Reminder: This is not a full review. If you want that, that’s totally cool, and to help we can point you to some of our favourite fan-sites (besides ourselves). But here we only take a few points of the show for discussion. And, as always, spoilers from here on out.
Just when you thought they weren’t evil enough, the lightsaber-wielding devils engage in some light baby-theft, in order to train them in the ways of the Force – but enough about the Jedi. This week in Star Wars Rebels: The Future of the Force, it’s the Empire’s turn at baby stealing.
The Red Army
In Rebels’ predecessor, The Clone Wars, Emperor Palpatine employed a bounty hunter by the name of Cad Bane (name aside, was a really nice fellow, I’m told) to retrieve a data storage device called the Kyber memory crystal. This crystal contained a list of all known Force sensitive children in the then Republic – and it’s fairly easy to deduce where I’m going with this, but needs must: in this episode we see the fruits of said labour, when our new Inquisitors – or Inkies, as I fondly refer to them – track down several Force-sensitive children. And thus it falls to our Spectres and Ahsoka to stop them. And did they ever, Ahsoka especially, in the most brilliant fashion. But in all the blinding flash and showy lightsaber twirling (they should take that show on the road, make a fortune), some things were glossed over, and I’d like focus on the several questions that they pose: how long has this been going on? And just what on earth has happened to them?
Ahsoka, someone who should perhaps have known better, was flummoxed at these turn of events. But why? If I were an evil, twisted megalomaniac – which I’m not – I would have started building up my own army of Force sensitive Inquisitors from the very beginning of the Empire. I’d use them to further my Sith-y cause, whatever that entails, subdue errant and rogue planets and get back Danny Knight for tripping me up in middle school. Why, they’d act as my own right Hand.
That seems likely, at any rate, but if so, wouldn’t Ahsoka have known this? Granted, the Empire would not have allowed much talk about their stealing babies, and in a galaxy of trillions these occurances would have been very rare: I’m terrible at maths, but during the Clone Wars the Jedi’s numbers were, at best, around 10,000. There would likely have been a number of drop outs so exclude them, and those numbers would have included the old, the very old, as well as the very young – though even if we exclude (or include, if that is the case) then that number wouldn’t change much. And personally, I think the number of Force sensitive infants at any given time would have been in the hundreds, but since it’s larger, if we take that 10k as our base number, then we’re talking far less than 0.1% of the total galactic population. It would barely be on a rebels’ radar. Yet even with all that, I find it difficult to believe Ahsoka would have not known that something like this would have been occurring.
(Also: I know I was the one to have brought it up, and though it seems the likeliest option, I’m sceptical of the Kyber crystal being the sole source of their knowledge. Unless it gets regular updates from the Force internet (TheForce.net?), surely its data would be out of date. Not to mention it had no idea that Zare Leonis’ sister was Force sensitive; it took specific tests, run by the Empire, to identify her as such. So, without the Kyber crystal, I’m at a loss as to how they know about Force-sensitive babies.)
So what is the Empire doing with these Force sensitives? Like Zare’s sister, Dhara, it seems likely that they’re being trained, or rather groomed, to be the Inquisitors of the future. So where were they when Vader was looking for Luke?
Because they would have really come in handy right around Bespin. Personally, I have nothing against adding something as powerful as the Inquisitors to the lore, even when their lack of inclusion in the source material (i.e. the original trilogy) isn’t reasonable, I merely think it should be pointed out.
But I’m not going to focus too much on that, beyond wondering if the show itself is going to answer that question. After all, a lot of shows generally have a five year plan before the show even gets to air (and funnily enough, Rebels is set five years before A New Hope). Rather, I’m curious, if they’re not all killed off before the show ends, just what exactly happens to these Inquisitors? Because if the Emperor truly did have an army of Force sensitives, what would happen to them after he died? Any small beings taken ‘now’ would be around 15 at the end of Return of the Jedi. Teenagers, lost and alone, save for their fellow Inquisitors, leaderless, and bred for war, torture and conquest. What happens to them, then? What’s in store for their future?
Think of the Children
As I watched the episode, I was struck with the overall tone of the episode, because it was darker than Ezra’s – no, I’m not going there. Let’s just say it was darker than Ezra’s air ducts (note: that is neither a euphemism, nor metaphor, see first photo).
As an aside, on a visual level, the episode does indeed use darkness in its photography as a means of conveying the tone of the episode. Usually I hate this sort of thing, but it does mean we got a beautiful shot, as a redeemer, of Ahsoka stepping out of the blinding light. Not particularly subtle, I admit, but it was still quite evocative.
As I watched, I was somewhat uncomfortable that it was dealing with such issues on a kid’s show. Indeed, a quick perusal of social media shows a number people voice the same thoughts. Whereas others have pointed to this as evidence that this isn’t a kid’s show. I too have shared these thoughts, and then I had the pleasing thought: oh wow, they’re dealing with such issues on a kid’s show. And then another thought quickly crept in: these two things are not mutually exclusive.
Why can’t children’s TV not explore dark themes? And why does children’s TV have to exclude the darker, mature themes, in order to be a kid’s show? To the first, I can imagine the answer would be that they’re too young. I’d never tell you how to raise your small humans (unless you’ve got them addicted to drugs or are letting them talk loudly at the cinema, at which point I will tell you very loudly how to raise your kids) and I’m not going to make a blanket statement about all children; if you feel your child is too young, fine. Don’t let them watch the show. But I personally feel that, say, pre-teen children are mature enough to handle these subjects, mature enough to discuss them.
After all, kid’s movies include dark content all the time: who can forget the fate of Bambi’s mother? Or the barracuda snacking on Nemo’s mother? Or Littlefoot’s mother being killed by that Tyrannosaur? Oh gods, that hurt the most. Also, mums get such a raw deal by Disney.
Not to mention the second best animated series of all time, Batman: The Animated Series was praised for its frequently dealing with heavy subjects and darker tone. And let’s not forget books, such as Grimm’s fairy tales (the originals especially, which I love to read to my niece), which often don’t come with an age rating system (I suppose people hold them as ‘better than TV’?), but often have quite horrific scenes depicted therein (again, Grimm).
This is nothing new, and certainly not in Star Wars – because let’s not forget that A New Hope was often thought of as a children’s film, when it came out. And yet:
I am thrilled that this show is going there. The very first scene alone was enthralling, not to mention everything that came after – and it’s precisely this exploration of more mature themes that elevates it above the average ‘kid-friendly’ show like, I don’t know, Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and, and American Horror Story. Kids watch that stuff, right?