The New Republic Sucks!
Warning: This column contains spoilers for “Ahsoka”, “Mandalorian” season 3, Star Wars sequel trilogy, Rebels (could happen), Bad Batch (maybe) and Clone Wars (possibly). So if you haven’t seen all the episodes of “Ahsoka”, or more likely, fell asleep during the show, be warned! Not much really happened but I’m gonna talk about it anyway so proceed with caution and if things are spoiled, you only have yourself to blame at this point.
If you’re a Star Wars fan, like myself, the last few years have been a roller coaster of emotion, a tilt-a-whirl of fan polarization and the giant swing in the shape of a pirate ship of expectation/disappointment.
A lot of people seem to hate Disney era SW simply because it is the DISNEY era. The corporate behemoth that has been the main cultural force in entertainment for the last 20 years. Fair enough. I know some folks, mostly the bots that support the Snyderverse, would rather throw their support behind Warner Brothers, the corporate behemoth which seems to be the main cultural punchline by actively mismanaging their IP catalog into oblivion (I’m expecting them to announce 5 more “Fantastic Beasts” movies and a TV series on MAX any day now, then shelving it all after they’re finished “for tax reasons”).
Others don’t like this era of SW because the franchise has departed from its roots. These folks seem to yearn for the salad days of the franchise: Talk of trade embargoes, Jar Jar Binks, crass, thinly veiled racist stereotypes and child murder. I know a lot of younguns feel the need to get behind the prequel trilogy just to be contrarian. The movies do have moments, but, c’mon, in your heart of hearts you know Lucas crapped the tauntaun hide with ‘em.
Still others hate the new era because of one man: Dave Filoni. Yes, the cowboy hat wearing, Plo Koon championing, head of Star Wars animation, father of Ahsoka, creator of “Rebels”, and architect of “The Clone Wars”. The man whom a lot of fans started pinning their hopes, dreams and expectations for their beloved franchise upon. And, in my opinion, has a pretty good batting average: He’s partially responsible for Grogu, the greatest gateway drug to the franchise in decades. “The Bad Batch” is brilliant. “Rebels” was pretty darn good when it found its footing. Ahsoka is an interesting character (mostly) for her arc as a child warrior, Jedi Ronan and her relationship to Anakin. Most importantly, though, Ahsoka is the Star Wars character that lives in between all the mainstream movies, filling in the gaps, narrative bondo if you will.
That seems to be where Filoni’s real skill lies: creating the connective tissue between all the big movies and stories. Finding interesting characters to explore those gaps. Filoni has two points to work with, for example. the gaps between “Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi” with “Rebels” or between “Revenge of the Sith” and “A New Hope” with “The Bad Batch”. Unfortunately Filoni has taken on the exasperating and Sisyphean task of connecting “RotJ ” and “The Force Awakens’ ‘. Somehow he has to justify and explain the JJ Abrahms soft reboot; the lack of Jedi AGAIN, space fascists with planet destroying power AGAIN, scrappy quipping rebels AGAIN.
This is a tough trick to pull off. For starters Filoni has had his WHOLE LIFE to think about filling the gaps in the original trilogy movies and a good amount of time to find depth and resonance where it doesn’t exist in the prequel movies. BUT He’s only had a handful of years to figure out how to get from point A of just after RotJ to point B of Force Awakens. Yes, there are a series of books written that help, but they face the same uphill struggle as Filioni. Namely they have to create a situation and environment where the fledgling New Republic has to fuck up so badly that the First Order is able to become a credible threat.
The New Republic has to suck.
Filioni and company have to sell it.
Weak, flailing, making bad decisions and mired in a stifling bureaucracy; the New Republic is on its way to the self-fulfilling prophecy of getting blasted out of existence in TFA. The subtle, or not so subtle, plot points are strewn about the shows located in the post RotJ timeline, especially “Mandalorian” season 3 and “Ahsoka”. S3, Ep 1 of Mandalorian the planet Navarro is menaced by space pirates. Later in the season X-Wing pilot Carson Teva (who has become the Colson in all these shows) tried to bring help, a bureaucrat, turns a deaf ear to the plight. “Well they should be part of the new republic, then maybe we could do something about it!”. Mando and his gang have to clean up the mess. At least that was fun – watching Mandalorians BE Mandalorians.
The somewhat confusing and, in relation to the Mando story, go-nowhere subplot of Dr. Pershing and Elia Kane are another example. It partially serves to show Moff Gideon’s cloning plot but also informs us about the amnesty program for former Imperials and shows how the Republic sowed the seeds of their own destruction with it. It’s an annoying distraction from seeing Mando beat space pirate ass, but the subplot was laying groundwork for how the New Republic craps the bacta tank.
This plot thread is even more prevalent in “Ahsoka”. The first few episodes clearly lay out how the night sister Morgan Elsbeth just freggin STOLE giant hyperdrive engines from under the Republic’s nose. The shipyards on Corillia are lousy with imperial turncoats. No bones about it, the New Republic is filling their carbon freeze chamber with Bantha fodder.
All General Syndulla seems to do through the series is be a firewall for Ahsoka against the dangerously backwards bureaucracy of the New Republic. She even faces a court martial because Senator Xiono, or should I say Senator Collusion, can’t (at best) conceive of Imperial remnants working together just 8 short years after the Empire’s defeat. He spends more time guarding his own authority and agenda than serving the Republic (hmmmm sounds familiar).
Mon Mothma, I have particular ire for. Once a clever and essential leader for the rebel alliance, she has made every possible wrong move since assuming power in the New Republic. Demilitarize! WTF! WHY WOULD THE NEW REPUBLIC DEMILITARIZE?!? Senator Collusion does everything but wipe his ass on her robes in that court martial scene. Where is the founding member of the Rebel Alliance? Where is the woman who has been walking a tense razor’s edge in the far superior “Andor”? Where is the woman who understands how power works and corrupts? I don’t know because that interesting character is non-existent in these shows.
That’s because the big story has to connect point A (post RotJ) and point B (tFA) and what does it matter if secondary characters have to behave in a manner completely opposite to how they should or have been established as?
Like I said: this is a sisyphean task. Imagine being handed the keys to a Lotus Turbo but three of the wheel wells are bent out of shape. If you’re a nitpicker or just uptight, there are a lot of things to dislike about the Star Wars TV shows and Filioni’s work in particular. As one friend put it “He telegraphs everything! There is no subtlety or nuance!” but, as far as bridging the gap between the triliogies… that’s just a big stinking poo doo sandwich.
“Ahsoka”, for my money, is just dull! I swear every bad guy HAS to speak with slow portent and walk around with their arms folded behind their backs?!?!? It was so prevalent that after episode 2 I did this little meme:
Not to hate on the actors, I’m sure it was a writing and directing choice but every line from every character was delivered with such an air of solemnity. Like everybody was doing a community theater production of “The Dollhouse” by Ibsen. “Rebels”, by contrast, had an easy going patter between the characters. They felt real not like “Ahsoka” where everybody comes across like a cutscene from a playstation 3 game. Rosario Dawson is usually vibrant and exciting! Normally her charisma outshines weak material. But Ahsoka, in this show, is written to be either emotionally cauterized or zened out. I was dying for her to get pissed and say “fucknuts” just once!
Only 3 characters fared well in the show: Thrawn because Mikkelsen exudes menace and chilly intelligence even with subpar dialogue. Huyang, because it’s David fucking Tennant! Baylan Skoll, because Ray Stevenson knew exactly what this show was supposed to be, even when the show forgot.
Special mention for Ezra because his time spent in the other galaxy allowed him to develop a personality.
All in all, where do we go from here? There is the Avengers style movie bringing all these shows together in one story. Presumably Thrawn will be the big bad. Hopefully he does more than cross his arms behind his back, speak slowly and stare out a window.
If that happens the whole franchise has released ewok excrement in the bed chamber.
Here is the thing, though – it’s all for naught! Any heroics, any sacrifices made, any victories are pretty much nullified by the fact that we know The First Order looms out there in the future. That the people, planets and political system our heroes are defending is corrupt, ineffectual and ignorant of its enemies both inside and out. Because that’s what has already been established by someone else! Unless Filioni and gang do a wholesale reset through the “World between Worlds” plot mechanic, creating an alternate timeline from the sequel trilogy timeline, all I can see is Jasyon Syndulla getting murdered by Ben Solo and the Knights of Ren several years before the events of “The Force Awakens”.
That just bums me out.
THINGS TANGENTIAL TO THE MAIN COLUMN BUT I COULDN’T FIT IN ORGANICALLY.
One time at a Six Flags in the North East I got food poisoning from an order of french fries. I felt like barfing on the seat swing merry go round. On the way home I got out of the car and hurled. My friend, who shared the fries with me, kept from puking and wound up with her stomach pumped. Ahhh, memories.
Read my ramble on about “Rebels”, match 3 video games, and Zach Braff being eaten by zombies all while I lose my sanity in a metal cage 60 feet off the ground here.
Another creative that had his whole life to think about a character and the universe with spectacular results was Stephen Moffat with “Doctor Who”. Some of the best stories for that IP EVER! Fight me!
A lot of people didn’t like the moment but I was tickled that we got a Time Lord saying “A long time ago in a galaxy far far away…”
Skoll’s ending in Ahsoka is disappointing even for somebody who has a working idea WTF was going on. It was just such a “That’s fucking it!?!?!?” moment for the most nuanced and interesting character in the show.
Initially I thought of comparing the New Republic to the handful of years between World War One and Two (the spawning) and that still scans. But after talking about it with my wife I saw the parallels to the current situation our nation finds itself in. Meaning political leaders that are corrupt, ineffectual and blatantly working to undermine the foundations of our nation for fascism and profit.
And if you think I’m talking about Democrats and liberals you, my friend, are part of the problem.
Thrawn deserved better treatment. This cat has withstood the expanded universe purge and holds a place among the upper echelon of baddies in this franchise. His appearance has been a thing since “Mandaloian” season 2. Now we get him loading some crates and being Meh with losing a coupla stormtroopers. Such a long wait for so little.
“The Bad Batch”, as a contrast, has been doing everything right! It is bridging the gap between “RotS” and “ANH”. The show also tackles issues like Veteran rights and assimilation into a “post war” society, a soldier’s ethical quandaries, the corrupting effect of violence, political intrigue, and family in peril. All in an era where the dominant tone is fear, paranoia and darkness. Plus they have bangin ‘action sequences.
By the way “Bad Batch” is also weaving in the cloning the Emperor arc. But not ONE bad guy is staring out a window with their arms folds behind their backs!
So, when are we getting Dr Aphra? Her Indiana Jones but morally compromised shtick could work during or after the Empire. In fact, place it in this first decade after RotJ (like everything else on Disney +) but make how she’s still young and vibrant part of the story. Weave Imperial era adventures into the narrative. It’d be cool to see somebody freelancing for Vader.
If you freelance for vader does he have a dental plan?
Will Boba Fett be part of the big crossover movie? Will he be in a bacta tank the entire time?
See you soon and may the force be with you!