Rebels Finale: Thoughts

Warning: Spoilers ahead

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“Anakin Skywalker was weak. I destroyed him.”
Then I will avenge his death.”

I know, I know. The Season 2 finale for Rebels premiered weeks ago  (March 30th, to be exact.) I am woefully behind in writing about it. That said, I just watched it a second time with my wife and I’m ready to share my thoughts on the things I found noteworthy.

Ahsoka and Vader

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“I won’t leave you! Not this time.

I’ll dive right into the best part of this finale—this gal. I can’t say I’ve ever seen a character go from loathed to almost universally beloved by a fandom like Ahsoka has. Who would have guessed that Anakin’s bratty Padawan teenager would grow up into one of the most confident and powerful Force-users in the series?

Anyway, her reunion with Vader was as emotionally charged as I thought it would be. We kind of knew her efforts to reach her old master were doomed since Luke was ultimately the one to redeem him. Still, it was amazing to see her duel her former mentor.

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“Then you will die.”

Props to the writing team for mixing James Earl Jones’ voice with Matt Lanter’s after she cut part of his helmet away. Equal parts chilling and sad. Also, backing up a bit in the episode, what a badass entrance for our favorite Sith Lord.

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Maul

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“You seek knowledge. Call me Old Master.”

You’d think I would be sick of this guy by now, but Sam Witwer always manages to do such a brilliant job voicing this character. Maul plays a darker, seemingly helpless version of Yoda upon first encountering the young and impressionable Ezra Bridger.

Of course, we all knew it was a ruse. Maul has never forgotten his betrayal at the hands of Sidious. To him, the Jedi on Malachor were nothing but tools (or a potential apprentice in Ezra) in his quest for revenge. I’m curious to see what else the writers have in store for the ever-resilient Dathomiri renegade.

Kanan

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“Kanan, your eyes!”
“Let’s worry about that later. We’ve got to get that holocron out of here.”

Maul burning out one of my favorite character’s eyes with his lightsaber—let’s just say I never saw that coming. It’s sad, but I don’t see it crippling our newly-knighted Jedi one bit. Remember what Obi-Wan said? “Your eyes can deceive you. Don’t trust them.”

Coincidentally enough, this isn’t the first time a character voiced by Witwer has burned out the eyes of a Jedi. In the now Legends game The Force Unleashed, Vader’s apprentice Starkiller blinded Master Rahm Kota. The similarities between Kanan and Rahm have not gone unnoticed.

Let’s also not forget that in Legends there was a whole species (Miraluka) of blind Force-sensitives. If ever there was a time to recanonize them, it’s now.

Final notes

– The ancient battle between Jedi and Sith on Malachor is something I’m very curious to learn more about.

– Ezra picking up an ancient crossguard lightsaber from the battlefield was a neat touch. Kylo Ren supposedly got his design from the Scourge of Malachor.

– Not a huge fan of the ambiguity surrounding Ahsoka’s fate, but hopefully she’ll get her due later. Filoni has said that her time on Rebels is over.

– I’m totally on board with Ashley Eckstein’s statement regarding the coloring of that Convor bird. It’s similar to Daughter (embodiment of the light side of the Force) from The Clone Wars. I’ve seen people say that Ahsoka is grey since departing the Order, but that’s not true at all. It was the Jedi who forsook the light they were supposed to serve, not her.

– Ezra opened a Sith holocron. That can’t be good.

Anyway, thanks for reading. It was a phenomenal season and I can’t wait to see what the team has in store for us in the third season later this year.

May the Force be with you!

Dark Family Legacy: Forgiveness and Consequences

Spoilers ahead. Read at your own peril

  

Luke: “No, you’re coming with me. I’ll not leave you here, I’ve got to save you!”                           Anakin: “You already… have, Luke. You were right. You were right about me. Tell your sister… you were right.” 

Hello again. Today I’d like to discuss a topic that resonates very strongly with me–redemption. In this case a very specific individual’s path back to the light: Anakin Skywalker. I’ve often heard it said that Vader’s redemption at the end of VI felt forced or cheap when you consider all of the atrocities he had committed as a Sith Lord. 

This is obviously a very controversial topic (can a villain ever truly atone for their sins?) without a clear answer. To start, I’d like to dive right into Anakin’s actions as Darth Vader. 

  
“You were selfish. You abandoned me! You failed me! Do you know… what I’ve become?”

-Vision of Anakin to Ahsoka

I won’t spend too much time discussing Anakin’s fall this time. His personal failures and the actions of the Council/manipulations of Palpatine are a topic all on their own. As I mentioned above, we’ll take a look at Vader’s more obvious crimes.

  

“I killed them. I killed them all. They’re dead, every single one of them. And not just the men, but the women and the children too.”

Let’s be clear here. It would be really hard to sympathize with any group that kidnapped and tortured your mother. I couldn’t even fault someone for wanting revenge against said individuals. However, what Anakin did to that village goes way beyond wanting justice. He wanted that Tusken clan to suffer and he murdered all of them in cold blood. One of his first clear steps toward darkness. 

His slaughter of the Jedi (including children) after his Sith christening was just another step on his path toward the dark side. Here, he believed he was bringing justice and peace to the galaxy. That said, after being slighted by the Jedi so many times (especially in TCW series), I really can’t blame him too much for his hatred of the Order. 

Even after his transformation into the sinister cyborg we all know and love, Vader was still racking up the kill count. His own minions were fair game for a killing if they displeased him enough. In Marvel’s Star Wars 2015- comic, Vader telekinetically used his own stormtroopers as human shields to fend off sniper fire. Later, he snapped the neck of a hapless underling who just happened to see his scarred face. 

While he did not directly command the moon-like superweapon to fire (that was Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin), Vader was still complicit in the Death Star’s destruction of Alderaan. (Two billion deaths is nothing to sneeze at.) 

Finally, we have the torture and scheduled execution of his (then-unknown) daughter and the maiming of his son in a lightsaber duel. 

We get the point now. Anakin turned into a very evil person. So much so that Obi-wan Kenobi (even after discovering Vader survived) considered Anakin to have been killed after their duel on Mustafar. With all of that wrongdoing, was it even possible to redeem someone that wicked? Luke and Anakin’s former padawan, Ahsoka, certainly believed it was. 

  

“I feel the conflict within you. Let go of your hate.” –Luke Skywalker                                                   

“There’s still a way.” –Ahsoka Tano

While I don’t know yet how Ahsoka will fare against her former master later this season (Rebels), we all know the story of Return of the Jedi. Luke’s love and compassion for his father ultimately led to a resurgence of Anakin’s old personality. He sacrificed himself to save his son and destroyed the Sith Rule of Two. A truly noble action. But is one act of nobility truly enough to redeem someone awash in the blood of so many innocents? 

This is where I need to explain the difference between redemption and atonement. Redemption, as defined by the dictionary is defined as: “the action of being saved from sin, error, or evil.”  What Anakin did for his son falls into redemptive territory by the sheer fact that it pulled him away from his dark and selfish tendencies. To give your life for someone is the ultimate sacrifice. For a Jedi, this is the ultimate expression of the light side of the Force (it also proved that the Jedi Order was wrong about healthy attachments like family.) 

So we’ve established that Anakin redeemed himself (at least where his son and the Force were concerned), but the real question is did he atone for his actions as Vader? Let’s delve further, shall we?

The definition of the word atonement is “reparation for a wrong.” So other than choosing his son over Sidious, did Anakin atone for anything else? I would have to say, no. Not by a long shot. For that to happen, Anakin would have had to make reparations to every single individual he had wronged (most were dead already and they numbered in the billions if planetary annihilation is taken into account.) 

True, he ascended into a Force spirit alongside his old mentors, but I’m inclined to think that even as a ghost, Anakin would still have to live with the knowledge of all the atrocities he had committed. It’s probably for the better that Sidious fried Anakin’s life-support systems and he died. Otherwise, I’d imagine there’d have been a trial and execution for war crimes. Redemption equals death indeed. 

Interestingly (as seen below,) unused concept art for Anakin’s spirit in The Force Awakens depicted his spectral form as shifting between his human and Vader forms–perhaps hinting at some kind of punishment or dark, unforgotten legacy. Non-canon, but still food for thought. 

   

Speaking of dark legacy, Anakin’s actions would continue to haunt the Skywalker clan for decades after his death. That leads us to…

  
“Show me again the power of the darkness. Show me, grandfather, and I will finish what you started.”

–Kylo Ren 

Kylo Ren, born Ben Solo, was seduced by the dark side and his grandfather’s legacy as Darth Vader. He went on to murder Luke’s fledgling new Jedi Order (sound familiar?). I can only imagine Anakin’s anguish as he watched his grandson make the same mistakes he did. 

One hope spot for Anakin here. If Rey is indeed a Skywalker, seeing the family lightsaber pass to someone as incredible as her would be heartwarming to witness. (Assuming Force spirits never move on like they did in the old EU.)

  
Vader’s legacy impacted one more individual– his daughter. Since we don’t have much material to work with between RotJ and TFA, I can’t say whether or not Leia ever forgave her father like she eventually did in Legends. There’s only one comment in the new film where it’s mentioned that Han and Leia’s son has “too much Vader in him.” It’s brief, but telling. Leia is far less of an idealist than her brother and it’s likely that she either never forgave or forgot what her father did in the name of the Empire. Not fully, anyway. 

As pictured above, a new novel by Claudia Gray (yessssss! I adored Lost Stars) called Bloodline will shed light on her time in the New Republic Senate and the shadow Vader has cast over her family name. I cannot wait to read it. 

That’s it for today. I’ll probably cover more of Anakin’s fall to the dark side in another post. 

Thanks for reading!