Welcome! Quick note: this is not a full review. Instead we take a look at a few things, strap a jet-pack on them and bid them adieu – right into a canyon because honestly that would be hilarious to watch. I may have a problem.
This week on Rebels, Imperial Supercommandos – because why bother being artsy when you can just put the best thing of the episode in the title? – everybody’s gone surfin’, surfin’ USA and please get that reference so I don’t feel old. Also everyone was terrible on the episode: Gar Saxon couldn’t secure a cold, Fenn Rau couldn’t keep his base hidden from his worst enemy and Ezra and Sabine are absolutely terrible and being spies – oh hey, I guess they do have something in common after all. They’re still not Rey’s parents though.
What does it mean to be a Mandalorian? That’s the question for Sabine in this episode. From the beginning of the show Sabine’s Mandalorian-ness* has never truly made an impact on the show. Sure, she wore the suit and she liked to blow things up a little too much, but beyond that it’s merely been, to the viewer, a fairly unimportant thing about her. This changed in the last series with her proclamation: ‘I’m clan Wren, house Vizsla’ (big deal; we Slytherins siss at your silly house) and she reclaimed that large part of her heritage.
*It’s a fake universe, I can play loose with words, right?
For an episode. After that it was somewhat forgot. Oh hey that rhymes! I’m a poet and I didn’t know*. This would normally be a problem, but as I watched I started to wonder on her (okay, the writers’) approach to her history. Was it something that she embraced and immersed herself in? Was it, as it was for us, merely a thing of her past that she acknowledged and moved on? I couldn’t help but wonder about this and what motivated her during the episode – and it was all because of Fenn Rau.
*What? Poems don’t have to rhyme.
‘We could still work together now […] not for the rebels. Not for the Empire. For Mandalore.’ Fenn muses to Sabine. It may have been a play to gain his freedom, and that might be true given how derisive he is towards Sabine’s current profession, but Sabine certainly seemed to take it seriously. How exactly did this colour her upcoming actions? Did these words settle and fester in her mind – to drive her to only now take further steps to regain her culture? Or was it that she was comfortable in her heritage but resented Fenn’s pointed remarks, Fenn’s Mandalorian gate-keeping, and as such felt the need to show that she really was a Real Mando™?
In a way, I love that this show keeps things vague enough that we can then pen articles, record podcasts or just while away the time thinking about something relatively trivial like this. It demonstrates a confidence in their, the show runners, storytelling abilities as well as their product that they feel that they don’t have to spell everything out. But at the same time it’s symptomatic of how little screen time Sabine and other characters get that we sometimes struggle to get a decent handle on these characters that we’ve spent the last three years getting to know.
Just – just – give me more Sabine! is what I’m trying to say. And Idris Elba while you’re at it.
Gar Saxon’s Lack Thereof
Gar Saxon, meanwhile, is a man who is the complete opposite of Sabine: while she embraces her origins, he rejects it entirely. If you don’t read comics – don’t worry, I don’t either! Nevertheless I do have to write this stuff as if I know it well and haven’t just googled it. But anyway, Gar Saxon first appeared in the comic ‘Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir’, where he worked as a member of the ‘Shadow Collective’ – a criminal syndicate headed by Darth Maul. Without spoiling it for you, things did not go well.
Indeed, this is Gar’s whole history. He was a member of the Death Watch, the terroristic Mandalorian organisation that sought to overthrow the peaceful Mandalorian government – so it should come as no surprise that he’s not really one to identify very strongly with an established cultural tradition and is entirely comfortable with siding with an organisation that seeks to eliminate all signs of individuality and culture. He has no problem when that same entity, the Empire, tasks him with destroying his own people. A different faction, sure, but his people nonetheless. It would be like asking me to nuke Birmingham just because they have a slightly different accent. I mean, it’s an annoying accent, sure, but they’re still my countrymen and women.
This lack of Mandalorian-ness (I’m determined to put this in the lexicon) is exhibited in his armour – and the armour of his supercommandos. Whereas Sabine – admittedly an outlier in her own community – delights in individualising her armour to make herself unique within presumably standardised equipment, Gar and his ilk adopt the plain, dehumanising white of the stormtrooper. They even have different helmets as if to keep themselves above and apart from other Mandalorians.
As a history buff I couldn’t help but notice some distinct parallels between this Empire and an Empire of our own past. Towards the end of its domination, the Roman Empire outsourced its military, its very security, to non-Romans – barbarians, to be exact. The Visigoths were one such group. A nomadic people, they were driven from their homeland by the Huns and sought shelter and safety within the borders of the Roman Empire. Ill-treated by the Romans, the Visigoths raided and attacked them – even managing to kill an Emperor. Soon after, an uneasy peace ensued, with the Visigoths sometimes fighting for and against the Romans (sometimes at the same time). Eventually, the Visigoths even went so far as to successfully sack Rome itself.
What has all this got to do with Star Wars? Perhaps nothing, but we know that Bo Katan, a character from The Clone Wars and at least formerly a member of Death Watch, will be making an appearance later in this series. We already know that Fenn Rau is to fight against the Empire – but what of the Death Watch, the supercommandos and indeed the other Mandalorian factions who are currently allied to the Empire? If this company of supercommandos are anything close to a standard operating model, then it could suggest that the Empire is in the habit of employing local armed forces to do their fighting for them – much like the Romans and their auxiliary forces. I believe it’s in the realm of the possible that Sabine may exploit whatever familial allegiance she has with Bo Katan to get Bo Katan and her comrades, in turn, to turn against the Empire.
As we all know, it is Luke, Leia, Han and the others who effectively strike the death knell of the Empire. It is equally true that it was the Vandals who effectively ended the Roman Empire – but it was the Visigothic sacking of Rome that began the end of that Empire. Perhaps the Death Watch and these supercommandos will act in a similar capacity? It could well be worth keeping an eye on them, going forward.Powered by Sidelines