Rebel Victories, Cowardice, and Rogue One

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I just got home from my third viewing of Rogue One.  On each viewing, I find so much more in the film, more to enjoy, something new that makes me question what I thought I knew before.  This time around I was really struck by the Alliance Council scene.  Particularly, why so many of the Rebellion leaders were afraid of open confrontation with the Empire.

Sitting in the theater, I started wondering about the seeming cowardice of these leaders.  Haven’t they chosen to openly defy the Empire, to overthrow the Emperor and restore the Republic?  Haven’t we’ve been watching Rebel victories and military strikes on a weekly basis in the Star Wars Rebels animated series?  It continued to gnaw at me on the drive home.  It wasn’t until I really took a step back and looked at what the animated series has given us that the pieces really started to fall into place.

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We are almost three years into Star Wars Rebels.  Upon reflection, what are the major moments of the show?  In the first season, they killed the Grand Inquisitor, destroyed Governor Tarkin’s star destroyer, and sent a message out to the neighboring systems of an open rebellion against the Empire.  Not much else.  Of course, I’m generalizing.  More things happened in the first season, but if we look at the grand scale, the galaxy-wide conflict.  Lothal was a bothersome system, but I’m sure other systems have had their troubles as well.  In the second season, the Rebellion grew, the stakes grew higher, but it was still a very isolated conflict.  Phoenix Squadron is certainly a thorn in the Empire’s side, but I’m sure there are larger concerns.

From a fan point of view, of course, Rebels has been digging deeper into the mysteries of the galaxy and the Force, we have seen how the different parts of the galaxy work with and against the Empire.  But still, all of our heroes victories rank fairly low when viewed from a galactic scale.  I think we can take what is happening in the show with the crew of the Ghost and say that there are similar stories playing out across the galaxy.  The Empire is dealing with a hundred different small flare ups, but nothing to say that all of these pieces are connected.

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Cut to Rogue One and the first sign that the Rebellion needs to take on a much more aggressive role in dealing with the Empire.  No longer can they afford to simply to rely on small surgical strikes or incite single planets in insurrection.  It starts to dawn on them that this is a much larger task than any of them signed on for.  I’m sure may of the Rebellion leaders were only worried about the Empire in their own backyard or still clung to some hope that the Senate could intervene.  The Rebel leaders no longer seem so cowardly, but rather pragmatic, and the scene starts to fall into place.

It is as the Episode IV crawl told us, this is their first major victory.  No longer is it one ship or one planet, but a major offensive against a fortified Imperial target, two of them in fact.  That first step, the first move of strength against the Empire, is the most dangerous and frightening of them all.  This is exactly what we see in Rogue One.

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