A Close Read of Star Wars Rebels “Twin Suns” – Part 10 – Suns and Moons

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While most conversations in the fan community are focused on the last few minutes of the episode, my favorite parts involved Ezra and his journey. Most believe he was being arrogant, selfish, and foolish. Some even wished that he wasn’t involved in the episode at all, missing the point entirely. (Macias, Johnamarie. “Twin Suns” Review. The Wookie Gunner)

Seeing as almost half of this series is focused on the times Ezra isn’t on screen, I’d call myself guilty under that first charge, Ms. Macias. And it is true that most of the reactions surrounding “Twin Suns,” even outside of this close read, have focused on the legacy characters of Maul and Obi-Wan. Trust me, I’ve read a lot of reactions over the past year and a half.

I’ll even admit that I was initially one of those people who just wanted a story centered on Maul and Obi-Wan. But the more I rewatched and began digging into the episode and Rebels as a whole, I came away with an entirely different opinion. Understand, it’s not just that Ezra plays an important role in the story. It’s not just that “Twin Suns” is an essential part of Ezra’s story. It’s that “Twin Suns” as a story loses vital elements if told outside of the context of Ezra Bridger.

(And honestly, go read the whole of Macias’ review for an excellent breakdown of Ezra’s journey leading up to this episode.)

From Part 4, recall how “Twin Suns” first and foremost had to function as an Ezra Bridger Adventure™ for the sake of Rebels-only viewers, but also how Ezra’s journey acted as a recap of Maul and Obi-Wan’s for the sake of The Clone Wars fans. Now, a point might be argued that if “Twin Suns” was written as its own separate entity, then we wouldn’t have needed Ezra in there at all. However, that ignores the fact that either we needed a resolution to Maul’s influence in Rebels or Maul shouldn’t have been introduced in the show at all. The latter option would drastically alter the entire shape the latter half of Rebels. Remember, Maul’s role in Rebels has affected more than just Ezra.

And there’s even a deeper level that makes “Twin Suns” inseparable from Ezra. Let’s revisit this question from Good Science Fiction: An Examination Through the Lens of ODST (I had linked to this essay in Part 1):

Can the story exist, fundamentally unchanged, outside the context of the parameters of the genre or franchise?

What makes good science fiction not just a good story with science fiction trappings, but good science fiction is the inseparability of the science fiction elements with the story. For the story to function, it needs the particulars of the genre, or it needs to have specific parameters recreated for its transfer to another genre.

That is why one of the three stories in Halo 3: ODST did not work for me as science fiction. None of its core was tied to the specifics of Halo.

Replace ONI with any intelligence agency, the Human-Covenant War with any war, the AI-specific mission with any retrieval mission, and the ODST arc between Buck and Dare is unchanged. Nothing is added to the story by being a part of Halo, and no new understanding of Halo is added to the canon by the story.

In contrast, the other two stories in ODST do work as science fiction. Darn good science fiction.

Sadie’s Story, the audio drama within ODST, cannot exist outside of the Halo Universe. The relationship between the city-wide AI and Sadie is irremovable from the story; that is its emotional core. Even the Covenant threat, which at first seems that it could be replaced by any significantly-large invading army, becomes an important detail when the alien Huragok begin playing a role in that core relationship. In order to have the same story and themes play out, you would have to create analogous proxies to things specific to the Halo canon.

Likewise the lens with which ODST’s story is told is good science fiction. The night missions with the Rookie explore a very specific section of the Halo canon. That feeling of smallness against a larger, more powerful threat that you are facing down alone. The mechanics and level design of these missions essentially acts as a microcosm of greater Human-Covenant War. The emotions prompted in the player act as a reflection on humanity’s state in this specific universe. More meaning can be drawn from these missions as a result of it’s connection to the Halo canon.

“Twin Suns” is darn good science fiction. It’s darn good Star Wars. And it’s a darn good installment of Rebels. Which means the particulars of Rebels are needed for the story to function. It requires the core thesis of Rebels to function: empathy.

No installment of Star Wars has weaponized empathy like Rebels has. The prequels, originals, sequels, and The Clone Wars have all touched on it. The Phantom Menace, Return of the Jedi, and The Last Jedi all use empathy as a major tool in their arsenal of storytelling. Compassion itself is core to the story of all of Star Wars. But in Rebels empathy (not just compassion but specifically empathy) is the core. This is how they win time and time again and is ultimately the method by which they win in the finale. It’s Ezra and the Ghost crew’s empathy that connects them to the ragtag team that gathers around them, to the nature of Lothal and the purrgil, and to the people who rally around them in trials and in victory.

There are many compassionate Jedi, but Ezra is the definitive empathetic Jedi. He makes connections with others and either inherently understands or makes an effort to understand the feelings of those around him. He’s the one constantly trailing after the others when they hide away, to see if he can help them through their emotions.

Without this context of empathy, “Twin Suns” loses a vital piece of itself. It’s not the only core theme of “Twin Suns” – responsibility, family, and forgiveness are likewise there – but the episode is steeped in empathy. Ezra’s whole journey in the desert is about sharing the feelings that Obi-Wan and Maul had lived through. Obi-Wan and Maul finally end their rivalry on a note of reconciliation, a gentle cradle and an acknowledgement of shared pain: “avenge us.” And even the other themes have their origins in Ezra’s empathy, or in one case, Ezra’s empathy has its origin in forgiveness.

Recall my one major storytelling criticism: the “Chosen One” line makes no sense to the context of Ezra’s journey if the viewer only knows Rebels. It does sound vaguely messianic, but unless you know other Star Wars material, there’s no connective tissue between it and the answer to Ezra’s question of the Holocrons. In the same way, removing Obi-Wan and Maul from the context of Ezra’s story means you lose the connective tissue between their poignant final moments and the transformative power of empathy and what it meant for both Maul and Obi-Wan’s fates.

Whether it’s because…

  1. Rebels needed a conclusion to Maul’s influence on Ezra
  2. Longtime viewers needed a recap of Obi-Wan and Maul’s story
  3. Ezra himself needed an important refocusing of his attentions
    OR
  4. “Twin Suns” itself needed to be drenched in the context of Rebels’ empathy

…Ezra Bridger is the reason this masterpiece works at all.

So it’s about dang time we discussed him again.

 

STEP OUTSIDE YOURSELF. MAKE A CONNECTION WITH ANOTHER BEING.

Maul was such a perfect villain for Ezra. Other villains tested Ezra on an external level or by confronting his weaknesses, such as his fear or overconfidence. Maul specifically preyed on Ezra’s strength, his empathy, and thus challenged him in a way no antagonist had before.

I think Maul did expose him to another side of himself (another side of ourselves: the darker side) and Ezra thought maybe he could be stronger if he held his core beliefs but also knew more about the dark side but that is simply temptation. (Taylor Gray’s Reddit AMA, pulled from The Wookie Gunner)

As I said before, empathy is the core of Rebels and it’s the core of Ezra’s power. He gained his lightsaber crystal in “The Path of the Jedi” after confessing that empathy, not revenge, was his motivation for becoming a Jedi.

“Before I met Kanan, I only ever thought of myself. But Kanan and the rest, they don’t think like that. They help people. They give everything away, and I see it. I see how it makes people feel.”

“Feel, yes! How?”

“Alive. They feel alive. Like I do now.”

The finale’s success is built on Ezra’s empathy. His connection with the Lothwolves and purrgil provide key forces that Pryce and Thrawn cannot predict. Most of the characters who make up their small army were brought about by Ezra’s reaching out to them. Hondo and Vizago were both untrustworthy ne’er-do-wells who became reliable because of Ezra. The clone troopers, especially Wolffe who may have carried out Order 66, were given as second chance to fight with Jedi, because of Ezra. Ryder chose to overcome his fear and join the Rebellion because of Ezra. The exceptions to this are Ketsu and Kallus, who were swayed by the empathy of Sabine and Zeb. Even then, Ezra had a place in Kallus’ arc, and Sabine and Zeb themselves were both encouraged to connect with their pasts because of Ezra.

Ma: I believe that it shows how important Ezra’s connections are. He earns people’s trust, y’know. He doesn’t make people do anything. I don’t like using the word “play,” but he plays to people’s strengths, and he allows them to be who they are while doing something good. Hondo is a pirate. He’s a sketchy character. He’s not the greatest person, reliable person you can meet, but Ezra knew this, and he used that in a way that allowed Hondo to still be who he was but become part of something more important.

Johnamarie: Exactly! And you see it throughout the series. You see Ezra… one of my favorite examples is when Ezra is trying to get Rex to come with them. And he’s trying to figure out a way to have this military leader be part of something that they can believe in again. Ezra was so good at that, and everyone he’s met, everyone he’s interacted with, he’s left an impression on. (Rebels Chat Episode 98, at 8:44)

Upon first viewing, I had not understood why Mart was there, among this collection of people who Ezra impacted throughout his life. It had appeared to be simply a means to make “Iron Squadron” mean something in the bigger picture, when the role could have easily been filled by Jai instead. But then I rewatched Mart’s episode.

Upon finding Mart and his crew, Zeb remarks that it “sounds like a ship full of Ezras,” and he’s not wrong. There’s a lot of similarities to Ezra to be found in Mart, the younger boy’s bravado sounding a lot like Ezra in Season 2. Even his safe return to Atollon at the end of “Iron Squadron” reflects Ezra’s safe return from Tatooine in “Twin Suns.” Shaken, but penitent, acknowledgement of family with an embrace, and feet at last set on a proper course.

This also gives Commander Sato’s inclusion in “Twin Suns” a second meaning. Logistically, it makes sense to have him in the beginning of the episode. He’s in command of this particular Rebel sect, and important intel is being discussed. However, he could also be considered a stand-in for his nephew: a reminder to the audience about how Ezra treated Mart, a sharp contrast to how Maul treated Ezra.

Maul’s reaction to finding Ezra, who reminds him of himself, is to corrupt him. He wants to make Ezra follow the same path he did. When Ezra finds Mart, he wants him to follow a better path than he did, to not repeat his mistakes. In fact, Ezra’s conversations with Mart in “Iron Squadron” sound a lot like Ben Kenobi’s gentle lectures to Ezra in “Twin Suns.” Mart’s presence in “Family Reunion and Farewell” is a reminder of how far Ezra has grown and what sort of leader his empathy has made him.

This empathy is what Maul targeted time and time again. Instead of attacking where Ezra was weakest, he redirected Ezra’s strength to himself, in the same way he redirected Ezra’s attention from Lothal to Tatooine. Maul used Ezra’s empathy for him on Malachor to gain his trust and betray his friends. He used his friends constantly to bring Ezra back under his influence, where he again tried to redirect Ezra’s empathy.

“I seek something far simpler, yet equally elusive… hope.”

“My family, the Nightsisters, were killed… I know you can relate.”

“We can walk that path together! As friends! As brothers…”

By manipulating Ezra’s empathy like this, Maul is effectively draining his strength, by demanding that Ezra spend it only on him. There’s a visual and audio cue of this in “Twilight of the Apprentice.” When Ezra and the audience first meet Maul on Malachor, he’s faded in color, the red of his tattoos are dim, he’s hunched over, and his voice is weak. As they continue on, and Maul gains Ezra’s trust, his voice becomes stronger, he stands straighter, and his skin becomes vibrant in color, almost as if he’s feeding off Ezra’s support.

In “Twin Suns,” the change is reversed: Ezra starts fading. After the sandstorm, Ezra is caked in dust, and the vibrant colors he usually wears are masked and pale, as he staggers across the desert. Maul’s actions are draining him.

With the collection of characters redeemed and inspired by Ezra and his empathy in the finale, Maul would not have been completely out-of-place as an ally. As mentioned multiple times in this close read, Maul was close to finally getting it right. However, with the way Maul used Ezra, it was not Ezra’s job to redeem him.

Like Kylo Ren and Rey in The Last Jedi, Maul had a genuine desire for a connection and a friendship with Ezra, but he pursued it in a manipulative, selfish fashion. Kylo and Maul both tried to cut away the rest of Rey and Ezra’s support systems and connections, to isolate the Jedi in a manner that only they could have their affection. For people like Rey and Ezra, it can be difficult to see hurting people and choose to break free of that relationship. That’s why, as important as it is to see Luke redeem Anakin, as important as it is to see all the allies to whom Ezra gave a second chance, it’s equally important that Rey closes the door on Kylo and that Ezra actively, consistently rejects Maul after Malachor and is not present for whatever redemption he finds. It’s a good message for empathetic people: manipulators are not your responsibility to save.

 

MY APPRENTICE

March 2nd, 2018, with no knowledge of upcoming Rebels episodes, Megan Crouse wrote an article for StarWars.com on how Maul’s attempts to take Ezra on as an apprentice were a training ground for Ezra, an experience that helped him become a better Jedi.

Ironically, Maul’s ultimate legacy might live on as a warning to Ezra, who now knows the trickery and temptation of the dark side, and how to avoid it with the help of his friends. (Crouse)

Three days after Crouse’s article was posted, “Family Reunion and Farewell” aired, and Crouse had hit the nail right on the head. Maul inadvertently taught Ezra how to resist Darth Sidious. In fact, you could say that Maul was like Sheev-lite for Ezra. Which is funny, because he’s probably heavier with all that metal.


It has been over a year since I started this essay. The end is at last in sight.
This have been a very long project. Let me have this bad pun.
I earned it.

Back in Part 2, we explored how Maul mimicked Sidious in his attempts to win Ezra over, but rushed through it, which was part of why his plan failed. In “Family Reunion and Farewell,” it’s now Sidious who mimics Maul, though likely without realizing his first apprentice had already tried this tactic and, surprisingly enough, actually did it better.

Both Maul and Sidious present themselves as kindly old men, but Sidious casts himself in a position of power, a magnanimous gentleman who can grant Ezra something wonderful. He puts on a disguise, coats himself in insincerity. While what he has to offer is far more tempting than the promise of knowledge on Malachor, he doesn’t play the angle right. Maul had not been wholly sincere with Ezra, but he had been real enough to present himself as he was, haggard and lonely, which triggers Ezra’s empathy.

Beyond that, everything that Sidious had tried in “Family Reunion and Farewell” was something Ezra already fell for back on Malachor, strategies he now recognized thanks to Maul.

What Sidious wants is for Ezra to open the last doorway of Lothal’s Jedi Temple for him, much like Maul wanted Ezra to help him open Malachor’s Sith Temple. Sidious does this by appealing to Ezra’s desires his wish to be with his parents again. Maul likewise twisted Ezra’s desires to his own ends, rebranding “revenge” as “justice” and encouraging him to use the Dark Side because hesitation might cost him “the lives of his friends.” Both Sith Master and Apprentice also sought to appeal to Ezra’s ego; Sidious calls his time with his parents “the life [Ezra] deserved,” and Maul had coached Ezra into believing he was entitled to the Force and the power it granted him.

In fact, Sidious’ tactics could be summed up in a quote from Ben Kenobi:

“Maul used your desire to do good to deceive you, and in doing so he has altered the course of many things.” – Sidious wants access to the Temple to alter the course of time itself. – “He knows your fears, your heart…” – He overheard Ezra wish for his parents in the World Between Worlds. – “…and he manipulated the truth, which has led you here, where you should never have been.” – Had Ezra stepped through that Temple door, he would have put himself out of time.

But Ezra has learned from his mistakes with Maul. He’s no longer confused by mixed messaging, which was another factor that had contributed to his trust of Maul on Malachor. Both Ahsoka and Maul repeat a version of the adage, “To defeat your enemy, you must know them,” but there’s nuances in the meanings of “defeat,” “enemy,” and “know” between Sith and Jedi. However, Ezra doesn’t understand those yet, and Maul muddles the message.

In an interview, Taylor Gray discusses that the time Ezra spent with Maul was a mark of a child learning those nuances:

“I think we’re all tested at times by what the dark side may be, and there are easier paths, easier ways to go about life.  While you may have more immediate results it doesn’t beget overall happiness and satisfaction.”  He explains that is something we see Ezra learn, but when you’re young, as a child you may not understand things to that extent.  (“Taylor Gray: A Charmed Life.” Binary Sunset)

By the time “Family Reunion and Farewell” rolls around, Ezra has grown. Thrawn’s line – “It was not my intention to utterly destroy Lothal, but that is inevitable now” – carries eerie similarity to Ben Kenobi’s line in “Twin Suns” – “I had no intention of fighting him, but that seems inevitable now” – but Ezra doesn’t blink. He knows the differences now, the depth of the meaning behind these lines. He knows whose wisdom to yield to and whose arrogance to fight.

Another moment of this growth is seen in the parallels between “Visions and Voices,” “The World Between Worlds,” and “Family Reunion and Farewell.” All three of these episodes have Ezra hovering at an entrance of supernatural importance, being goaded by an older Force user to let someone go.

Maul was wrong, Ahsoka was right, and with Sidious hovering at his shoulder, Ezra must conflate those two lessons on his own.

You’re trying to become a man, become a complete person, the best person you can be, and if that’s not the path of the Jedi… (Taylor Gray, Binary Sunset)

 

I DON’T MEAN ABOUT THE FORCE. I MEAN ABOUT LIFE. ABOUT BEING A GOOD PERSON. THAT’S WHAT YOU’VE TAUGHT ME.

At first, “Family Reunion and Farewell” seems to end with Ezra repeating a lot of the same irresponsible things he did as a child, namely stealing ships and disobeying orders from Hera. But there’s a difference between now and the “Brothers of the Broken Horn” and “Twin Suns,” as demonstrated in this small bit of playacting by Sam Witwer:

[Lawrence Kasdan voice] Hey, so, George, in the last movie, we made this and it was about how you need to respect your elders, right?

[George Lucas voice] Uh, yeah yeah. And he didn’t respect his elders, and Yoda tried to tell him what to do, and he didn’t, and then he tried to save his friends, and his friends had to save him.

[LK] Yeah, so this one, he’s going to respect his elders in this movie, right?

[GL] Uh, no, no. He’s going to reject his elders.

[LK] What? But that’s against the lesson of the last movie.

[GL] But Luke’s a man now.

(Sam Witwer on Far, Far Away Podcast Ep 59. Originally available on Geek Nation, who is currently overhauling their site. This portion of the podcast can be found on YouTube)

Macias also points out this parallel between Ezra and Luke’s growth in her essay Ezra Bridger: The Boy Who’s Misunderstood – another fantastic read regarding his arc – also quoting Witwer, who is quoting Mark Hamill, on how deliberate Luke’s arc was, moving from a “callow and out of his depth” youth, to a “troubled young man,” and finally to “the very centered adult he becomes in Return of the Jedi.”

Ezra is a man now. Confident, calm, and fully aware of what he’s doing and why he is doing it, following the path the Force has laid out for him. This growth is demonstrated in how both Sabine and Chopper support Ezra’s actions; Chopper stowed away both times before to keep an eye on Ezra, and Sabine once installed a tracking device in Ezra’s commlink. Now, they both provide a way out for him. As a child, Ezra learned to respect his elders, but being a man now, he must reject them to do what’s right.

At the age of 17 or 18, Ezra is the Jedi that Luke would become in his twenties.

 

TWIN SONS

Let’s revisit our wall, this time adding another pair of characters.

Obi-Wan and Maul were the abandoned sons of old orders, while Luke and Ezra are the next generation of Jedi, the new sons. Almost twins, in fact, according to the Episode Guide on StarWar.com, they are only a few days apart, and Luke’s cameo in “Twin Suns” is Ezra’s model at a distance. It’s also significant that Ezra is from a planet notable for its twin moons which are featured in a lot of Lothal imagery throughout the series.

An obvious observation: the sun is associated with light, the moon with dark. In terms of character design, we can see this reflected in our two sons of the Jedi Order. Luke, from the planet with twin suns, is white with blonde hair. Ezra, from the planet with twin moons, is brown with black hair. But this association also applies to their journeys, which are slightly inverse of each other, fitting with the association of suns and moons. One sets as the other rises.

Ezra’s journey started in a darker place, having lost his parents at an early age to the Empire, abandoned by the man who was supposed to take care of him, and forced to raise himself on the streets. As such, he already had a personal stake against the Empire, but it took Hera and Kanan to give him a purpose.

Luke by no means had a cushy life growing up, but he did have loving guardians to raise him and a Jedi to protect him. He had a good childhood, absolutely sunny compared to Ezra’s. Luke had a desire for purpose for a long time, but no outlet for it; the personal stakes came later with the murder of Beru and Owen.

Ezra’s teachers were hardly classic Jedi: a half-trained Padawan who turned his back on the Jedi philosophy after Order 66, another Padawan who left the Jedi Order before competing her training, and a straight-up (former) Sith. Kanan, uncertain in his early teachings, didn’t know how to address the Dark Side with Ezra until Ezra had tapped into it. Ahsoka distanced herself from Ezra’s training widely because she didn’t consider herself a Jedi, and so was unavailable to caution his path. And Maul was actively encouraging and prodding Ezra down the path to the Dark Side. Therefore, Ezra’s ability to resist the Dark Side and Sidious came from experience with it, from touching it in “Gathering Forces,” “Twilight of the Apprentice,” and “Steps into Shadow.” He has a personal, first-hand understanding of what falling to that temptation will do.

Luke, on the other hand, primarily learned about the Dark Side from lectures by Obi-Wan and Yoda and one strange Force vision. He knows, on an intellectual level, that the Dark Side is bad, but doesn’t have practice in resisting its temptation. As a result, his confrontation with Sidious results in him falling into anger and hate. I don’t want to discount the teaching he did receive; it enabled him to identify the Dark Side and pull away before it was too late. However, it was that same type of Dark Side temptation that lead him to hide away on Ahch-To, becoming lonely and purposeless like Ezra was in his youth.

I do find it interesting that Tatooine is the place that Ezra breaks free of the Dark Side in “Twin Suns,” but it’s also the place where we see Luke beginning to edge towards it in Return of the Jedi. With Maul playing, or at least playacting, a similar role to Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back, Ezra’s journey to Tatooine acts like Luke’s journey to Dagobah.


Please, put your weapon away. I mean you no harm.

A young man, prompted by a vision of Obi-Wan Kenobi, splits off from the fleet in search of a Jedi Master, with an astromech tagging along and trying to talk him out of it. A descent into clouds, reading of life forms or a specific lifeform on the planet. Danger native to the planet destroys the ship and the young man reassures the astromech about the safety of the situation.


Yes, Artoo, I’m sure it’s perfectly safe for droids.

As discussed in Part 3, this starts out as a darker reflection of Luke’s journey as it’s entirely a trap set by Maul for both Obi-Wan and Ezra. It’s not a planet teeming with life; it’s a punishing desert. It’s unsafe, “yes Chop, especially for droids.” Yoda’s role is played by a man who does believe wars make one great. However, as we discussed in Part 4, Ezra’s journey starts instead to look like Obi-Wan’s (and Finn’s, as a matter of fact), as the desert acts as a means to burn away the influence of the Dark Side and Maul.

For Luke, his return to Tatooine in Return of the Jedi also is a reflection of a darker path, not just of his father –

– but also of Maul’s. As Maul first began building his criminal empire with the Shadow Collective, he targeted the Hutts, demanding their cooperation or death. On Tatooine, he delivers a single snarl to Jabba, “Submit or suffer,” similar to Luke’s demand, “Free us or die.” In the arc’s novelization by Jason Fry, the similarities between Luke’s and Maul’s threats to Jabba is brought to an even finer point:

Maul didn’t care. The galaxy was changing, and he was the agent of that change. The Hutts could profit from this, or be destroyed. – Darth Maul: Shadow Conspiracy, p 83

Of course, the intent behind their two demands of Jabba could not be farther apart: Maul seeks power, Luke wants to rescue his friends. Nevertheless, we know that even the best intentions can take a steep turn towards the Dark Side. In the Emperor’s throne room on the Death Star, Luke reaches the same point Anakin did on Tatooine when avenging his mother, treading dangerously close to becoming the new Sith apprentice.

Both Skywalkers lash out in rage at the loss or threat thereof, a mistake Luke will later repeat with his nephew. When Luke confronts his mistake with Kylo Ren again, bringing light to his own darkness, he also brings us back to the twin suns.

We’ll be getting to that in a moment. For now, since Anakin’s in the picture, let’s talk about that prophecy again.

 

GI SHATTA GASHA

An early draft of A New Hope had a different take on the Chosen One prophecy:

And in the time of greatest despair, there shall come a savior and he shall be known as THE SON OF THE SUNS — Journal of the Whills 3:127

In The Clone Wars, there was a Talz chieftain who went by this title, but the original connection to the Chosen One never made it into canon (Pablo Hidalgo, Debunking the “Son of Suns” Myth). However, that didn’t stop author Jason Fry from playing a little with the idea:

[transcription of key points of the thread below]

…At the end of the ROTJ special edition, we see citizens of Coruscant celebrating the Empire’s fall. (Yeah yeah, I know. Stay on target.) There are a lot of “wild lines” vaguely audible. One attracted particular attention. Was it “The time has come”? Or “long live the Republic”?

Maybe. But there was also an Internet fan theory that what we were hearing was “The Son of the Suns!” And this was supposedly a sneaky reference to a prophecy noted in an earlier draft of A New Hope. An early version of the Chosen One idea, basically.

Pablo dug into this, chatting with Matt Wood and obtaining audio of the recording session. The verdict: the line was “Gi Shatta Gasha!” and a bit of made-up Huttese that meant … nothing.

I couldn’t leave well enough alone, and thought I saw a chance for some supremely geeky mischief. (Or may have swiped the idea from Pablo. It was years ago.) To amuse myself further, I decided this should be a two-part maneuver…

Step 1: In “Darth Maul: Shadow Conspiracy,” my Scholastic adaptation of the Maul/Mandalore Clone Wars episodes, I dropped in a line that Tatooine’s twin suns were called “Gi Dopa Gasha” in Huttese. (DilDev’s note: page 91)

I was also updating the Episode I Visual Dictionary for DK, tied into the 3-D release. In that one, I noted that Aurra Sing’s aliases included Nastah and Shatta Aunuanna. “Nashtah” tied in with the Legacy of the Force novels. But what about that other mess of letters?

Aunuanna was introduced in the Dark Horse series Emissaries to Malastare. She’s Aurra Sing’s mother.

So put that together. “Gi Gasha” means “The Suns” and “Shatta” means … “Daughter.” BUT in Legends Hutts were hermaphrodites. So maybe “Shatta” isn’t so restrictive in what it means.

Maybe “Gi Shatta Gasha” means “The Son of the Suns.”

Now, I know that the canonicity of Shadow Conspiracy is a bit dubious, but that didn’t stop me from citing it before, and there are interesting connections to take from “The Son of the Suns.” The Chosen One of course is Anakin, but because there’s no official version of the Son of the Suns prophecy from the Whills, I think there’s room to play a little here. And even though – or perhaps because – most of the evidence here is non-canon, play I shall.

So, let’s look at what we got:

  1. And in the time of greatest despair, there shall come a savior and he shall be known as THE SON OF THE SUNS — Journal of the Whills 3:127
  2. “Gi Shatta Gasha” is shouted right before Palpatine’s statue falls on Coruscant.
  3. “Gi Dopa Gasha” means “The Twin/Double/Two Suns” in Huttese.
  4. “Shatta” is a gender-neutral or gender-fluid term for offspring in Huttese.

We also have the capability of multiple takes here. Just as Ezra and Maul’s visions from the Holocrons had different but equally true interpretations, I think “The Son of Suns” can refer to more than just one person. After all, “the time of greatest despair,” even if it only refers to the Empire, stretches across two decades, and the Rebellion hit low points on multiple occasions throughout the fight.

Of course, the gender-neutral/fluid term of Shatta opens up a lot of possibilities, but that’s not where I want to focus on for this close read. What I want to focus on is that Anakin may be the Chosen One, but Ezra and Luke are each the Son of the Suns.

For starters, neither of them are born on Tatooine, the planet of twin suns. Ezra is born on Lothal, Luke is born in a secret medical facility. However, Tatooine was formative for both of them. Luke was raised on that planet, and according to Meg Cabot, author of “Beru Whitesun Lars” in From a Certain Point of View, it’s on Tatooine, with his caretaker that the values that make him a hero are instilled. Ezra, as we’ve discussed extensively, found a type of rebirth on Tatooine. Also, the tenuous connection that this all has to canon is through a phrase in Huttese, and what name did Ezra frequently use as an alias?

 
Hitting the hardcore theories right now, ain’t we?

Both Luke and Ezra become saviors in times of despair and provide one very specific message to the galaxy: the Empire can be defeated. Ezra and his friends liberate and keep Lothal, removing Grand Admiral Thrawn from the war. Luke destroys the Death Star, removing Grand Moff Tarkin from the war. Furthermore, in keeping with the fact that we hear “Gi Shatta Gasha” shouted right before Palpatine’s statue is toppled, Luke and Ezra fully become the Jedi they were meant to be, become the Son of the Suns, by defying Palpatine directly.

Ezra resists his sorrow and his longing, rejecting Palpatine’s temptations and defying the Sith access to the Temple he could use to reshape time itself. Luke resists his anger and his fear, rejecting Palpatine’s offer and opening up the opportunity for Anakin’s redemption.

Anakin was the been the Chosen One. Luke provided the path for redemption. And Ezra…


Image by @picsfromlothal, inspired by my tweet. Used with permission.

While Anakin died after fulfilling the prophecy, Luke and Ezra’s journeys continued on after their time as saviors. We’re still waiting so see where Ezra lands, but Luke…

 

THE ULTIMATE JEDI

Luke’s final lightsaber duel in The Last Jedi is a stunning mirror to “Twin Suns.” It begins as a mirror image of the face-off between Obi-Wan and Maul, with the Jedi and the Darksider swapping places. The colors too are reversed. The dark blues of Tatooine’s night, the only light source being the sabers in contrast to the white and red of Crait in the day.

There are similarities here too. The slow, deliberate movements of the Jedi against the eager, enraged lunges of the Darksider. In the moments leading up to the clash, the camera holds close on the face of the Darksider but keeps the Jedi at a distance. This indicates the intense passion on the part of our villain and the calm steadiness of our hero, and it puts us in the villain’s perspective. The Jedi has a trick up his sleeve that will be a surprise to us, audience and Darksider alike.

Thematically, there is a similarity in the fact that the Jedi is standing between the Darksider’s revenge against them and the galaxy’s hope. They will not let the future pay for their past mistakes.

Best of all, the duel on Crait is where Luke’s victory builds on Obi-Wan’s in “Twin Suns.” He is the hope defended become the hope’s defense. And because of the foundation Obi-Wan laid, Luke goes to even greater heights. “We are what they grow beyond,” says Yoda. “That is the true burden of all masters.”

It’s not just the images that are mirrored between the two duels, but the events as well.

“Twin Suns”:

  • Maul throws barbs at Obi-Wan, who calmly dismisses them.
  • A statement from Obi-Wan results in Maul grabbing his lightsaber.
  • A fight ensues.
  • A metaphysical question asked with sincerity is answered in the affirmative – “Is it the Chosen One?”

The Last Jedi:

  • A metaphysical question asked with scorn is answered in the negative – “Have you come to say you forgive me? To save my soul?”
  • A fight ensues.
  • A statement from Luke results in Kylo engaging in conversation with him.
  • Kylo throws barbs at Luke, who calmly dismisses them.

This reversal exists because Luke is in control the entire time.

In “Twin Suns,” Obi-Wan gives Maul control for the barest instant. Maul’s digging triggers him into a violent response: activating his lightsaber. And that becomes the moment Obi-Wan cannot walk back. That’s the moment the fight becomes inevitable, and Maul gets the final duel he wants.

Like Maul, Kylo still gets the fight he’s itching for, but it’s entirely on Luke’s terms. Luke’s ignition of his lightsaber is not an emotional reaction but an active choice and he never rises to Kylo’s baiting. Luke’s control means that the situation de-escalates. Obi-Wan and Maul go from a conversation to a fight. Luke and Kylo go from a fight to a conversation, and both instances are things that Luke allows or causes to happen. Then, when Luke knows the Resistance is safe, he’s the one who digs and triggers a reaction out of Kylo to put an end to the charade.

Part of the reason that Luke stays in control this whole time is because he has grown beyond Obi-Wan in another manner: Luke is self-aware.

Granted, Obi-Wan was never even close to Maul’s utter lack of self-reflection. Part of his time in Tatooine was an act of penance for his role in the Clone Wars as a general. In Dark Disciple, Obi-Wan is the one who recognizes that the Jedi Council had taken a dark path, and it was only Asajj Ventress’ actions that saved the soul of the Order. Obi-Wan is capable of recognizing when his actions, thoughts, or desires are disconnected from or at odds with his internal compass, the Jedi Code. He is capable of receiving and welcoming correction to bring him back in line with the Code.

However, he rarely thinks to critically analyze that internal compass, and consider where it might have gotten corrupted along the way (fortunately, it usually points him in the right direction).

Luke, on the other hand, does go that extra mile and critically examines not only himself, but the things he was taught by the Jedi. In The Last Jedi, we see him at a point where he has taken this too far –

Luke is saying, “Let’s kill religion. It’s the thing that’s messing us up. This right here, let’s kill it.” And the truth is it’s a personal failure. It’s not religion; it’s his own human nature that’s betrayed him. (Rian Johnson, Empire Film Podcast)

– and conflates his own personal failure with a failure of his internal compass. This is where Luke takes a step backwards from where Obi-Wan was. Obi-Wan’s hermitage was, like Luke’s, an act of penance for his role in creating the current state of the galaxy. But the time on Tatooine was about the future and investing in another person. Until Rey arrives on Ahch-To, Luke’s hermitage was about the past and removing himself from a position of influence.

However, that doesn’t negate the fact that the Jedi Code of old did need examination and that the Jedi of the future need to stand on the shoulders of their old Masters and reach beyond. And Luke’s willingness to examine both his own failures and the failures of tradition is what brings him to his final duel on Crait.

Crait builds upon the past in three different ways. It builds on Obi-Wan’s preferred method of defeating an enemy not by killing them but by delaying. It builds on the moment Obi-Wan becomes the Jedi Master he was meant to be by emulating Satine Kryze, by also building on the moment Luke first surpassed his Masters, the moment he threw his lightsaber away before Palpatine. And finally, it builds on Obi-Wan’s forgiveness of Maul.

Luke’s purpose on Crait is entirely to wear Kylo down, to delay him until the Resistance can escape. He achieves this in a wholly pacifistic manner. Take a moment to compare Obi-Wan’s “[Fighting Maul] seems inevitable now,” to Luke’s “No one is ever really gone.” The apparent reality of the situation says one thing. Hope and Jedi ideals say something else.

Obi-Wan: “A noble description, but not a realistic one.”
Satine: “Is reality what makes a Jedi abandon his ideals, or is it simply a response to political convenience?”
(“The Mandalore Plot,” The Clone Wars)

And finally, Luke doesn’t come to forgive Kylo Ren.

Compare Obi-Wan’s “That is [my] responsibility. I will mend this old wound,” to Luke’s “I can’t save him.” Both are an acknowledgement of responsibility and acknowledgement that they created this problem. The issue is, Obi-Wan sees his failure as a failure to act; a failure to stop Maul all the times before. He recognizes Maul as his responsibility, he blames himself for everyone that Maul slaughters, but he’s missing that self-awareness Luke has.

Luke sees his failure not in failing to stop Kylo but in his contribution to Kylo’s fall. Neither Maul nor Kylo are justified in their responses to Obi-Wan and Luke, but that doesn’t negate the fact that both the Jedi did contribute to the cycle of revenge. Obi-Wan struck down Maul in anger and a desire to avenge Qui-Gon Jinn. Luke ignited his lightsaber against Kylo on an instinctual fear.

Obi-Wan gets to the point where he forgives Maul, but we never see him in self-reflection that the manner in which he “killed” Maul on Naboo was wrong. We see growth; when he kills Maul for real, he doesn’t do it in the same way, and shows infinite kindness as Maul collapses. He sees himself as responsible for stopping Maul, but he may never have seen himself as contributing to the cycle.

Because Obi-Wan never gets to the same level Luke did, the outcomes he sees are limited. He realizes his corrections and offers of redemption are not being received, so the sole solution he sees is to kill Maul. Luke however recognizes his own contributions to the cycle of vengeance. “I can’t save him,” speaks to the fact that Luke knows Kylo, like Maul before him, will not receive any correction or any offer of redemption. So Luke doesn’t come to forgive Kylo Ren.

He comes to apologize.

That’s what de-escalates the duel down to a conversation, doing more than any of Obi-Wan’s admonishments or pity towards Maul. And, just as Obi-Wan’s forgiveness opened up Maul’s ability to forgive and thus be spared from oblivion, Luke’s apology opens up a pathway for Kylo back to the light. Kylo has already been on the receiving end of forgiveness; it is solely his actions and decisions that are keeping him on this path. If Kylo is to make his way back, it must start from repentance on his end. It must start with his own apology.

Obi-Wan’s forgiveness and kindness were good and incredible things, actions that set Obi-Wan apart in his character and in his Masterhood. Luke grew beyond him, a sight all Jedi Masters wish to see. And in the end, Luke passed into immortality where Obi-Wan achieved his…

…under the light of twin suns.


The Last Jedi
Issue #6

 

WHAT I GROW BEYOND

“Twin Suns” is a story that continually encouraged me to grow. Throughout the course of this essay, I deepened my understanding not just of Star Wars but also of the craft of filmmaking and storytelling. It introduced me to classic film and classic literature. It deepened my understanding of my own faith, helping me better understand forgiveness, redemption, and responsibility, helping me sift the truth of God from old traditions rooted in oppressive, slaveholder interpretations.

By the time the year anniversary of the close read’s inaugural post had arrived, August 12th, I was certain that I knew how I was going to conclude this close read. I was certain I would add my own contribution to Movies With Mikey‘s community YouTube playlist of “Lessons Animation Taught Us,” talking about those exact things, all the ways my life has been enriched by this episode and this close read. I was certain I understood the journey I was set on ever since I watched Obi-Wan Kenobi step forward to catch Maul, and I was ready to put this episode behind me, a significant point in my entertainment and in my life as a writer.

Then, three days later, it all crashed into me.

One last lesson.


My “Twin Suns” draft/notes journal.

Up Next: The Lesson Animation Taught Me


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5 Responses to A Close Read of Star Wars Rebels “Twin Suns” – Part 10 – Suns and Moons

  1. Pingback: A Close Read of Star Wars Rebels “Twin Suns” – Part 9 – Did You Ever Hear the Tragedy of Darth Maul the Lost? | DilDev's Blog

  2. Stella says:

    I’ve been anticipating this installment for a while now and the waiting has paid off. So many delicious themes and analyses to go through, so much effort and thought I can tell you put into this series. “Empathy” as the core of Rebels is true. We see empathy in other Star Wars stories but never so strongly in this series. “Clone Wars” gave us grand sweeps of the galaxy while “Rebels” is a smaller, more intimate story, focusing on the character arcs of six different specters and the selfless love binding them together.

    I didn’t consider the difference between empathy and compassion until you addressed it. Reminds me how Ahsoka told Ezra that Anakin was remembered for his kindness and that he “cared deeply about his friends”. Yet for all his compassion, Anakin couldn’t empathize with his friends enough to respect their decisions, such as Ahsoka’s choice to leave the Jedi forever.

    So glad you mentioned how lighting conveys atmosphere in animation and how Maul is siphoning off Ezra’s strength on Malachor while Ezra is withering away on Tatooine. And if I may get Hitchcock-y here, having Ezra stumble around on a desert planet instead of getting lost in a physically dark place is deliciously ironic. The light is so powerful that it’s blinding Ezra. He can’t see in front of him while the entire audience knows *exactly* which resident on Tatooine can destroy the Sith.

    Is Ezra a man? Well, I think he’s a young man and his final test against Palpatine was his “Return of the Jedi” moment. If he hasn’t been formally initiated as a Jedi Knight, we know he’s passed the trial to earn that rank. He learned all he could from Kanan and closed the door behind him. At the same time because Ezra is the Empathetic Jedi, I want to see him on further journeys inspiring goodness in others. We’ve seen him in the role of apprentice so let’s see him a new challenge as the role of master/teacher. “Rebels” Ezra is animated as a lively teenager with expressive blue eyes, a pretty-boy face, and given life through Gray’s charismatic voice. So I’d like to see another version of Ezra animated (like Ahsoka) older, wiser, etc. There’s some wonderful fan art theories suggesting Ezra getting physically taller and growing some facial hair similar to Kanan.

    I confess Ezra’s character arc intrigued me for some parallels to my Jewish heritage. Ezra and Kanan (alias Caleb) are Old Testament names. Reverence for parents and respect for mentors (the healthy kind). If I may offer a different perspective, the moon is integrated into Judaism; we follow a lunar calendar to track all holidays and let us know when Sabbath has completed. The moon waxes and wanes, symbolizing the ups and downs of life, and is reflective of the light from the ever-brilliant sun, symbolizing man’s reliance on a higher power (i.e. God).

    Have you read “Thrawn: Alliances” yet? Ezra isn’t mentioned in the book but Timothy Zahn introduces some fascinating new world-building about the Unknown Regions that could potentially set up a new purpose for Ezra there. If Zahn and/or Filoni write that scenario I’ll scream with joy, as well as anticipate the meeting between Ezra and Luke..another story to be told in this magical galaxy long ago and far away.

    Like

    • DilDev says:

      Stella, how in the haywire world do you not have your own blog???? If you do have your own blog, where is it?????? This was astounding, and you have such good insight! The symbolism of the moon in Judaism (which aren’t Ephraim and Mira – Ezra’s parents – also Hebrew names?), I confess my jaw dropped. Anakin’s compassion vs. his empathy is SUCH a good distinction.

      As for Ezra’s status as a “man,” I figured he’s 18 or almost 18 by the end of Season 4. At the very least, he was forced to grow up quickly and by Family Reunion and Farewell, he has the maturity to match the title.

      I did read Alliances and yes, there’s so many goodies to explore out in the Unknown Regions for both Ezra-Thrawn and Sabine-Ahsoka. I am ALL IN for Unknown Region Adventures.

      Like

      • Stella says:

        I confess that after finding your blog and reading your analysis, that’s exactly what I’ve done. You’ve inspired me! But I’m having trouble setting up the blog properly. I hope a friend will help me with the website layout and posting submissions because I’m not tech savvy in that area.

        In the meantime I’ve been typing up my thoughts and saving them so when the time comes, I’ll be able to share them online. I definitely want to dive into all of those biblical names in further detail: Mira, Caleb, Ezra, and Ephraim, which is still a popular name.

        Liked by 1 person

    • DilDev says:

      Please link me to your blog when it’s ready! :D
      Drop a comment or find me on twitter @aDillonDev! I’m really excited to see what you write!

      Like

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