Over the next set of six episodes we see significant character development on the Ghost crew, catch our first glimpses of the wider Rebellion, and spend a little bit of time with a legacy character.
S1E7 Out of Darkness
Out of Darkness begins with Hera flying the Phantom – the Ghost’s smaller but quite capable shuttle craft – while being chased by several tie fighters. Hera is cool as a cucumber behind the stick, expertly piloting despite the tie fighters’ perilous pursuit. Ezra and Sabine are super anxious about the chase, and Sabine is especially frustrated that so many of the missions are wrapped in secrecy. For some reason, Sabine thinks that a high speed chase is the right time to debate the finer points of secrecy and intelligence … but it makes for good television. Sabine expresses doubts about “Fulcrum’s intelligence,” which – I think – is the first time we hear about Fulcrum, a mysterious source of intel for missions against the Empire.
Frustrated, Sabine insists on going with Hera on a mission given by Fulcrum. She wants to learn more about Fulcrum, these missions, and the overall the bigger plan. Referring to her past as a cadet at the Imperial Academy on Mandalore, she shares that she was previously in a system that was shrouded in secrecy and didn’t allow questions. She doesn’t want to be part of such a secretive system again.
“I need to know this isn’t all for nothing,” Sabine says. “I need to know I’m not walking into another nightmare here.”
“What you need is faith,” Hera responds. “Faith that there is a long term plan that is bigger than you or me, bigger than Lothal, bigger than the entire Outter Rim. Have faith in that, and in us. Kanan, he knows what he’s doing.”
This back-and-forth plays out while they are on a mission to pick up some cargo from Fulcrum at an abandoned Republic base. At the base they are forced to work together facing a pack of deadly dog-like animals. Working together leads to a commitment to trust each other.
Trusting in a bigger vision, in a bigger plan is hard in the abstract. But, trusting people we know and love, people we can see and touch – that’s a bit easier. And that’s a first step toward trusting in something bigger.
They don’t actually meet Fulcrum at the pick-up spot. Fulcrum will remain shrouded in secrecy for a bit longer.
It is nigh near impossible to trust in the “bigger picture,” in a far off, unseen God without some manner of making that big God a bit smaller, relatable, and tangible. But, can we trust in those who tell us about such a God, those who have seen this God, and who bear witness to the good things this God has done? Yes, that is easier. That’s how faith in the transcendent is nurtured – through the immanent. It is through bread and cup of holy communion, water and word of holy baptism, people, repetition, consistency of liturgy and prayer and Christian community that we nurture faith. These tangible elements and experiences give us a firm footing in God’s promise and God’s presence.
S1E8 – Empire Day
Episode opens with Kanan and Ezra in a training session. Kanan wants Ezra to connect with a lothcat (a cat-like creature). “I don’t see the point in all this,” Ezra murmurs.
“The point is that you’re not alone. But to discover that you have to let your guard down. You have to be willing to attach to others.” The loss of his parents and his years alone on the street have taught Ezra to be on his own and to trust no one. Becoming part of this crew, and learning to become a Jedi, is challenging everything he’s always known. And it’s not an easy switch to make.
Are we ever far from God? No. We may feel far or isolated from God, but in reality God is always near to us.
Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast. (Psalm 139:7-10)
In the Great Commission Jesus promises that he will be with his disciples always, until the end of the age (Matthew 28:16-20). The Holy Spirit is given to the disciples to lead and guide them, to give them words to speak, to empower them to forgive the sins of any. ““I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I have said to you.” (John 14:25-26)
“Today’s not a good day,” Ezra says.
Today is the 15th anniversary of the Empire … and, as we will learn soon, Ezra’s 15th birthday. Ezra was born on the day the Republic fell. His whole life has been lived in the shadow of the Empire.
During his training with Kanan, Ezra hears voices through the Force. It’s his parents. Ezra hears his dad saying, “Ezra, we have to stand up for people in need, especially those in trouble with the Empire.” He’s making connections – not just with a lothcat, but with his past, with his parents, and with their mission to help others in the face of the Empire.
“We have to stand up for people in need,” Ezra’s father says. The fundamental calling of the Christian is to love and serve neighbor, especially our neighbor in need. Personal risk is not a consideration. “Take up your cross and follow me,” Jesus says. “Those who lose their life for my sake will gain it.” (Luke 9:23-24). Giving of yourself is the highest calling and meaning of life.
The crew decides to sabotage the Empire Day parade. We hear the Imperial March played in a major key – weird, but effective. The parade is a kind of Soviet-style display of military weaponry and forced patriotic celebration. Kanan acts like a drunk reveler at one point – it’s kind of funny. They see some Imperial troops looking through the crowd for a Rodian, and learn that they are looking for Tseebo, a Rodian who is an old acquaintance of the Bridger family. Amidst all the revelry the crew blows up a new tie fighter prototype just as it was to be taken on its inaugural flight.
As they need a place to hide after destroying the the tie fighter, the crew holes up in the Bridgers’ old house. There they find Tseebo, clearly confused and worried. He’s wearing a data device on his head, containing all kinds of Imperial information but which overloads his brain’s processing capacity. They decide to get Tseebo off world, where he can be safe from the Imperials and the Rebellion can access the data he’s carrying in his head. A massive chase with the imperials ensues. The episode ends with “to be continued …”
S1E9 Gathering Forces
Gathering Forces begins where Empire Day left off – with the now-familiar scene of a bunch of tie fighters chasing the Ghost.
On board the Ghost, Tseebo is with several members of the crew, but is experiencing memory glitches and he switches, as if uncontrolably, between Basic (English) and his native Rodian language. Tseebo begins telling them about when the Bridgers were taken away. But, he can’t put all his thoughts together coherently. He asks Ezra to forgive him. Ezra cannot. Ezra feels like Tseebo let down his parents – and him.
Imperials chase the Ghost through hyperspace using a tracker they stuck on the ship just before it got away. Kanan and Ezra lead the imperials on a diversion, away from the Ghost and from Tseebo, taking the tracker and the Phantom to the planet from S1E7 filled with nasty creatures.
As they head toward the planet of nasty creatures, Ezra tells Kanan that he’s afraid. “I’ve got news for you, kid. Everyone’s afraid,” Kanan responds. “But admitting it as you just did, makes you braver than most.”
They go onto this planet and Kanan needs Ezra to connect with these creatures, as he was trying to teach him earlier with the lothcat. There are a lot of these creatures, and Ezra is not able to connect with them. He is afraid. Repeated mantras, “I am one with the Force” – a wonderful shout-out to Rogue One – are not helping him.
Kanan tells him, “Do not be afraid.”
“I’m not afraid of them,” Ezra calls out. With increasing emotion and a voice rising to a shout, “I’m afraid of knowing. I’m afraid of the truth. … I’m sorry. I forgive you, Tseebo!”
In letting go of his fear, in speaking forgiveness for Tseebo, Ezra finds the focus and the power to connect with the deadly creatures. They all sit in front of Ezra like obedient dogs. At the same time, across the Outer Rim on the Ghost, Tseebo is awakened from his data-infused stupor. He stands up and says, “I, too, am sorry. Forgive me … for everything.”
In the Gospel of John the power of the Holy Spirit is not to speak in other languages or to work wonders, as it is in Acts, but the power to forgive sins. Forgiveness is the ability to overcome the brokenness of sin, to heal, to restore. Here, we see both Ezra’s anger toward Tseebo released and his ability to connect with others – with Tseebo, with these creatures, with his past – restored. Forgiveness removed the barrier, the sin, that was keeping Ezra from connecting. So too for us. When we hold on to those sins that have been committed against us, we hold onto the brokenness and pain and horror they represent. Forgiveness is an act of healing, of hope, and of restoration.
The Ghost meets up with another Rebel ship very similar to the Tantive IV from A New Hope (perhaps we are to believe it is the same ship. This is altogether possible, as we’ve already met Senator Bail Organa earlier in the season). Hera escorts Tseebo onto the ship, and Tseebo expresses remorse for not raising Ezra, for failing in the commitment he had made to the Bridgers. He also says he knows what happened to Ezra’s parents. He tells Hera … off camera. Tseebo had downloaded all the data that was now overwhelming his brain in order to learn what happened to the Bridgers and perhaps help Ezra. In doing so, however, he also downloaded all kinds of troop movements, plans, and more, which will be invaluable to the growing Rebellion.
Back at the planet with the nasty creatures, the Inquisitor and a squad of troops land and enter an old hanger where they detect the signal from their tracker. Kanan and Ezra’s scheme worked! As the troops enter the old hanger, Kanan and Ezra send the creatures to attack the troopers, who are overpowered by the pack of dogs. The Inquisitor, however, is able to defeat the creatures easily.
An awesome lightsaber duel ensues between Kanan and the Inquisitor, while Ezra continues to connect with creatures and send them to attack the troopers. As the Inquisitor has Kanan down and prepares to kill both Kanan and Ezra, Ezra reaches out with the Force in fear and anger, causing stones to rise and the ground to quake, and summoning from the depths the mother dog creature – much larger than the others. This creature occupies the Inquisitor while Kanan and Ezra can get away. Ezra’s efforts, however, result in him passing out and feeling cold.
As they fly away Kanan apologies for not preparing Ezra for the trails he faced. “I’m sorry.” The humility to ask for forgiveness and to admit fear and failure is front and center in this episode – and a significant contrast to how Jedi culture and lore was presented in the original trilogy. Remember Obi-Wan Kenobi’s rotten line in Return of the Jedi? “What I told you was true, from a certain point of view.” That’s Kenobi being a weasel who refuses to admit he was wrong.
As the episode ends, Kanan and Ezra rejoin the crew. Hera wants to tell Ezra what she’s learned about his parents, but Kanan interuppts, says that Ezra just needs some rest after his ordeal with the Inquisitor and the creatures. Later Sabine gives him a disk she had picked up at his parents’ old house. She cleaned it up, and found on it a picture of Ezra with his parents. She gives it to him as a birthday present. Ezra sees the image and smiles. He continues to make connections.
S1E10 Path of the Jedi
Ezra shows up late for training, and Kanan questions if he’s really ready. Ready for what? For a test. Kanan had been meditating with the Jedi holocron. He has a training, a test, ready for Ezra.
Hera and Kanan share concern about what happened on the planet with the creatures. Ezra drew on the Dark Side of the Force to summon the largest most dangerous creature. Hera says, “after what happened [with the massive creature], you have to help him.” Kanan responds, “I hope I can.” Hera assures him, “I know you can.”
They discover an old Jedi temple on Lothal, and part of the test is for Ezra to find it and be able to open it. He listens to the rock, to the temple, and learns that he can only open and enter it with his master. Ezra is not alone – he cannot be alone. They must to together. They open the Temple, but the journey itself – the trial within the Temple – is just for him. Kanan waits outside in a vestibule where two skeletons of past masters sit, their padawans evidently never having come out of their trials.
“You’re going to put my life in your hands?” Ezra remarks to Kanan, noting the dead Jedi just sitting there. “You put yours in mine with the training.”
We are our brother’s keeper. (Genesis 4:9)
The trial is a Force-driven vision in which Ezra faces his fears – fear of losing Kanan, of losing his found family on the Ghost. He sees the Inquisitor, fights him. Kanan is killed, Ezra falls down a chasm. Of course, it’s all a vision. At times Ezra is aware of this, at other times he gets caught up in it, as if it were real.
Facing another test, with doors closed all around him, Ezra cries out, “There’s no way I’ll get this open on my own. I’m alone. Abandoned. Again.” But then a moment later he continues, “Again. Yeah. I’ve been alone before. Survived. I can survive this.”
Again Ezra faces a vision of the Inquisitor. “Ready to die, boy, or are you afraid to face your demise?”
Ezra retorts, “No. Afraid of being alone again? Sure. Afraid of letting down my Master? Absolutely.” As the Inquisitor approaches to kill him, “I’m not afraid.” Ezra stands still, chest puffed out, as if standing at attention in a military formation. The Inquisitor moves to kill Ezra. The lightsaber passes through Ezra and the vision of the Inquisitor fades away.
Yoda, then, speaks to Ezra and appears to him as a swarm of bright lights. At the same time, Yoda speaks to Kanan who shares with Yoda his lack of confidence in his ability to train Ezra. Despite this lack of confidence, Kana expresses a strong commitment to Ezra. He wants to do right by Ezra, to not let him lose his way as he had when he was younger (immediately following Order 66).
Meanwhile, Yoda leads Ezra through the Temple to a room with three doors. Yoda tells Ezra he must decide his path – which is not just about these doors, but the doors accentuate the choices that stand before Ezra. He walks through the center door, and enters what we’ll later know is the “world between worlds,” a dark, domed liminal space with all kinds of writing and lines depicting orbits and paths and circumferences streaking across it. It is amazingly simple, while also entirely otherworldly.
“Tell me, why must you become Jedi?” Yoda asks. Ezra reveals his pain and anger, causing Yoda to express concern and wariness about Ezra’s path – a not-so-subtle call back to Anakin’s anger-driven fall from the Jedi order in the prequel trilogy and The Clone Wars.
As their conversation continues, Ezra speaks with increasing passion about feeling alive with Kanan and the Ghost crew. “Before I met Kanan, I only ever thought about 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. Alive. They feel alive, like I do now.” Yoda tells him that a difficult path is ahead of him, as a kyber crystal – the crystal that powers a lightsaber – slowly falls into his hands.
We have an Acts 2:44-46 vibe here. “All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.” Life is best lived in community with and service toward others. We don’t live for ourselves, but we live for God in how we live for the good of others.
He and Kanan meet up, both having arrived at places of resolution and of renewed purpose, and they leave the temple without incident. Back on the Ghost Ezra shows off a lightsaber he made from “junk laying around” the ship, spare parts, and … of course, the crystal.
In 1 Corinthians 1 we learn that “God chose the foolish to shame the wise, the weak to shame the strong.” Making the “elegant weapon” of the Jedi (Obi Wan Kenobi’s quote from A New Hope) out of junk? Yes! This is the perfect turnabout for a faith that is now rising up from death to life.
S1E11 Idiot’s Array
We meet Lando Calrissian at the start of Idiot’s Array, as Zeb is unwisely gambling … and losing. He bets “his droid,” Chopper, and loses. Now, he has lost his credits and has lost the crew’s droid, Chopper.
A fun adventure ensues. Lando tries to con his way through the ups and downs of a deal gone bad with a smuggler named Azmorgian. Lando, smooth and sketchy, tries to pit members of the crew against each other with his charm. Even as different members of the crew are variously charmed by or jealous of him, Hera sees right through him. “No deal,” she tells him. We’re a crew, and we work best when we work together. It’s a nice, self-contained story about their cohesion as a found family.
And there’s a puffer pig for comedic relief. Enjoy.
S1E12 Vision of Hope
Kanan, Sabine, and Zeb are training Ezra on his lightsaber. His task is to deflect blaster bolts to a target. At first, he’s having no success. But then, as he receives a vision through the Force – a vision of the near future – he falls into a kind of trance before passing out. Yet, as he is overtaken by the vision, Ezra hit his target perfectly, multiple times. He is connecting with the Force, even in ways he can neither understand nor control yet. In the vision he sees a senator in exile, Gall Trayvous, who has been broadcasting messages surreptitiously … and in his vision he learns that this senator knew his parents.
Ezra is buoyed by this vision, confident that he will meet this senator and gain more information about his parents. He is super excited. Kanan, however, is much more cautious. He doesn’t want Ezra to get his hopes up only to be let down.
Ezra meets up with his friend Zare who is still in the Imperial academy, who tells him that there’s a military operation happening at the same location where the crew is supposed to meet the senator. It’s a trap. Ezra meets up with the Ghost crew at his parents’ old house. There the crew is looking through some old broadcasting equipment in the house. Ezra’s parents sent out messages to challenge the Empire and rally support for a resistance movement. Zeb asks, “I don’t get it. They weren’t soldiers, just citizens. So why’d they risk it all?” “They had hope,” Hera says, “that they could do something to make the galaxy a better place for their son.”
Zeb sees the world as divided between soldiers and citizens. “Why did they risk it all?” They weren’t soldiers, true, but they were people with hope who resisted the Empire and helped others however they could. Hope is the power to live according to what will be, rather than to be hemmed in by what is here and now. Ezra’s parents lived according to a vision of a better life. In the same way Christians live according to the rules of the kingdom that is to come, not merely according to the broken ways of the world as it is.
It ends up that the “senator in exile” was working for the Empire all along, using this fake persona to draw out rebels so they can be identified and eliminated. Ezra is crushed, all his hopes for Senator Gall Trayvis dashed.
At the end of the episode Ezra and Hera share a moment. He’s dejected, both because his Force vision was incomplete, and his hope for Senator Trayvis was shown to be misplaced. He feels like they can’t catch a break.
“What’s wrong with us?”
“We have hope … hope that things can get better. And they will.”
Hope is always an uphill journey.
1 Peter 3:15 says, “Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you.” Hera has that hope, and is ready to tell anyone about it. When we live against the odds, swim upstream, strive for a better world, it is easy to get discouraged, as Ezra is. Yet, gathering around God’s gifts of Word and Sacrament in the fellowship of Christian believers is how we are renewed in hope, how we maintain and account for the hope that is in us.