Tag Archives: Twilight of the Apprentice

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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Spotlight: Star Wars Rebels – Jedi Knight Kanan Jarrus

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I have always been fascinated by stories of Jedi Knights or Masters who survived the Great Purge in the Star Wars universe. Light-side Force-users who were recruited to the Rebellion around the time of the original trilogy and who rose to prominence in the new Jedi Order afterward also intrigue me.

I do not know why I find them so interesting. But when I read the character profiles of Corran Horn, Kyle Katarn, and Kam Solusar, I was fascinated. I wanted to get to know these guys, to see more of their adventures with Luke and his new Jedi Order. Reading Jude Watson’s Last of the Jedi series also introduced me to an intriguing straggler from the Jedi Purge: Ferus Olin.

Of these four, though, I know only Ferus Olin really well. Corran Horn has starred in a couple of Timothy Zahn novels which have fallen into my hands, so I have ‘seen’ enough for me to decide I enjoy him. But Katarn and Solusar I have not yet been able to track down. I intend to read the books they have a part in sooner or later. Later just looks to be a more likely time than sooner! 😉

Anyway, this fascination with Jedi closer to the original trilogy in part explains my affection for the lone Jedi Knight in Disney’s Star Wars Rebels. Kanan Jarrus – formerly known as Jedi apprentice Caleb Dume – survived the Jedi Purge. That immediately turned my head. Another Jedi survivor of the Clone Wars fighting in the fledgling Rebellion, I thought. This is interesting. Where did he come from? How did he survive? Who was his master? What is he like? …. Etcetera, etcetera, ad infinitum.

Rebels and the stories in the paraphernalia attached to it have done an admirable job of answering some of those questions, but I am still eager to learn more. Hopefully the writers will not keep us waiting too long on that score!

But let us begin with what we know. Despite being raised by the old Jedi Order, it is clear Kanan does not keep with all of their customs. His relationship with Hera blatantly breaks with the Jedi ban on romance. And, counter to the stereotypical Jedi of old, he is also cocky, a smart alec, and rather cynical.

As I said before in other posts, this is what makes him interesting. In part, Kanan’s cynicism is due to the fact that he has seen so many hopes and dreams destroyed, as well as many fears realized. He has also suffered a great deal, first when his master was killed and the Jedi Order he knew and loved was obliterated, then in surviving in an unfriendly galaxy under Imperial rule for fifteen years. And this from the time he was fourteen!

That tends to take the rose glasses off of someone’s eyes in a hurry, does it not?

As for his cocky attitude and tendency to throw wisecracks around, that is also partly due to past bad experience. In addition it is, initially, a shield that keeps people away. It makes the snoopy Imperials write him off as a brash, riff-raff space ranger. Meanwhile it keeps the nice, kinder people in the galaxy from getting too close and becoming friends – friends he could later lose as he lost his master.

This shield does and does not change at the beginning of the Rebels TV series. Though his crew knows he is a Jedi, Kanan keeps his heritage hidden to protect them, rarely using his Force abilities even when there is no apparent danger of his being discovered. It is dangerous enough that they are going up against the big, bad Empire – if the Imperials found out Kanan was a Jedi, then the hunt for the Ghost crew would be redoubled.

Kanan and Ezra

This, as we know, changes when he meets Ezra Bridger. I have often wondered just what it would take to make a Jedi in hiding accept a Force-sensitive youth as an apprentice. From my perspective, the Rebels series answers this question well. Through the events of the first season, Kanan is brought to the realization that he is not hiding simply to protect his friends. He is hiding because he is afraid, and this means he is denying the Force’s guidance of the galaxy and his life. Avoiding being murdered is one thing; refusing his Jedi heritage, as he had been doing, is something else entirely.

At the beginning of the first season he runs into Ezra, a boy who can touch the Force. Although he does not want to admit it, Kanan is instantly drawn to Ezra by the age-old compulsion of the Jedi to train an apprentice. He fights the instinct for a while, not because he dislikes Ezra but because he is afraid of revealing what he is himself.

However, leaving Ezra untrained puts the youth in more danger. Eventually, his sensitivity to the Force would be recognized and the Empire would catch him. Then they would either turn him to the Dark Side or kill him.

Kanan cannot sit by and allow that to happen. To do such a thing is criminal, and despite his spiritual injuries, Kanan remains too good at heart and too morally-minded to abandon the boy. Over seasons one and two, their master/apprentice rapport strengthens into a fraternal relationship. By now, it is not quite a brotherly bond, from this writer’s point of view. Kanan has grown beyond that and is now experiencing being a true Jedi master governing an apprentice. In many ways, he has become Ezra’s surrogate father.

Up until Twilight of the Apprentice, Ezra responds to him in a duly relatable, filial manner. But in the second season finale, he is “feeling his oats,” as it were. This convinces him that Kanan is trying to keep him from growing up, when in actuality the older Jedi is trying to prevent Ezra from walking off a cliff the boy does not even realize he is heading toward.

Sabine has a similar understanding with Kanan, albeit less firmly established, since she is not Force-sensitive. Part of the strength of Kanan’s connection with Ezra is that they are bound together through the Force as teacher and student. Ahsoka and Anakin had a similar friendship in The Clone Wars TV series.

In the case of Rebels’ star Mandalorian, Sabine lacks that particular link with Kanan. Their friendship is all too similar to the one some real fathers and daughters share. After a point, they can only understand so much about each other, before giving up and simply trusting that the other one has a plan. This means their relationship can get a little stormy, as we saw in The Protector of Concord Dawn. Still, Sabine is loyal to Kanan, else she could not have controlled her warrior instincts in that same episode to satisfy and please her father figure. As she said, she has “been raised right.”

It is hard to quantify Kanan and Zeb’s friendship. The simplest way to explain it is to relate it to Cap and Thor’s rapport. Zeb follows Kanan out of respect for the cowboy Jedi, while Kanan chooses a mission and delegates how it is to be accomplished; with emphasis on the way the Lasat is to play his part. Even when the two disagree, as they did in Droids in Distress, they tend to do it quietly. Zeb rarely loses his temper with Kanan the way he will with Ezra or Chopper. He will grumble, fuss, and snarl, but he will give his all to the plan just the same.

Chopper’s friendship with Kanan, at times, seems to be non-existent. Kanan appears to find the cranky astromech unit an annoyance best gotten rid of, while Chopper takes any and all opportunities to snipe at him in binary – or with his tazer appendage. Still, the two seem to have some sort of esteem for each other. Though Chopper annoys him, Kanan relies on the droid as much as the rest of the crew does. And the fact that C1-10p was good enough to quietly see a blinded Kanan to Ezra’s side in the Sith temple on Malachor hints the independent bucket of bolts places some value on Kanan.

Kanan and Hera

As I said above, it is noteworthy to me that Kanan and Hera are “together.” Put aside for a minute the fact that they are totally different species, Kanan definitely knows the Jedi were never supposed to marry or get romantically attached to someone. Perhaps part of the reason he broke with this tradition is, well, there is no Jedi Order to enforce the rule any more.

Besides which, he and Hera are not starry-eyed kids, as Anakin Skywalker and Padmé Amidala were. If things go wrong and either of them is hurt or killed in the fight against the Empire, those are the fortunes of war. No matter how much pain that is going to cause them, they have still accepted the possibility that it will happen. From what I remember, Anakin did not intend to do that – which sort of led to the Empire being established in the first place, right?

This is something I have admitted before, but I shall say it again: I enjoy Kanan’s wisecracking abilities a lot. And this is not just because I always like it when the good guy scores a couple (or several dozen) verbal hits on the bad guy. Kanan’s quips are usually funny remarks or spot-on points which echo what the audience is thinking. Not only are they amusing, but this witty banter is also a good distraction or a way of prodding the villain to admit something. A well-phrased, well-placed verbal jab can upend a baddy’s plot in a snap. Just ask Spider-Man. Or Hawkeye. Or Tony Stark. Or Mara Jade Skywalker. Or Han Solo.

A good number of other Jedi from the prequels were characters which I never really saw. I did not watch the Clone Wars TV series, but it struck me that most of the Jedi in it had very little which distinguished their personalities from those of their peers’. Ahsoka had a sense of humor and fun, of course, which made her stand out to me when I looked up the series later on.

And yes, I know Anakin had a sense of humor. It was rather hard to miss! But his quips were often tainted by the Dark Side’s influence, and they therefore left me feeling uncomfortable more often than not. Obi-Wan’s wit in the films was rare and dry – not really worth an audience response of loud laughter or grins and giggles. The Jedi of the old Order all seemed too serious and expressionless, for the most part, to this writer.

Kanan is definitely not like that. Even when he is being serious he can be amusing, such as when he tells Darth Maul that he and Ezra “come as a set.” We see the situation in Twilight of the Apprentice just as clearly as Kanan does. Ezra is in danger of being corrupted to the Dark Side by Maul. The guy is treacherous, no doubt about it. But Kanan’s snappy “we’re a set” comment eases the tension and makes the audience smile or grin.

Because with that retort, we understand Kanan is not going to roll over to the former Sith Lord without a fight. If Maul wants Ezra, he will have to go through Kanan to get him. Even though becoming a Jedi or becoming one with the Dark Side is ultimately Ezra’s choice, Kanan is not going to give up on his apprentice. In a situation like this, that is a comfort.

Most of what I like about Kanan, however, is how he got to be in Rebels at all. After the downfall of the Jedi Order and the Old Republic, Kanan had to work hard to get by while hiding what he is. Everything looked grim and sad to him during this time – and even after he joined Hera on the Ghost, he was not prone to an overly hopeful outlook on the future of the galaxy. They were five individuals against the Empire. Those are pretty rotten odds!

And he was also constantly reminded of who and what he lost. Kanan admitted at the end of the first season that he literally wakes up every morning remembering his master’s last order: Run. Jedi are not supposed to run and hide. That was not what Master Depa Billaba was training him to do. But she told him to do it.

And he did run. More to the point, Kanan did not stop running, despite joining the Rebellion as part of Hera’s crew.

Forget the prestige and power he may have wielded as an adult Jedi in the Old Republic. Kanan lost not only his friends and that future during the Purge; he lost his purpose. There can be no Jedi serving the Light side of the Force under a Sith controlled Galactic Empire. A Jedi works to protect all life in the galaxy, and if the Empire kills a Jedi as soon as he shows his face, the Jedi can hardly do his job, now can he?

So Kanan was reduced to hiding. He is, at the beginning of Rebels, the scraps of the person he once was. He has to hide in the galaxy’s underworld fringe lest he be caught and murdered. Hiding and running are not the way of the Jedi…. but neither is getting oneself killed for no reason. In between this rock and hard place, the only thing Kanan thinks he has left to do is to find a way to survive as something he is not.

Then Kanan senses that the tide has begun to change as the Rebellion against the Empire grows and gains more strength. Suddenly, the future of the galaxy does not seem so dark and bleak anymore. The Dark Side looks like it can be defeated. Finally, the hope to become a servant of the Light side of the Force again returns.

Kanan’s first inkling of this comes when he figures out that Ezra is Force-sensitive. All at once, he sees hope again, even though it takes a while for him to admit it. This kid can touch the Force. And, like Kanan, his devil-may-care attitude is just a shield he uses to protect himself. They are more similar than they first realize.

This is what helps Kanan make his decision to step out of the shadows and ignite his lightsaber again. Yeah, it is going to make life for him and his friends tough in the days ahead. But all of a sudden, the future really is worth fighting for, no matter how harsh the battle becomes. The future actually is something to look forward to, for once. The Force has not changed. Kanan can still fight. He can still be a Jedi. Not the one he would have been under the Old Republic, but a Jedi all the same.

Kanan realizes in Spark of Rebellion that the Jedi do not have to die out, that they can be brought back. That he can still fight for the Light. He does not have to hide anymore – from himself or from the Empire. And Ezra does not have to hide or steal to survive, either. They can both be more than what the Dark Side-controlled Empire thinks they are.

And that is something worth fighting to achieve, no matter the cost.

Kanan knows Jar'Kai

This is a good part of why I like Kanan so much. He is not fighting to prove a point. He is fighting for his freedom, the freedom of his friends, and his apprentice’s freedom. Not their freedom from economic tyranny, but their freedom to choose who and what they want to be. The Empire is trying to control those choices through its power over the galactic economy and the planets the galaxy’s inhabitants call home.

The whole point of being a Rebel is to tell the Empire to butt out of the minds and hearts of the people of the galaxy, and to continue telling the Leviathan to keep its grubby fingers to itself rather than retaliate in anger. Governments do not have free will; people have free will. And when the Empire takes that away, it commits a very serious crime against the inhabitants of the galaxy. Kanan decided he was not going to stand for this when Rebels started. He was going to fight the Empire the best way he could – as a Jedi.

I am really hoping Kanan survives to be part of the celebration in the end of Return of the Jedi. If the writers of Star Wars Rebels do not reveal his fate within the series, though, it may be some time before I know what happens to him. Still, I am rather hopeful that he and Ezra will live to hear from Luke when he begins to rebuild the Jedi Order.

In the non-canon novels, Ferus Olin did not make it. But others did. If Kam Solusar, Corran Horn, and Kyle Katarn could be Force-users during the height of the Rebellion who later became new Jedi Knights, then I see no reason why Ezra could not follow suit. A handful of stragglers from the Jedi Purge also lived to see the rise of the new Order in the novels. So I think Kanan could still make it to the shindig at Endor.

But that, of course, is up to Lucasfilm/Disney, not me. I would hate to believe they wasted all this time and money just to kill Kanan and Ezra off at the end of Rebels. Wouldn’t you, readers?

The Force will be with you, always!

The Mithril Guardian

Star Wars Rebels: Shroud of Darkness – A Review

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SPOILER ALERT!!! SPOILER ALERT!!! READ FURTHER AT YOUR OWN PERIL!!!

WHAT AN EPISODE!!!!   From the lightsaber duel at the beginning, to our heroes’ return to the Jedi temple on Lothal, to the arrival of Darth Vader at the end of the show – WHOO!! This episode was great!!!

I am going to begin this review in reverse, readers. Please bear with me.

Kanan’s vision trial in the Lothal temple is the talk of the Internet – among other features of the episode. Searching for a way to defeat Vader and the Imperial Inquisitors, Kanan faces off against a Temple Guard (from the main Jedi Temple on Coruscant) in his vision. The Sentinel warns him that he cannot protect Ezra forever, and that if he tries to fight, he will die and the boy will fall to the Dark Side.

He and Kanan end up in a duel, which ends when Kanan admits the Sentinel is right: he cannot protect Ezra from everything, least of all can he protect Ezra against himself. He can only do what he has done – train Ezra as best he could. Bowing his head, Kanan clearly expects to be struck down….

Instead, the vision Sentinel knights him!

If this news was not enough of a surprise, Kanan gets a second shock when the guard removes his ceremonial mask/helmet – to reveal the face of the Grand Inquisitor, the Dark Side Adept who was hunting him and Ezra in Rebels’ first season!

I think my jaw actually dropped when the Pau’an took his mask off. Certainly, Kanan was not the only one left speechless with surprise! The astonishment is still reverberating through the ethereal currents of the Internet. Boy, did the writers keep this bombshell well-hidden under their hats!! (Or would that be “under their storm trooper helmets”?)

This scene is flabbergasting. The last time we saw the Grand Inquisitor, he was falling into an exploding reactor core. How in the galaxy did his spirit end up helping Kanan on a vision quest in a Jedi temple?!? He was a Dark Side Adept, one of the bad guys!

Well, according to the Grand Inquisitor’s own admission, he did not start out as a Dark Side user. He started life as a Jedi, specifically a Knight – and considering his ceremonial garb and lightsabers in this episode, it seems safe to think he was originally a Sentinel Jedi, one who took time to play Temple Guard at some point. This would explain why he and the other Inquisitors use double-bladed lightsabers. If the Grand Inquisitor was a fallen Sentinel Jedi, then it makes sense that he would train the rest of the Inquisitors in the lightsaber skills he was accustomed to using. And double-bladed lightsabers are very effective weapons!

It also explains how he figured out who Kanan’s master was. The Grand Inquisitor probably dueled with Depa Billaba a few times during training sessions while he was a Jedi Knight. He would recognize her influence on Kanan’s sparring skills after a few blows and make a mention of it to throw Kanan off-balance. (The tactic worked pretty well, too.)

A lot of viewers who saw Shroud of Darkness are a bit puzzled by the Grand Inquisitor’s appearance as a Sentinel spirit in Lothal’s Jedi temple. We knew that after falling to his death in the reactor core in Fire Across the Galaxy last season, he had become one with the Force. But most of us figured he had become one with the Dark Side.

Now, we know he became one with the Light-side of the Force!

This leads us to an interesting question: How did he pull that trick off? I have been racking my brain since viewing the episode, trying to remember the details of the Grand Inquisitor’s death from the final show of season one. From what I can remember, Kanan could have killed the guy while he was clinging to the catwalk. As a Jedi, of course, Kanan was not going to do that.

However, I seem to recall that I could not place the expression on the Grand Inquisitor’s face. He looked afraid, yes – who would not be in that situation? There just seemed to be more to it. Watching that scene several times since season one’s conclusion (the lightsaber duel really was amazing!), I got the impression that there was more to what the Grand Inquisitor was feeling than met the eye.

It has bothered me ever since, on and off. For a start, there seemed to be some remorse in the Grand Inquisitor’s features, as if he was sorry for wasting his life in service to the Empire. And what Dark Side Adept would so politely – almost sadly –state that Kanan and his apprentice were in for a harder time of it, now that they had defeated him, blown up Governor Tarkin’s Star Destroyer, and sent a message that would ignite a galaxy-wide rebellion against the Sith Emperor?

That speech seemed especially out of place. It would hardly have been surprising if the Pau’an had cursed Kanan and the other rebels, sneering that they were now in for more trouble than they could possibly imagine. Instead, he seemed almost sorry that they were going to face worse odds in the future.

That scene was very complex. Even with the adrenaline flowing through my system after seeing the Grand Inquisitor get his fanny handed to him on a platter by Kanan, I thought, “Wait. There’s something more to this. Something doesn’t feel like it should.”

Now I know why I felt that. Somewhere on his way down the reactor core – heck, maybe before he had even let go of the catwalk – the Grand Inquisitor returned to the Jedi path. It is the only explanation that logically answers why he was able to test Kanan in the Lothal temple. No Dark Side user – whether they were flesh or spirit – could hope to enter a Jedi temple without having a nasty greeting waiting for them.

Fifth Brother and Seventh Sister found that out the hard way. From what I remember of the Star Wars novels (now non-canon “Legends”), anyone entering a Jedi temple would run into visions and illusions. For Jedi, this was a testing ground. A place where they had to overcome their fears, or could get answers to important questions – as well as gain insight on a variety of issues, theirs or another’s. Non-Force users entering Jedi temples would be disoriented by such visions. I doubt they would survive very long after entering a temple, unless they were good people who had become seriously lost. Or very desperate.

A Jedi temple infiltrated by Dark Side Adepts or a Sith would react with extreme prejudice toward them, if not to protect itself, then to protect the Jedi inside it. This is what happened in Shroud of Darkness. One of the reasons the Grand Inquisitor’s spirit was waiting for Kanan in the Lothal temple, I think, is because his ghost would scare the daylights out of Fifth Brother and Seventh Sister.

The two Inquisitors had to know they were facing visions which could not really hurt them when the phantom Jedi Sentinels appeared. So the sight of their old master’s ghost – dressed in a ceremonial Temple Guard costume and wielding a Sentinel’s blades – had to have been a shock. It certainly seemed to discombobulate Fifth Brother! That gave the temple the edge it needed to buy Kanan, Ezra, and Ahsoka the time to escape Imperial pursuit. It seems the temple could not really hurt the Inquisitors – it could only stall them. The Grand Inquisitor’s ghost was certainly an effective presence on that account!

There is something this writer has to admit here, readers. Seeing the Grand Inquisitor again was a shock for me. No question. But at the same time, it was also a hopeful scene which kind of gave me the warm and fuzzies.

It reminded me that we never really know what is in another person’s heart. Kanan and the rest of us assumed the Grand Inquisitor was lost to the Dark Side completely. Then he pops up in the Jedi temple, not as an enemy but as a friend!

Who are we to say where someone should or should not be after they die? Who are we to say, upon the death of another person, whether they made it to eternal reward or were sent to eternal punishment? “Consumed by the Dark Side were the Jedi,” Yoda said in Shroud. Depa Billaba, Mace Windu, and other Jedi of the old order probably became one with the Light-side of the Force after Order 66.

But it is doubtful that all the Jedi killed in the Purge earned that reward. Some probably fell to the Dark Side before – or at the moment of – their deaths. Just as the Pau’an Grand Inquisitor became one with the Light-side of the Force before – or at the moment of – his death in the reactor core on Tarkin’s ship.

Certainly, this is no excuse for going over to the Dark Side in the first place. The remorse-filled expression on the Grand Inquisitor’s face as he tells an astounded Kanan that the other is now an official Jedi Knight says it all. The Pau’an is looking at what he once was when he looks at Kanan. He is seeing a Jedi filled with the light of the Force. And he is remembering how he, who once had the same light in his soul, turned his own back on the Jedi way, walking in darkness in service to the Sith. Until a young man, who only had the training of a Padawan, bested him in a lightsaber duel aboard an Imperial ship.

*Sniff.* It really was a beautiful scene, readers. Can we have a round of applause for Rebels’ writers here?

Thank you.

*Deep breath.* Okay, on to the rest of the episode! Ahsoka has finally accepted the fact that her beloved master, Anakin Skywalker, became the black-armored terror Darth Vader. But she seems unwilling to give up on him, muttering, “There is still a way,” before racing out of the temple. It is hard not to think that she will try to turn him back to the light. Why in the name of the Force would she not try to do that?

We know her attempt will fail. It is Luke who will save his father’s soul, not Ahsoka.   Most everyone is saying Tano will bite the bullet in season two’s finale: Twilight of the Apprentice, Part 1 & 2. These episodes will play back-to-back on March 30, and while I agree that the odds are not in Ahsoka’s favor, I am not sure the writers will kill her off in these episodes. They could still get a lot of mileage out of a long, drawn-out conflict over season three between Vader and Ahsoka. That she will die before A New Hope I am sure. Will she die in the season two finale of Star Wars Rebels…? Eh, I am unconvinced. It could happen, though.

Of greater concern to me is Ezra’s fate in the season two finale. He is the only other apprentice in Rebels. Kanan just got knighted; he no longer counts as a Padawan. There have been hints that Ezra is skating near the Dark Side throughout the series so far. The first was at Fort Anaxes in season one.   And in Shroud of Darkness, it is shown that Ezra has begun to get cocky as his Force abilities have grown. He practically brushes off his and Kanan’s encounter with Fifth Brother and Seventh Sister at the start of the show, kicking back and relaxing as his teacher mulls over the Inquisitors’ apparent power to track them.

This probably would have happened to Ezra even if the Jedi Order had not been exterminated. Kids get cocky. It happens.

It also means that when they get knocked off their high horses, their first reaction is anger. Ezra is human, and anger is one of our big problems. As a Jedi apprentice, the risks to Ezra’s soul are even greater. Twilight of the Apprentice may not refer to Ahsoka at all. It may in fact refer to Ezra.

The Grand Inquisitor’s statements in Kanan’s vision quest, and the fact that Darth Maul will return in Apprentice, have done nothing to ease my mind about the question. Kanan, while not knowing about Maul, is doubtless worried as well. As the newly minted Jedi Knight pointed out, though, he cannot protect Ezra from everything for all eternity. Ezra has to grow up – and if he falls on his face in the process, well, that is what is going to happen. And it could have the wonderful effect of making him a better Jedi.

It could also, of course, have the undesirable effect of driving him toward the Dark Side – and Darth Maul. It is a good thing I have no nails to bite. My fingers would be bleeding otherwise!

As for Ahsoka’s inability to help Kanan open the temple on Lothal, it makes sense. She is no longer a Jedi. Though still a Force-user, her blade color – white – marks her as a neutral party/retired Jedi. She is not of the Dark Side, but neither does she serve the light as the Jedi did/do. It would be improper for her to enter a Jedi temple like the one on Lothal without permission – something Kanan apparently knew, as he was unsurprised when Ahsoka told Ezra she could not help open the temple.

Finally, readers, I have to say that I am rather fed up with people saying Kanan and Ezra have to die before the time of the original trilogy arrives. Seriously, does no one remember the novels?! Yes, they are no longer canon storylines (thanks so much, Disney/Lucasfilm …grrr). Nevertheless, in these novels there were other Jedi who lived to see the Rebellion arise. Some of these were new Jedi, like Kyle Katarn and Corran Horn. Others were survivors of the Jedi Purge: Quinlan Vos, Ferus Olin, and Kam Solusar.

It is true that Ferus Olin died before Return of the Jedi. But, in the books, he did cross paths with Luke and Leia before Vader killed him. Kam Solusar escaped to wild space at the time of the Purge, returning later on – where the resurrected Palpatine caught him and enslaved him. Luke was able to turn him, and Solusar became one of his best Knights in the new Jedi Order afterward. Quinlan Vos, a Jedi whose story was unfinished as of the advent of The Force Awakens and its new timeline (to the best of this writer’s knowledge), may have also lived to run into Luke Skywalker.

Kyle Katarn and Corran Horn were both Force-sensitive men who joined the Rebellion at the time of the original trilogy. Katarn joined up somewhere between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, while Corran appeared either between Empire and Return of the Jedi, or after the latter.

And then there is Mara Jade, Emperor’s Hand. Her official appearance was five years after Jedi, but books written prior to The Force Awakens showed her running around the galaxy on missions for Palpatine during the original trilogy. Each time, she and Luke almost met, but never quite managed to actually come face-to-face. This strategy of writing kept the timeline of the original trilogy intact, while adding to Mara’s history in the Star Wars Expanded Universe.

I do not see why Kanan and Ezra could not have fates similar to Solusar, Vos, Katarn, and Horn. Admittedly there is nothing to prevent them from dying, as Ferus Olin did. In his case, though, he had the same problem Ahsoka does: Ferus knew Anakin Skywalker personally before he became Darth Vader. The writers could not resist ditching him to ensure Luke would never know his heritage before The Empire Strikes Back.

Of course, those who think Kanan and Ezra have to die will cite Yoda’s line from Return of the Jedi: “When gone am I, last of the Jedi you will be.” Well, pardon me, but what about the five guys I just listed here? According to these other writers’ logic, Kam Solusar, Kyle Katarn, Corran Horn, and Quinlan Vos should all have died to make Yoda’s statement a hundred percent true.

There are reasons why Yoda would say this to Luke. 1) Back when Return of the Jedi was released, there were probably not that many novels focusing on other Force-sensitives in the same time-frame as Luke. This makes Yoda’s statement in the film a hundred percent true.

2) With all the new stories that have come out since Jedi, we need another explanation as to why Yoda would say this. The fact is, Yoda was nine hundred years old, sick, and dying in Return of the Jedi. He died hours after Luke returned to Dagobah to finish his training. Who says that he was still able to see and sense the other Jedi or Light-side Force-sensitives running around the galaxy? I mean, Yoda was strong with the Force, but he was hardly omniscient! It stands to reason he might miss somebody – or several somebodies – fighting for the Rebellion by using the Force as a Jedi would.

3) Solusar and Vos would not have been considered true Jedi by Yoda. Vos married a woman and had a son with her. He was going to leave the Jedi Order once the Clone Wars had ended. Order 66 did that job for him. Solusar, the son of a Jedi Knight who had wed against the Jedi Order’s strict ban, would not have been considered a real Jedi by Yoda either. While I doubt Yoda was a very prejudiced person, the fact is that there would be ample reason for him to consider Kam Solusar a non-Jedi Force-user. Kam became an official Jedi only after training at Luke’s Jedi Academy, anyway.

4) As for Corran and Kyle, who were both Force-sensitive, if I remember correctly they had some guidance from Jedi spirits on how to serve the Light-side of the Force. This was not, however, a substitute for real master-apprentice training, which Obi-Wan and Yoda had given Luke. At best, Yoda would have considered the two men maverick Force-users. They would not have qualified as Jedi in his opinion – though I doubt he thought they were evil.

5) Of course, Ferus Olin was dead by Return of the Jedi in the old canon order of the novels. He Yoda would definitely have considered a Jedi. Even though Ferus pulled an Ahsoka, leaving the Jedi Order after a mishap that ended with the death of another apprentice, he remained a Jedi at heart. Ahsoka did not. This would have been enough for Yoda to consider Ferus – and other stragglers from the Purge like him – as real Jedi. With Ferus and most of the other survivors of Order 66 dead, Yoda would have considered Luke the last of the rightly trained Jedi Knights in the galaxy.

I know this makes Yoda sound a little heartless, not to mention senile, mean, and bigoted. But by all the standards of the Old Jedi Order, this is probably what he would have thought. The main reason for this diatribe, readers, is to point out that Kanan and Ezra could very well survive to see the original Star Wars trilogy. Neither of them have to die – and unless the third season of Rebels will be the series’ last, there is no reason for the writers to kill either of them.

Ezra is the main protagonist of Star Wars Rebels. Killing him at the end of the series would be bad taste – killing him in season two’s finale would be a suicidal writing device. Kanan is not much more expendable; at the moment, as Ezra needs a mentor. And, when Ezra finally graduates to Jedi Knight, I still see no reason for the writers to eliminate him or Kanan.

Kyle Katarn and Luke Skywalker crossed paths at least a couple of times between the original films in the Expanded Universe novels without interrupting the saga’s timeline. Ezra could do the same thing. Ferus met Luke several times without revealing his true heritage to him. And Ferus knew Anakin was Darth Vader. If Kanan were to cross paths with Luke, I see no reason for him to let the young Jedi in on his heritage – especially since even Ahsoka never figured out that Padmé and Anakin were married. If she could not figure it out, how the heck would Kanan?

At most, Kanan could honestly repeat what Obi-Wan told Luke in A New Hope: Anakin Skywalker was a great Jedi Knight and, however improbably (from Kanan’s point of view), he was Luke’s father. That is all Kanan is ever going to know about the subject. Why in the galaxy would Ahsoka ruin his opinion of Anakin by revealing her former master had become Darth Vader? There is no logic there.

This is not much protection for Kanan, after a point, but there is even less excuse for the writers to kill Ezra. He is Luke and Leia’s age, born the same day they were. He has been a rebel on the front lines for years longer than either of them by A New Hope. When Return of the Jedi rolled around, he could be on Luke’s short list for recruits for Knights for the new Jedi Order. If Kanan survived the Rebellion as well, then he would be invaluable to Luke as an instructor for the new order of Jedi. The Force Awakens says Luke trained a new generation of Jedi.

It never said he didn’t have help doing it.

Besides, even if Kanan and Ezra refused to join or help found the new Jedi Order, that hardly means they would have to die. If Disney follows through on a rumor I heard a while ago, they will probably make a TV series based on the new Star Wars film trilogy. Doing that would be a great way to reintroduce us at least to Ezra and Sabine, with flashbacks to Rebels thrown in for good measure.

I really see no reason for Kanan or Ezra to bite the dust. That does not protect them being killed – I am simply saying that, from these arguments, it appears foolish to talk about the writers killing them. The people out there spreading rumors of Kanan or Ezra’s demise might want to take their foot off the gas pedal long enough to think things through a little more.

That being said, I have no crystal ball. We will know nothing until March 30. So, until then…

May the Force be with you, readers!

The Mithril Guardian