sensitives like a torch only cements this idea for me; Wedge is said to have “projected a strong presence in the Force” which was indicative of “vitality and a focused mind.” For a non-Force user to “glow” so brightly that even a Jedi has to reach for a set of sunglasses to look at him shows that Wedge was no pansy or push over.

This is why I have trouble reconciling “original Wedge” with the new timeline’s treatment of the character. According to this video here, the broad strokes of Wedge’s new history match up with the original – but that’s in the broad strokes. In the new books, Antilles apparently tells someone that he joined the Rebellion because the Empire hurt his family and the girl he loved. This has led some to think that the crew of the Ghost is the family Wedge is talking about, and that the girl he loved is Sabine Wren.

How Disney Changed Wedge Antilles: Canon vs Legends - Star ...

There are several reasons why I am not comfortable with this idea. Although Wedge worked with the Ghost crew a fair bit in Rebels, there was no obvious indication during his appearances there that signaled he was specifically a member of “their” family. If there was, I either missed it or forgot it. And while one could argue that he and Sabine had chemistry, I can’t see them actually clicking. They have incompatible personalities; she’s too fierce and he’s too steady. It’s like expecting a firecracker and a hearth fire to get along well together. If this is what the new timeline actually did to these two characters…. I have to say that it is not going to work for me.

In the new timeline Wedge is also supposed to have founded Phantom Squadron, which is probably a callback to the original EU’s Wraith Squadron and the new timeline’s Ghost crew. Other than that, I think Wedge just sort of disappears in the new stories. Whether he vanishes quietly or in a blaze of glory (my money is on the latter), really doesn’t matter; what matters is that this isn’t the Wedge I know and like. This means that I have zero interest in “new Wedge” going forward.

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While some might say that it is unfair for me to do this based on comparisons between the new and old Star Wars histories, the fact is that in my case, it was inevitable. Besides, when a franchise as popular and universal as Star Wars disowns forty odd years of canon stories to rebuild the franchise from scratch, they can’t expect people not to weigh the two timelines against each other. Having done this, I must agree with the assessments made by many other fans; from my perspective, Disney/Lucasfilm is turning the vibrant, colorful worlds of Star Wars into a relatively bland and shallow universe. With the exception of Rebels and Rogue One, none of the new Star Wars material I’ve read or seen comes close to matching the original EU’s depth and energy.

This isn’t a spur of the moment decision. I have read some new timeline books, and I can point to certain problems I had with them. As detailed here, I ran into things in a couple of these novels which irked and disgusted me. While others might consider these to be minor problems or to be small, isolated changes in a bigger picture, they are nothing of the sort to me.

The reason these alterations are not insignificant to this blogger is that they illustrate a wider, bigger, and very disconcerting (to me and others) disparity between the two timelines. Up until the Yuuzhan Vong War, there was an animating spirit which enlivened the old EU – one that is missing from the New Timeline. The fact that it’s missing isn’t obvious at first; I got hooked by the writing in Lost Stars until the second sex scene occurred. Having found Star Wars books to be free of such things in the past, Claudia Gray’s second “romantic interlude” in Lost Stars threw me out of the story fast and hard. I only finished the story because I was half-hoping it would get better.

All it did was get worse.

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Now I will not say that the old EU was perfect. My dislike of and outright hatred for the original EU’s Yuuzhan Vong War and following stories is well-documented. The only thing I find acceptable about the original timeline’s Yuuzhan Vong War books and following media was the addition of Ben Skywalker, Luke and Mara Jade Skywalker’s son, to the storyline. The rest of stories which followed the Yuuzhan Vong War are detestable trash. It is true, too, that I still like Rogue One and Star Wars Rebels (up to season four, anyway). The New Timeline didn’t completely disappoint me in these areas; these stories were what gave me hope Disney/Lucasfilm could do honor to the franchise.

Unfortunately, the rest of the Disney/Lucasfilm’s New Timeline has dashed that hope, and not simply through its lamentable handling of the Skywalker saga. I not only agree with others who believe that Luke, Leia, and Han have all been terribly abused by the new writers, I believe this disrespect has trickled down to their treatment of great secondary characters like Admiral Ackbar and Wedge Antilles. The excuse some Disney/Lucasfilm execs have probably used on fans like me who complain about these disheartening changes to the Star Wars brand is that the franchise is called “Star Wars.” It’s about a galaxy where war is a constant. “Of course people are going to die in Star Wars!” these execs shout at me and other fans, “You’re all idiots for expecting your heroes to live forever. Everyone dies, especially in wars. That’s real life!”

My answer to that multi-layered insult is yes and no. Yes, people die in wars. Yes, heroes cannot live forever – not here, anyway. They have to pass beyond the curtain of death to reach eternal peace, life, and happiness, the rewards for their long years of service to the Greater Good in the physical world. I recognize and understand this. In point of fact, I embrace it.

But since Disney/Lucasfilm wants to play the “perpetual war” card, allow me to lay out an Idiot’s Array in answer: all of human life is a war. Every human being born into this world is engaged in a private war with himself or herself, with the world, and with the devil. To live is to go to war. And in order to get through these personal wars, which end only at our deaths, we need heroes to inspire us to keep fighting when everything seems hopeless and pointless. Fictional “people” who succeed despite the challenges facing them, who “could have turned back lots of times, only they didn’t,”  to paraphrase Master Samwise Gamgee. Without the help of such fictional reminders, most of us would have cracked under the pressure to “take the quick and easy” path a long time ago.

The original EU writers recognized and understood this, at least prior to the Yuuzhan Vong War storyline (though some knew it even then, but were prevented by Lucasfilm’s editors from doing what they knew was right). Human life, human history, is a battle – a continuous war – against the physical and interior manifestations of evil. While I am inclined to believe that Filoni and Zahn still understand this truth, I am convinced that the majority of the new writers have forsaken the truth and The Truth for another agenda entirely.

Wedge and Iella, Starfighters of Adumar, by Chris Trevas ...

Wedge and Iella Antilles

I’m sorry if my opinion hurts your feelings, readers. But this is what my various encounters with both SW timelines has led me to believe. Reminiscing about and studying Wedge’s original depiction in comparison to that of his new timeline counterpart is what put this difference between both universes into perspective for me. I know that plenty of people aren’t going to agree with the opinion I have voiced here, but this is what I think. With a few notable exceptions the new Star Wars timeline is, to me, a weak imitation of the original.

That’s not a fun thing for this writer to admit. However, as Kyle Katarn said, “The truth hurts, but lies are worse.” It’s time I stopped dancing around the point and stated my position clearly: I am officially done with the New Timeline. Disney/Lucasfilm is not supporting the truth; therefore, I cannot and will not support them.

This means that the new timeline’s Wedge Antillies is not the one I am – or will ever be – looking for. The Wedge I am looking for is ensconced in an X-Wing cockpit, frying TIEs and leading the Rogues. He’s happily married to Iella Wessiri, whom he finds more attractive as time passes. He is planning to tell his daughters to wear blasters when they reach dating age, just in case they run into a problem. He is also waiting to hear his friends Luke, Han, and/or Leia say, “Hey, I need a favor…” because whenever they call on him, things get interesting real fast.

If you want to “meet” the Wedge I like so much “in person,” readers, you can start with his “Legends” Wookieepedia article here. If you would prefer to skip that, try Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy and Hand of Thrawn duology. (Neither set of books requires any kind of Warning for Younger Readers. Although he has his faults, Zahn writes squeaky clean stories.) Wedge’s parts in the trilogy are brief but well rendered, and he shines very brightly in the Hand books. Jedi Search is another good place to “meet” Wedge, too.

Until I can read and review more books starring my favorite EU Rebel/New Republic pilot, these are my only recommendations for you, readers. So, ‘til next time –

May the Force be with you!

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Best Friends Forever.

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Star Wars: Dark Forces – Soldier for the Empire by William C. Dietz

Star Wars Dark Forces Soldier for the Empire HC (1997 Dark ...

Whoo, all right! We are bookin’ it, readers!  (Haha – pun. 😉 ) Here’s the next Star Wars book on my promised review list: Star Wars: Dark Forces – Soldier for the Empire. This is the first of three short novelizations based on video games where the fan-favorite original EU character Kyle Katarn made his debut. Originally, the hero of the Dark Forces video games was supposed to be Luke Skywalker. However, the game makers realized that putting Luke in the games would mess up the franchise’s continuity. So they decided to come up with a completely new character for the game instead.

This proved to be a really good idea. Due in large part to Kyle’s character, Dark Forces skyrocketed to fame with fans, so much so that several subsequent games were designed for the new Jedi. To make one of these sequel games – Dark Forces II – more interesting, the designers hired actors and actresses to play the characters in “live action” cut scenes during the game. If you want to see what those look like, readers, then check out this post of mine here.

Based on the videos alone, I can see why Kyle became such a hit with fans. Dark Forces II was state of the art when it was created and, while it may not have held up perfectly in everyone’s opinion, the craftsmanship that went into it still shows. Looking at those videos, I wish more modern games had scenes where real actors portrayed characters in the game(s) story/stories. Dark Forces II is a real gem!

All right, drooling done. Time to describe the book. Soldier for the Empire starts out long before Dark Forces II, taking place a few months before the Battle of Yavin. The book begins on the moon world of Sulon, a farming colony with a population mostly made up of humans and droids. Morgan Katarn, father of the hero of the story, sets out from his farm to replace a water pump some distance from his house. While he walks off, thinking about the state of the galaxy, he begins to get a funny feeling that something’s coming…

doloresserier.se - Star Wars Dark Forces Soldier of the Empire

Something dangerous.

His instincts are correct. Above Sulon, a Star Destroyer under the command of the Dark Jedi Jerec looks down on the moon. Despite what the crew thinks, Jerec hasn’t come here just to destroy the Rebel cell on Sulon. He wants Morgan Katarn – alive. Morgan was friends with a Jedi Knight named Qu Rahn, a straggler from the Jedi Purge. Rahn entrusted a valuable secret to the farmer before going into hiding, and Jerec wants the power of this secret.

Since Qu Rahn’s whereabouts are currently unknown, the Dark Jedi’s come to Sulon to take what he wants from Morgan. To that end he deploys Imperial troops disguised as Rebels to lay waste to the farming community. He has them hit one farm and kill the family living there to make the assault look “realistic.” Then he sends them on to Morgan’s place.

But Morgan is Force-sensitve, just like his son. His going out to repair the pump isn’t entirely his own idea, as he discovers when his position allows him to watch the Imperials attack and wreck his farmhouse. Recording the attack, Morgan goes to join the other Rebels, who decide to make a stand against the Empire. They believe the Empire has come to destroy the thermal generator they have been working on for some time now. Once completed and fully operational, the “G-tap,” as the colonists call the generator, will provide the Sulon colony with energy independence.

While Morgan knows the G-tap is in danger of being destroyed, he counsels that Rebel lives are worth more than the generator. He reminds his fellow Rebs that they can always build another generator. They can’t serve their cause or replace their people if they are all dead.

No one listens to Morgan’s sound advice, though, and a few hours later the battle begins. As Katarn predicted, the Rebels on Sulon are completely wiped out. Among the few survivors left for interrogation, Morgan alone is hauled aboard the Star Destroyer to face Jerec. Rather than give the Dark Jedi what he wants, Morgan spits at him and makes a snappy, somewhat rude evasion.

Jerec’s response is to behead him with a vibro-blade. The Dark Jedi then has Morgan’s head put on a pike outside the space port for visitors to see. He has the rest of the Rebels’ corpses beheaded and their heads lined up along the spaceport walls as well, to further emphasize the lengths the Imperials are willing to go to maintain control of the galaxy. (*Author whistles lightly.* They really didn’t play around in the original Star Wars Expanded Universe, readers.)

Star Wars Dark Forces Soldier for The Empire HC HB New | eBay

Completely unaware of what is going on back home Morgan’s son, Kyle Katarn, is undergoing his Omega Exercise. The last test Stormtroopers have to face before they enter service, the Omega Exercise consists of attacking Rebel bases. Those cadets who survive the battle to capture the base and kill the enemy become full-fledged Stormtroopers. The Rebel base Kyle and his men have been assigned to take is in an asteroid belt, but the base itself is called Asteroid-456.

Kyle’s Exercise proves to be a brutal one, with most of his men killed during their forward march through the base. Halfway into the compound, Kyle and his unit reach the communications center of Asteroid-456. This base, as he learns later, is a communications’ hub. Rebel journalists risk their lives to film Imperial attacks and atrocities before taking those films to bases such as Asteroid-456. From there, the Rebels broadcast the footage around the galaxy, allowing thousands of beings to see it. When they do, many flock to the nascent Rebellion to join up and put an end to the Empire’s evil.

Having lost so many men in the fighting, Kyle’s sergeant wants to kill the unarmed Rebels in the comm center immediately. But Kyle, who took his Stormtrooper helmet off sometime earlier, meets the eyes of one of the Rebels; a woman his own age he will later learn is named Jan Ors. He feels an instant connection with Jan, whose startled gaze shows she has felt the “spark” between them, too. Because of that – and the fact that she and the others are unarmed – Kyle orders his unit to spare them.

The Rebels don’t wait around when he makes it clear they should go. They split, and Katarn takes his men back to the mess hall to wait for the Rebels’ reinforcements to attack. Only six men, including Kyle, survive the resultant onslaught. With the sergeant among the dead, no one’s available – or willing – to tell the Empire about the commanding cadet’s merciful actions. Kyle is commended for his bravery in the battle at his graduation, being awarded one of the Empire’s most prestigious medals. His friend Meck Odom invites him to dinner with his family after the ceremony, and Kyle has a grand time with them…

…Only to receive a devastating shock later that night, when he learns that his father is dead. And apparently, the Rebels murdered him.

Soldier for the Empire is a really, REALLY good book. Dietz handles the descriptions of Kyle’s Force-sensitivity impressions well for the most part, and he absolutely nails the atmosphere for Star Wars. The book is a little short on detail in some places for my tastes, but it is based on a video game. Having read novels based on film scripts, I kind of expected that going in. There is always some missed detail in a novel based on a visual medium. I don’t know why that is; I just know it’s there.

Among the many things to praise this book for is the artwork. Lucas Arts/Film hired Dean Williams to paint the pictures, and he did a phenominal job. To quote Sabine Wren, “Now that is art.” A couple of the paintings in the book are so well done that, at first glance, they look like photographs. When I saw the painting of Jan first meeting with Kyle, I half expected her to blink, move, or breathe. Williams is that good of an artist he made his subjects appear to be realI hope he’s still painting!

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All right, now it’s time for a Warning for Younger Readers. There are no sex warnings for Soldier for the Empire. Kyle doesn’t have any sexual fantasies, no women are attacked or abused, and his relationship with Jan is completely above board. But there is a gore warning, which we have already sort of covered. About midway through the book, there’s a lifelike painting of Kyle turning away from an image of his father’s head on a spear. It’s not a particularly gross painting, in my opinion, but it is unnerving.

Because the head is in the top left corner of the picture and Kyle takes up the majority of the bottom right half of the print, a reader’s eye is naturally drawn to him when the page is opened. You notice the heads on the wall behind Kyle’s back, but they’re not rendered in a truly disgusting way. And, since he’s surrounded by light, Kyle tends to make those images look kind of curious rather than scary or disgusting. The only way to notice Morgan’s head is to study the picture or start reading the page opposite the painting. And due to this warning, avoiding looking hard in that direction shouldn’t be too much trouble.

The only other warning I have is for another picture earlier in the book that shows a pair of hands raised above fallen girders in the Rebel base. The hands are not armored, nor are they gloved; they are twisted with the final spasms of agony the dead person experienced. Again, though, the picture draws a reader’s attention more to Kyle and his fellow Stormtroopers than to the hands. You have to look hard to notice the hands and, even then, they are not painted in such a way as to truly frighten or disgust a reader. Dietz and Williams knew the requirements for the story, but they also knew that their target audience included children in the 10-17 age group. Thus I think they did a good job of making sure the story kept its impact without being too bloody and gorey.

These are really the biggest things a smart 10-15 reader should watch out for whenever they pick up Soldier for the Empire.I know someone in this age group who loves this book despite these pictures, so that gives me confidence to recommend it to others who are the same age. Though now that I think about it, my young friend can put up with an awful lot of gorey stuff…. (Author makes a slightly worried face.)

The decision to read or not read this book is entirely up to the young reade, of course. If you don’t think you can handle Soldier for the Empire, wait a little while before you read it. It is a good book, one I wholeheartedly recommend, in part because it carries strong echoes from the original films. Kyle is a great character, as is Jan, and Jerec is a close runner up. The guy is scary, no two ways about it. Bonus points, Mon Mothma, Lando Calrissian, and Thrawn each get guest appearances in this story. We never really see them (except for Lando) in a painting, but they do “appear” in the book. 😀

And if that wasn’t enough, I could literally vouch for this being a good book based on the artwork alone. It is absolutely fantastic! Before you head out to get the novel, readers, here are some prints of Dean Williams’ paintings. Man, I hope this guy is still creating. His work is AMAZING…!

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Jan Ors - Wookieepedia, the Star Wars Wiki

“Remember, the Force will be with you. Always.”

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 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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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.

Image result for kanan jarrus vs the inquisitor fire across the galaxy

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.

Tribute to the Jedi – All the Lightsaber Duels in Star Wars Rebels’ History

Well, the ninth episode of Star Wars Rebels’ fourth season is out now, which means we will be waiting until 2018 to know how the series will finally end. I’m crossing my fingers real hard for Kanan, my favorite character in the series, to last through the final episode. Whatever happens in related media, if he survives the show, I will be a happy Ewok camper. 😉

It is funny. When I first heard about Rebels, I thought I would not like it. The Star Wars prequel films are among my least favorite films, and so I avoided the animated Clone Wars series. Part of me believed Rebels would follow in that vein, but another part – the part which has always wanted more stories about Jedi who survived the Purge and/or the Jedi that emerged during the Rebellion – had some faint hope that Rebels would be worthwhile.

Turns out, the hopeful side of me was more right than I guessed. I fell in love with Rebels and wanted to see it fill in the gaps between the original trilogy films, bringing in “Legacy” characters whom Disney/Lucasfilm decided weren’t worth keeping. The announcement that season four would be the series’ last knocked that hope off the table, though, and I am going to miss this series a lot.

As a way of honoring the series and the writers/producers who gave it to us, I thought I would post video of all the lightsaber battles seen in the series. You can watch them below:

First Lightsaber Duel

More Lightsaber Battles

(I couldn’t get some of the battles in Rebels without this video, so…)

Star Wars The Clone Wars + Rebels All Lightsaber duels

Visions and Voices

Training with the Darksaber

Sabine Wren vs. Gar Saxon

If I have managed to miss any of Rebels‘ duels, please don’t give me too much flak for it. I know I’ve missed at least ONE battle in here somewhere…

So far, my favorite lightsaber duels are: 1) Kanan vs. The Grand Inquisitor aboard Tarkin’s Star Destroyer; (2) Ahsoka defeating Fifth Brother and Seventh Sister on Garel, and (3) Kanan beating Maul after he’s been blinded by the former Sith Lord.

Which lightsaber duel from the series is your favorite? Feel free to let me know in the comments, and may the Force be with you!