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!
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.)
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.
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.
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?
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