Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
– When I first started watching Star Wars: Rebels I summarized it as Firefly set in the Lucasverse, and while it retains the basic trappings of a singular ragtag ship, composed of a crew who slowly become more like family, it has grown so much richer now that the band of the Ghost have become an integral part of the fledgling Rebellion itself.
Specifically: Of the many strong and interesting women to have become part of the larger narrative in recent years, Captain Hera Syndulla would be my choice as the true heir apparent of Leia Organa. Not only is she a battle-tested tactician, freedom fighter, and crackerjack pilot, she’s also a tender, caring individual for every one of her crewmates — the elusive “strong female character” who isn’t simply hard-bitten and caustic. It comes across as subtly subversive that she’s a Twi’lek, a race of alien who first appeared in the films as a disposable dancing girl in Jabba’s palace.
– The relationship between AP-5 and C1-10P (“Chopper”) has blossomed into a completely fresh and entertaining reimagining of the classic Artoo / Threepio duo. AP-5’s stuffiness and arrogance is complemented by a strict Type A competence and useful Imperial comprehension, and clashes often against Chopper’s gleeful anti-authoritarian streak.
– Throughout season three we spend a great deal of time with the Bindu, a creature that exists within the gray middle of the Force, and voiced by the legendary Tom Baker, of Doctor Who. It’s an amazing performance, and it finally makes me understand that the depths of Baker’s talent are in how he is able to take fantastical speeches about massive concepts and make them sound like the most natural details in the world. Tom Baker can take mind-bending ideas about both the Force and the Space/Time continuum and make them sound as logical as the distance between two points.
– In general the voice casting and performances are uniformly excellent for both principals and guest stars, often in surprising ways. Former teen heartthrob Freddie Prinze Jr. does nuanced work as ronin Jedi Kanan Jarrus; his wife and former vampire slayer Sarah Michelle Gellar shows up for a season as a sadistic, serpentine Inquisitor. Dee Bradley Baker continues to play the aging Clone Troopers, notably Captain Rex, with depth and subtlety. A number of the film’s stars show up to voice their own animated counterparts, including Billy Dee Williams as a much younger and more conniving Lando, Genevieve O’Malley as Mon Mothma, Forest Whitaker as the increasingly radical Saw Gerrera.
– Speaking of Gerrera, the series seems to be taking a few episodes at the start of the fourth season to stage a debate between Mothma and Gerrera on the nature of tactics and engagement that adds wonderful new dimensions to Rogue One.
– Speaking of connections between the films and the series, there’s a sequence in the second episode of Rebels‘ third season where Maul throws Kanan out an airlock and he Force-pulls his way to the safety of the shuttle hangar. Your arguments against Leia doing the same in The Last Jedi are invalid.
– Grand Admiral Thrawn, man. This series takes Timothy Zahn’s greatest creation and nails him completely. He’s both despicable and admirable in equal measure, and a genuine threat to the Rebellion every minute he’s onscreen. And the pipe organ-based theme they have playing behind him somehow remains understated and sinister in just the right way.
– Both of the Lucasfilm animated series have made it their mission to take concepts and characters from the film canon and expand them into complex, compelling pieces of the saga. The work that Clone Wars did to redeem Anakin from the poor writing and direction in the film prequels makes his fall all the more tragic, especially during the moment at the end of Rebels‘ second season when he finally comes face to face as Vader with his former padawan, Ahsoka Tano. The planet Mandalore, which essentially began as a cool suit of armor on a mostly silent bounty hunter, has grown into this universe’s Klingon Empire, a rich culture both characterized and scarred by its history of perpetual civil war.
Perhaps most impressive, over the course of the two series they have transformed Darth Maul into one of the narrative’s most tragic characters — a villain defined by his constant failures, corrupted not only by the Dark Side but by the weight of understanding how small a role he had in the galactic conflict. From his first appearance to his last, Maul often scores a brief, decisive victory and then has it taken from him by either his own mistakes or the overpowering magnitude of his opponents. He conquers the high seat of Mandalore — murdering Obi-Wan Kenobi’s beloved Duchess Satine — and then loses it, along with his brother, when Palpatine arrives to dispatch him as a rival. His home planet of Dathomir is utterly destroyed on the orders of the Empire, leaving him one of the last of his kind. His battle of wills with Kanan for the soul of Ezra Bridger ends with Maul driven to find Kenobi yet again, believing that he represents the remaining spiritual obstacle in his attempts to rise above the position of mere pawn.
This obsession culminates in this breathtaking scene, a lightsaber duel unlike any we have seen in the entire series, punctuated by a moment of heartbreaking compassion and hope. I’ve watched it maybe a half dozen times and it has moved me each time, and the moments that Star Wars makes you feel that way are precious indeed.
– Dave Filoni, who has been the steward and shepherd of these two series, should be writing Episode IX. If not, he should be writing or directing one of the films in the new trilogy. He’s more than earned it.