Greetings, gentlepeople! Reminder: this is not a full review. Instead we just look at one or two things – because someone decided to show two episodes back to back. It’s infuriating. As always, SPOILERS from here on out.
This week on Rebels, The Occupation, we get an episode that was a load of garbage. Literally, we spend most of it in sewers. I mean, someone tried to decorate it with those Phoenix tags, but that’s a bit like putting lipstick on a pit-bull.
Mon Mothma The Wise
Last week, I detailed why Mon Mothma was, in a way, wrong to deny Ezra the chance to go back to Lothal. This week, I want to explain why she was right to do so. To be clear, this isn’t a walk-back of my previous opinion – I still stand by it – but rather my way of saying that Ezra and Mothma are both right, and that both sides are valid.
In the previous episode, Mon Mothma denied Ezra because she has to think of the larger picture. There is a rule in war: do not reinforce failure – and last week, there was absolutely no benefit for the Rebel Alliance, as a whole, to go back to Lothal. It would have been just a way of reinforcing failure. Now, things have changed. To make a military attempt on Lothal is still completely unviable, but now there is a viable reason to continue Rebel operations in some form on that planet: the TIE Defender Mk. II. The standard version, as Mothma attests, is already a force to be reckoned with, but this new one completely blows its predecessor out of … the water? Space? Well, you know what I mean. There was blowing up to be done and the new one did it. Oh hey, this is turning into a Star Wars version of Cluedo. It was the Red Defender, in space, with the blaster cannon. Actually, I’m pretty sure every game of Cluedo would end up like that. That starfighter is a beast.
To return to my point: this is the value of Mon Mothma; this is why she’s in charge of the rebellion and why she is such a well-written character. In the space of just two scenes over the course of two 22 minute episodes, she has a clear character arc. Throughout she has a goal (the continuation of the Rebellion and the desire to not waste resources on frivolous actions and engagements), she has a problem (the handling of discontented inferiors*) and at first she handles it not very well (Ezra goes off on one, explicitly going against Mon Mothma’s wishes, perhaps even because of Mothma’s actions). And here, in this episode, we see her tackle her failure in a rational manner, by listening to her subordinates, by hearing their arguments and learning about their wants and desires. Not only that but she demonstrates this, in clear terms, to Ezra – so that Ezra himself feels like he hasn’t been abandoned, that he has worth not just to the Rebellion as a whole but to Mothma personally. This is what good leadership does. She then takes that and applies that to the furthering of her Rebellion – in a way that all parties come away satisfied, and the very moment that an opportunity presents itself, she acts decisively and resolutely. This is what a good commander does.
*Teehee. Ezra’s inferior.
It is not hyperbole, nor is it sucking up, to say that this is simply superlative writing. And let’s not forget that though Mon Mothma is an important character in the grand scheme of things, in this show she is little more than a secondary or perhaps tertiary character. The writers went through all this effort for a character that barely has any screen time. I am in awe.
What You Hath Wrought
Oh Lothal, what did they do to you? That was truly painful to watch – and it was so specifically because we know that Lothal wasn’t always like this. We first saw Lothal back when it was a green and pleasant land, all rolling hills and sedate pastures. Then, by degrees, we saw it turned into the hellhole that it is now. William Blake would have wept.
But that destruction of Lothal doesn’t sit well with me, on more than just the aesthetic level. It doesn’t make sense for the Empire to industrialize the planet in this way. I mean, yes, the Empire is evil and they’re going to behave evilly – but that doesn’t mean they have to be stupid about it. It doesn’t mean they can’t be evil in a sustainable way.
The Imperial Model of Industrialisation seems to be uniform: occupy a territory, subdue the populace, set up the industrial center, along with military and administrative complexes, strip the entire country bare of resources until exhausted. Rinse and repeat. This is true not just of Lothal, but Jelucan, from the novel Lost Stars, suffered a similar fate. This is an absolutely terrible way to govern. Like, do you even city plan, bro?
Dear gods, I said bro. What has become of me?
The setting up is needlessly ineffective. I understand that the Empire wishes to establish a monopoly, to have overwhelming control of production, but there are far more effective – and legal – ways of taking control of companies. Buyouts, acts of parliament, etc. My apologies for the vagueness of the list, I’m afraid I’m a little rusty on my Star Wars Galaxy business law. These stifle competition (which, the Empire being evil, I guess they’d be okay with) but it does set up ultimate control – albeit much more slowly than forcefully taking what they want.
Next is the problem of greedily taking all resources without giving thought to sustainability, without giving thought to turning it into a renewable resource. Again, yes, this is the Empire and they haven’t much care for one planet’s economy, and that, once done with one planet they can simply move on to another since there is a multitude to choose from. But again, if they took the time to set up a strong infrastructure and developed a robust, renewable system, they’d still get what they want, even if it took a little longer. Not only that, but in situations where their desired resource is not renewable, but a finite amount (ore mining, for example), having such a system in place would ensure that the economy would survive long after the original resource has dried up. This would mean more money coming into Imperial coffers in the long run. Their desire for everything now is shooting themselves in the Imperial jackboot in the long run.
But there’s also a humanitarian factor, too. And yes, I again understand that the Empire wouldn’t care – but they are still shooting themselves in the foot by not thinking through their actions. If we look to Lost Stars for inspiration, the Empire seems to prefer an essentially enslaved native labor force. They erect basic housing for their workforce and inadequately feed them. I can only imagine what the Empire does once it is done with a planet: whether they exterminate them all or leave the populace to rot, I don’t know. But if it’s the latter, this is also not a good idea. That populace would have nothing to do, no way to sustain a living on that planet, so naturally, they would seek to migrate to other, more prosperous planets looking for opportunities and, well, just looking to survive, really. Which is only fair; if your native land is ravaged and dangerous, it is best that you seek a better, richer and safer environment. However, this being the generally malignant and incompetent Empire, I’m willing to bet that they haven’t set up an adequate infrastructure to handle such a large influx of people (and they probably wouldn’t care to even after that happens, probably preferring to let the populace die, or turn on each other and use that as an excuse to enact harsher measures). Naturally, this would lead to food and housing shortages, work shortages and the like. This would, again naturally, lead to discontent and discord, not just between the already embittered migrants but the second planet’s populace, too. And what happens when a discontent, maltreated populace decide to do something about it?
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