Animated Series

Talking Thrawn with Hyperspace PodBlast

Introduced in Timothy Zahn’s 1991 novel Heir to the Empire, Grand Admiral Thrawn, the white uniformed, blue-bodied and red-eyed humanoid, has always been my absolute favorite Star Wars character. Knowing how much I adore the famous Chiss (the name for Thrawn’s species), Shelby and Bryan from Hyperspace PodBlast invited me to join them in a recent episode to discuss not only my passion for the Expanded Universe character, but my thoughts on Grand Admiral Thrawn’s new role in the Disney canon. Have a listen to our chat down below, and be sure to head over to Hyperspace PodBlast to hear this and other great Star Wars conversations! Oh, and be sure to follow Hyperspace PodBlast on Twitter @hyperspace_pod

 

Feeding Tarkintown

A world in the far reaches of the galaxy’s Outer Rim, the planet Lothal and the streets of the Imperial-occupied world’s Capital City serve as the action-packed arena for Star Wars Rebels very first Act. Introduced first to the “loth-rat” Ezra Bridger, a teenage orphan, “Spark of Rebellion” – the title for the very first two episodes of the animated series – gives viewers immediate action when Bridger observes three individuals attack an Imperial detachment seeking to commandeer the storage containers the Empire is transporting. Jumping into the action, Bridger  steals a speeder bike with two of the containers and the Rebels, having captured the other cargo, must pursue the teen to re-acquire the goods. Eventually escaping with one of the containers by fleeing the city and losing his pursuers, Bridger never-the-less finds himself saved by the Rebels moments later. Fleeing on board their ship, The Ghost, it is only then that Bridger learns that the container he stole contains Imperial blasters. However, as we and Bridger soon learn, weapons are not the only goods the Rebels were stealing from the Empire.

As The Ghost flees Imperial pursuit by heading into hyperspace, Bridger demands to be returned to Lothal. He is surprised to learn that this is exactly the plan, the captain of the vessel, Hera Syndulla, explaining to him that the job on Lothal is not yet finished. Landing on a small hill in a remote location on Lothal,  Bridger is told to “pull his weight” by grabbing one of the stolen crates and joining two members of the crew as they descend the hill and enter the ram-shack village at its base. Known as Tarkintown, Bridger soon learns that it is home to displaced citizens of Lothal, citizens who had been kicked off their farms by the Empire. Arriving in the town center, it is only now that Ezra learns that the contents of the other crates the Rebels had stolen, the crates he and his companions have brought into Tarkintown, are filled with food. And, as the Rebel Zeb Orrelios announces there is “free grub” for the citizens, Bridger is taken-aback by the thanks he receives from citizens who are grateful for the generosity of the Rebels.

Tarkintown
Ezra Bridger (left), Sabine Wren (center), and Zeb Orrelios (right) transport crates through Tarkintown.
Photo Credit -Star Wars Rebels Season 1, Episodes 1-2: “Spark of Rebellion”

While the entire scene lasts but a moment, and Bridger and company move on from Tarkintown shortly afterwards, I have never-the-less always felt that the act of feeding those in need was a profound way to establish the moral and ethical compass of this band of Rebels. It is conceivable, given the way the opening Act in “Spark of Rebellion” unfolds – the attack on the Empire, Bridger stealing a crate, the Rebels saving the teen – that the show-runners could have moved the plot along without a trip to feed the hungry. However, showing that they were not just stealing weapons but also food, food that they were willing to share freely with the less fortunate, was a simple and effective way of showing that these Rebels are driven not only by a sense of justice, but also by compassion and humanitarianism.

On this point, it is worth noting that this act of humanitarianism stuns Bridger. Caught unaware by the fact that he is delivering food to Tarkintown’s inhabitants, and even more surprised when he is thanked by a hungry towns-person for the assistance, Bridger will retreat back to the hillside where he will sit and look down upon the village in silence. I cannot help but wonder if Bridger’s thoughts carried him back to the events from earlier in the day when we first met him on the streets of Capital City in the shows first few moments. Then, before his encounter with the Rebels, he had helped a food vendor who had been accosted by the Empire and then, taking advantage of the situation, cheekily stole some of the merchant’s jogan fruit. “A kids gotta eat” Bridger declares to justify his blatant robbery, a true statement but hardly grounds for the action, especially after the vendor freely offered him a jogan fruit as thanks for the teens assistance. Having just helped to deliver food to the hungry inhabitants of Tarkintown, it is worth asking: does Bridger now feel sorrow for selfishly stealing the food from vendor, especially since there are others who are worse off than he?

Granted, this is merely speculation. We do not know, nor can we know, what Bridger is thinking in his moment of silence, and one can certainly imagine that many separate thoughts were running through his mind. But putting Ezra’s hypothetical musings aside, it is equally worth noting that the entire opening Act of “Spark of Rebellion” is bookended by 1) Bridger’s relationship to others and; 2) food/hunger. At the beginning of the Act, Ezra purposefully helps another (the vendor) but takes food for himself because he “needs to eat.” At the end of the Act, he shares food with others who are themselves hungry even though, to his own admission, he “didn’t do anything” purposeful to help them. And nestled within those two bookends are the selfless actions of a Rebel cell that attacks the Empire so they can help others. In fact, it is worth noting that while the food is delivered to Tarkintown’s residents, the stolen weapons will be sold for money and, more importantly, information about a group of Wookiee slaves the Rebels desire to free from bondage. Once again, these Rebels – Bridger included – will embark on a humanitarian mission, risking their own lives by challenging the Empire so as to help those in need.

There are certainly other ways one could analyze the opening Act in “Spark of Rebellion” specifically and the episode as a whole more generally. However, I think it necessary and appropriate to end by noting that while the hungry citizens of Tarkintown are fictional, there are nearly 800 million people around the world dealing with undernourishment. That is 1 out of 9 people in the world! While Spark of Rebellion, and Star Wars Rebels, are a form of entertainment we can all enjoy, I hope that individuals who watch it – children and adults alike – are motivated to act selflessly (like the crew of The Ghost) and help our sisters and brothers who are struggling to find a meal.

For more information on world hunger and related issues, check out the links below. Oh, and I know you have time to check them out because you just spent like two minutes reading this Star Wars post. Seriously, if you could take the time to read this piece about make-believe Rebels who help make-believe citizens in Tarkintown, then you can take a few minutes to read about world hunger and discover ways that you can help alleviate the suffering of those who are undernourished or experiencing food insecurity. Here are the links, get to it…

The Hunger Site – There is a button on this page that says “Click Here to Give – it’s FREE” and every click is a donation to help those in need of a meal! GO CLICK THE BUTTON!

Feeding America – In the United States, 1 out of every 8 people struggle with food insecurity. Feeding America operates food banks nationwide to help tackle this problem. Check out the site for ways YOU can volunteer at a local food bank.

Hunger Notes Be sure to “Take a Hunger Quiz” so you can learn more about issues related to hunger. Oh, and for every quiz that is taken,  Hunger Notes makes a small donation to assist hungry people!

Meals on Wheels – Operating in nearly every American community, Meals on Wheels seeks to address senior hunger and isolation. Did you know that 1 out of every 6 seniors in the United States struggles with hunger? Or that 1 out of every 4 lives alone and in isolation? Explore the site to discover volunteer opportunities!

The Sith Temple on Malachor

“Two must lift these stones, no more, no less. That is the way of the Sith.” – Maul

In the Season 2 finale of Star Wars Rebels – “Twilight of the Apprentice” – Kanan Jarrus, Ezra Bridger, and Ahsoka Tano travel to the planet Malachor in order to gain knowledge which will help them defeat the Sith and Inquisitors. As we discover in the episode, Malachor was a planet of legend among the Jedi, a world off-limits to members of the Order. And rightfully so. Arriving on the planet, the three companions discover an ancient Sith Temple hidden on the planet, along with the scorched remains of bodies and discarded lightsabers scattered among the ruins, signs of The Great Scourge of Malachor, a historic battle between the Jedi and Sith. Taking place thousands of years in the past, The Great Scourge of Malachor was first named in The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary, a small snippet in the reference book explaining that Kylo Ren’s unique, cross-guard lightsaber hails from the time period of the forgotten and catastrophic fight. And, as luck would have it, Bridger finds and briefly ignites one such lightsaber as he scours the desolate ruins.

As someone who has always been deeply fascinated by the Sith and the Dark Side, not to mention all things relating to ancient history in the Star Wars universe, “Twilight of the  Apprentice” really struck a cord with me. In turn, the more I have watched this episode, the more curious I have become by the fact that the Sith Rule of Two is a subtle, but central, aspect of the Temple structure. One will recall that the Rule, enacted by Darth Bane, holds that there can only be two Sith at a time: a Master and an Apprentice. As we learn early on in “Twilight” from Maul, himself a former Sith Lord, the Temple is bound to this central Sith philosophy. Relying on a far-to-trusting Ezra Bridger, Maul is able to open the doors of the Temple with the teen’s eager assistance. Maul could not do it alone, rather he needed a second – an “Apprentice” – to work with him. Later, the “elevators” that carry individuals to the higher recesses of the Temple are also bound to the Rule, two and only two being needed/allowed for the lifts to work. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, when the Sith Holocron that plays a central role in “Twilight” activates the Temple (we discover, as does Bridger, that the Temple is a massive superweapon), Ezra is only able to pull the Holocron away from the (for lack of better terms) “activation spot” when he recalls that he cannot do it alone. With the help of Kanan Jarrus, the two are able to pull the Holocron away, shutting down the Temple structure before the weapon can be used by Maul.

On the surface of things, the use of the Rule of Two in the episode is not very surprising. In an episode of Rebels that was a bit chaotic – not in a negative way, just in the sense that a lot happens in a short amount of time – the Rule of Two otherwise blended into the background, playing an important role at critical junctures while not being a central aspect of the show. Since Ahsoka Tano and Darth Vader have their long-anticipated showdown in “Twilight of the Apprentice,” it is hardly surprising that the use of the Rule of Two is ultimately an unremarkable afterthought in the episode. Still, during my first and subsequent viewings of “Twilight,” I have continue to be utterly perplexed by the Rule’s appearance in the episode because the Sith Temple on Malachor really should not be tied to the Rule for one very simple reason: the Rule of Two was not enacted until long after the Temple was built.

Ezra and Maul
Maul (left) and Ezra Bridger (right) walk towards an entrance to the Sith Temple on Malachor.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Rebels Season 2, Episodes 21-22: “Twilight of the Apprentice”

As I already mentioned, it is (former Darth) Maul who, early in the episode, describes this central philosophy of the Sith Order and its connection to the Temple. Maul states to Bridger, “Two must lift these stones, no more, no less. That is the way of the Sith.” While Maul is not incorrect in noting that the Sith are guided by the Rule, but again, the Rule went into effect thousands of years after the Temple was constructed. So where does this leave us? How do we make sense out of a seemingly obvious canonical contradiction in “Twilight of the Apprentice”?  I have wrestled with this for some time, allowing possible explanations for this curious connection between the Temple and the Rule to bubble up in my mind. That being the case, I have come up with a handful of possible explanations that I have decided to share…

Possible Explanations (The Operative Word being “Possible”)

Possibility #1: Darth Bane did not create the Rule of Two, instead he adopted a concept that dates back, at the very least, to the time when Sith Temple on Malachor was constructed. In other-words, as Bane sought to change the Sith Order so that it would survive, he went in search of knowledge from the ancient Dark Lords such as the female Sith who built the Temple on Malachor. Finding that Sith Lords like her and others believed a “Master-Apprentice” relationship created the strongest connection to the Dark Side (one to hold the power, the other to crave it), these ancient Sith tied the workings of their own Temples, Holocrons, Rituals, etc. to their own de facto “Rule of Two.” 

Possibility # 2: Darth Bane actually lived long before the Sith Temple was constructed. The idea that Bane lived in the very distant past is actually something I suggest in another post for a separate reason (you can check it out HERE). Basically, this possibility opens the way for the Rule of Two to have been implemented before the Temple on Malachor was constructed, thereby ensuring that the Temple would be tied to the Rule. 

Possibility # 3: When Sith Philosophy changes, such as when Darth Bane enacted the Rule, everything about the Sith changes. Admittedly, this is a rather odd possiblity as it would require some very deep, metaphysical connection between the Sith and their artifacts. This is not necessarily outside the realm of possibility, after-all we know that Darth Sidious could use the Dark Side across great galactic distances. However, I am unsure exactly how, when Darth Bane enacted the Rule of Two, this would also change the structural operations of the Sith Temple on Malachor. Would/Could Bane simply engage in some type of ritual to unify all things Sith to his Rule? Maybe? Perhaps? I dunno. It is an interesting idea but also an unnecessarily complex one that could get confusing really fast.

Possibility # 4: This is just a straight-up error on the part of the Star Wars Rebel show-runners and/or Lucasfilm Story Group. While my inclination is not to lay blame on those who work for Lucasfilm and know far more about the Star Wars universe than myself, I cannot help but wonder if the Rule of Two found its way into “Twilight of the Apprentice” without much forethought. I absolutely do not think tying the Rule to the Temple structure was nefarious or purposefully misleading. Rather, since the Rule of Two plays such a central role in Star Wars lore involving the Sith, the Rule of Two was probably just an easy tool the show-runners could utilize in the episode, especially using it with Maul as he manipulates Ezra. In fact, on this point…

Possibility # 5: …it might be that the Temple is not actually tied to the Rule of Two, or any de facto “Rule of Two.” Perhaps Maul is just lying to Bridger when he says “two must lift these stones,” doing so to convince Ezra to trust him and, more importantly, to work in tandem with him.  If so, then the use of the Rule of Two in the episode may not be a mistake. Instead, it could be an intentional plot device that allows Maul to lie his way into Ezra’s trust. Then again, even if it isn’t intentional – if the show-runners/Story Group did, in fact, make an error – I think the possibility that Maul is lying to Ezra could still work. 

And there you have it. Five possibilities that could explain why the Rule of Two is tied to the Sith Temple on Malachor. If you can think of any possibilities or ideas of your own, or if you want to offer your thoughts on my own explanations, leave a comment!

 

Haikuesday: Ahsoka Tano

I have to be frank:
When Young Snips was introduced
I did not like her.

Haiku Addendum:
Regarding the last poem,
I’m now fond of her.


Ahsoka Tano
was basically Padmé and
Ani’s first child.


Scene: on Christophsis;
A youngling is sent to war
by Jedi Masters.


Does anyone know
why Ahsoka went off to
fight without armor?


Jedi Commander
Outranking Clone Captain Rex
Both child soldiers.


The Battle of Teth:
Tano fights for access to
Hutt hyperspace routes.


The Malevolence
destroys Master Plo Koon’s fleet.
Tano will save him.


In Resolute bay,
Ahsoka complains about
being a gunner.


“I feel it,” she says.
“A disturbance in the Force.”
Pellaeon listens.


A duel with Grievous
unfolds in Ruusan moon’s sky.
Snips barely escapes.


Blue Shadow Virus!
Ahsoka is infected!
Oh no, Padmé too!


Scene: over Ryloth;
Tano uses Marg Sabl
in battle with Seps.


Ignoring commands,
rash Ahsoka continues
fight for Felucia. 


Ahsoka Tano,
Jedi Padawan and the
best library guard.


Held hostage by Bane,
Anakin must choose how to 
save his padawan.


Ani and Tano
bicker while battle rages.
“Another fine mess…”


Noble sacrifice;
Tano and Offee “die” so 
that others can live.


“Kill me” pleads Barris,
brain worms infecting her mind.
Can Snips kill her friend?


Maurya Ruler,
Conqueror of Kalinga.
Whoops! That’s Ashoka.


Tera Sinube
helps Ahsoka look for her
misplaced lightsaber.


Mon Gazza podrace,
Ahsoka gets a “Crash Course” 
in high speed flying.


Two Jedi track Fett
from Coruscant to Florrum.
Will they find the boy?


I have to be frank:
Pics of sexy Ahsoka
are really creepy.

Haiku Addendum:
Seriously, she’s a kid,
not a sex object.


Tano with Chuchi;
Just two friends hiding on a
Federation ship.


Padmé in danger!
Ahsoka senses a threat,
but could she be wrong…?


Scene: on Mandalore;
Ahsoka helps some kiddos
tackle corruption


Young Ahsoka speaks
with her older self in the
complex Mortis-arc.


With his dying breath,
Piell imparts Nexus Route
upon young Tano.


Trandoshans capture
Ahsoka and use her as 
prey to be hunted.


I can’t figure out
why Ahsoka came with the
Lego MHC…

Haiku Addendum:
Ahsoka was not in the
Umbaran stories.


Battle in the deep.
Ahsoka protects Lee-Char,
King of Mon Cala.


Ahsoka and Lux,
sitting in a tree, K-I-
S-S-I-N-G!!!!


Tano is all like
cray jelly that dreamy Lux
likes that chick Steela.


A padawan framed!
Ahsoka flees into the
deadly underworld.


“I’m not coming back.”
Ahsoka Tano leaves an
Order in chaos.


I have to be frank:
I don’t like that she leaves but
sees Ani again.


Siege of Mandalore.
Tano duels a tattooed foe.
Rex will spring the trap.


Ahsoka novel
Review: started strong but the
climax was just meh.


Scene: moon called Raada;
A mechanic named Ashla
lends aid to farmers.


Lets all just agree
that Team Ahsoka is the
best Tano fan site.


Snips turned fifteen on
September 22nd
1955

Haiku Addendum:
Hidalgo figured this out
so go talk to him.


Mystery figure.
Aiding the Lothal Rebels.
Who is this Fulcrum?


Rex and Ahsoka
are finally reunited.
Memories abound.


It’s pretty damn cool
when Ahsoka schools the two
inquisitive sibs.


“You abandoned me!”
“Do you know what I’ve become?”
“No. No!” she cries out.


Scene: on Malachor;
“I am no Jedi,” she tells
her former Master.


Did Ahsoka live?
Or did she die in the duel?
There’s no wrong answer.

Haiku Addendum:
Ahsoka theories don’t suck,
nor do Snoke theories


If left up to me,
in The Last Jedi I’d have
Luke chat with Tano.


Haikuesday is a monthly series on The Imperial Talker, a new post with poetic creations coming on the first Tuesday of each month. The haiku topic is chosen by voters on Twitter so be sure to follow @ImperialTalker so you can participate in the voting. Now, check out these past Haikuesday posts:

Droids (February 2017)

Darth Vader (April 2017)

The Battle of Scarif (May 2017)

Star Wars Without End

I spend a lot of time pondering the internals of the Star Wars universe – the characters, events, factions, spaceships, philosophies, etc. – but I also spend quite a bit of time thinking about the Star Wars franchise in general. These days, it’s hard not to think about the trajectory of the franchise since Disney – which purchased the franchise from the original creator/owner George Lucas in 2012 – has been announcing and releasing new content left and right. Movies, TV shows, novels, comics, video games, and more are adding to the already rich trove of stories that populate the universe, while an endless line of new merchandise in every shape and form pops up on a seemingly daily basis. Plus, Disney is building two different Star Wars-themed lands where fans can enjoy “being in” the Star Wars universe.

As a lifelong fan of Star Wars, the fact that the franchise is going strong definitely makes me happy, but this also comes with a catch – too much of a good thing isn’t always great. While I am excited there are new Star Wars stories being told and merchandise being sold, there is also a certain amount of burn out that also comes with all of this. Admittedly, it is a bit odd for me to say this since I maintain this site devoted to Star Wars, but it is also the truth – at times, being a Star Wars fan can be utterly exhausting.

Some of this Star Wars exhaustion is a natural symptom of over-indulgence, a symptom which necessitates moving away from the franchise for a while so I can enjoy it more fully another day. Having a site like this where I write about Star Wars certainly adds to this particular form of burn out, and at times, I have to step away from the computer or notebook, giving myself time and permission to not even think about Star Wars.

star-wars-celebration-1140x502
I’ve never been to a Star Wars Celebration, the so-called “ultimate fan experience,” and have little desire to attend one. Perhaps someday I will if I’m feeling adventurous and want to put my crowd anxiety to the test.
Photo Credit : Lucasfilm/Disney

On the other hand, some of this burn out is just a general fatigue associated with having to maintain interest in such an expansive franchise, one that is not going to stop growing anytime soon. Just as I look up at the night sky and have difficulty processing the vastness of space, a similar feeling of being overwhelmed hits me when I think about the vastness of the Star Wars franchise, a vastness that encapsulates past, present, and future. While I can appreciate all that Star Wars has to offer, providing fans of every type with something they will love, on a personal level, the more Star Wars grows, the more exhausted I’ve become trying to keep up with it. 

And so, I have found myself trying to reconcile my lifelong exploration of the “galaxy far, far away” with the continued growth of the franchise and the gambit of ways it is making me feel: overwhelmed, exhausted, burnt out, and at times even uninspired and bored. In other words, I have found myself for some time now in the rather peculiar position of trying to decide how I will continue being a fan of the franchise (talk about first world problems). What do I mean by this? Well, it means I have spent a lot of time reflecting on my relationship with the franchise in general, and the content of the Star Wars universe in particular. It means that because I do not have an endless supply of time, energy, and money – especially money – to devote to a fictional universe that will probably still be growing when I am on my death bed that I have to decide which aspects of Star Wars I will continue to participate in/enjoy and which parts I am just uninterested in/do not feel are worth the effort.

daala
Most people know that I’m obsessed with Grand Admiral Thrawn, but I’m also a huge fan of Admiral Natasi Daala who first appeared in the Expanded Universe novel Jedi Search.
Photo Credit: Lucasfilm/Del Rey

In truth, this isn’t an entirely new approach to the way I engage with Star Wars. We all have our personal preferences and gravitate towards certain things, and I have always been the type of person who likes parts of Star Wars more than others. Even before George Lucas sold the franchise to Disney I was selective about how I participated in the franchise, what merchandise I bought, and yes even which stories I gravitated towards. For example, I can honestly say that while I am well versed in the stories of the now Expanded Universe (EU; now officially called Legends…bleh), there are some Expanded Universe stories I have never touched and know almost nothing about. Case in point: The Old Republic online game. Perhaps one day I will get around to playing The Old Republic or checking out those EU stories I haven’t read, or maybe I won’t.

Like the Expanded Universe I am already treating the “new Expanded Universe,” the Disney Canon, the same way. While I have done my best to keep up with all of the stories being released, it became very apparent early on that it just wouldn’t be possible to do so. This hardly means I haven’t tried my best, but it does mean that I am well aware there are tales I have missed and probably will never experience. Since I have no interest in subscribing to Star Wars Insider magazine, I miss out on the short-stories that appear in each edition. I have certainly read a few here and there, but otherwise I’ve missed most of them and am not rushing out to read them. This is also true of the discontinued Star Wars Rebels magazine, each issue containing a story in the form of a comic. I’m sure those comics are quite fun, and perhaps I will check them out at some point, but for now I’m just not that interested in going out of my way to read them.

In turn, even of the new stories I have encountered in the Disney canon (and this goes for the EU as well), I’ve absolutely loved some, really disliked others, and have otherwise mixed emotions about a handful. I thought Kevin Hearne’s novel Heir to the Jedi was rather bland, have been underwhelmed by the novels in Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath series, felt the Chewbacca comic series left a lot to be desired, and walked out of my first viewing of The Force Awakens asking myself what the hell I had just watched. On the flip side, I really enjoyed playing the now discontinued Star Wars: Uprising video game, absolutely love the Princess Leia and Lando comic series, was blown away by Christie Golden’s novel Dark Disciple and James Luceno’s novel Tarkin, and have really enjoyed the rich layers being added to the canon thanks to the animated show Star Wars Rebels.

Run2
The Grand Inquisitor, introduced in Star Wars Rebels, is now one of my absolute favorite characters. I am hoping he will get his own novel or comic series.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Rebels Season 1, Episode 14: “Fire Across the Galaxy”

But just because I love one particular story or dislike another doesn’t mean I find perfection/imperfection in everything. I might not love Heir to the Jedi but there are some very good moments in the novel, The Force Awakens has grown on me over time, the Uprising game was fun but also incredibly tedious, and even though I am really loving Star Wars Rebels I’ve been a vocal critic of the overuse of the Jedi and the Force in the series. For me, being a fan of Star Wars is not a zero sum game, a matter of either love or hate. Rather, more often than not it boils down to shades of gray, the acknowledgment that stories that I feel are wonderful still have flaws, and those I believe fall short do have some redeeming qualities. 

None of this is to say that my particular reactions/thoughts on each Star Wars story, or my moments of exhaustion, boredom and dispassion with the franchise as a whole, must be globally accepted. My personal fandom is no more or less important than any other fan, and my subjective experiences of Star Wars need not dictate the experiences others have. Besides, I can think of nothing more absurd than being a fan of Star Wars and lording my fandom over others. No, I am far more interested in sharing aspects of my fandom with others, engaging people in rich conversation about Star Wars. By maintaining this site, my hope is to always do just that: share aspects of Star Wars that stand out to me – the good and the bad, inspirational and discouraging – and open the floor for conversation. 

And that being the case, I have to ask: what are your feelings and opinions on the current state of the Star Wars franchise? Am I the only one who has moments of Star Wars fatigue and boredom, or are there others like me who are out there? If you care to share your thoughts and feelings, leave a comment. 

Ahsoka Tano, Child Soldier

“I’m the new Padawan learner. I’m Ahsoka Tano.”

While I absolutely love Ahsoka Tano and find her an enthralling Star Wars character, I am also torn by the reality that Tano, a child, was a combatant in the Clone Wars. Story-wise this was purposeful, as a juvenile protagonist – a “youngling” as Obi-Wan Kenobi calls her – was needed to draw younger viewers to The Clone Wars film and television series of the same name, giving kids a character that they could easily identify with. Narrative necessity aside, no one can deny that when she arrives on the planet Christophsis in the movie, Ahsoka Tano not only takes her first steps towards becoming a Jedi Knight but also becomes a child soldier.

Admittedly, when I first watched The Clone Wars movie and series I was never bothered by this reality. In all honesty, it never even crossed my mind until recently. So deeply enchanted by the new Star Wars stories being told, so excited to experience the Clone Wars which Obi-Wan first spoke of in A New Hope, it never dawned on me that Ahsoka Tano’s participation in the war was/is egregious. That Jedi Master Yoda would see fit to use the youngling as a courier, carrying an urgent message into the heart of a major battle is alarming, especially considering she is sent without any body armor. That he and the Jedi Order would allow Ahsoka and other Jedi children to be warriors in the conflict is appalling.

Then again, while alarming and appalling, it is not entirely surprising. The Jedi Order – Master Yoda included – was quick to take command of the clone army in Attack of the Clones, an army of genetically bred soldiers who were also, technically speaking, just children. That the ancient Order, committed to using the mystical Force for “knowledge and defense, never for attack” would move so swiftly to militarize is disconcerting, proof that the Jedi were not only imperfect but also flirted with the Dark Side. Sending children into battle, younglings such as Ahsoka Tano and Caleb Dume (himself younger than even Tano) is but another reminder that the Jedi Order in the late days of the Old Republic acted, at times, in morally and ethically repugnant ways.


I am interested to hear what you have to say about Ahsoka Tano as a child soldier, but I would also encourage you to check out the sites below to read more about the plight of child soldiers around the world. 

Child Soldiers International

Human Rights Watch

Amnest International

Children and Armed Conflict
(Be sure to watch the video featuring Star Wars actor Forest Whitaker)

Transcending Death: The Light

In a recent post – Cheating Death: The Dark – I discussed the hate-filled path Darth Maul traversed in order to survive his horrific wounding in The Phantom Menace. If you have not read the post, or want to refresh your memory, I would encourage you to do so. In this piece I do a 180, flipping the conversation from cheating death to transcending death in order to consider how a Light Sider user can, if they are chosen and deemed worthy, preserve their conscious identity (and bodily form) in the netherworld of the Force. 

As I point out in Cheating Death, the Sith and the Jedi share in having dynamic but also limited understandings of the Force. Just as Darth Maul could not dream of the level of Darkness he would reach in his state of intense hatred, the Jedi also lack full comprehension of what the Light Side offers regarding death. This is not a criticism of the Jedi, though. Rather, it is an acknowledgment that the religious orders in Star Wars – Sith, Jedi, Knights of Ren, Nightsisters, and so on – do not have 100% complete conceptual understandings of the Force. Ultimately, the religious orders believe about the Force is centered around their specific experience of it and, as a result, their respective dogmas directly reflect this experiential knowledge.

A perfect example of the Jedi Order’s limit is the skepticism – nay, the outright denial – that one can preserve their individuality after death. In The Clone Wars Season Six episode “Voices,” Anakin Skywalker describes the Order’s dogma on the subject of life after death quite poignantly when he states, “…everything that we know about the Force tells us that an individual retaining their identity after death is impossible.” To this we can also add Jedi Master Ki-Adi Mundi, ranking member of the Jedi Council, who notes “…the dead are part of the Cosmic Force and lose their individuality.” Even Master Yoda, the oldest/wisest of the Jedi and head of the Council, does not at first believe in the possibility of maintaining one’s individuality after death, expressing his own skepticism when he hears the voice of dead Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn. Nevertheless, Yoda will come to realize that Master Jinn is speaking to him, opening himself to a possibility he thought impossible. In turn, guided by Qui-Gon, Yoda will begin his own journey towards transcendence.

The journey, though, is not an easy one. Yoda, we find in the last few episodes of The Clone Wars series (starting with “Voices”), must face significant trials to show that he is worthy of retaining his individuality after death. In other words, the great gift of transcendence is not liberally given to all Light Side users. While Jedi Masters such as Mace Windu, Plo Koon, Shaak Ti, and Ki-Adi Mundi are incredibly wise and act with good intentions, they nevertheless are not presented with the possibility of transcendence.

On the other hand, Yoda is chosen to receive the great gift, chosen because he will “teach one who will save the universe from the great imbalance.” Still, even Yoda must be put to the test, and in the episodes “Destiny” and “Sacrifice” he is forced to master himself – his own darkness, hubris, and temptations – in order to prove that he can master transcendence. It is only after passing these difficult tests, coming into a fuller understanding of his own identity and his connection with the Light Side of the Force, that Yoda will begin a long process of training through which he will learn to manifest consciousness after death.

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Yoda is confronted by his own inner Dark Side and hubris.
Photo Credit: The Clone Wars Season 6, Episode, Episode 12 – “Destiny”

Although we are given a fleeting glimpse of this training in The Clone Wars, the training Yoda receives has otherwise never been fully explored – either shown nor described – in any Star Wars stories. The same is also true for Obi-Wan Kenobi, whom we also know is granted this gift of transcendence. While Yoda explains, at the end of Revenge of the Sith, that Qui-Gon Jinn will be Kenobi’s guide in the process, we are not privy to the tests or lessons Kenobi will learn from his former Master.

Yet, all of this is okay. The Force is mysterious, and some of the sacred teachings, artifacts, and rituals that go hand-in-hand with it should be equally mysterious. Just as Sith and Jedi alike are not privy to every aspect of the Force, the same is also the case for fans of Star Wars. In fact, I would suggest that the training Yoda and Obi-Wan receive never be fully explored, lest we water down the sacred mystery of transcendence through over-explanation or take away from each fan’s imagination. Besides, what we do know is that Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi did learn to manifest consciousness after death, proof that their training, whatever it entailed, was successful.

But while Yoda and Kenobi completed their mysterious training, we also know that Qui-Gon Jinn did not. In “Voices,” Master Jinn explains that he was killed before his training was complete, before he had fully learned to manifest his individuality after death. While his concious identity was preserved at death, enabling him to speak from the beyond as a manifestation of the Force, Qui-Gon is unable to appear in bodily form to those who are still alive. As we are well aware, appearing in bodily form to the living is something which both Kenobi and Yoda are able to do. This is precisely because their bodies quite literally disappeared when “death” arrived, transported along with their consciousness to the netherworld of the Force. Thus, the pinnacle of one’s training, the pinnacle of transcendance, is the capacity to “exist where there is no future or no past” in both mind and body.  

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Obi-Wan Kenobi’s body disappears as he is struck down by Darth Vader.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

On this last point, it is worth mentioning that what existence is like for Qui-Gon, Kenobi, and Yoda in the netherworld of the Force is outside of the realm of comprehension. There are simply no words – not here or in any Star Wars story – that can capture what it truly means to exist once one has reached transcendence. Certainly finite language can be used to give hints; after all, even Buddhists understand that all suffering will cease once Nirvana has been reached. But what transcendence actually feels like on a subjective level, what existence means for one who now inhabits the netherworld of the Force, that can only be known to the individual whom has entered the new state of being. And because of this, I hope the existence which Qui-Gon, Kenobi and Yoda achieve is kept a mystery to other characters in the saga as well as fans.

Cheating Death: The Dark

When Darth Maul’s return was first flirted in Season 3 of The Clone Wars animated series, I was pretty skeptical. At the time, I thought it was a ridiculous stunt to bring back to life a character who had been sliced in half, his bifurcated body having fallen into an abyss in The Phantom Menace. Yet, the way Maul’s return was handled grew on me, and over time I not only accepted that he was still alive – something I could not argue since  he was literally on screen  – but that the way he was brought back was handled with care. While I certainly have my grievances with some of the story-arcs in Star Wars, Darth Maul’s return eventually became, and still is, one of my favorites.

As I said in a recent post where I discussed Maul’s return – The Power to Cheat Death – the fact that the young Dark Lord of the Sith survived his injuries opened the door to rethinking a number of aspects of the Star Wars universe. In keeping with this stream of thought, for this post I wanted to think about how Maul survived, the way he was able to sustain his life even though he had been horribly injured. 

Long before Darth Maul even arrived in person in The Clone Wars, questions began floating about how he could have survived his horrific injury. Thankfully, this was a question that was answered rather early on in Maul’s story-arc. In the Season Four episode “Revenge” – literally the episode that follows his re-discovery – Maul explains that while his body was broken, his hatred kept his spirit intact. Submerged in darkness, Maul became a self-described “rabid animal,” surviving on the junk world Lotho Minor until many years later his brother, Savage Opress, discovered him.

While his description of survival is brief, what Maul explains in “Revenge” is an intrinsic and fascinating aspect of the Dark Side of the Force.  Bathed in his hatred – hatred towards Kenobi, the Jedi, his old Master, etc. – Maul found himself consumed by the Dark Side in a way he had never prepared to encounter. In this regard, Maul’s survival was purely accidental. While he should have died due to his injuries, the Dark Side of the Force sustained his spirit – the Living Force within him – because Maul instinctively, although inadvertently, tapped into an intense and visceral level of hatred welling within his being. But the consequences of this deep level of hate and Dark Side submersion are clear: in cheating death, Maul lost all sense of his individuality, of “humanity,” becoming a wild animal.

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Darth Maul, physically and mentally broken, living as a rabid animal on Lotho Minor. Notice that he is quite literally a beast, his mechanical “body” resembling that of an arachnid.

Photo Credit: The Clone Wars Season 4, Episode 21 – “Brothers”

With this in mind, it is worth recalling one of the most iconic and profound quotes about the Dark Side in Star Wars, a quote found in Revenge of the Sith. Speaking to Anakin Skywalker, Chancellor Palpatine (aka Darth Sidious) describes the Dark Side of the Force “as a pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural.” Darth Maul’s survival is a perfect example of one of the most unnatural abilities swirling within the Dark Side, the ability to cheat death. There is nothing natural about Maul’s survival, about the ability for one to physically cheat death. After all, as Yoda also states in Revenge of the Sith, “death is a natural part of life.” That all life must die is normal, a consequence of the gift of life. To cheat death is unnatural, a subversion of the gift.

Yet, as Maul proves through his hate-filled survival, the ability to subvert, to undermine, the gift of life is inherent within the Dark Side of Force. And since it is life which creates the Force – as Yoda also eloquently states, this time in The Empire Strikes Back – and it is also true that death is a natural part of life, how are we to make sense of this dark ability to cheat physical death?

Regarding this question, I would suggest two things. First, just because life creates the Force does not mean life necessarily dictates or creates the powers/abilities inherent within the Cosmic Force. In turn, this leads to my second point: that the Dark Side and Light Side of the Force are rich with powers/abilities that go far beyond the rationale understanding and capabilities of the Sith, Jedi, and other religious orders devoted to the mystical energy field. When Maul says that his path was”darker than I ever dreamed it could be,” this is precisely what he is pointing towards – the fact that there is a level of Dark Side potential he never could have rationalized or imagined, a level he only could only experienced by tapping into a well-spring of raw, unadulterated hatred. And, as we know, ill-prepared to reach this exceptional level of Darkness, Maul lost all sense of individuality, becoming more animal than “man.”

On this last point, another question arises: could one tap into and sustain the same level of hatred as Maul, preserving their corporeal existence through the Dark Side, while also maintaining their sanity and identity? To this I would answer yes, but to do so would require years of intense and methodical training. Just as one must first learn to swim before diving into the deep end of a pool, so too must a Sith, Knight of Ren, or other type of Dark acolyte learn to wade into the darkness if they are to cheat death, prolonging bodily existence and mental stability. While it is necessary to give into and cultivate the hatred that will take one deeper into the dark abyss and unlock the incredible powers inherent within, it is equally necessary that one exercise intense control over this hatred lest it completely strip them of rational thought.

Furthermore, in answering this question, I would also go one step farther and suggest that Darth Sidious was already treading the dark path towards cheating death. In the novel Tarkin, Sidious hints at coaxing the “final secrets” from the dark side and considers that “success would grant them [he and Darth Vader] the power to harness the full powers of the dark side, and allow them to rule for ten thousand years.” While he does not explicitly state the intention to cheat death, the sentiment is nevertheless implied in his wish to rule for ten thousand years. As Sith believe there is nothingness after death – a philosophical point raised in The Clone Wars episode “Sacrifice” – the only way Sidious could rule indefinitely is if he was to preserve his Life Force in his body, utilizing the Dark Side to forgo death and extinction.

And since Sidious was training to do just that, steadily submerging himself deeper into the darkness in order to unlock the unnatural powers it contained, I cannot help but wonder if he – like Darth Maul before him – was able to survive his “death” in Return of the Jedi. A thought worth pondering, but one I will leave for another day.

The Power to Cheat Death

When we first watched The Phantom Menace and witnessed Darth Maul being sliced in half by Obi-Wan Kenobi, it was safe to assume that the young Dark Lord had been killed. Yet, as we discovered in The Clone Wars animated series, Maul miraculously survived his horrific bifurcation. Confiding in his training and anger, Maul drew upon the Dark Side of the Force to preserve what remained of him. Though his injuries took a physical and mental toll on him, he was able to cling to life and eventually found himself on the junk world of Lotho Minor. It was on the trash-filled planet where his brother, Savage Oppress, would re-discover Darth Maul. Taking the disheveled and mentally unstable Zabrak with him, Oppress returned Maul to Mother Talzin, a Dathomiri Witch who is, we discover much later, Maul’s mother. In turn, using her dark magic, Mother Talzin restored the one-time Dark Lord to his terrifying form, healing his mental anguish and providing him with new, mechanical legs.

Darth Maul’s return in The Clone Wars opened up a rich avenue of story-telling that has since extended into comic-book form (Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir), another animated series (Star Wars Rebels), and a new novel (Ahsoka). But his return also created intriguing ways of thinking about some of the lore and themes in Star Wars. For example, in a previous post from many moons ago – The Last Sith Lord – I speculated on the possibility that it is Maul, and not Vader or Sidious, who is the very last Dark Lord of the Sith (you can read that piece to see what I had to say). And in this post, I wanted to do something similar, this time considering how Maul’s re-emergence in The Clone Wars forces us to think more deeply about the concept of “cheating death,” a critical theme in Revenge of the Sith and the Prequel Trilogy.

For me, one of the most fascinating bits of lore added in Revenge of the Sith is the Tale of Darth Plagueis the Wise. Recounting the tale to Anakin Skywalker, Chancellor Palpatine (aka Darth Sidious) explains that,”Darth Plagueis was a Dark Lord of the Sith so powerful and so wise, he could use the Force to influence the midi-chlorians to create life. He had such a knowledge of the dark side, he could even keep the ones he cared about from dying.” Of course, Palpatine also points out that Plagueis’ apprentice (surprise, it was Sidious!) killed the powerful Sith Lord in his sleep, noting the irony that “He could save others from death, but not himself.”

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Chancellor Palpatine recounts the Tale of Darth Plagueis the Wise.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

With the Tale planted in Skywalker’s mind, it is little surprise that later in the film, when Anakin pledges himself to the teachings of Darth Sidious, he begs the Dark Lord of the Sith to help him save Padmé’s life. One will recall that young Skywalker was having premonitions about his wife’s impending death, visions of her suffering as she dies in child birth. And, in response to Anakin’s plea, Sidious remarks that “To cheat death is a power only one has achieved, but, if we work together, I know we can discover the secret.”

Now, it’s obvious that Sidious’ statement – “to cheat death is a power only one has achieved” –  is a reference to Darth Plagueis. However, it’s also true that Darth Maul was able to cheat death. Plagueis could keep others from dying, Maul was able to keep himself from dying. This being the case, it begs the question: is it possible to reinterpret Sidious’ statement to suggest he was talking about Darth Maul and not Darth Plagueis?

This question has rattled around in my brain for some time, although truthfully it is a difficult one to answer in the affirmative. Sidious’ intention when he says this line is pretty straight-forward: to manipulate Anakin into accepting Sidious as his new Master. Since Sidious seems interested in helping Anakin discover the power to cheat death – all for the sake of saving Padmé – it makes sense that young Skywalker would pledge himself to the Dark Lord. Along these lines, it is also worth remembering that after Anakin lost his mother in Attack of the Clones, he vehemently declares that he will become so powerful he will “learn how to stop people from dying.” Given Skywalker’s intense desire to keep his loved ones from death, it is no wonder that 1) Palpatine told Anakin the Tale of Darth Plagueis and; 2) that he offered to help the young man discover the secret to cheating death.

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Anakin pledges himself to Darth Sidious.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

None of this is to suggest, of course, that Darth Sidious and Anakin were ignorant that Darth Maul cheated death; both are well-aware the Sith survived his injuries and is still very much alive. But due to the context of this scene – embedded, as it is, in the Revenge of the Sith and the Prequel Trilogy – I find it unlikely that Sidious was referring to Darth Maul and not Darth Plagueis. Because Skywalker’s motivation is to save others from death – a power he was told Plagueis possessed – there is really no reason to imagine Darth Maul is at the forefront of his mind (or Sidious’) in the scene.

Nevertheless, I am still open to and intrigued by the possibility that Sidious was thinking of/referring to Darth Maul when he says “to cheat death is a power only one has achieved.” But I am not going to force the issue, in part because I have a lot of other things to say about cheating death and will be doing more posts on the topic. If, someday, a light turns on in my head and I figure out a way to make it work then I will be sure to share it with y’all. Otherwise, perhaps one of you will find a way to work it out in the meantime. 


More posts on the topic of cheating death:

Cheating Death: The Dark

Transcending Death: The Light

Imperial Profile: Admiral Tenant

“Nils Tenant is very competent.” – Moff Tarkin to Emperor Palpatine (from the novel Tarkin)

Admittedly, it is a bit odd that I decided to write a post about Rear Admiral Nils Tenant. On the one hand, with the recent revelation that my all-time favorite Star Wars character,  Grand Admiral Thrawn, will be making his glorious return to the universe, one would think I would be doing a post on him instead. It is certainly true that I am beyond excited to encounter Thrawn in a new novel and Season 3 of Star Wars Rebels, but at the moment, I am just not prepared to post anything about him.

On the other hand, doing a post on Tenant is odd because he is a rather minor Star Wars character. Actually, saying he is a minor character is being generous. The fact is, Nils Tenant has received only two canonical appearances in the Star Wars universe. His first comes in The Clone Wars episode “Overlords,” appearing rather briefly in the newsreel which serves as a prelude to the show. While he goes unnamed in the show, the episode guide for “Overlords” on StarWars.com at least puts a rank/name to his face, identifying him as Admiral Tenant.

In turn, James Luceno incorporated Tenant into his novel Tarkin. Given the first name Nils and the Imperial rank of Rear Admiral, Tenant’s story is slightly expanded in the book. Most notably, we discover that Rear Admiral Tenant and Moff Wilhuff Tarkin – the novels main protagonist – have a fond relationship dating back to their time in the Sullust Sector Spacefarers Academy. Crossing paths early in the novel when Tarkin travels to Coruscant, the two men have a short but cordial conversation as two friends. While I won’t spoil the dialogue for those who have not read Luceno’s book, I will note that the most revealing moment in the conversation comes when Tenant asks his friend to “put in a word for me” with the Emperor (whom Tarkin is heading to meet when the two cross paths).

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The cover of the novel Tarkin.
Photo Credit – Del Rey

Now, on the surface of things, this scene could just be interpreted as one officer trying to use his personal connections to gain more status. In fact, Tarkin even recognizes that this is precisely what Tenant is doing, thinking to himself that “he could understand wanting to be in the Emperor’s good graces…” However, Tarkin does not chastise Tenant for the request. While the Governor is slighty caught-off guard by it, he never-the-less validates his friend by clasping Tenant on the shoulder and stating “If the occasion arises, Nils.” In turn, Tenant smiles and states that Tarkin is “a good man.” And that, right there, is the point of the entire conversation – the exchange helps to establish Wilhuff Tarkin, a man we know will order the destruction of Alderaan thirteen years later, as a man who is also viewed by some as a decent individual. In other words, Rear Admiral Tenant’s brief appearance aids in the humanization of Moff Tarkin!!!

But that is the most I will say about Tarkin and his fascinating character development in the novel that bears his name. I encourage you all to read Tarkin if you haven’t – it is, in fact, my favorite novel in the Star Wars canon to date – but otherwise I wish to turn back to Nils Tenant. Of course, there is little more to say about him other than filling in small details from the novel. After serving in the Clone Wars as the commander of a Venator-class Star Destroyer (his ship is also in  “Overlords”), we learn that he was assigned to “pacification” once the Empire was formed. Unfortunately, what this means is never clarified in Tarkin, although I presume it refers to the pacification of worlds/species/groups rebelling against Imperial rule. Furthermore, we also learn through his conversation with the Governor that Admiral Tenant had returned to Coruscant for a meeting of the Joint Chiefs, a body made up of the top brass in the Empire’s Army and Navy. As if a moment of foreshadowing, at novels end, the narrator tells us that Rear Admiral Tenant has also become a member of the Joint Chiefs, a promotion perhaps resulting from Tarkin’s conversation with the Emperor. 

Beyond these basics, though, Nils Tenant receives no more major character development in the novel Tarkin. None-the-less, his brief conversation with Governor Tarkin was enough to capture my attention and write this post on him, and because of this I also hope that Rear Admiral Tenant makes some more appearances at various points throughout the canon. Personally, I have always had an intense fascination with the Imperial officers corps, a fascination responsible for posts on other officers in the past – Wullf Yularen and Maximilian Veers – and posts to come. While Nils Tenant and other peripheral characters do not necessarily drive the stories in the Star Wars canon, their presence/existence never-the-less deepens our understanding of the Empire and it’s powerful military. Plus, those officers who are major characters, such as Wilhuff Tarkin and Rae Sloane, benefit from a strong supporting cast which interacts with them, even if that interaction is a short conversation in a bustling hallway.

As for Nils Tenant, I don’t anticipate he will ever become a major actor in the Star Wars saga, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we see him again especially since James Luceno is the author of the upcoming novel Star Wars: Catalyst, a novel serving as a prelude to the film Rogue One. I just have a small feeling that we’ll encounter Rear Admiral Nils Tenant when the book is released. But hey, even if we don’t, I still think he’ll pop up again somewhere in the canon.