How Threatening Is the Empire?

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Star Wars Rebels has returned for a third season and I’ve really been enjoying the show.  I think it is just getting better and better.  However, in watching and reviewing the current episode about Hera returning to Ryloth a thought occurred to me.  With the exception of Vader, Thrawn, and Tarkin, the Empire has been pretty pathetic as a villainous force in this show.

If we are talking about lackluster Star Wars enemies, we have to talk about Clone Wars.  The battle droids were not very threatening, the Jedi could easily slice them apart with only a little bit of effort.  Now, for the battle droids, it makes sense that the droids are stupid.  If you’re going to build millions of battle droids, you aren’t going to waste your time and effort on giving them an advanced A.I. or combat programming.  For those battles, they just needed cannon fodder, simply overwhelm the enemies with sheer numbers.

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It seems the Empire has taken a similar approach with their forces.  A TIE fighter is fast and agile, but lacking in heavy weaponry or shields.  It’s the same with the Stormtroopers.  These methods make sense considering the Empire is not only the primary governing body of the galaxy, but they are also occupying the majority of the galaxy.  We may joke about the accuracy of your average Stormtrooper, but if you are looking at a battalion of them, you know at least one of them is going to get you.

Watching Rebels, my problems aren’t with the TIE fighters or Stormtroopers, it’s with the Imperial leadership and Officers.  As presented on the show, your average Imperial Officer is nothing more than a bully and is generally not very intelligent.  It really makes me question the Imperial Officer training program.  How is it they are promoting these people?  Does the Empire have a problem of Officers failing upwards?

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One theory about the Imperial Officers is that it’s all political.  Officers get promoted because they are related to someone else who is high up in rank or Imperial society.  Could Captain Slaven have gotten his position on Ryloth because his cousin is in good with a regional governor like Tarkin?

This may not make much sense to us here, but it’s possible that the Empire is so over-confident in it’s absolute rule that the idea of anyone actually mounting a true threat is simply preposterous.  Again, this is the same Empire that thought a 2-meter exhaust port was no danger.  It’s also important to remember that there is no military large enough in the galaxy to openly challenge the Empire, and the Jedi are gone from the galaxy.  If the Jedi were still around they could fight the Empire, much like they fought in the Clone Wars.

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Another theory is that with the TV show Rebels, all of our stories are taking place in backwater planets in the Outer Rim or other areas far from the true center of galactic power.  Captain Slaven may have passed the Empire’s training, but just barely, so he got shoved to an out of the way world that simply doesn’t matter much.  He’s never going to get that promotion to a more important Core world.  Of course, the Empire doesn’t know that it’s downfall will come from a dustbowl planet in the Outer Rim.

Both of these theories make sense considering what we’ve seen in the overall canon, and I could see Pablo or Dave answering this question using either as an example.  I also have to remember that Rebels is a TV show, and there has to be continuing adventures.  If the Empire stops and kills our heroes on the first episode, it’s not much of a TV show.  Thankfully, the show has done a good job of balancing the more bumbling, incompetent enemies with the more dangerous ones.  You need the Keystone cops so our heroes can score a few wins, but they also have the larger threats like Vader and Thrawn to keep the tension up.

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