Hi everyone, I’m back! That’s right, I survived my exams, and I’m rejoicing in the freedom that is holiday break!! While I’m off, I plan to get some work done around here with both this site and the podcast, including updating the news to reflect all the recent happenings in the Star Wars franchise, plus some other cool stuff you’ll be hearing about soon. But first off, I’m going to make my first blog post that I’ve done in a while.
If you’ve been following along with The Elven Padawan lately, you’ll know that I’ve been publishing reviews for each new episode of the final season of Star Wars Rebels that airs. This post is actually an extension of my review of the mid-season finale, where I deal with a really big aspect of the story that seems to have fans all over the place right now. Therefore, I’m warning you now that there will be big spoilers for “Rebel Assault” in here, so don’t read unless you’ve already seen the episode, or just don’t really care. 😉
So on to what I really want to talk about. I have a few things to say regarding Kanan’s reaction to Hera’s crash, and his plan to rescue her. First, I already know that everyone’s going to start thinking out some rant about attachments and love and how these things will inevitably end in tragedy and that Kanan is going to fall into and trap where Hera’s the bait and that will be the end for him.
But here’s the thing: all that doesn’t have to be the case.
I’ll admit it openly and with no problems: attachment can be a problem for a Jedi. Think about it. Almost every bad decision, or choice that can be labeled as “bad” by some fans, that a Jedi or Light Side Force-wielder has made stems from an attachment somewhere. Ahsoka Tano stayed behind and supposedly died on Malachor because of the attachment she had to her former master, Anakin Skywalker. Obi-Wan Kenobi disobeyed the orders of the Jedi Council to go to Mandalore and try to rescue Duchess Satine Kryze, eventually resulting in her death at the hands of his mortal enemy, Maul. Even the Chosen One himself, Anakin Skywalker, committed horrible deeds including mass slaughter of students and younglings, all in the name of saving someone he loved from death.
But here’s the problem: each of those people still had a choice. Ahsoka still chose to stay behind with Vader, knowing that it meant certain doom for her. She made a conscious decision about it, knowing full-well that Kanan and Ezra would take the ship and leave. (And honestly, I think that’s another little aspect to why she did it, to help them escape.) Obi-Wan deliberately chose to help Satine, and though it ended in tragedy, it was the risk he took.
And seriously, people. Do you really believe that there wasn’t a point where, deep down inside in a place he buried beneath all the emotions he was feeling, everything Anakin did became less and less about saving Padme and instead more and more about exacting revenge on the people he felt had wronged him, and gaining power to make people serve him as a little boy called Ani once had to serve them? When Padme follows him to Mustafar, notice that he isn’t heartbroken when she begins to back away from everything he’s become in the past few days, but instead flies into a rage. Notice that, alongside his claims that he can now save her from a fate she never believed was her’s, he was also bragging about how he now ruled the entire galaxy.
No, the people who make each of these choices are never forced to do so out of their good will for fellow beings. They all chose to do the things they do, and when those things are evil, it’s not love that’s actually responsible.
Now how does this all end up leading me back to Kanan, and his choices in this episode? I’m going to really dissect this whole thing and look at Kanan’s choice to go back for Hera, and his eventual decision to turn back around.
#1: Kanan almost did make a really bad decision, and it was out of attachment. I will not deny that. Surprised, are you, that such a strong Kanera shipper and proponent for the opinion that love is OK for Jedi, will so easily admit this? Don’t be. Remember, Jedi teach balance. Kanan and Hera’s relationship is great, and gives both of them strength and power in a time when things look so dark, but that’s only when it’s dealt with carefully. Just like in the real world, if you begin to let things that aren’t bad rule your life and cause you to make bad decisions, then it’s time to start carefully thinking about things. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that Kanan should now cut off any potential relationship he and Hera could have because he almost made a bad move. The relationship is still fine, it’s just how they choose to use it and how they allow it to affect them. And that brings me to…
#2: The wolf was Kanan’s warning. Now I know we don’t have all the answers to what the wolf is really up to, and I’m sure there’s a lot more to what he communicated to Kanan than just this. But the wolf sitting in the middle of the highway, blocking Kanan from thoughtlessly rushing into the middle of an Imperial-overrun area, was his warning. I don’t hold Kanan’s actions against him, they’re totally natural. Everyone begins to make bad moves in their lives, I’ve done it myself countless times. But I’ve always had my parents to let me know when something is going in a dangerous direction, and to caution me about how this might end. That was what the wolf did for Kanan. It was letting him know that his emotionally fueled decision would probably end in disaster, and it gave him a few minutes to calm down and realize this for himself. Kanan knew what he was doing was a bad idea, and it speaks volumes about his character that, although initially frustrated by the interruption of his plan, it didn’t take him long to change that attitude around. The look on his face when he removes his mask and asks, “What must I do?” reminds us that he’s really worried about Hera, but he’s also willing to wait and accept the wolf’s correction. Like I said, I’m sure we’ll be finding out a lot more about the wolves when the season starts back up, and there’s probably much deeper things that it told Kanan concerning his and Ezra’s place on Lothal. But for now, to me, the wolf was a warning sign, forcing Kanan to stop, breathe, and realize just what he was about to do.
Now #3: Are you ready? This is a really big one, and I’m probably gonna be ranting for a while to be able to really show you the depth of it all. Here we go…
I’ve already said, I don’t blame Kanan for his reaction. It’s totally natural. And beyond that, when you really think about it, unlike the choices made by Anakin, what’s happening with Kanan is based on a much purer intent.
Remember where this man has come from. He lost everything. His childhood, his way of life, his family, his faith, even his own name and identity. He became lost somewhere between pain, anger, and denial. The pain of trying to understand why everything happened the way it did, his anger at the Force for letting such a horrible fate befall those who lived every moment of their lives in faith to it and at the troopers who called themselves his friends only to betray him as a young teenaged boy, and his denial of the fact that he truly cared about any of it anymore. We find out in A New Dawn that Kanan worked jobs with excitement and danger to numb everything he was feeling, and to make enough money to try to drink away everything that had happened. And in the middle of all that, here comes Hera. She’s on her own mission with the infant Rebellion, and her focus is all on that. But she does have a mission. Of course, Kanan first notices her because of her physical characteristics (well, actually it was her voice first, but it didn’t take him long to notice the other). He tries to convince himself that he’s only following her around because she’s another pretty girl to flirt with. But in the end he’s dragged into her whirlwind of a mission, and by the time we first see him again in Rebels, he’s accepted her cause for his own. He’s decided that he does care about the evilness of the Empire, and that he’s willing to fight against them because he truly believes that it’s worth it, not just in the hopes that maybe Hera will pay some attention to his advances if he goes through all the motions of becoming a Rebel. But it was Hera that first showed him that there were some things worth fighting for.
Had it not been for Hera Syndulla coming to Gorse in attempt to gain information on the Empire’s surveillance practices, then giving him a chance to realize who he truly was and bringing him to understand exactly what was at stake in this war, then he would still be lost. Actually, it’s way more likely that he’d be dead by this point.
But because of Hera, he’s not lost anymore. He’s returned to his faith, he has a purpose in life, and he has a family. Now as much as I love her, I’m not trying to say that she’s perfect or that she’s the only one who has contributed to his character development. It’s also been the result of taking on Ezra as his apprentice, as well as interactions with other characters the team has encountered, such as how meeting Captain Rex and his compatriots helped him to finally release the bitterness and anger he held for the troopers that slaughtered his master, Depa Bilaba, and later hunted him down. However, this does all lead back to Hera, and her decision to give him a chance.
This really hit me way back in season two, in the episode “The Protector of Concord Dawn”. When Hera is hurt badly in an attempt to persuade the Mandalorian faction the Protectors to join the Rebel cause, Kanan chooses to go back to Concord Dawn and try again, while Sabine is bent on taking revenge on those that hurt Hera. When Sabine sneaks on board the Phantom as he’s taking off, he tells her that he’s giving the Protectors another chance. Even though they explicitly said “No thanks” the first time and almost killed the Ghost crew’s captain and team leader. He knows that these Mandos can be a huge help to the Rebellion, and that it’s what Hera would have wanted them to do. This becomes a running theme throughout the episode, as Kanan continues to staunchly believe that some people just need a second (or maybe third or even fourth) chance, like the one he was given. It struck me that this was his way of carrying on what Hera did for him: she gave him a second chance, put up with all his annoying flirting and attempts to get out of everything, and in the end he saw just how important the cause of the fight against the Empire was. And that made a huge impact on him.
Can you really blame the guy for having an attachment to her? I know I’d certainly have an attachment to any person who did all that for me, whether there was any more to it than that or not.
But for them, there is more to it.
On top of everything she’s done for him, not to mention the things he’s done for her, how long they’ve fought side-by-side in this war and always been there to have each other’s back… there’s even more to their relationship. These two have cared deeply about each other for a long time, longer than even the show has shown. From the moment they met and and got sucked into the Gorse Conflict together, they just seemed to “click”. Their personalities, their gifts and skill sets, their methods of fighting; somehow, everything fit together to make them an amazing team. It wasn’t hard to pick up on the attraction between the two, something that went deeper than just the flirty, surface here-then-gone relationships Kanan had managed to always find during his years in hiding. Though it understandably took Hera a while to let herself get close to him, once she did, she found a battle partner that would stand by her side through everything, and ultimately, a life partner as well. These two are bound together in one of the deepest ways, and their faith in each other is one of the few things that gives them a bit of joy. Even Dave Filoni has one of his famous tweets dedicated to the two and how their relationship brings them some joy in the darkness through their complete understanding of each other. We still don’t know how their story will end, and whether they’ll be able to do anything with this connection and actually end up living out their lives together as they hope, but undeniably, the wish to do so is there. Everything’s still not out in the open between them, but after over three seasons of dancing around it, their feelings for each other have become pretty evident. The possibility of a future together is one of the few things they can hold on to through everything else.
So to finally come around to point #3 in my breakdown of Kanan’s reaction: What he wanted wasn’t wrong.
What he wanted was to try to help the woman who helped him find his way, who is the reason why he’s even on Lothal in the first place, the reason why the other members of the team are around and probably why all of them are still breathing at that very moment. You can see that in his expression when he removes his mask to talk to the wolves. He just wants to try to protect her, and he doesn’t want to have to add her to the list of things he’s lost. Especially not the the reason she would be going on that list was because he turned around and left when he could’ve tried to go back for her. Can anyone truly blame him for that? Of course there was no chance he could have actually help her. He was one person, not to mention one blind person, among a ton of Imperial troops sent there specifically the take out him and his crew. Like I said way up at the top, his decision was rash and it was necessary for the wolf to stop him; but at the heart of the whole thing was a very pure and understandable desire.
#4: I can’t blame Kanan…. because he stopped.
If Kanan had blasted his way right straight into the city, only to be gunned down by stormtroopers moments after arrival, I don’t think I’d be able to blame him too much then either. I would have been disappointed in him, definitely. He’s way too smart, especially after all he’s been through and how much he’s grown over the course of this show. I would have been super annoyed at however wrote that ending for this character. I mean, seriously?? Give him all that character development and build everything up, just for him to act that dumb and die from it? And honestly, I would probably have been really mad at Kanan for a while… until I though it all out and realized everything behind it. It still would have felt like a major cop-out, though, and I’m really glad the team didn’t take it in that direction.
But the ultimately, once you dig into all these complexities behind Kanan’s choice, why he made it, what the wolf was there for, and everything else, the reason why I personally don’t blame Kanan for what he did is…
Because he stopped.
When the Loth-wolf had to get in his way and stop him to warn him of what he was about to do….
He stopped. He listened. He asked what he needed to do to make it all right again.
In the first installment of The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, Gandalf the Grey has finally come to the horrible truth about that shiny golden circle that Bilbo Baggins owns: it is indeed the One Ring of Power, created by the Dark Lord Sauron and filled with his malice for all other living beings. Gandalf knows exactly what it means, and exactly what it could do to the unsuspecting Mr. Baggins, who found it on his adventure with the Dwarves so many years ago. He knows that he must act fact, and separate Bilbo from the Ring if the hobbit is to have any hope of escaping its grasp. But having already had the ring in his possession for over sixty years meant that it was beginning have an effect on him. Bilbo wants to leave it behind, but at the same time he doesn’t; he tells Gandalf that it’s in an envelope on the mantle as he starts out the door, only to realize it’s actually in his pocket. When Gandalf begins to urge him to leave it, Bilbo snaps and accuses Gandalf of wanting to steal it from him, getting a look in his eyes that is eerily reminiscent of another former owner of this “Precious” little gem. Gandalf seems to grow twice his size, his voice deepens, and he reprimands the hobbit harshly, breaking the Ring’s hold on Bilbo, reminding him, “I’m not trying to hurt you. I’m trying to help you.” As Bilbo’s eyes fill with tears in realization of what’s happening, he runs to Gandalf’s arms, before turning his back on the Ring once and for all, and setting off for a long vacation with the Elves in Rivendale.
From the first time I ever watched Fellowship, I never blamed Bilbo. I understood exactly what was going on with him, and sympathized with his plight. He never meant any harm by picking up the Ring, and he never had any malicious intent in using it to play disappearing jokes on people. Everything that happened with him was a result of the higher powers of Middle-earth at play.
But I never felt anything against Gandalf either, because it was his job to stop Bilbo before it was too late.
See, just like Kanan, and just like all of us people, Bilbo did ultimately have a choice about what he would do. He could defy Gandalf, give himself over to the control of the Ring, and choose to serve Sauron, whether initially or not. Kanan could stop, listen to what the wolf had to say, and decide whether or not to continue with his very bad emotional decision to try to save Hera. Bilbo gave up the Ring. Kanan turned back around.
Finally, #5: I hope it all ends OK. Now obviously I hope that the show overall ends OK. I need to see the crew of the Ghost survive, even if they decide to go their separate ways until the war is over. I really don’t want to see Kanan and Hera’s relationship end in tragedy, either, though I’m not naive to the fact that many fans do believe he will die, possibly in sacrifice for his “family”, before the show is over. What ever happens, however, I don’t want to see his and Hera’s relationship get blamed. I don’t want Kanan to make a rash decision and run into a trap because of his feelings for her.
There’s a theory out there right now that the wolf showed Kanan a vision of Hera’s future, of all the things she’ll accomplish with the Rebellion, and this will lead to him laying down his own life to rescue her. If it’s an absolute necessity for Kanan to die, then I want it to be something like this. I want him to go into it with his eyes open, and I want it to be done in a way that won’t cause fans to blame their relationship for causing him to make a decision out of emotion and therefore lose his life. I don’t want to see yet another Star Wars character get punished for loving, when the entire core theme of the story is the power of Light, a.k.a. love, vs. Darkness, a.k.a. hate.
Alrighty, that was a lot longer than I intended. (Can anyone else tell how much I NEED this show to start back, SOON??) But this is something that’s been going through my mind since watching the episode, and I’m thinking that a lot of fans might take it the wrong way, and just wanted to share my analysis of it all.
Until next time,
May the Wind under your Wings carry you to where the Sun Sails and the Moon Walks, and the Force be with you, always!
This article was written by Shay S., Creator, Chief Editor, and Podcast Host for The Elven Padawan, and first appeared on ElvenPadawan.com
What did you think of this breakdown of Kanan’s decisions? What did you think of “Rebel Assault” in general? Are you just as excited as I am about the rest of the season?! Let me know in the comments below!! 🙂