On Rebels, Zeb Becomes The Hero He Was, And Was Meant To Be

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Hi! Quick note: This is not a full review. If you want that, cool, we can hook you up. Here we just take a closer look at certain aspects of each episode. As always, SPOILERS from here on out.

This week on Rebels, Legends of the Lasat takes the show back to its more mystical roots, wherein Zeb reunites with his people, long thought dead, and helps them find Paradise via means of a magical melee staff.

Which for once is not a lightsaber.

First, I must say that I am vehemently not a fan of prophecy stories at all, and this one had it in spades. If you like that sort of thing, more power to you, and rather than focus on what I didn’t like, I want to focus on what I did.

Zeb’s Hero Journey

the-heros-journey-wheel

The above image demonstrates the generally agreed upon 12 steps of the Hero’s Journey (AKA the Monomyth). For those unfamiliar with what that is, the wiki page describes it as:

[…] the common template of a broad category of tales that involve a hero who goes on an adventure, and in a decisive crisis wins a victory, and then comes home changed or transformed.

This is a well-worn theme in storytelling and is common in many world religions. It’s also one that every Star Wars fan, whether they know it or not, is very familiar with: it’s Luke Skywalker’s Journey. Not only that, but it’s arguably the template for Anakin’s Journey – only in reverse. I want to take this opportunity to show how the episode incorporated the entirety of the hero’s journey. And did so in 22 minutes, whereas it took Luke 3 films. Not too shabby for a kid’s show.

So let’s provide a rundown of how exactly the Zeb’s story does this (and here I must apologise for somewhat indulging in the more traditional recap-style of reviewing. Still, needs must). Before we begin, here’s a website with a good explanation on each step. With that done, let’s take a deep breath and dive right in!

The episode starts in the ordinary world (for the Spectres) when Hondo Ohnaka informs them of a group of refugees (Lasat) that need rescuing. Yes, for anyone else this would be an adventure, but for our heroes this is a normal day ending in … Yurt? I don’t know what the Star Warsian names for days are. Anyhoo, Hondo also sets some stormtroopers on them for good measure. Because, I don’t know, it’s just not cricket otherwise? Zeb then receives a call to adventure when some old person with a stick tells him it’s his destiny to save his people.

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What? You don’t have a monopoly on mysticism and canes, old man. They sell that in Walmart.

Zeb, the cynical old warrior, refuses Old Woman Yoda’s call/demands (I don’t think it could be described as a request) like – well, a pretty bad sceptic. Seriously, he hangs out with two or three Jedi on a regular basis, and has more than once fought against Force-wielding Inquisitors, you’d think he’d be more open to this kind of thing. Zeb then meets a mentor, in the guise of – and I can’t believe I’m saying this, Ezra Bridger*, who acts as a sounding board for Zeb’s thoughts, for which Zeb utilises to talk himself into becoming the hero he was and will be**. Zeb then joins the other Lasat in crossing their first threshold to find the location of the mystical promise land. (And in other news, General Leia was spotted kicking herself for not having some Lasat around.) It is at this point that Zeb encounters his enemy, in the form of agent Kallus, and passes the test of using his new-found magical powers to protect the ship and crew – this occurs during the approach portion, on their way to their ordeal. The ordeal where, if they fail, they arrive at their final destination. You know, the destination where they’re deader than Elvis. But of course, Zeb sees them safely through the imploded star cluster***. It is here that Zeb gains his reward of a new home among his people. Which all sounds rather great, so why does he choose the beat up ship and the ragtag group of misfits? Because he’s space Jesus, that’s why. Seriously.

... Sure.
… Okay.

To wrap up, Zeb’s equivalent of the elixir here is the ability to return to Lirasan, which I suppose is their version of paradise/garden of Eden (I’m not a Christian, so I’m a little unsure of the distinction). This choice to stay represents the road back step, paving way for his resurrection – evidence of which, admittedly, is a little thin, but I think we can point to how Zeb remarked on a desire to shephard more of his people to the safe haven. This statement of intent to help people is markedly different from when he merely wanted to blow things up and get revenge on the Empire for his people. And thus concludes the hero’s journey of the episode.

*Who actually turns out to be sympathetic and helpful. The Anti-Ezra in me wants to espouse cynically about why this was the case, but I have to be fair: Ezra said all the right things to help his friend. One line in particular that I wish to highlight is when Ezra states ‘I can’t begin to understand what you’re going through’. That was a lovely sentiment. People in the real world and fiction, in an entirely well-meaning but ultimately useless way, often say something like ‘I understand what you’re going through’ when talking to a friend who, for whatever reason, is having a low moment. If you’re ever in this position, emulate Ezra, because everyone’s circumstances and pain is different, and we can hardly ever get the full picture to understand why someone is upset, so it’s best to say ‘I don’t understand, but I’m here for you if you need that.’ Well done, Ezra!

**Heros Quondam, Heros Futuris?

***Speaking of which, does anyone know if this is a common/known astronomical occurrence? I can’t think of any instances, but then again my knowledge of astronomy is fairly limited. But as I watched the show, I couldn’t help but wonder if there were something more mechanical at play here. Could it be that the Empire or someone else had used a superweapon, say as a test, on these stars?

So why is all this important?

Because it demonstrates how a story structure can be shaped to fit the needs of the characters (which is good writing), rather than the characters shaped to fit the needs of the story (which certainly is not). Yet, somehow, the episode manages to do that also, by utilising the prophecy storytelling device. This is something that Rebels has done on more than one occasion: combining great writing with the bad.

It also shows how difficult it can be to take a large arc and fit it into a mere 22 minutes. How many instances of this can you recall? Because I’ll bet you entirely fake money that I can name five TV shows to your one where it takes at least an entire series – and occasionally several series – for a character to experience their own hero’s journey. Again, Rebels manages to do it well in one episode.

Artistry

Before I leave you, I wanted to note how beautiful I found that last act, in terms of visuals and music. I’ve spoken of the hero’s journey in mythological terms, and that’s for a reason: Hero’s journey, as I mentioned in the beginning, is a common theme in religious mythology. Star Wars, too, has deep roots various world mythologies, which is likely what inspired Lucas to utilise this structure for his films. Now, Rebels is (in my opinion) a beautiful TV series, but you often have to pause it just to appreciate how beautiful a shot is. The last act simply knocked it out of the park, certainly when compared to the beginning. Funnily enough, it became more beautiful right alongside Zeb’s growing acceptance of his role in the prophetic mysticism of the episode.

It was, to say the least, an interesting choice on the part of the showrunners. And though I do appreciate their using of other senses to tell a story, I do wish they’d have that same level of beauty in the more, as it were, mundance stories.

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  • Zarm

    The Ghost’s shots hit the stormtroopers about like regular blaster bolts. Between this and the torpedoes against the AT-ATs… I am rapidly losing respect for the Ghost. (Or at least its armaments).

    That said- this episode did not exactly grab me at first. It felt like, in the beginning, it was ‘hey, look at the goofy religious pacifists- how stupid are both of those concepts?’ But the transition of the Asha/Force connection through to the finale of the episode- a masterpiece of tone, visuals, and unusual-for-the-series music, really turned things around. I really liked this one.

    Oh, and FYI- assuming you mean ‘paradise’ in the ‘Today, you will be with me in paradise’ sense, that would be the place prepared for the souls of those that accept Christ and the forgiveness he offers for our wrongdoing (a.k.a. ‘sin’- to help break through the terminology, basically just ‘breaking God’s laws’), after death. (Some people also use ‘paradise’ to refer the perfected heaven-on-Earth to be established on Earth following his return).

    Whereas Eden is the similarly Heaven-on-Earth paradisaical garden in which life began- and from which mankind was expelled when we became sinful (a.k.a. broke the law). Or, in short- Paradise = The Future, Eden = The Past… and Paradise will be a return to the perfect state the Earth once existed in, during the time of Eden.

    Not sure if that makes it any clearer… but now you know. :-)

    • MikeDare

      Hey Zarm!

      Yes, that does make it clearer, thanks! I was thinking of the paradise as you describe it – though I had been imagining it as an Eden-type place. Hence the confusion. And I certainly agree with you on the artistic side. Admittedly I didn’t like the lone violin at first, but upon further viewings it’s really grown on me :) .

      As for Ghost’s armament I’m with you – to an extent. Ghost is one of my favourite ships* in the Star Wars universe so I do reserve the right to defend it, haha. I was quite the fan of the torpedoes against the AT-ATs. Even with two direct hits, that thing still stayed on its feet, which was great and really showed their resilience, and helped show just how much of a problem the rebels had at Hoth. Indeed I had much more of a problem with Kanan slicing through the leg like it was so much putty.

      As for the lasers … things are a bit more uncertain, and I suppose it’s because there’s no real comparison, physics-wise, in the real world (bullet calibres come close, but ultimately can’t be applied due to the nature of lasers). Much like the lightsaber, really. With that lack of grounding in reality, it can do whatever you like – which is why you really need to set down technical laws at the start, and I’m unsure if anyone, let alone the creative team behind Rebels, has done that.

      *My favourite being the Republic Cruiser from TPM.

      M

      • Zarm

        I too quite like the Ghost; it just makes me disappointed with the scale of the weaponry. Maybe they’ve just re-calibrated for canon, but everything we learned in Legends suggested that starfighter-scale weapons ought to make mincemeat out of AT-ATs; and regardless, we saw the size of a proton torpedo blast when Red Leader missed in ANH. (Not that the stats on concussion missiles would make them much more excusable).

        I totally get that they were trying to increase the menace and implacability of the AT-AT; I just wish they hadn’t used (apparent) proton torpedos to do it, because it feels like it really nerfed them in the process.

        Then again, Rebels has generally had that problem all over the place- half the time, the rebels weapons do far too little damage, and explosives that should take out entire buildings just fill a room with smoke- until the plot demands Sabine blow up starfighters or something, when suddenly itty-bitty explosives create massive waves of destruction. So, it’s really more of the show’s general difficulty with scaling damage, rather than a Ghost-specific issue. The Ghost is the victim here, not the perpetrator. 😉

        • MikeDare

          At the risk of descending into apologetics for narrative inconsistencies, I do see your point about the comparisons between Red Leader’s proton torpedo’s and Ghost’s, but I can definitely see different proton torpedos having a different explosive yields. I suppose Red Squadron had access to top of the line, high grade explosives, whereas Ghost and its crew may have had to make do with lower yield torpedos.

          Okay, apologia done, to be critical of my suggestion: it would really help if they could mention that there’s different types of proton torpedo. As in: ‘oh hey, Hera, these Imperials just happened to leave some heavy grade proton torpedos laying around and I thought I’d be a good citizen and take the burden off their hands. Could give Ghost a heavier punch, too.’ Just a little scene or two that shows their need to scavange and steal just to keep up against the might of the Empire as well as adds to the lore.

          I don’t recall if there is such a scene*, so for the moment that gives us the viewers the impression that all proton torpedos are the same, and from a writing standpoint they need to either maintain that universally (which to be fair is hard to do in a fictional world) or show, even just once, that variation exists.

          *I remember Sabine spotting and stealing some military grade shield generators in a Lando episode, but that’s about it.

          M

          • Zarm

            I don’t recall any such scene- but I agree, it would be helpful. And of course, nothing has concretely stated these ARE proton torpedoes; it’s just an assumption based on sound and visual effects. So it could be nothing of the sort.

            Incidentally, I can give the low-powered Ghost blasters in the call a pass because that’s precisely what they were- low powered. But I’d sure love the Ghost being portrayed as the heavy-weapons cavalry coming in, one of these days… to me, that’s what a ship of that scale ought to be.

          • MikeDare

            Have you ever read A New Dawn? It’s a pretty good novel, and John Jackson Miller is one of SW’s better writers. And though Ghost isn’t portrayed as a heavy-weapons cavalry ship(it’s much stealthier), it’s still a solid outing for the ship.

            And I do agree with you that it would be cool to see it arriving to a battle – one that isn’t going well for the rebellion – and being the ship that turns the tide, or at least being one that does a lot of damage. As it is, it’s pretty light on armament (it doesn’t even measure up to the CR90 corvette, in terms of size or armament) so there’ll need to be a few episodes where it receives major upgrades for it to be a heavy hitter.

            M

          • Zarm

            I have indeed read that one.