Warning: Spoilers Ahead.
From the beginning of Star Wars: Rebels, we always knew the crew of the Ghost would hook up with larger Rebel cells and eventually find their way into the core of the Rebellion as we saw it take shape in the events of the original trilogy. It was a foregone conclusion. We began four years away from the events of A New Hope. Now we’re mere months from the Battle of Yavin. And that means the remnant of Phoenix Squadron is officially part of Alliance Command.
We were given new wrinkles what that even means in the events of Rogue One. The Alliance is still divided even at that time as to whether or not a peaceful solution can be found within the Senate. As we know from Tarkin, the Emperor will dissolve the Senate in the not too distant future, which puts the viewing audience in the know that more drastic measures need to be taken. It seems an open and shut case that will have many viewers screaming at Mon Mothma through the screen.
As Kanan reminds Ezra, it’s not whether or not we fight, it’s how we choose to fight that matters. In other words, one should seize the moral high ground rather than becoming that which you fight against. This is where Saw Gerrera enters the picture. Since he has nothing left to lose, including his own soul, there is no line he will not cross in the name of taking down the Empire. As we’ve seen him in Rogue One, he appears heavily armored, with biomechanical replacements and breathing apparatus. This is not coincidence. He is designed to remind us of Darth Vader. And indeed, it is rumored that Vader himself is responsible for Saw’s final injuries before his ultimate fate on Jedha, where he will be destroyed by the weapon he’s risking everything to track. As of yet, he’s armored, but he hasn’t been dealt the injuries we know he’ll sustain. Speaking as someone who can never have enough Vader… I really want to see that fight.
As this story opens, the remnants of Phoenix Squadron return from a mission where bad intelligence cost them the mission and very nearly their lives. Seizing on the situation, Saw Gerrera appears to the Rebellion via hologram, challenging Mon Mothma’s peaceful method of operation with the promise of deliberate and decisive action. When the next mission to bug an Imperial communications relay goes wrong, Saw’s timely appearance has Ezra and Sabine rescued by him as Saw does exactly what our heroes were told not to do: blow up the relay station.
In return for the rescue, Saw convinces Ezra and Sabine to join him on a mission to a civilian cargo station, where a freighter has been tracked on Saw’s quest to learn of the secret weapon built over Geonosis. Fans who have kept up will know that the Death Star was ultimately built there, and the Kyber crystals that power the superlaser have been alluded to since The Clone Wars. This is the second time within the scope of Rebels that a large Kyber was discovered in transit to the Empire, and to drive the point home, we have the confirmation that this one is to be delivered to Director Krennic. And it’s guarded by Death Troopers, also seen in Rogue One.
Before the crystal is discovered, they discover prisoners. These are all technicians and scientists, experts in power. While Ezra argues that their lives need saving, Saw is focused on his singular goal to keep the crystal out of the Empire’s hands and track its destination back to the superweapon that most of the Rebellion refuses to even acknowledge may exist. If ever there was a clear echo into various avenues of modern politics, this is it right here.
Knowing what looms ahead, Ezra’s question is valid. What if the Empire is preparing for a war the Rebellion doesn’t know is coming? It seems naïve of Mon Mothma and the Rebellion leaders, which is the entire point. The events of Rogue One revealed the Death Star and got those plans into the hands of the Rebellion. The nature of sacrifice is the moral question, and it still comes back to Kanan’s point. It’s not enough that sacrifice is warranted. It is also a question of how. Risking everything for a cause is noble and just, but to do so while putting innocents in harm’s way is cause for alarm and reassessment. One method is heroism; the other is terrorism. In short, Saw’s methods give the Empire a level of moral equivalency that complicates the political landscape of the Galaxy Far, Far Away. Since we know that, fundamentally, the Empire is analogous to real world Nazism, it takes very little imagination to see how easily this could go blow up in directions no one wants.