Are you ready for the galaxy’s worst beach planet?
Colonel Wullf Yularen (Malcolm Sinclair) tells the ISB that the Emperor is passing ordinances to see that they receive all cooperation and resources they require to track down the people responsible for Aldhani. Agent Meero is displeased with the new measures, believing that they shouldn’t treat this like a robbery, but as a statement of intent. She puts in an order for cross-sector information off the books, against the advice she was given by Major Partagaz. Mon Mothma goes to visit Rael under the pretense of returning her husband’s gift—she was not aware of the Aldhani operation and is furious with Rael for not letting her know. He tells her that it’s time to stop hiding, that the cause needs more money and this was always going to happen. He says she should still meet her contact about freeing up her family funds. Syril Karn takes an interview at the Bureau of Standards and the supervisor there asks about the Pre-Mor incident on his resume. Karn explains what happened, insists that he did his duty, and the supervisor decides that they should expunge that from the resume before bringing him on board.
Kleya Marki goes to meet Vela’s Sartha on Coruscant. Vel expected to meet with Rael, wants more information and to know if Cinta is alright, but Kleya refuses to give her anything. She insists that Vel find Cassian and take him out since, following his departure, he can no longer be trusted. Cassian makes it home to Ferrix with the intent of taking Maarva and B2EMO away. He goes to see Bix and gives her the money to pay everyone back what he owes them. On the way home, he hides from troopers and remembers the first time the Empire arrived on Ferrix, how people jeered and tried to throw things at the troopers. Clem tried to stop them, knowing they would be in danger for tweaking the Empire, and wound up being hung as an example to the population. When Cassian gets back he learns that Maarva won’t leave; the Aldhani operation has given her hope that people will stand up to the Empire for once, and she feels she’s too old to run. Cassian tells her that he’ll be too worried leaving her, but she insists that is love, and that he’ll have to all the same. She also tells him to stop looking for his sister; there’s no way she survived.
Mon Mothma is holding a party in her apartments and sees an old friend from home, Tay Kolma (Ben Miles). She tries to speak plainly with him but he suggests against it, saying that his politics might be too “radical” for her. She takes him aside and explains that who she appears to be is a front, and that she needs him to help her set up another “irritating charity” so that she can have access to her family funds more freely. She won’t tell him what her work truly is, but advises him not to trust her husband. Supervisor Blevin tries to gets Meero in trouble at the next ISB meeting for covertly gathering information outside her sector, but she outmaneuvers him by sharing the data that she’s collected about connected rebel activity and insisting that their systems are old and need rethinking. Partagaz commends her for taking initiative and warns her in private to be careful.
On a planet called Niamos, Cassian is lying low. As he heads to the market, he notices a group running from Imperial authorities. He tries to keep clear of the commotion, but his urgency gets him noticed by law enforcement, and the officer in question leaves him with a KX security droid who almost chokes him to death. At his sentencing (under another assumed name), Cassian learns that his minor charges used to carry a six month sentence, but that they now carry a term of six years. He’s hauled off.
One thing that I do appreciate about the arc of the Empire’s rise and fall is how clear the timeline is—this five year period leading up to the destruction of the Death Star is meant to be a swift wave, where the Rebellion goes from disparate sets of small crews to the unified front that has the ability to challenge the Empire in a far more serious manner. So the Aldhani operation is the swift kick that gets things moving, but we’re still dealing with several unknowns here, the one I’m most interested in being—what is Cinta doing?
That said, this episode was intent on filling in quite a few gaps for several important characters, and result is… wobbly. Mainly because it seems strange that some of these “reveals” needed to wait so long into the season to show up.
Let’s start with what happened to Clem, Maarva’s spouse. We find out that he was executed by the Empire many years ago after they moved to Ferrix, which isn’t entirely surprising. (The choice of lynching imagery with a Black character certainly was, but I will leave questions about that decision with the community that deserves the final say on that.) But knowing what happened to him ahead of this episode would’ve made Maarva’s choices once Cassian returns seem far less random. We were given very little indication ahead of this point as to what Maarva’s feelings on the current galactic political moment were, aside from her choice to take Cassian away from his home without his consent. Suddenly, we learn that she’s been harboring deep anger and hatred toward the Empire this entire time, and intends to stay on Ferrix and fight however she can.
Fiona Shaw is a marvel of an actor and her scene with Cassian is heartbreaking—but we deserved to know more about Maarva before this moment. Her choice here shouldn’t be a surprise to the audience, it should only be a surprise to Cassian. There was time in those first few episodes to give us more context on both her and Clem, and to give us a better idea of their relationship to Cassian, but they wasted the chance. Moreover, there is nothing that ticks me off so much as playing a flashback scene that’s relevant to the scene that comes directly after it. That’s amateur hour, friends, you don’t show Clem’s capture and then have Maarva talk about his death for the first time two minutes later. You seed that well ahead—television used to be better at this.
This is similarly played out in the tension between Mon Mothma and Luthen Rael when we learn that she had no idea about the Aldhani mission, and that Rael planned this entire operation with the intention of keeping her in the dark. There is no conceivable reason to have left this out of the plot prior to their confrontation; knowing that Rael was planning his own missions would have created more intrigue in these episodes, not less. They could’ve even gone so far as to suggest that Rael might have something secret in mind beyond the Rebellion, planted doubts about who could be trusted.
Instead, we get their confrontation as a preface to Mon’s talk with her childhood friend, Tay. It’s good to finally get some truth from the senator, an indication of precisely how much she loathes the role she’s forced to play in order to continue her activities, but it feels as though they’re trying to play her in parallel to Cassian here—two people getting caught up the heavy wheels of galactic change at a pace that they aren’t permitted to choose, two people who are not what they seem—and I’m not sure the parallel is working yet.
But the person I’m really having an issue with here is Cassian because this all feels far too pat in terms of his arc. Star Wars has this gaping maw of a Han Solo Problem, where every character that leans slightly toward antiheroism has to try and break from their responsibilities, run off and flip everyone the proverbial bird, and I just don’t buy it with Cassian—he’s too angry at everything the Empire’s done, lost too much, and this whole thing would be more believable if it read as though he were desperately trying to convince himself that this was what he wanted. As is, the whole thing feels seismically off.
Moreover, I don’t buy that he would be brainless enough to run anywhere with even the slightest Imperial presence. Obviously it’s not easy to get to the Outer Rim, or all the way to Wild Space, but that’s where you’d need to go in order to truly avoid the Empire. And perhaps Niamos is on the Outer Rim (this is the planet’s first appearance), but it’s being heavily policed. He had the money to get further away, he chose not to, and at that point, he might as well have tried his luck staying on Ferrix.
Bits and Asides:
- I’m not sure if it’s the intention, but the symbol marking the path Kleya Marki took to meet Vel looks almost like a variation on the symbol for the Open Circle Fleet, which was the group commanded by Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi during the Clone Wars. Given Ahsoka’s work as one of the Fulcrums for the Rebellion, it would make sense for some of that imagery to continue through, so I kinda hope that’s what it is?
- Ahhaha, you heard the voice and immediately knew we were gonna see Wullf Yularen, one of the key figures who made the crossover from the Republic to the Empire. In Clone Wars, I dubbed him “disappointed British dad of the Republic” because that’s pretty much his attitude through the whole series. (He had to deal with Anakin’s hijinks… a lot.) But he stuck with the changeover when Palpatine made his bid for power and moved to the ISB, showing up in Rebels as well to help Grand Admiral Thrawn root out the latest Fulcrum agent (who happens to be his former star pupil). He’s in the original trilogy, too, at the Death Star meeting, a weird constant presence throughout the entirety of the central narrative.
- Obviously, the choice to have Cassian get nearly murdered by a KX security droid is meant to be a preface to his relationship with K-2SO, which I’m sure won’t color his feelings about that particular model of droid at all…
- The trooper uniforms that we see in the flashback are a clear midway point between the clonetrooper armor set and the more familiar stormtrooper armor.
- If anything happens to B2EMO, I swear to the Force, just let this anxious droid have a nice peaceful life anywhere else.
Next week—Same space time, same space channel!