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Rebels: Legends of the Lasat and Other Alliterations

Star Wars Rebels:
Legends of the Lasat and Other Alliterations

Teased as a look into Zeb’s past, “Legends of the Lasat” has a great deal more to it than simply telling us a bit more about the background of the Rebels’ hulk.  Centered on a Lasat prophecy and flavored with a touch of piracy via fan-favorite Hondo Ohnaka, this episode could well be called “Prophecy and the Profiteer”.  While one individual is motivated by the profits he could obtain by selling captives and information, others seek a paradise promised through an ancient prophecy.  Or perhaps in reference to the various manifestations of the Force in different cultures, as evident in Chava’s reference to “Ashla”, this episode could find meaning in the title, “Flavors of the Force”.  Ok, I admit, that’s a bit of an alliterative stretch, but hey — it gets to the heart of it, doesn’t it?  The fact of the matter remains: this episode has much more going on than a 22-minute episode can possibly contain.

Mysteries and Mystics
The word mystery is a transliteration of a Greek word that simply means “something hidden”.  Paying subscribers of Season Two of Rebels are certainly familiar with the idea of “something hidden”, having discovered that their subscriptions to the second season of this animated Star Wars series was for only half the episodes they had expected to receive when they purchased their subscriptions through iTunes, Amazon, or Google Play.  In fact, the backlash against this hidden fact has been so negative that the ratings of Star Wars Rebels (Volumes 2 & 3) have suffered tremendously on Amazon, not because of the quality of the show itself, but because of the justly perceived deception of cutting Season Two into two volumes for those who purchase the series digitally.  Had these online services simply been upfront with what was to be included in the original purchase price last fall, these negative responses could have been entirely avoided.

However, mysteries are generally well received among Star Wars fans.  Hidden gems, surprises, and unanswered questions generally give rise to enjoyable discussions and numerous speculations about the potential plots in the future.  After all, everyone has been buzzing about Rey’s heritage since her name was officially released early last year.  As fans, we love to analyze and debate the possibilities about this galaxy far, far away.  Last week’s episode of Rebels has certainly given us plenty to consider with all that lies beneath the surface of the story presented entitled “Legends of the Lasat”.

Many fans (especially “first generation” Star Wars fans) remember Glenn A. Larson’s amazing television show from 1978 that capitalized on the clamor for sci-fi during the initial run of Star WarsBattlestar Galactica captured the imaginations of kids yearning for more of what they had seen in movie theaters.  We were introduced to the tragedy of a people whose home planets were destroyed by a rising empire (Cylons with their Imperious Leaders) and their quest to find a home from legends long passed.  Over the years, we have witnessed many tv shows and movies that profited from the success and popularity of Star Wars.  With “Legends of the Lasat”, the circle is complete, as Rebels borrows from the program that borrowed from Star Wars.  While the central plot of “Legends of the Lasat” is more than reminiscent of the plot of the entire Battlestar Galactica series, elements of this episode also hearken back to the first few episodes of the 1978 series.  In the first few episodes of Battlestar Galactica, a story arc now known as “Saga of a Star World”, remnants of the Colonies escaped the Cylons by traveling through the Straits of Magadon, a dangerous routStraitsofMadagone through the Megadon Nova.   In the next arc, “Lost Planet of the Gods”, the Galactica travels through a mysterious void to discover an ancient tribal habitation and possible birthplace of the Tribes.  “Legends of the Lasat” capitalizes on both of these story arcs, combining them into one voyage through an imploded star cluster to find Lirisan, the ancient homeworld of the Lasat.

Fan-made trailer for Battlestar Galactica “Lost Planet of the Gods”

Kevin Kiner attributes his inspiration for “Journey into the Star Cluster”, an oft-acclaimed musical addition to Star Wars, to Philip Glass.  By perusing the Philip Glass catalogue, one can find a similar track from the 1982 documentary Koyaanisqatsi entitled “Pruitt-Igoe”.  Apart from the distinctive mysterious tones of the string ensemble, the origins of Pruitt-Igoe reveal a story similar to the Lasat in Rebels.  Due to overcrowding and poor living conditions in St. Louis in the late 1940s, officials embarked on a hopeful project to build modern low-cost housing to accommodate the growing population.  Essentially, the older, decaying complexes were to be replaced with newer, better apartments.  In 1955, thirty-three eleven-story apartment buildings were completed and named “Pruitt-Igoe” after two prominent St. Louis natives.  Economic “refugees” from the deteriorating neighborhoods found a new home in Pruitt-Igoe.  This musical cue from “Legends of the Lasat” has an underlying, hidden message in Kevin Kiner’s choice to use this Philip Glass composition as inspiration for the Lasat journey to their new home.

Video of “Pruitt Igoe” by Philip Glass from Koyaanisqatsi
Compare it with this track on StarWars.com

Beyond the theme and themes of “Legends of the Lasat” are the names of the key characters in this episode.  At the outset, viewers are introduced to two other members of Zeb’s species.  Those of us who, like Zeb, believed that he was the only remaining Lasat were excited to find out who they were and how they had survived the devastation of their homeworld, Lasan.  Once liberated by the crew of the Ghost, we discover their names — and on further inspection, uncover their names’ potential significance (as we’ve noticed before in Rebels).  Gron and Chava the WiseGron reveals that he had formerly served in the Honor Guard under Captain Garrizeb Orrelios.  Gron’s name sounds a bit like “ground” or even “green”.  Its Dutch etymology stems from this sound in its meaning, “from the earth”.  Gron is “rooted” in Lasat culture, and therefore seeks another homeworld for his people.  Furthermore, the Kabalarian meaning of his name has to do with being parental and generous — a father-figure for all Lasat.  When combined with Chava the Wise, whose name in Hebrew refers to life and, according to some, wisdom gained through life experience, becomes very telling when one considers that “Chavva” is the Hebrew transliteration of the Biblical character, Eve, who was given her name by Adam (which refers to coming “from the earth”) because she was the “mother of all living” (Genesis 3:20).  That this connection is not by accident is accented when Sabine voices her assumption that the two Lasat are all alone on Lirasan.  That these names were not randomly assigned is clearly evident, as even Zeb’s name takes on significance when we consider its Hebrew importance as “gift of God” and “dwelling of honor”.  Zeb is the embodiment of the Lasat Honor Guard, as we have known, and is revealed to have a special “gift” that enables him, and him alone, to show his people the way home.  The incredible detail that underlies every aspect of this episode is astonishing!  By the way, I was surprised to discover that Hondo’s name has African roots and means “warrior” in Egyptian.  And I thought he was “the fool” in the Lasat prophecy.

The Bottom Line
Regardless of how the additional, unexpected expense of purchasing the second half of Season Two (essentially, that’s what happened) has affected us personally, and in spite of not knowing just how profitable Hondo’s various attempts at remuneration for his efforts were to him, “Legends of the Lasat” has undoubtedly given us much more than our money’s worth for a single episode.  Lengthy reviews have been penned and published online, podcasts have devoted hours of time discussing the themes and events of this episode, and ramifications that this single half-hour of Wednesday night television will be discussed and debated for days, weeks, and months to come.

BONUS HIDDEN MESSAGEStar Wars Rebels Blue Milk Ad
Translating from the Aurabesh text in the corridor reveals an advertisement for “Blue Milk”, saying that it’s available “at markets everywhere”.   It even hints at another message for those lamenting the destruction of Lasan in its graphic depiction of spilled blue milk over a yellow background not to cry over spilt (blue) milk.

Analysis of The Force Awakens — General Hux: Fanatical Madman of The First Order

Hux-670x335

As suggested by the junior novel Servants of the Empire: The Secret Academy, and confirmed in the Visual Dictionary, General Hux is the son of Commandant Brendol Hux. During the time of the Empire, Brendol, unimpressed by the Imperial recruitment system, conceived the idea of raising stormtroopers from birth in order to emulate the loyalty and prowess of Republic clone troopers. This new system was then implemented by the First Order.

Brendol Hux was among the Imperials who fled to the Unknown Regions after the defeat of the Empire, taking with him his young son. General Hux grew up believing that the galaxy was doomed to inevitable chaos without the strong rule of the Empire. He also believes he is destined to rule the galaxy, which presents an interesting conflict between Hux and Kylo Ren. Kylo does not respect Hux as a warrior, since Hux has only theoretical knowledge of battle. And Hux has little patience with the mystical ways of Kylo Ren, believing he has his own agenda apart from the First Order.

Some fans believe that Hux was cast too young. However, that is the point of the character. He is young and inexperienced, yet he is fanatical in his beliefs and willing to destroy entire systems to secure the rule of the First Order. The First Order specifically uses young officers, like General Hux, who do not remember the reality of the Empire, but receive a warped version of Imperial history, as revealed in the Visual Dictionary. Continue reading

Han Solo becomes Obi-Wan Kenobi in The Force Awakens

The Fool Who Follows Him

Star Wars: Before and After The Force Awakens
The Fool Who Follows Him

We all remember the witticism of old Obi-Wan in A New Hope when the Jedi Master berates the Force-denying smuggler with his pointed proverb: “Who is the more foolish: the fool or the one who follows him?”  Of course, Han follows Obi-Wan to the control room on the Death Star (though his snide remarks about “that old fossil” clearly show that he is attempting to distance himself from their default leader), then uses Kenobi’s instructions to argue against marching into the detention area to rescue the Princess.  In a classic bit of irony, the lonesome smuggler actually defends following the one he had only minutes ago called a fool.

As the heroes make their way to the Millennium Falcon, Han shows his appreciation for the old man once he realizes that Obi-Wan had successfully completed his mission of shutting down the tractor beam.  The relieved look on his face as they escape the Death Star speaks volumes.  But that’s not all.  Han had just witnessed the self-proclaimed Jedi selflessly sacrifice himself so he and his companions could deliver the plans to the Rebellion.  Maybe Han still thought Obi-Wan was a fool for trading his life for others, but Han hadn’t finished following him.

Becoming Obi-Wan
One of the first criticisms of The Force Awakens voiced immediately after the opening of the film was that it was “unoriginal” and a “remake” of the first Star Wars movie.   Undeniably, the newest addition to the saga not only builds on the installments that preceded it, but it also repeats elements of not only A New Hope, but also The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.  Regardless of whether this ranks positively or negatively in fans’ assessment of the movie, repetition of familiar aspects of previous episodes of the saga has always been a key component of Star Wars.  In fact, when movies have departed too far from the familiar, fans have cried out with consternation, declaring (often about the prequels) that the movies weren’t “Star Warsy” enough.

That being said, Han Solo’s role in The Force Awakens not only adds depth to his character (as formerly noted here), but it essentially performs the function of Obi-Wan’s character in A New Hope.  Han Solo not only follows the “fool” initially, He follows Kenobi’s example nearly forty years later on screen.

When Ben Kenobi encountered Luke on Tatooine, he asks the old hermit whether he knows of an Obi-Wan Kenobi.  Similarly, when Han Solo finds Finn and Rey in the belly of the Falcon, this next generation of heroes make a similar inquiry about his identity.  “You’re Han Solo?” Rey asks him.  His response?  “I used to be.”  Though not identical in dialogue, Han’s statement is eerily similar to Kenobi’s “Now that’s a name I’ve not heard in a long time,” foreshadowing things to come.  Finn and Rey rapidly fire off their own speculations about the old man standing before them, wondering if he really is the Rebel, the smuggler, and the war hero they had heard about in stories.  “You knew my father?” mirrors Rey’s immediate recognition that Han knew Luke Skywalker.

And that is just the beginning of the similarities.

Obi-Wan uses the Force to influence the Stormtroopers at the roadblock to let them pass in Luke’s land speeder while Han defends his own prowess at talking his way out of trouble to his old friend and cHan Solo becomes Obi-Wan Kenobio-pilot Chewbacca.  Obi-Wan takes Luke to the Mos Eisley cantina to secure passage to Alderaan while Han takes Finn and Rey to Maz Kanata’s palace to find them a ride to D’Qar in an ironic twist of fate that allows Han to sit on the other side of the table than when he had first been contracted to smuggle the droids for 17,000 credits.  Perhaps the most notable similar incongruity is evident when Han reveals the truth about the Force to his passengers while Rey occupies the same seat where Han had confidently referred to the Force as a “hokey religion” that could in no way control his destiny.

Destiny, of course, is a recurring theme throughout the Star Wars saga from multiple interpretations of an ancient prophecy to a son’s inevitable siding with his father to a possible explanation of how Han has now become the very fool he derided so many years previously.  Had Han merely been a player on the stage, directed by the Force he had so vehemently denied to become an active apologist for its existence?  Or is Han simply becoming like the old man he had once called a fool — the old man whose name he had bestowed on his own son?  A son who sensed Han’s presence on the base just like Darth Vader had sensed his old master on the Death Star.

Which really cuts to the heart of the matter.

More than thirty years had passed since the “fool” had shut down the tractor beam and given his life so others could be saved, and Han has never forgotten it.  He remembers the battle between Darth Vader and Obi-Wan.  He had seen the red blade slice through the old man’s cloak.  Now he faces his own destiny — saving his son.  Saving Ben.  That haggard looking man sitting next to the kid in the cantina hadn’t been a fool after all.  He had believed in something greater than himself because he knew it was real.  Han knows it, too.  Loyal to the end, Han chooses to risk his life for his family.  He sees his son.  He draws more closely to him.  Willing to do “anything” to help his son, he sacrifices his life for the good of the galaxy and in hopes of bringing his son back to the light.  As the lost disciple struck out against his “foolish” master, the son strikes down the father.

“Who is the more foolish: the fool or the one who follows him?”

Ultimately, Han becomes more than Obi-Wan was.  The Jedi had been trained from his youth to trust in the Force.  The smuggler had learned about the Force after flying “from one side of this galaxy to the other” and seeing stranger things than he could chalk up to simple tricks and luck.  He had, in turn, imparted his knowledge of the Force and his wisdom to others before facing his own bitter end.

Analysis of The Force Awakens — Snoke: A New Phantom Menace

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) Ph: Film Frame © 2014 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Right Reserved..

Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis)
Ph: Film Frame
© 2014 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Right Reserved..

Snoke is a very mysterious and intriguing figure who, according to the novelization, witnessed the rise and fall of the Empire. Where was Snoke during this time? Was he someone Palpatine was aware of, or was he lurking in the shadows, waiting for his time to rise to power?

His disfigured visage shows that he received massive damage at some point. This has led many to believe that he could be Darth Plagueis, the master of Palpatine who experimented with cheating death and creating life (it is hinted by Palpatine that Plagueis was the one who created Anakin). Palpatine revealed to Anakin that he killed his master in his sleep, but it is possible that Plagueis somehow survived using secret knowledge to preserve his life, then waited for Palpatine to make a mistake so he could once again seize power for himself. Continue reading

Analysis of The Force Awakens — Chewbacca: Mighty and Loyal Friend to the End

chewie-social

Chewie is the same old lovable Wookiee in The Force Awakens, with his grumpy reactions to Finn’s attempts at first aid, his complaints about the cold on Starkiller, and his childish assertions to the Resistance doctor that he acted very bravely. He also remains a loyal and fierce ally.

When Han returned to his old life as a smuggler after the fall of his son, Ben, Chewie left his family on Kashyyyk to rejoin his old friend. Chewie’s wife, Malla, who was first established in the much maligned Holiday Special, has been made canon in the young reader book A New Hope: The Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy. According to the Visual Dictionary, his long absences from home are not unreasonable due to the long-lived nature of Wookiees.

In a deleted scene that made it into the novelization, Chewie makes good on an old warning of Han’s. Unkar Plutt, having followed Rey to Maz’s castle, threatens her for taking the Falcon. Rey pulls the blaster Han gave her, but Unkar takes it from her, pointing out that the safety is on (which is the reason she remembers it later in the film). Chewie takes the gun from Unkar, who pokes Chewie in his injured arm saying, “Half a Wookiee ain’t much to worry about.” Chewie then proceeds to rip Unkar’s arm off and throw it across the room. Continue reading