Star Wars is a cinematic icon, but it is much more than its movies. Blaine and Josh dive deep into the universe of Star Wars Rebels, the fantastic animated show on Disney XD, with reviews of the third season of this exciting series. As a show aimed at kids, but also clearly for the kid in every adult Star Wars fan, they’ll also have a discussion section to talk about the themes covered in each episode.
Today’s pop culture loves villains. Sure, we love heroes and want to see the good guys win, but there is something fascinating and resonant about the bad guys. People obsess over serial killers, slap pictures of Walter White on the back of their Ford Focus, and even a new generation dons the instantly iconic helmet of Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren at Halloween. It feels like a newer phenomenon because of the aforementioned lust for “antiheroes” and villain storylines in our post-Breaking Bad entertainment world. However, it is nothing new. From the Maleficent of fairy tales to Norman Bates–based on Ed Gein, one of the many serial killers from my home state of Wisconsin–there is a long and storied history of fearful love for the worst baddies of our imagination.
Star Wars is no exception to the rule and this week’s episode of Rebels is sure to please fans who profess a great love for the Empire. It opens in a first-person point of view as alarm klaxons blare. We quickly learn the eyes through whom we are seeing is Agent Kallus. According to Dave Filoni, creator and producer of Rebels, the original concept for this episode was to have the whole run-time be from Kallus perspective in first person, but the concept proved to be too massive to actually take into development. What remains is an homage to the original idea and the entire episode is contained to Kallus’ perspective.
And this may be the most interesting part of the episode. “Through Imperial Eyes” focuses entirely on a story about an Imperial and is set in an Imperial setting from beginning to end. Obviously, this is not the first time we have gotten this kind of story, but there are no previous instances of a movie or TV show devoting its entire length to an Imperial character. Granted, the character, Agent Kallus, is a double-agent for the Rebels, but the point stands. This is a unique episode in the Star Wars annals and it fails to disappoint.
After the opening first person POV, we find out the Ghost crew is attempting a rescue to extract Fulcrum/Kallus from an Imperial cruiser orbiting Lothal. Ezra is the bait as a disguised bounty hunter, but the plan goes awry when Kallus is recalled to Thrawn’s ship and Ezra, as well as AP-5 and Chopper, are brought along. From there Ezra is imprisoned and Kallus is reintroduced to his old ISB mentor, Colonel Wullf Yularen. Yularen has been sent to oversee the capture of the rebel spy Fulcrum. Thrawn is also convinced he will find the rebel base he has been looking for soon and has it narrowed down to six worlds.
Kallus springs into action with the help of Ezra to try and erase Atollon, the location of Chopper Base, from the records and also frame Lieutenant Lyste as Fulcrum. They succeed in the former and seemingly succeed in the latter. After a quick switcheroo of Lyste and Kallus’ code cylinders and a quick rescue by Kanan and Rex, it looks like Kallus is ready to leave and Lyste is arrested. However, Kallus thinks he can do greater good staying behind. But one critical observation by Thrawn and Yularen strikes that notion. Ezra’s helmet was tagged with one of Sabine’s glyphs and this simple fact shows Kallus, in Thrawn’s mind, is actually Fulcrum, not Lyste.
This episode was so exciting, as this is where a new side of Thrawn is seen and also his much-touted prowess goes to work. It shows why Thrawn was always a fan favorite of Legends canon and we also see what makes villains, especially Star Wars villains, alluring. They embody the best of us gone bad. Unlike a hero, whose example and abilities are a goal of aspiration and beacon of inspiration, a villain contains skill we admire but motives we abhor and/or fear. There is an untouchable, god-like fear mixed with awe. Perhaps the reason we love bad guys so much is they are closer to what we know worship of God is like. However, while God is awe-some, villains are aw(e)-ful.
Thrawn embodies this awful combination of incredible genius but abhorrent motives. His abilities, acumen, and intelligence is inspirational, but it is in service to Palpatine and his ruthless Empire. We see his physical training and ability, as well as his detective skills, and in the end of the episode, why he is a cut above the rest in intelligence and savvy. He is unconvinced by the clever ruse perpetrated by Kallus and Ezra, and doesn’t want to get rid of Kallus, but keep him in his pocket to be used for his benefit in the near future. Finally, almost all the pieces are in place. Thrawn’s long game is proving to finally pay its dividends and set up beautifully for the finale.
What remains to be seen is the fate of Kallus. He seems to think he is in the clear but Thrawn and us as the audience know that not to be the case. We love our redeemed villains, sometimes, as much as we love our villains. Kallus has proven his commitment to the Rebel cause by staying behind. His loyalty to the Rebels as Fulcrum could merely have been a risk-analysis to a better life. However, his choice shows he is in it for the greater good of resisting Imperial tyranny. Does he think he is safe? Or will he be in it regardless if it costs him his life or not? The answers to these questions could come in the much anticipated final episodes of Season 3. I, for one, cannot wait to find out how this main plot-line resolves.
Star Wars Rebels is a family show. Parents love watching as much as their kids. Infusing the spiritual with the fantastic and adventurous, Rebels continues the spirit of what makes Star Wars great. In order to foster the young minds and hearts of your Reel World Theologians, each week there are questions you can use during or after the show to talk about with your kids. Enjoy the show and then enjoy conversation, but always remember that story is powerful and Star Wars Rebels is not mindless.
- What makes villains so popular? Why is a story about a villain turning into a good guy so compelling?
- Do you think Agent Kallus has earned the trust of the Ghost crew by staying behind? Why do you think that?
- Does doing the right thing always lead to the best results? What does Kallus’ choice to say behind show?
- Lieutenant Yogar Lyste was last seen, and he even mentions it, when Ezra and Kanan worked with a young Princess Leia Organa to steal some hammerhead corvettes in season 2’s episode A Princess on Lothal.
- Colonel Wullf Yularen is voiced by veteran voice actor Tom Kane, who also played the voice of Yoda and the opening narrator on The Clone Wars. You might also recognize him as the voice of the Professor from The Powerpuff Girls or the voice of Woodhouse on Archer.