This article contains spoilers for Star Wars Rebels Season 3, Episode 8
The Ghost crew weren’t the only people striking back against the Empire during the dark times, as the most recent episode of Star Wars Rebels, “Iron Squadron,” reminds us. The story introduces us to a group of independent young people who, outraged by Imperial aggression and driven by a desire to save their home, take it upon themselves to fight the good fight, no matter the risk.
“Iron Squadron” features plenty of action, a lot of it reminiscent of some of the original trilogy’s most exciting space battles, thanks to the Millennium Falcon-like design of the YT-2400 freighter. But it left a lot of questions unanswered. Here are three of them:
1) Who is this “Iron Squadron,” really?
With only 22 minutes to tell this story, the Rebels creative team probably had to ditch a lot of interesting backstory about Mart, Gooti, Jonner and R3. How long have these three kids and one astromech known each other? Are Gooti and Jonner “war orphans,” as Mart is? We learned nothing about them; R3 was the most fully developed character after Mart. How did Mart become this crew’s captain? Sure, he’s brave and charismatic—maybe he’s a kind of “dry run” for the young Han Solo we’ll be seeing in cinemas—but his unflagging eagerness to take on a Star Destroyer made me think, fleetingly, of Ahab chasing his whale. Should this kid be giving us cause for concern?
I hope we haven’t seen the last of Iron Squadron. I’d like to know about the hardships they’ve already faced, and more of the battles they’ve already won. And I’m curious how well this formerly independent foursome fares as part of the Rebel Alliance. Whether in future episodes of Rebels, or in standalone novels and comics, I want more tales of Iron Squadron told!
2) What is Grand Admiral Thrawn’s history with Commander Sato?
Last seen in “Hera’s Heroes,” Grand Admiral Thrawn returns in “Iron Squadron,” still patiently plotting against all who would oppose the Empire, especially the crew of the Ghost. But he does seem to take a special interest when Admiral Konstantine reports on the ongoing resistance at Mykapo.
Mykapo is a planet created for Rebels, so the “Legends” universe can offer no clues about why it holds special significance for Thrawn. Clearly, however, it does—as does Commander Sato. Thrawn’s taunt near the episode’s end (”I wondered what it would take to motivate your return to Mykapo”) reveals that these two military men share some connection. Did they face each other across a field of battle, or did their paths cross in even more personal and, for Sato, painful ways? Given the fact that both Sato and Thrawn expect to meet again, I’m confident we’ll learn more.
3) Why is this season stressing the theme of solidarity?
The lesson that people are stronger when working together is great one, and a hallmark of Star Wars stories. Whenever Star Wars characters try to go solo (so to speak)—think Anakin defying the Jedi Council, or Luke rushing to Bespin against Ben and Yoda’s counsel—things go wrong.
Rebels has emphasized this theme several times already this season (most notably, with Ezra’s dark side wanderings in the season premiere), and does so again in this episode. Ezra tells the Iron Squadron, “How we choose to fight is as important as what we fight for.” A good cause must be fought for in good ways—and in Star Wars, the best way to fight is with faithful allies. That’s why the rebels are “predictable,” as Konstantine mocks them: they don’t ignore distress calls, and (as we heard in “Hera’s Heroes”) they do “rush to the rescue” of those in need.
In our increasingly fragmented, individualistic society, the theme of solidarity with others can’t be sounded enough. But does its frequent appearance in Rebels’ third season have a more immediate, story-driven cause? Might the creative team be setting us up for a crisis in which our heroes’ solidarity with each other is tested—and fails?
What did you think of “Iron Squadron”? Let’s talk in the comments below!