On Rebels, Our Heroes Add Kidnap And Duress To The List Of Charges

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Howdy! Friendly reminder: this is not a full review. If you want that, that’s cool, and we can recommend a few sites if you’d like. Instead, we take a closer look at some aspects of each episode. And as always, SPOILERS from here on out.

I mean, that’s if the Empire doesn’t get them for the willful destruction of government property they’ll be dealing at Yavin three years from now. Yep, on this week’s Rebels, The Protector of Concord Dawn, our heroes need safe passage. Rather than negotiate – like the Republic they’re trying to restore would – or failing that, finding somewhere else to go, they attack a (reasonably legitimate) military/civilian third party target and strong-arm them into compliance. Go good guys!

Pictured: aggressive negotiations

Diplomacy Fail

In times gone by on our very real and definitely not a Matrix Earth, whenever two warring parties desired truce, they would provide certain assurances that neither would kick up a fuss. Let’s provide some further detail. It’s AD800, and a thousand-strong band of Norse warriors have invaded the Saxon kingdom of Wessex. They’ve plundered and rampaged across the landscape, until they, well, get a bit bored of it, really. They find some easily defensible position and wait for the Saxons to turn up. After a brief battle, the Saxons, led by King Alfred the Great, offers them money to leave. The Norse do so, but to ensure that no further fights ensue, Alfred demands hostages – high ranking jarls or their children. If the Norse come back to fight, those hostages will be killed. (The Norse would of course agree, because this is a normal thing for that time period.)

Sound familiar?

In this episode, our Spectres hope to find a safe route for use in evading the Empire. And so they turn to Concord Dawn, where a group of Mandalorians have set up their home, where our heroes seek peaceful aid with these Mandalorians. It’s like they never read the EU. So of course Kanan and Sabine (mostly Kanan) capture the eponymous Protector*, the leader of the Mandalorians, and use him as leverage against any reprisals by the other Mandos there. Great plan, can’t see that coming back to haunt them anytime soon.

*Whose name is Fenn Rau, voiced by … Kevin McKidd? I love him in Grey’s Anatomy! I mean, Rome. Definitely I meant Rome.

But this is important for several aspects, and chiefly: it’s a marked departure from their previous actions. If you’ll recall in the previous episode, A Princess On Lothal, a stormtrooper humorously* remarked ‘they’re taking hostages now?’ so of course in the next episode features them taking hostages. But this act, which is oddly greeted as a normal thing and perhaps even morally good by the other Rebels, would be strange enough that even a lowly stormtrooper would be nonplussed by this development. And indeed I was confused, too. I know this is set a long time ago, but I didn’t expect our heroes to behave by pre-Middle Ages standard.

*Well, to me. But then again for my funeral I plan to have someone dress up as Death and be cremated to the tune of Another One Bites The Dust.

But of course, this would hardly be out of turn for any other modern day action hero. In describing the scene to a non-Star Wars fan friend, I described our heroes as goody-goody types, of the sort that Captain America would align himself with – only to pause when I realised that Captain America – of the movies, at least – would probably do something quite similar.

And though I’ve spoken of this in largely negative terms, I view this as a good thing.

Via StarWars.com
And not because we’re finally getting some more Sabine.

And that’s mainly down to where they could go with this. Put into Star Warsian terms, this less-than-good act could be a sign of greater, darker acts to come from our Jedi. It could very well lead to them traveling down a much darker path, one which involves red lightsabers and throne shopping.

That is a possibility, but I can think of a better one.

They were at a low point: after going through all that effort to find Ezra’s parents, only to discover their ultimate fate, and losing a few needed ships in a separate engagement. They were also desperate: not so much that they felt that all was lost and, backed into a corner, decided to go out with a bang. But it was a tight spot, and so they just slightly bent their rules to make some progress. What if the next situation is just a little bit more desperate? And so they compromise on something else. And then another where one of their own is in real danger – for lack of a better word? To save them they must shoot down a Star Destroyer above a civilian population. Or where the Empire has broken down their standing army into smaller segments and dotted them around Lothal’s capital? They could, say, create a distraction, so that those stormtroopers would be otherwise indisposed as our Spectres completed their mission. But as with many missions, things go sideways and they must engage in a civilian-populated area. It is entirely likely that innocent people would be killed.

The one thing these incidents have in common is that they’re minor things. Nothing Alderaan-shattering, but little moments where they feel they must compromise their own ethics and principles to get the job done. And in so doing they lose the moral support of the innocent populace and become the villains that the Empire purports them to be.

As I write this, I’m reminded of another TV show, which is centred around a group of villains who are in a very tight spot, and to survive they do bad things and convince themselves that they had to. I speak of course of The Walking Dead. I would love for this show to overturn everyone’s expectations and have our heroes become the bad guys. It’s daring, and admittedly I don’t think it at all likely, but I can dream. And it all started with a simple case of strong-arming some Mandos to make them feel useful.

Or it could all be a simple lapse in character consistency. You know. Either/or.

Sabine

Must do serious face. *Remembers time he stole my chipotle en adobo*

Mandalorian politics can be a little confusing (and a large departure from the old EU, where it was basically stab, stab, those are my terms), especially if you haven’t seen The Clone Wars. There are, that we know of, three factions of Mandalorians. Those who live and ruled on Mandalore, the Mandalorian homeworld, and who are entirely pacifist in nature. Then we have the Death Watch, a shady terrorist organisation, who when we last saw them were led by Pre Vizsla – sound familiar? The Death Watch subsequently overthrew the pacifist government.

And now we have this new faction, the Mandalorians of Concord Dawn. Who act a lot like Death Watch, but think of them as traitors. Yeah, if you’re looking for an explanation, I’ve got nothing for you. All we know is what is presented in this episode.

Yet what’s interesting here is that even before gets into a murderous rage* for the attack on Hera, she’s fully supportive of an attack on a group that she most closely resembles in outlook and ideology. Why is she so eager to attack people she’d likely think of as kin? As a big Sabine fan, this is both thrilling and irritating. Hinting at one fascinating backstory, yet showing none. She, alongside Hera, gets the least amount of screen-time (and Hera was once again relegated to mission starter) and yet they are by far and away some of the most interesting characters on the show.

*Did anyone else think it seemed like Sabine’s feelings extended beyond friendship in this episode?

But to return to my original point: Sabine, the most military-inclined Spectre, and Commander Sato, the leader of their group of rebels, both advocate this attack. This is a great example of characters acting to their strengths. Of all the group, including Rex who worked alongside them, she knows them best. She knows the score. She understands better than everyone there that diplomacy and does her best (and almost succeeds) to single-handedly eliminate the Mandalorian threat. So why is she just a supporting character again?

Oya Mando’ade

Michael Dare

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  • Zarm

    Ummmmm… actually, they went to negotiate, and were attacked by a sworn enemy, declaring themselves to be non-neutral and military-aligned. This made them a legitimate target of wartime, as well as butchers that attacked a negotiating party under a flag of truce. At which point the Rebels refrained from lethal reprisal- a.k.a. war, which is what they’re in- and went to great pains to disable this enemy target without casualties. The ‘kidnapping’ (it’s called ‘taking a prisoner’) may or may not have even been premeditated; it seemed like an improvised response to the Protector’s actions of attempting to murder the negotiator AGAIN. (Though Kanan did seem rather determined to turn him to the Rebellion cause, keep in mind that the alternative is that he become a high-profile enemy target in the war, whom numerous people would want to take out- within the conventions of war- in revenge for their fallen comrades).

    So… yeah, very much disagree with the read on this episode, and the morality therein. The final setup felt a bit contrived, and definitely unstable- but it also read like an unexpected consequence rather than an intended coercion; and was also the Protector’s choice based on the presumed actions of his cruel allies (an internally-motivated decision based on the threat represented by the Empire) than any threat levied against him by the Empire; a natural consequence of his being taken prisoner, rather than any condition the rebels forced onto him.

    So, not a dark act at all, not unheroic at all, not an act of desperation. Just a major misunderstanding of the ethical and political situations involved. :-)

    • The Star Wars Report

      You make a good point that it can be seen as an attack on a ship under truce, but I would have to re-watch the episode to see. I don’t recall Mandos recognizing the Rebels as being under truce. After all, the Rebels could be seen as being unwanted enemies/trespassers intentionally baiting the Mandos (which would be aggressive/hawkish behavior).

      Either way, what irked me about our heroes in this episode was how rash and divided they were. There wasn’t a solid plan (at least communicated) between any of them, and Kanan, despite good intentions, is not an experienced enough negotiator to just take off by himself and try to fix everything. Not to mention Sabine (who I do really like), acting rather irrationally and stowing away. No team work, no plan, no agreed upon, logical course of action to deal with a very viable threat/potential valuable ally. So, the Rebels do come across as rather desperate, lost, and vengeful in this episode, regardless of whether or not they were brutally attacked, or set up their attackers. ~Bethany

    • MikeDare

      Hey Zarm, good to hear from you again! I hope you had a good holiday?

      Were I to believe in such things, I’d say we’re fated to disagree on everything!

      Okay, so: I’m not certain that they were there under truce. If I remember correctly, the rebels had announced their peaceful intentions upon contact, which isn’t a truce, merely a statement of future intention. A truce has to be agreed upon by all parties. (Also they do turn up in attack fighters, which does send a bad message. I get the plot reasoning, but it does unintentionally send a bad message). What’s more, they’re not exactly sworn enemies. They’re allies to the Empire, certainly, but aside from Sabine, no one seemed particularly eager to attack them. Far from sworn :) .

      As for the kidnapping, I don’t recall mentioning that it was predetermined? I’m a little rushed this morning, so I can’t reread my review, but I certainly didn’t mean to suggest or out-right state that it was predetermined. But whether it was or wasn’t, that doesn’t really matter, it doesn’t alter the ultimate actions taken. He’s their hostage against further reprisals, which is pretty shaky ground to be standing on. Even in the old Legends EU, we’d seen the Empire/Seperatists/Villain of the Era perform a similar strong-arming technique, only for the heroes to come along and help them rise up against their oppressors. Simply because our Spectres are heroes, that doesn’t make the same action good. And really, I’d be entirely okay with what happened, if only they had acknowledged this as a compromise. Instead it was treated much like how Chopper is treated whenever he does something reprehensible: it’s brushed aside with an air of ‘oh Chopper, you so funny!’

      So let’s set up an alternative story: Our rebels go to Concord Dawn, as we see in the episode proper. The Mandos attack, Hera’s injured, they flee. Sato, Kanan and the others discuss their options. Sabine of course is up for a fight, but Kanan, understanding what Hera would want, suggests that no, they don’t fight. They let it slide, recognise that it’s a bad situation and that they can’t afford to fight another war on another front at that moment. (Also, as Bethany accurately points out, Kanan isn’t the best diplomat. He never completed his training, which is why he does gain some minor foothold with the leader, but doesn’t fully defuse the situation).

      Sabine has other ideas. As in the actual episode, she wants to make the Mandos pay for what they did to Hera – as well as the fact that she seems to hate these Mandos, for reasons that weren’t really delved into. But also she’s confused and can’t understand why they would side with the Empire. So she takes Phantom with the intention of revenge and/or single combat. That’s a possibility, but I prefer the thought of her swallowing her anger and going there to negotiate. It would be a great character moment for her and would be interesting to see how the Mandos react, given their disdain for diplomacy
      .
      Either way, while infiltrating Concord Dawn, she sees the Empire and gains an understanding of their pact. Of course, things go sideways. Sabine’s captured – or better, sent into hiding. This would enable a great moment of Sabine talking with some rank and file Mandos, who aren’t entirely happy with the way things are. It would also be a chance to offer some more backstory, or provide more depth to the present political situation. The rest of the rebels turn up for a rescue.

      Now, one of two things could happen: the story could follow the more traditional plot: Mandos join our rebels to attack the Empire, Empire’s defeated etc. Or, it could lead to a much more politically complex and intruiging three-way fight between Mandos, Empire and rebels. This is far more clear cut and less ethically muddy, and also sets up future political intrigue.

      M

      • Zarm

        This is true; we do seem to have differing viewpoint. I did
        have a good holiday- I hope that you did, too, and are well!

        Re: a truce, you make a valid point; there was stated
        peaceful intent, but no official truce. As far as the ‘sworn enemies’ bit, I was rather thinking of the Protector’s statements and subsequent attack as swearing himself the enemy- a condition persisting for the remainder of the episode.

        In terms of the ‘kidnapping’, I guess that was my point- if
        it wasn’t a premeditated setup, then it wasn’t exactly kidnapping- it was taking out a hostile enemy fighter and rescuing the pilot from the subsequent crash. Yes, he was taken prisoner- again, very different from kidnapping- but they weren’t exactly in a position to return him to base and walk away without trouble.

        And again, I’d say he isn’t a hostage against further reprisals- he’s their prisoner. That’s a tremendously different thing. And he’s not a guarantor against reprisals- the Mandalorian’s can’t reprise, as they don’t know where the rebels are located. He’s just a prisoner of war. Yes, while he’s held, the rebels have safe passage- but that wasn’t a condition they imposed (it was the protector’s idea) and his captivity is neither conditional upon, or
        affected by, that external arrangement. He isn’t a hostage, any more than Leia was a ‘hostage’ during ANH, or Rey was a ‘hostage’ during TFA. That’s the very basic difference, and why I don’t see any shaky ground; because this was not a strong-arm tactic. The safe-passage-because-of-what-the-Empire-might-do is a threat that the Protector imagined and imposed on his people, and a ‘lucky’ side-effect of the capture, but it was in no way a tactic or intentional action by the rebels. It was nothing they ‘did’ (though I’m sure they’ll take advantage of it now that the Protector arranged it), and if anything, was a result of how
        the Empire operates rather than the rebels.

        So that’s the core of their disagreement- that it isn’t a
        compromise and our Spectres didn’t do anything wrong, because they didn’t take a hostage, and they didn’t force a passage negotiation. They took prisoner a member of any enemy force trying to kill them (and who had killed several) rather than taking him out (which, in wartime, they would arguably have been completely justified in doing, as he’d already established himself as an ally to the enemy force), and their prisoner- of his own free volition- arranged free passage (which he honestly didn’t need to do; it doesn’t really follow on that ‘if the Empire knows I’m gone, they won’t rescue me and will take over the system- thus, don’t tell them I’m gone- AND let our enemies use the system.’

        Presumably, he assumed that if he didn’t, the rebels would inform the Empire that they had him prisoner and let the Empire take over his system- but of course, that was a pure figment of his imagination, as no such threat was made and the rebels would never do something like that).

        So again, I can’t agree that your scenario would be more
        clear-cut and less ethically muddy… because I don’t see what happened in this episode as ethically muddy, at all. I have a completely different read on the situation (and I’m pretty sure it’s the read that the creators intended, as I don’t feel that they were trying to craft or imply anything morally ambiguous).

        I’m not sure I’d agree with either of you about Kanan’s lack
        of diplomatic skills- he certainly seemed to be making headway until Sabine was captured, at which point her invocation of the code overrode anything that COULD be talked out of- but I would agree that the group comes across as not having a particularly strong plan. I liked that; it felt like a realistic reaction to seeing someone they cared about hurt so badly. I would agree that Sabine comes across as vengeful, though I don’t think anyone comes across as lost, or more desperate than the rebellion always is, given their circumstances. They’re just reacting to what was, in their eyes, a brutal and unprovoked attack… letting emotion outweigh patience to a degree, but (at least in Kanan’s case), trying to let his better judgement and morality override his feelings and do what he considers to be the right thing anyway- and to help Sabine to reach the same place.

        • MikeDare

          I did, thanks!

          I see now what you mean about sworn enemies. I had thought you meant purely on the Rebels’ side. I’d have to go back and rewatch it to gain a better handle on the Protector’s character. That said, I do recall how he didn’t immediately attack Kanan, upon the latter entering the former’s tent.

          You also bring up some other good points, and I’m a little rushed so I’m afraid I can’t address them all. But I did think one thing in particular was very interesting. You mention how the rebels can’t just hand him back. My question is, why not?

          My memory of the episode is getting a little shady, but I’m sure they have all the power in the situation. Even if it had all been in his head, and if nothing else, they could have assured Protector Vorenus that they wouldn’t have let slip to the Imperials and thus endanger the Mandalorians. But they could also have let him go entirely. What more magnaminious act could they do to display their good intentions, and demonstrate their modus operandi that is totally different to that of the Empire? The immediate danger had passed, they had got, at least in the short term, what they wanted. They could have easily let him go.

          Now to be clear, I don’t think they should have; I much prefer that they assure Vorenus of the continuing safety of the Mandos. He would still be in their custody and he wouldn’t be a hostage – which he very much is. Simply because that’s not their original intention, it doesn’t change the fact that this is the outcome. In law, it doesn’t matter your intention, only what happens. Say I had killed someone, but hadn’t intended to, I would still in all likelihood go to gaol for murder or manslaughter. This is because, in law as in internet memes, intention is not magic. Though the rebels did not intend for his enforced cooperation, this is the end result, and the fact that they do nothing to dissuade Protector Vorenus is incriminating at most, suspect in the least.

          By the way, you’re certainly right that it doesn’t follow with the whole ‘the Empire knows I’m gone, so they’ll take over’ logic. This wasn’t a great piece of writing, but alas, this is the logic presented in the show, so we must agree that this is what will happen.

          M

          • Zarm

            As a clarification, I meant that turning around with him in the Phantom seemed rather untenable – since it seems like the moment they would land and let him go, there would be no reason for the other Mandalorians not to surround and kill them.

            Plus, as you say, they certainly had reason not to. But that was my thinking on the circumstances that proscribed a quick getaway rather than sticking their necks out to return and release him.