Tag Archives: The Force Awakens

Marvel-ous – and Not So Marvelous – Fathers

Not long after it came out, a friend of mine began watching the new Marvel’s Spider-Man television series. I have only watched it under duress, since I find the animation poor and am unhappy with some of the changes to Spider-Man lore within the series. Not to mention the fact that I am a little tired of Marvel beating dead horses to pieces and splattering me with their blood, proclaiming all the while that I should be happy to receive this disgusting shower.

Thank you very much, Marvel, but even vampires do not go this far (from what I know of them, anyway). But my friend insists on cornering me and making me watch it, making me less than eager to discuss the series with said compadre after an episode has aired.

Following the episode introducing – and then killing – Flint Marko/Sandman so he could be replaced by his daughter, my friend had an interesting observation about the show. Mi amigo pointed out that Flint never went after his daughter during the episode’s climactic battle. This friend went on to add that it was interesting when Sandman’s daughter killed him, Flint’s last words were: “I love you.”

“It’s a little like Han Solo and Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens,” my friend said. “Flint won the argument, just like Han did, and their children are worse off than they were before.” Then, in typical fashion for my friend, it was suggested that I write a post about how Flint is/was a better father than Norman Osborn.

When it comes to this friend of mine, I have a hard time saying “no” to any request made of me. I promised to think about the episode, though I added the caveat that my brain had zero suggestions for how to bring up the topic here on Thoughts on the Edge of Forever any time soon. But then something somehow removed this block from my mind and the ideas came rushing in.

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The episode of Marvel’s Spider-Man in question is titled “Sandman.” In this episode, Spidey is relaxing with his fellow science whizz friends at Coney Island. At least, he is relaxing; the rest are still working on their school project (hint, it makes a nifty, living black suit). While they are out a sudden sandstorm erupts and the Arabian Desert, complete with a seeming genie, blasts through the park.

This is Spidey’s first run-in with the Sandman, a.k.a. Flint Marko, in the series. Here, Flint is a lackey for the mobster villain known as Hammerhead. He began working for him in order to provide a better future for his daughter, Keemia. But Flint made too many mistakes on the job, so Hammerhead tried to make an example of him by burying him under several tons of sand mixed with toxic chemicals.

Of course, this did not kill Flint. It turned him into a living being made of sand. He intends to go after Hammerhead to rescue his daughter, whom the thug has somehow taken into his home. Spidey, touched by Sandman’s devotion to protecting his little girl, joins Flint in storming the castle to rescue the fair damsel.

But Keemia does not want to be rescued. Like any normal girl, she followed Flint into the warehouse when being left in the car creeped her out. So when Hammerhead tried to kill him, she was exposed to the same toxic sand that her father swallowed. Unlike normal girls, she detests and blames her father for her own natural instinct to avoid being alone. She goes on to repeatedly state that she hated the work he did for Hammerhead and planned to better her own future by studying science. Now that she is made of sand, which has replaced her right eye, she accuses Flint of being the source of her misfortune and lashes out at him.

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Keemia Marko (Sandgirl)

Not once during the battle which follows does Flint respond to Keemia’s attacks. He tries several times to hurt Hammerhead, but Keemia protects the mobster as she continues to assail the man who really wants to keep her safe. Like Han in The Force Awakens, Flint allows Keemia to (apparently) kill him, offering her no resistance whatsoever. Spidey, naturally, is very upset by this, though I do not think anyone is going to take the time to explain why. I hope to do so myself, but I have a few other things I want to expound upon here as well, and that may get lost in the shuffle.

The first thing to address here is that this is quite clearly another case of political correctness run amok in Marvel. Sandman was always a sympathetic villain; Spidey and other Marvel heroes tried several times to bring him to the light. He was even an Avenger there for a little while. Marko never was a very strong personality, which is what made us fans feel some measure of compassion for him.

As with Kylo Ren, there is nothing to make us feel kindly disposed toward Keemia Marko. Blinded by the modern Sturm und Drang, she lays all her troubles on her father. In doing so she does not see Hammerhead manipulating her to hurt Flint, but seals her fate as the mobster’s secret weapon by killing her dad.

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Harry and Norman Osborn

How, you ask, does this make Flint a better father in this scene than Norman Osborn has ever been, period? In this series Norman is focused on being top dog in the scientific Tech Pack on Earth. Norman treats Harry more like a tool here than a son. Marvel’s Spider-Man portrays him as a greedy, grasping rich man who sees his boy as a means to an end – nothing more, nothing less.

Marko never used his daughter to make life easier for himself, and he probably could have. While I do not like her and consider her a nuisance best dumped at the earliest opportunity, the fact is that Marvel has illustrated a truth in Sandman’s first and final episode here which must be addressed.

The entire reason Flint went to work for Hammerhead was to provide for Keemia. He did not like working for a mobster any better than she did, but because he was a single father trying to make ends meet, he did the best he could with what he could get. It was not what he wanted for either of them, but he did not have the capacity to search for a job that would give them more satisfaction.

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Keemia, a product of the modern school system and the popular mindset, did not see what a sacrifice her father was making for her. He compromised his sacred honor and his own hope to be a good man in order to protect, feed, and clothe her. If he could have found another way to support them, he would have. A stronger man might have managed that, or at least managed to convey his distaste for his illegal work to Keemia. Flint could do neither of these things and that is, perhaps, one of the reasons why his daughter blamed him for her condition.

It is also important to mention that Flint is a single father here. This means he had to work a lot to make ends meet, so he was not as present in Keemia’s life as he would have been if her mother were alive and present in the home. (I do not know what happened to Sandman’s wife/girlfriend.)

Now Sandman’s lack of presence in his daughter’s life is not his fault – not in this TV series, anyway. The case in the show is blatantly transparent: Flint could not support the two of them and be with his daughter a hundred percent of the time. This is all too true of many families where only the father or mother is alive or caring for the children. These single fathers and mothers cannot feed, clothe, and shelter their children and still have enough time leftover to play, help with homework, or discuss problems in most cases.

This is why Flint did not see the extent to which Keemia was taught to despise him. She was taught this by our modern society, which either treats fatherhood like a joke or holds it in reproach (more on that below). Her disgust with Flint’s line of work is quite understandable, but it was used and manipulated, first by society and then by Hammerhead. Neither society nor Hammerhead explained that Flint was sacrificing a lot to take care of her by doing the only work he could find, and this left Keemia open to the Dark Side.

Flint did not see any of this until it was too late to do something about it. But that did not make him love his daughter any less. Spidey, I think, sensed how much Flint had sacrificed on behalf of his daughter by working for Hammerhead. The fact that Sandman showed such devotion to her, to the bitter end, affected him deeply because Keemia threw away what he lost years ago. Although Peter Parker loves his aunt and uncle, they were not his parents and they never could be. He did not know his father, but seeing Flint’s love for his daughter probably made him yearn for what could have been if his own had not been lost. (Ha! I got his reasons for being upset at Flint’s “demise” in here after all!)

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Norman, as we have seen, does not care to this degree about Harry. He has Harry make all sorts of sacrifices to please him. As yet we have not seen the future Green Goblin going out of his way to do something nice for his son. Even his founding of Osborn Academy is questionable: is it truly for Harry’s good, or is it so Norman has access to some of the brightest intellects in New York City – legal and illegal?

Thinking about this subject, I was put in mind of other Marvel characters who have less-than-stellar fathers. One of the reasons society these days makes a mockery of or abuses fatherhood is the mistaken opinion of many that bad fathers make bad people. This is a fallacy, insofar as it is portrayed as a widespread occurrence; it can certainly happen, but I very much doubt it transpires with the frequency portrayed in film, television, and books. Not all bad people become bad because of evil fathers – or evil mothers. All who become evil choose to be evil.

One can easily prove this by comparing Keemia Marko’s story to the history of the Avenger Hawkeye/Clint Barton. Hawkeye had a physically abusive father; Mr. Barton Senior liked his liquor, not to mention beating both his sons and his wife. When his sons were still young he died a drunkard’s death after he crashed his car. In the process he killed his wife and left the boys orphans.

Yet, if you look at Hawkeye now, you would have to be told all this about his past to know that it had happened – especially in the films. He was scarred by the experiences of his childhood, to be sure; Clint has never been able to fully trust those in influential or command positions. This is because the man who should have taught him to respect authority instead gave him every reason to distrust it.

However, Clint did not follow the Dark Path to the point that it could dominate his destiny. Yes, in the original comics, he worked with the Black Widow when she was a pawn of the Soviets. But he did not do this because he agreed with the Communists or because he liked being a bad guy. He did it out of misguided sentiment and love for Natasha Romanoff. This eventually redeemed the two of them and led to their joining the Avengers, “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes,” and we fans/readers/viewers are the better for this.

Unlike modern writers, Stan Lee and Don Heck knew that it is possible to choose a better path than the one your parents did. So they showed Clint Barton choosing to turn away from the darkness and toward the light. Time and again, until the most recent comics, Clint did his best to avoid following in the footsteps of the men who raised him. He chose to be a better man than his father. He also chose to be a better man than his mentors, the Swordsman and the original Trick Shot. He chose to be a hero rather than a villain.

If you dig a little into the histories of many Marvel heroes and heroines, you will find several others with similar pasts. Both Rogue and Nightcrawler were rejected by their fathers and continue to be abused by their mother. The Maximoff twins are still dealing with the aftermath of having Magneto as a dad. Peter Quill had a lackluster father, as did Gamora. Yet they and other Marvel characters with similar backgrounds still became heroes and heroines rather than villains.

This is something modern pop psychology says is a denial of the inner self; a rejection of the monster inside, to borrow from Mr. Whedon. Yet Mr. Lee and Mr. Heck made this choice for Hawkeye and the other heroes I listed above. And you know something? It worked.

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Unlike these heroes, Keemia has chosen the Dark Side. And she has done so without using the “father abused me and that’s why I am what I am” excuse. In some cases, real and fictional, I do not doubt that ill-treatment can convince a child to turn into a monster of the same type as the one heaping pain on him/her. But that, as I just said, is an excuse. Being evil or being good is a choice. One choice takes a lot more work than the other, and believe me, it is not evil.

Keemia has no excuse for her choice to become evil. She has no excuse for killing her own father. She cannot hide behind the pop psychology argument that her father was terrible and so she is terrible, which is what I think the writers were trying to have her say. I think they wanted us to sympathize with her, suggesting that she turned into the monster “Sand-Girl” because of her father through her long, moronic speeches charging him with high crimes and misdemeanors against her.

That claim does not float. There are many Marvel heroes and heroines who endured far worse from their fathers and mothers than Keemia ever did at the hands of Sandman. They are not evil. She is. And it is because of the choices she made, NOT because of her father’s (or mother’s) choices.

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Barons Heinrich and Helmut Zemo (Avengers Assemble)

This is the reason why I did not like the writers’ attempt to pin Helmut Zemo’s decision to be evil on his father in the Avengers Assemble episode “House of Zemo.” This is why I do not like what the company’s writers have done to Tony Stark’s father. And this is why I blew up when I learned what Marvel did in its Secret Empire comics to Cap’s father in order to make him a Nazi.

These changes are the signature attacks of people who despise fatherhood and want to destroy it; either the authors or their bosses want to continue this harmful stereotype in order to continue to excuse “the evil that men do.” They are trying to convince fathers to rescind their proper place as role models in society, role models who will teach and love their children like no one else in the world can or should, which means the children born to these fathers will be left without one of their best defenses against the darkness in this world.

This modern fictional trope hurts real people, readers. It hurts those who do – or did – have lousy fathers and who want a better life. If they are continually told that they have no chance whatsoever to be a better man/woman than their fathers or mothers, they will destroy themselves. I do not mean they will kill themselves, although that is a distinct possibilty. I mean they will make wrong choices using the excuse, “My daddy/mommy did this to me, and so psychologically I have no choice but to carry on this abuse.” Ask Dean Koontz about it. He had an abusive father himself.

Evil is a choice, readers. It is a real, palpable choice with genuine, hard, ugly results, for us and those around us. We are all confronted with it, every day, in small or great ways. And because we are weak humans we can excuse or rationalize away the evil that we do because it will make us feel better about “getting what we want” out of life, family, etc.

Bad or evil fathers do not make bad men and women. Men and women make choices to be bad or to be good. If they choose evil, then they choose it of their own free will. They will make excuses to allow them to continue doing their evil deeds with untroubled consciences, but the fact is that they have chosen the Dark Path freely.

Pop psychology does not recognize those heroes who had bad parents and yet have gone on to become good men and women. It does not recognize them because they do not fit the pattern which produces the desired result. There are many good men and women who had or have bad fathers/mothers, but who have gone on to become great fathers/mothers themselves because they chose to be better than those who raised them.

This is the real difference between heroes and villains, readers. Heroes choose the Light, while villains choose the Dark. Modern society wants you to be confused about this distinction, but the fact is that there is an objective good, and an objective evil. You just have to keep your eyes open to see it.

Avengers Assemble!

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Star Wars Rebels’ Zero Hour and Season 3 Review

Wow. Just…. Wow.

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

It. Was. A. BLAST!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Star Wars Rebels Review: Twin Suns

The Star Wars Rebels episode “Twin Suns” was teased just a wee bit too much as the final confrontation between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Maul.  While they did indeed confront each other and Maul, as expected by most of us, died, their battle was very brief.  If you watch the above Rebels Recon show, they explain why.

I admit that I thought the fight would last longer than it did.  However, I also see the wisdom of the writers in keeping it so short.  Maul and Obi-Wan dueled for years during The Clone Wars series, and so it makes sense that this battle would be quick.  For one thing, Obi-Wan was in better physical condition than Maul was.  At the beginning of the show it seems that Maul’s been wandering around Tatooine searching for Ben Kenobi, and from what I saw of him, he did not have a pack full of water and food on him.  This indicates to me that he’s been wandering around in the desert heat hoping to pick up some sense of Obi-Wan’s location through the Force.  Not a particularly smart move, in my opinion, but despite Maul’s animal cunning I do not think I would ever label him as brilliant.

All this means that Obi-Wan was fresh and able when he faced Maul beside the campfire.  On the other hand, Maul had been weakened by his wanderings through a strange, harsh environment while he was looking for Ben.  So physically, it makes sense that Obi-Wan would be able to best him so swiftly.  Also, he had what Maul lacked –

Hope.

We will go back to that momentarily, but for the moment, I want to discuss Ezra’s part in this episode.  IGN’s Eric Goldman (and doubtless others as well), thinks that having Ezra take center stage for the majority of the episode was a mistake.

I disagree.  The reasons why Ezra was central to “Twin Suns” are manifold:

First, as the writers pointed out, Ezra was the one that got the Rebels involved with Maul.  His determination to find a way to bring down Vader – “to destroy the Sith,” as he put it – left him open to Maul’s manipulation, which Obi-Wan pointed out.  Ezra’s desire to stop the Sith was morphing into an obsession.  If he did not let it go, it would eventually have gotten him and his friends – along with possibly the entire Rebellion – killed.  Someone had to snap him out of his fixation on annihilating the Sith.

That someone turned out to be Obi-Wan.  This makes a lot of sense and leads to the second reason for Bridger being central to the story.  When a person becomes obsessed, even in the less-than-maniacal way that Ezra was, interventions by close friends and family can be less effective than those done by total strangers.  Kanan and Hera stage an intervention of sorts for Ezra at the beginning of “Twin Suns,” but he ignores their reasonable arguments and runs off anyway.

Obi-Wan, a master Jedi he has heard of and admires, points out that he really, really should not have come to Tatooine.  Maul was using him to find the man he hates more than anyone but the Emperor.  Ezra’s determination to find Obi-Wan himself in order to find the “key to destroying the Sith” blinded him to this fact.  Kanan and Hera did not have this blinder over their eyes (pun intended; even though he is physically blind, Kanan smelled a trap), and so they saw the danger in following Maul’s breadcrumbs.

Of course, Obi-Wan also deflects Ezra from discovering the truth about the fact that he is, actually, guarding the key to wiping out the Sith.  This is both to protect Luke, who is not yet ready to fight in the Rebellion, and also to protect Ezra.  Luke still has some growing up to do, and the fact is that the Rebellion is not nearly ready for him yet.  They are still in the building-up phase.  If Luke were to join them now, and the whole thing collapsed under its own weight (or Thrawn’s), then all hope of defeating the Emperor disappears with him and the Rebellion.

We know that this is not going to happen, but Obi-Wan does not know this.  He only knows he has to keep Luke safe.  And, if things were changed here in this interim between Rebels and A New Hope, the TV series would qualify as fan fiction, not a tie-in series.  And that would never do.

As for Ezra, if he were to learn about Luke, he would begin trying to recruit him into the Rebellion.  Obi-Wan cannot let that happen.  He shoos Ezra off so that the boy will not recruit Luke too soon.  This will also, hopefully, keep Ezra safe.  As long as he remains oblivious to the fact that Vader is Anakin Skywalker, when he later meets Luke, he will not be able to reveal anymore about Luke’s heritage than Obi-Wan already told him.  In fact, he will be able to reveal even less.

This appears to be a sort of backhanded indication that neither Ezra nor Kanan has figured out that Vader is Anakin Skywalker.  This is in spite of Ezra being present when Ahsoka let slip her suspicion, to his mind, that her old master had become the Emperor’s apprentice.  Whew!  😉

Also, as the writers pointed out, Ezra naturally feels responsible for leading Maul to Obi-Wan.  He goes to Tatooine to make up for his mistake, but he nearly makes it worse.  This is why he has to be present throughout so much of “Twin Suns.”  Ezra has to let go of his need to kill Vader, or it will destroy him and his friends.

Interestingly enough, Ezra is forced to do this in a desert, a very dry and tough place.  The hermits in ancient times and even during the Middle Ages who lived near or traveled to arid regions would retreat into the desert or some other desolate place to remove all distractions.  Obi-Wan does this when he moves to the cave a few hours travel from Owen Lars’ moisture farm; Yoda does this by retreating to Dagobah – and Luke, it seems, did the same thing before The Force Awakens.

Ezra’s journey is more reminiscent of a spiritual retreat than going into a hermitage, naturally, and it fits the episode nicely.  Lost in the desert – more so perhaps than even Maul is – Ezra must confront not only the former Sith’s evil in a manner similar to the way that Christians must face the temptations of the devil, but also his own obsession with destroying the Sith.  It is a journey of purgation for him, leaving him a stronger, more clear-headed Jedi apprentice by the episode’s end.

Now we will go back to the battle between Obi-Wan and Maul.  It is a brief battle, but a loaded confrontation all the same.  Maul states that he has come to kill Obi-Wan, then suggests that his revenge might be better served by letting him live in the “squalor” of Tatooine’s desert instead.  Obi-Wan calmly points out that Maul’s jab shows how spiritually empty he is.  He has traveled around the galaxy for years seeking to destroy the Sith, to possess power, and to become “great” according to the Dark Side’s standards.

The pursuit has left him an empty shell.  At the beginning of the episode, according to Mr. Goldman, Maul seems dangerously close to slipping into the madness Savage Oppress first found him in during The Clone Wars series.  Having never watched more than a few episodes of that series, I cannot confirm this.  But it makes sense.  Maul has been consumed by his hatred, not fed by it.  It has destroyed him, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  Though he expresses contempt for Obi-Wan’s style of life, the former Jedi Master is actually far better off than he is in all the categories which I just mentioned.

This infuriates Maul.  His hatred reacts violently to Obi-Wan’s calm tranquility.  He has no such peace in his own soul, and for that reason he seeks to destroy it in Obi-Wan by digging for the reason that Ben would come to the desolate world of Tatooine.  He gets close, of course – too close to be allowed to live.  Obi-Wan knew that would happen.  Plus, he has already lost two people very dear to him to Maul.  He cannot and he will not lose Luke to the former Sith apprentice.

And before you ask, no, Maul would not kill Luke.  He would do something far worse, and Obi-Wan knows it.  We saw how Maul tempted Ezra to court the Dark Side at the end of Rebels’ season two and several times throughout season three.  If he had killed Obi-Wan, he would have found Luke, and he would have taken him as his apprentice to teach him the ways of the Dark Side.  Thus Maul would have destroyed all hope of building a new Jedi Order and a New Republic in the future.  That is a threat which Obi-Wan must stop.

But even after he permanently neutralizes Maul, Obi-Wan does not gloat over his victory.  Instead, he holds Maul as he dies.  Considering the Zabrak killed his Master and the woman he loved, his showing compassion and pity toward his old enemy shouts volumes.  Obi-Wan did not have to stay with Maul until the end.  He certainly did not have to tell him Luke was actually the Chosen One foretold in the prophecy (apparently).  But he did it anyway.  Not because Maul deserved it, exactly, but because he felt compassion and pity for this creature that had been destroyed so thoroughly; first by the Emperor, then by his own hatred.

For his part, Maul seems to have some regrets about his life.  But if he had the chance to live it over again, I think the only thing he would do differently was avoid getting cut in half, if he could.  Maul is totally committed to the Dark Side.  He is ruined.  Asajj Ventress may yet have been redeemed by her love for Jedi Knight Quinlan Vos, but the fact is that Maul has had no such opportunities to reform.  He has hated for so long, too, that it is doubtful he would have accepted such prospects for redemption, even if they had been handed to him on a silver platter.

So he dies reiterating the Dark Side’s will to vengeance.  What is interesting is his use of the word “us” when he says this.  It is possible he means the entire race of Dathomir and, most specifically, his mother and brother.

But personally, I think he may have meant himself and Obi-Wan.  After all, Obi-Wan would not have cut Maul in half if he had not killed Qui-Gon Jinn.  Maul would not have done that if his mother had not handed him over to the Emperor to be trained as a Sith instead of a regular Dark Side wielder.  If he had not been cut in half, Maul would not have gone on to wreak such sorrow on the galaxy in general and Obi-Wan Kenobi in particular.  It sounded to me as though this was the implication behind Maul’s line that Luke “will avenge…us…”  I might be blowing smoke, of course, but there is always the possibility that I could be correct.

Now, Mr. Goldman points out that the manner of Obi-Wan’s kill strike does not show the appropriate level of contact for such a maneuver.  While he is equally quick to mention that Rebels is not as flexible as The Clone Wars when it comes to realistic death scenes, the fact is that this is a kid’s show.  It would not do to show Obi-Wan cutting Maul in half vertically instead of horizontally.  Doing that also would have spoiled the ending we all enjoyed so much.

That being said, the implication that Obi-Wan gutted Maul is quite clear.  And remember, readers, that he is half-droid.  There is not much to gut; slicing through what is left of his torso and the droid part of his body would certainly finish Maul for good.  I, for one, am quite satisfied that the Rebels writers went this route.  It is not a graphic death scene, but it still fulfills the Internet meme showing Obi-Wan moaning, “I should have cut him in half the other way!”

The last thing to address is the fact that Ezra doesn’t tell the Ghost crew or the rest of Phoenix Squadron that Obi-Wan Kenobi is alive.  At least, he does not do so on camera.  It is possible that he will tell Kanan and the others in a more private setting.  It is just as possible that he will not, though I think that Kanan will want to know whether or not Ezra killed Maul.  Ezra will have to tell him no, because even if he fibs – or were to attempt to fib – Kanan should be able to sense that he is fudging the truth.  Or he will at least be able to sense that Ezra is not telling him everything.

Mr. Goldman points out in his article that we never see Obi-Wan telling Ezra to keep the fact that he is alive a secret.  For starters, I think Ezra would be smart enough to realize that, if Obi-Wan wanted to avoid a fight with Maul, he does not want anyone to know he is alive.  It is also possible that Obi-Wan saw Ezra and Chopper off of Tatooine.  He is (presumably) riding the same Dewback he lent them when he approaches the Lars’ farm the next evening, after all.  I do not think the animal would just wander back to Obi-Wan after Ezra and Chopper had dismounted and climbed aboard Maul’s ship to take off.  He had to get it back.

If that is the case, then Obi-Wan might have taken the opportunity to tell Ezra, “I’m here because I don’t want to be found.  Best not to mention me to anyone when you get back.”  We do not know if this is what happened, but it seems to be a logical assumption.  The fact that Obi-Wan’s mount at the end of the episode is the same one he loaned to Ezra and Chopper before the fight strongly implies this theory.

Another thing to love about this episode is all the little tweaks and nods to A New Hope buried in it.  Ezra and Chopper setting out together is quite the nod to Threepio and Artoo’s journey across Tatooine before they get picked up by Jawas.  The attack by the Sand People is somewhat spooky for me, since I recently acquired and began playing Knights of the Old Republic.  I did not quite have flashbacks of all the times the Sand People killed me and my team, but I have begun to find their honking cries rather annoying.  Their Gaffi sticks are equally irritating.  But I did not celebrate when Maul killed them all, as you might have expected.  He set them up to die.  It is not something to cheer over.

Obi-Wan’s fatherly (or is that grandfatherly?), kindness and admonishments to Ezra reflect how his teaching tactics have changed since he lost Anakin to the Emperor.  He is now well prepared to take on the fatherly role of mentor when he leads Luke to make the fateful trip to Alderaan.  This could be seen as a dry run for his mentoring of Luke two years hence.

His subtle deflection of Ezra from the truth is also reminiscent of how Luke later confronts him about the fact that he hid Vader’s true identity from him, although he did not quite lie about it.  Both times Obi-Wan stretches the truth to protect the young fellas, and I doubt that Ezra would – or will – be any happier than Luke when he finally learns that Obi-Wan fibbed to protect the two of them from Maul, Vader, and the Empire at large in this episode.

The kicker, though, is when Obi-Wan stops within hearing of Beru Lars’ call to Luke to come in for supper.  As she does this we get to see his shadow as he races indoors in answer to her summons.  This scene is magnificent, and if I am not mistaken, they took the voice of the actress who played Beru Lars in A New Hope and used it for this episode.  She called Luke in exactly the same way before she reminded him to find a droid that spoke – I believe it was Bocce.  And when I say she called him the same way, I mean exactly the same way.  They clipped out her call from A New Hope and put it in the ending for “Twin Suns,” if I am not mistaken.  As a final note, Stephen Stanton’s imitation of Alec Guinness could not be better.  I am amazed and impressed.  Well done, Master Stanton.  (Author bows respectfully.)

Well, readers, this is my take on the third last episode of season three of Star Wars Rebels.  It was a good episode and I enjoyed it.  Marvelously animated and masterfully told, “Twin Suns” is an episode we are all going to want to show our children at some point in the future.

Remember, readers:  the Force will be with you.  Always.

References:

http://www.ign.com/articles/2017/03/18/star-wars-rebels-twin-suns-review

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

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

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

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

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

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

WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW! Read at your own risk!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Problem solved. 😉

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nope.

Is it still enjoyable?

Yes… more or less.

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

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

The Force will be with you, always!

The Mithril Guardian