It was a dark and stormy night… well, not really. It was my first day at Star Wars Celebration Europe, and my first main panel: The “Star Wars Rebels” Panel and Season Premiere! The first part of the panel was information about the new season of Rebels, and discussions about the characters, cast, story, and design. Clips, photos, the season trailer, and finally the season premiere were shown, followed by more discussion and ending in a Q&A. Details and photos after the break!
“Battles leave scars. Some you can’t see.” Continue reading
Quick note: this is not a full review, but rather a closer look at several aspects of each episode (with the presumption that you’ve also seen it). As always, SPOILERS from here on out.
On this episode of Rebels, entitled The Honorable Ones, Agent Kallus – he of the mutton chops and the cool helmet – gains some much needed attention and deepening of character. Or put another way: he’s trying really really hard at this evilling business but is really just a doe-eyed softie and also can I hug him yet?
As much as I loved the episode, it was mostly one I’ve seen before-in countless other TV shows (I won’t list them, I’m sure you can provide your own list): plopping the antagonist into a locked room with (one of) our heroes, where they must set aside their differences in order to escape, during which time our hero learns that the bad guy isn’t all that bad. That he is, say, an actual human being with thoughts and feelings of his own. Almost like, I don’t know, an actual person?
It’s all very rote, but I don’t mean that as a negative. Sure, it’d be nice to have more variety on the telly, but I’ll happily accept the same thing done very well (why hello, The Force Awakens). So today I’d like to highlight several scenes that I’ve seen pop up in other shows.
‘You’ll Get A Fair Trial’
Crashed on an icy moon, Zeb and Kallus must quickly hitch a ride off of that rock before they freeze. Unfortunately, the only device they have to call for a space taxi is an Imperial transponder. Use that and the Empire will come knocking very quickly. Zeb, naturally, isn’t willing to do so, but Kallus tries to persuade him to do so by assuring him that he’ll ‘get a trial’. Zeb doesn’t think much of this – and the implication being that we, the viewers wouldn’t either, probably collectively uttering ‘oh you sweet summer child’ at Kallus’ naivete. But listen closely to what he says. Or rather, what he doesn’t.
I started this segment with the phrase ‘you’ll get a fair trial’ not because I misremembered the line* but because this is typically what is uttered in similar situations. It’s something said by both heroes and villains alike, depending on who’s in authority, and is usually all that needs to be said in the given situation. But there are some things missing in this instance: the fair bit. Why? This may be reading too much into it (have we met?), but I couldn’t help but notice that Kallus over-pronounced the last word-as if, say, he had been intending to add that little but important word but caught himself at the last moment and overcompensated.
*Well, not entirely.
There could be a number of things to explain this. Maybe David Oyelowo himself intended to say that but remembered just in time. Perhaps Oyelowo was injecting a twinge of pain into Kallus’ voice, or perhaps it was the cold. Maybe it’s just something entirely unintended. Or maybe Oyelowo realised, too, that Kallus, as blind as he was to the injustices perpetrated by his own Empire, knew just enough to know that Zeb’s trial would be anything but fair. Given the glimpses into his character later in the episode, I think this could be reasonably assumed.
But to move on, notice how he also doesn’t list Zeb’s crimes. In other shows, as here, this would be easily understood simply because we’d know from seeing the crimes leading up to that moment (what with Zeb spending the last year or two blowing up Imps for our viewing pleasure). And true enough this is what Kallus meant; but it’s clear that these two characters are not on the same page. Notice how Zeb quickly changes the focus onto his species. Of course it wouldn’t go well, it never does for Lasat, he says, because he’s guilty simply of being a Lasat. It’s a not very subtle stab at Kallus, admittedly, but it perfectly sets up, as a very gentle reminder, the later argument and revelation of Kallus’ boasting-to put it delicately.
Now look at the scene on a broader level: in other shows, heroes say it because it’s the right thing to do. Villains say it to get the hero in prison. For Kallus it’s a mixture of both – on top of pure self-preservation. He wants to survive, and the quickest way of doing that is to get Zeb to cooperate. But more than that, despite later alluding to having some misgivings about the Empire, he’s still loyal and still believes that they are what’s best for the galaxy. He honestly believes he’s the hero of this story! And that’s despite being a genocidal maniac – or rather, pretending to be. How messed up do you have to be, how much doublethink is going on in your head, to hold both those beliefs as true?
Our hero and villain part ways amiably, sometimes even warmly (which this show had to take literally) and the episode ends with a long parting shot of one or the other in a place of isolation, with the person most likely striking a pose of thoughtfulness or melancholy. Again I’m not describing the scene shown above, but rather painting, in broad strokes, similar scenes in TV shows the world over. How does this one stack up?
Well, yes, it does fit strikingly well into that mold, but it does it beyond the standard sad music/relying on us to have the sympathetic gut reaction at seeing a lonely person. We do of course have the moment of personal despondency, but it’s notable because it adds an extra layer to it. It shows, in a way that thankfully doesn’t make his pain about something or someone else*, just how uncaring the Empire is. Not necessarily in an evil way – but in an everyday way that leads to evil.
*Which is both problematic in and of itself as well as on a purely technical storytelling level.
It shows one of the key differences between the Empire and the rebels. Whereas the rebels are all warm a fluffy, the Empire barely notices that you’re gone. When Kallus, who appears to be fairly high ranking-enough to talk to an admiral seemingly on equal footing-is barely acknowledged, that offers us a glimpse as to how large that Empire is, and how small a cog* Agent Kallus truly is.
*Yes, I did mean cog, get your mind out of the gutters.
And though it does again demonstrate the evilness (evility?) of the Empire, that scale is the more important thing. Kallus’ time in the cave (smart, Rebels) had the potential to be life-altering. I don’t mean that in terms of occupation or what side of the war he’s on, but on the smaller, yet still important, scale of Kallus’ mind. This could severely alter his outlook on the Empire and how he acts from this moment forth. And this slight changing of his mindset would naturally be a Big Thing to him – and yet for the rest of the Empire his sojourn barely amounts to an ‘oh, were you gone?’. How is he going to take that?
It was fantastic to get a large fleshing out of his character with this episode, and the personal implications make me excited for what’s to come. Again, I don’t mean the possibility of Kallus becoming a rebel. I mean something much better, because looking back, Kallus’ actions have by and large been above board and this change will hopefully mean that our Spectres will get to face a worthy foe: a truly honourable Imperial.
Hi! Quick note: This is not a full review. If you want that, cool, we can hook you up. Here we just take a closer look at certain aspects of each episode. As always, SPOILERS from here on out.
This week on Rebels, Legends of the Lasat takes the show back to its more mystical roots, wherein Zeb reunites with his people, long thought dead, and helps them find Paradise via means of a magical melee staff.
First, I must say that I am vehemently not a fan of prophecy stories at all, and this one had it in spades. If you like that sort of thing, more power to you, and rather than focus on what I didn’t like, I want to focus on what I did.
Zeb’s Hero Journey
The above image demonstrates the generally agreed upon 12 steps of the Hero’s Journey (AKA the Monomyth). For those unfamiliar with what that is, the wiki page describes it as:
[…] the common template of a broad category of tales that involve a hero who goes on an adventure, and in a decisive crisis wins a victory, and then comes home changed or transformed.
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 Wars. Battlestar 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 route 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 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 MESSAGE
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.