Star Wars Rebels: “In the Name of the Rebellion Part I”
Since Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, we have all had to reconcile the new and unsettling information we were given about the “Rebel Alliance to Restore the Republic”. It was a starkly different picture of the lovable group of rogues we remember from A New Hope onwards. The Rebel Alliance we saw in Rogue One was ideologically fragmented. The rebellion’s leader, Mon Mothma (voiced by Genevieve O’Reilly) wanted Galen Erso alive, and her most trusted general undercut her by ordering Cassian Andor to assassinate Galen at the first opportune moment.
We see that exact divide in this pair of episodes. Saw Gerrera (voiced by Forest Whitaker) has changed since we’ve last seen him on the show. Some months have passed, and his tactics have gotten crueler. Mon Mothma and Saw Gerrera each represent diametrically opposed ideologies. Mon Mothma’s goal is an ultimately peaceful resolution. Gerrera is busy fighting the cold war with the Empire that is quickly heating up. I also wanted to bring attention that both of these characters are voiced by their live-action actors as well.
Mon Mothma is understandably vexed by Saw Gerrera’s unscrupulous tactics. She mentions ‘rules of engagement’ among other things. But most notably, that Saw executes prisoners of war and targets non-combatants.
Perhaps I got ahead of myself, this amazing scene between Saw and Mon Mothma happens mid-way through the first episode. I’ll come back to this, but I’ll set the stage for it properly first.
Sabine Wren (voiced by Tiya Sircar), Ezra (voiced by Taylor Gray), and Kanan (voiced by Freddie Prinze Jr.) are returning from their victory on Mandalore. I like how there’s little fanfare about them showing up on Yavin IV, one of the ‘holy sites’ of the Original Trilogy. They are greeted by Zeb (voiced by Steve Blum) and Rex (voiced by Dee Bradley Baker) who have presumably been stationed here for a while.
They are joined by their Captain, Hera Syndulla (voiced by Vanessa Marshall). Hera is returning from a mission in which they were out-foxed, their “intel was bad” She makes a point of this when she addresses her subordinate who is none other than Luke Skywalker’s best friend Wedge Antilles (voiced by Nathan Kress). They are approached by the early baddie, current defector, Former-Agent Alexsandr Kallus (voiced by David Oyelowo). (For personal reasons it’s also worth noting that this episode reunites Forest Whitaker and David Oyelowo, who worked on Lee Daniels’ The Butler together.)
Kallus informs everyone that Mon Mothma wants to chat. Also, he’s filling the role that General Draven did in Rogue One…they also look remarkably similar, and sound British.
One of the subplots going on is that Ezra wants the Alliance to help his home world Lothal, as they promised to, once upon a time. Mon Mothma gets some major kudos from me by dealing with this petulant character with hard logic. The truth is there are many planets that need help. So Mon Mothma poses the question “Where do we start?”
Ezra rightly responds that the fleet gathered exactly once before, the battle at the end of last season in which Grand Admiral Thrawn destroyed their former base and much of their fleet. Mon Mothma says that he “taught them a lesson,” that they were just not ready for an open war with the Empire.
It is this sentiment caused by the routing of the Rebellion at the end of last season that dominates the atmosphere in this very room when Jyn Erso is trying to get them to rally the fleet. They had tried that once, and lost, badly. Everybody else in the room all remembered that battle, or at the very least were around to see the aftermath. It is in that scene where Saw’s ideology and Mon Mothma’s rules of engagement clash for the last time. It is fitting that Saw’s surrogate daughter, who we see protect civilians, light the spark that burns the Empire down.
I’ve been talking a lot about Rogue One in this because this pair of episodes is all about the events of Rogue One. You don’t need to have seen in necessarily, but knowing how the bigger picture plays out in the short term (oxymoron, I know), the ties to the feature film are chilling.
The episode focuses a lot of its time with our characters wondering “how we fight”, and weighing the merits of Mon Mothma’s more peaceful and less invasive resistance to Saw’s more honest and brutal approach to hitting the empire where it hurts. Ezra even wonders aloud to Kanan if they have been going about things the right way. The parallels are supposed to be obvious, but Ezra isn’t as cold as Anakin was during the Clone Wars. Not yet at least.
One of the tag-lines for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was the dialogue Saw Gerrera’s, and it remains iconic:
I love the in-world reality of Saw getting this line from Mon Mothma as she loses her composure for the first time we’ve ever seen. Her line was, “If we degrade ourselves to the Empire’s level, what will we become?!” With our original rendition of the line paired with Jyn Erso in an Imperial flight suit, this is retconning at its finest. In a show that is entirely a retcon of the Original Trilogy while blending in elements from Star Wars: The Clone Wars, this is a stand out moment.
Saw’s response to this is quite telling, he cheers her on. This is the leader that he wants, who isn’t calm all the time, who loses their temper, who outwardly feels the fight the way he does. Saw Gerrera is a morally dark grey character. We know he’s right, in the end. Diplomacy had zero chance of getting rid of the Empire. But it’s hard not to empathize with Mon Mothma as well.
Mon Mothma sends the Ghost team to hack into a communications relay so that they can skip around the Imperial patrols in the sector Phoenix Squadron just lost some fighters in. Saw wants the relay gone. And so does Hera. The episode highlights her struggle to follow orders she knows are probably the right ones, but that feel hollow. She lost soldiers under her command because of this relay, and she agrees with Saw on this matter. But she defends Mon Mothma’s orders by saying, “The Empire will just build another one,” if they blow it up. The strategic move is to hack into the relay, and she’s right, even if she “[doesn’t] know what the right thing is anymore.”
If this episode gets one thing perfect, it shows the weight of each argument weigh on all of our characters. Hera’s admission here is perhaps most impactful, and it should be.
So they arrive at the relay, and then pull a Star Strek.
They land on the dish mostly okay. Sabine and Chopper hack the thing, but accidentally patches them into the communication channel of a light Cruiser. As usual, things go pear shaped, and the Empire starts shooting at them. They realize that they’ve (mostly Ezra) blown the operation, and that hacking the dish is now pointless since the Empire knew they were there.
TIE Defenders are dispatched to deal with Hera and Kanan, who are still on the Ghost. In an explicit show of utmost trust, Hera takes the Ghost into the clouds, where only blind Jedi can see.
They start laying grenades down, but things are beginning to look dire once the Cruiser notices them.
But luckily, a familiar ship model shows up to save these two, and Chopper. I’m not going to lie, when I saw this:
I thought it was Cassian and K-2SO. Chronologically it makes perfect sense, and Cassian is a very morally grey character to fit in perfectly with this thematic arc the show is going on. But it wasn’t.
It was Santa Claus.
Saw shows up to blow up the dish. Because of course he does. But he also takes the time to pick up Sabine and Ezra. He also manages to kill the Cruiser.
But before they can meet up with the Ghost, a Star Destroyer shows up and they have to jump. I’m fully convinced that if no Star Destroyer showed up, Saw would’ve simply kidnapped them. But the episode closes with their jump away from the Empire, and Hera remarking on how she’s worried Saw will be a bad influence.
In the Death Star’s Shadow
We find out pretty quickly that this episode is a sequel to the episode last season that hinted at the Death Star. Last season, we found out the Empire committed genocide on a planetary scale to keep a massive construction project secret. We know it’s the Death Star, but to the characters such a weapon is almost unimaginable. The sole survivor draws the Death Star in the sand, and it’s an excruciating ‘yelling at the TV’ kind of moment.
However, Saw has continued investigating, and his investigation has brought him to a suspicious cargo hold that is heading out into the middle of nowhere. The Death Star is his ‘white whale’, and it’s so painful that we know it kills him in the end, and he never solved the mystery, not really.
They arrive at a “civilian cargo facility,” which Sabine is quick to point out. I worried a that Saw was going to murder some innocents. They play this next few minutes like there’s the possibility of Saw chasing a ghost. They are on the cargo ship when it jumps to hyperspace. And sure enough, they find something disturbing in the cargo hold.
A container full of scientists and engineers. Now, they were under guard, and even Sabine now knows that something is awfully amiss here. Ezra has a moment where he hears an ethereal singing sound. “All Along the Watch Tower” anybody? Battlestar Galactica? Probably just the Force. But he lets the feeling go. Saw doesn’t initially believe the prisoners are important. And this is the scene that leads him to where we see him in Rogue One.
One of the scientists mentions that he heard the stormtroopers talking about the Jedha System. To the astute viewer, this screams Kyber crystals. Also, DEATH STAR FUEL.
Saw thinks that the kind of Imperial presence seems disproportionate for the guarding of a few from the scientific community. He’s not wrong.
I love how chilling the first half second of the Death Trooper introduction is. We hear the harsh garbled unintelligable sound of the Death Troopers talking to each other. In Rogue One, we see them kill Chirrut and Baze, and they are Director Orson Krennic’s personal guard. They’re some of the most elite warriors in the galaxy. This…this was a poor showing from them. Look, I don’t have a problem that Sabine, Ezra, and Saw were able to defeat them. After all, they themselves are remarkable warriors in different ways. But it was so easy. The first Death Trooper had over a second to react to hostiles before Saw shoots him/her. They go down easy enough that I’m going to consider it a continuity error. It was that bad for me.
The two things I liked about the Dark Trooper Commander DT-F16 (voiced by Jennifer Hale )was a) she was a woman. B) DT-F16 mentions that Krennic should be informed his cargo has been highjacked. I wish that the Commander survived.
Anyway, the trio figure out what the ‘mysterious cargo’ is. It’s a gigantic Kyber crystal.
Saw wants to ride the freighter to its destination, but Sabine mentions that they cannot allow the Empire to gain the crystal. Sabine mentions that a crystal this size is unstable and Ezra and Saw to put their guns away. Saw pretends to agree, and they go to the engine room to drop the ship out of hyperspace.
While all this is happening, Chopper is chaperoning the prisoner scientists.
When they get to the engine room, Saw stuns both of them. He really wants to find the what the Empire is building. I agree with him, even if there was high risk in the maneuver. Death Troopers are not at all common, and their presence signals something big picture happening. They also just found a Kyber crystal bigger than any of them had seen before. While riding the freighter to its destination was indeed a risky move, it was a move worth making.
When there is only a Star Destroyer waiting for them, Saw admits the crystal needs to be destroyed now, and he shoots a few things in the room, causing gasses and electric shocks to touch the Kyber. He also gets Ezra’s lightsaber, which makes a different ignition sound when Saw’s handling it, and damages something that seems to start a countdown. Like the gas is on and there’s a flame somewhere in your house sort of countdown.
Commander DT-F16 orders all escape pods launched, so nobody escapes that way.
Saw summons his pilot, who is also the alien who collects Jyn, Cassian, K-2SO, Baze, and Chirrut in Rogue One. He offers to take Sabine and Ezra off this bomb of a space ship, but they both decline, wanting to save the scientists. Saw is perfectly okay with this. Ezra says, “You go fight your war, we’ll fight ours,” and Saw gets on his ship, and jumps away from the impending catastrophe.
Sabine and Ezra find that Chopper has taken down a couple stormtroopers in the hanger who were guarding Commander DT-F16’s Imperial shuttle, the kind that are reserved for Imperial VIPs. Our heroes are able to quickly overpower the Imperials, and escape the freighter. Again, Commander DT-F16 should’ve been able to put up more of a fight…
Sabine is a smart pilot. She knows she can’t get to lightspeed in time to avoid the Kyber crystal’s explosion, so she flies around the Star Destoryer, putting it between them and the frieghter. Good move.
This explosion is amazing.
The explosion doesn’t kill them, but it does destroy their engines and power. Luckily, Hera and Kanan arrive in the ghost. The scientists decide to join the Rebellion since the Empire treated them so poorly. (I feel like this is a reference to Legend of Korra Season 3 with the airbenders joining Tenzin. It might be/is probably just me spotting these odd similarities.)
After Ezra and Sabine fill in Kanan off-screen, he’s skeptical of whether or not the Empire could weaponize Kyber crystals…. look above at all that green death. C’mon Kanan, do better. At the very least, the Empire could use this to wipe out a lot of things, cities least among them. Considering that Star Destroyers are 1.6 kilometers long, a blast that size with what we know that green energy can do, it could change the geography of a region.
This incident leaves our crew with a sense of foreboding, since the Empire is clearly working on something very hush hush and ridiculously powerful. To answer Ezra’s question: the Empire is close to winning a war that hasn’t officially started yet.
See y’all next week.