By thinking about the world in binaries such as good and evil, light and dark, up and down, it is easy to loose sight of how fluid these dualities really are. In ancient myths, particularly fairy tales, this is seen through the transition from the city, which is “civilized,” to the wilderness that lay beyond the city walls. But those walls are arbitrary. They can be moved, rebuilt, destroyed, ignored. They are a human creation used to provide meaning in a world that is never simple.
As modern myth, Star Wars notoriously deals with such dualities. Rebel and Empire, Jedi and Sith, Light and Dark. With the title “Devil’s Deal” there is an expectation of exploring that darker side, which the episode does. Nestled in that darkness, harkened by the rise of the Empire, is a duality all its own. Should we, especially after times of great struggle and hardship, accept the role that is given to us? Should we, as Admiral Rampart would say, accept “our part to play”? Or should we stand up for what we believe in despite the cost?
As Star Wars often does, there is a clear answer to this question. We should, absolutely and without doubt, stand for what we believe in. It may be better stated to say who we believe in, or even who we believe for. Cham Syndulla and his wife Eleni learn this after Hera is taken prisoner for acts of treason. They had decided to accept the Empire, to give rest to their people, for, “What is the point of fighting if we cannot accept peace?” However, peace is often misinterpreted silence, acceptance, or complacency. After Hera is captured the Syndullas see that just accepting and calling the lack of war peace will cost them that which they hold dear.
This is not a new question for the series to ask, as it has dealt with choosing sides since the flip of the Order 66 switch. The questionability of Crosshair’s reasoning for following the command still lurks, as audiences wonder how much of it was his choice. Regardless, staying with the Empire led to more manipulation and cost more of the good that may have been within him. Echo may be “more machine than man,” but he at least questions. Crosshair doesn’t. He is not just a machine, he is a slave. This episode furthers that narrative in showing his dedication to the burgeoning Imperial system.
In “Decommissioned”, another great episode that brought in previously known characters in a way that both advanced their narrative and enhanced the story of The Bad Batch, Rafa Martez tells Hunter that, “In the end we all choose sides.” It is easy for Cham to choose to because, “After years spent fighting, peace is what we need.” He trusts the clone army and says that, “We would not be here if it wasn’t for them.” As it regards which side he stands on, note that he does not say he trusts the Empire. Cham specifically trusts the clones, and more narrowly trusts Howzer.
The audience has the benefit dramatic irony in being able to view Star Wars in its entirety. There is a knowledge that the mining will not be beneficial to both; The audience has the benefit dramatic irony in being able to view Star Wars in its entirety. There is a knowledge that the mining will not be beneficial to both; mining in Star Wars has never ended well for the planets nor their populations. But like the mines, Cham digs his feet into the ground and is willing to ignore the cost in favor of the benefit he perceives.
Where the mining represents digging oneself deeper and deeper into a darkness in order to retrieve a desired outcome, regardless of not knowing the quantity, quality, nor impact, Hera’s desire to fly represents the freedom that comes with standing for what you believe in. Again dramatic irony benefits the audience because Rebels viewers know that Hera does become a pilot, and more importantly uses her identity as a pilot to help bring true freedom to the galaxy. Her first appearance in this episode mimics Ezra’s introduction in the aforementioned series as a means of establishing this idea. Ezra sees a Star Destroyer above Lothal that springs him into do something selfish, but that leads to him meeting the people that will help him find his identity and fulfill his purpose. Likewise, Hera sees a bird that awakens her desires, desires that will later cause her to selfishly disobey her father in order to fly. That flight, though, leads to Cham’s own awakening to the darkness his mining for peace has begotten.
It is then that the answer to the episodes question, should one accept their “part” or stand for what one believes in, is answered. Cham fights for his family in the same way Hera will later fight for hers. Equally as important, Senator Taa putting his “greed and self-interest above Ryloth’s” wellbeing shows that just playing the part will literally cost one’s life. He does not get a reward, he gets a blaster bolt to the head.
What does all of this have to do with the Bad Batch? They make a singular appearance in the episode, bringing weapons to Gobi, and there is no real development of the characters. What it does do, and does quite effectively, is juxtapose Hera and Omega. Omega shattered the reality of the Bad Batch as much as Order 66. But by juxtaposing Hera and Omega, audiences can both see how far Omega has come and how far she has yet to go.
As it stands, Hera is young and her desires to fly are more or less unrequited. Omega, however, has started to establish herself and create a reality she wants to live in, one where she is a participant and player with the Bad Batch. Hera does not just settle with being a pilot, though. She uses those skills to do good; Omega has not really done so yet. Truly the entire team has not done so, but Hera’s appearance is a compass pointing North to the Rebellion that Rafa, Rex, and eventually Hera are all a part of. Now it lurks in the fog, but soon it will be revealed. Then the Bad Batch will have to ask itself, “Is surviving enough, or do we need to fulfill our greater purpose despite the cost?”