Reading into Rebels: An Inside Man

In this new column, author Brandon Boylan will read between the lines to try to find the meaning in each new episode of the Disney X D animated show, Star Wars: Rebels.

The worst keep secret in Star Wars animation is out. Kallus is not so callous (sorry the pun was too easy… honestly I am a bit ashamed of myself). He is Fulcrum.

Again, Star Wars shows the power of a name. In ancient traditions, someone’s name meant a lot. Read the Bible and you will see “Such and such, son of So and So,” always using the first name. You need not say more. Names held power. Names held meaning.

I think it is important that the first Fulcrum we see after Ahsoka is Kallus. It shows the vital impact that Ahsoka had to the Rebellion, that one whose name literally means “an insensitive and cruel disregard for others” takes up the mantle after one of the heroes of both the Clone Wars and the Galactic Civil War.

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Agent Kallus has a mix of emotions going on as he fights the Empire from the inside. 

But even more importantly is the change in name itself. A common troupe in storytelling is for a character’s name to change to show a change in his or her way of approaching life. Much Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter, Kallus’s name change to Fulcrum shows his change of heart. We have seen this before in Star Wars (Anakin to Vader; Ben Solo to Kylo Ren), and it has always been important to the overall story.

On top of that, it shows the heart of the Empire might not be beating as strong as we once thought. In the first two seasons, Kallus was a typical Empire man. He believed in the force of the whole, caring little for the power of the individual. Until, that is, he meets and individual who shows him otherwise. Zeb, in season two’s “The Honorable Ones,” shows Kallus that individuals can do great things. When Kallus returns and his individual self is not respected in the same manner as when he was with Zeb, the heart of the Empire grows a little weaker. The heartbeat of the whole a little softer. If we are to take this assumption as true, that there are cracks in the Empire’s armor, it makes a lot more sense why a ragtag band of nobodies was able to defeat the greatest military force in galactic history.

Along with what we can derive from Kallus’s story in this episode, we learn a lot more about the blue badass, Grand Admiral Thrawn. Previously we had seen Thrawn mostly collecting data about his opponents, but it seems now that he is going to start getting his hands dirty.

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Thrawn is willing to let people burn so that the Empire will not. 

Thrawn, in this episode, is juxtaposed to Kallus. While Kallus is trying to save lives to bring the Empire down from the inside, Thrawn is willing to take lives to make the Empire grow stronger. He is what Kallus could have become had he not met Zeb. Thrawn’s vindictive nature shows us exactly why someone who was a diehard Empire man would jump ship.

Furthermore, we see the greatest example of Thrawn’s most well known quality: his ability to learn from art. Being that Sabine has played a greater role in this season than any other, it seems that Thrawn and the young rebel are on a crash course to conflict. It will be interesting to see how the story tellers decide to approach this, but a lot can be said already for the free-form art style of Sabine clashing with the straight cut Thrawn. We have known since day one that the rebels were out manned, but the more important thing will be if they are outwitted as well.

It will be hard to make Star Wars fans believe that Thrawn is just a chin stroking, mustache twirling bad guy. Ergo, to make him matter his story needs to be personal. The juxtapositions being created right now seem to be doing that. In the same vein as Luke’s faith being contrasted to Vader’s doubt in the simmering existence of Anakin Skywalker, the personal battles seem to be the ones Dave Filoni and the Rebels team are telling us are what matter.

The story of Star Wars has always been about the power of the individual, with respect to both good and evil. We have a cast of characters that are dealing with that power in numerous ways, and their choices will shape the galaxy to come.

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