*Spoiler warning: This review contains spoilers for the Star Wars Rebels episode “The Honorable Ones.”
When we were told that the second season of Star Wars Rebels would explore the backgrounds of the show’s characters, chances are that most of us assumed these examinations of the past would be limited to focusing on members of the crew of the Ghost. For the most part, that has proven to be true; we have learned much regarding the origins and motivations of our heroes. Hera, Zeb, and Ezra have each been the subject of multiple stories that revealed where these characters have come from, and even Chopper’s humble beginnings have been addressed–if vaguely–during this season. In addition, we’ve also been witness to the early development of Leia Organa in a story that cast new light on the opening sequence of A New Hope. But this week’s episode, “The Honorable Ones,” redefines our understanding of a character we probably weren’t expecting to get a closer look at–Agent Kallus.
Employing the scenario of sworn enemies having to work together in order to survive, “The Honorable Ones” transcends its status as an homage to films like Hell in the Pacific (thanks to Bryan Young for pointing that one out) and Enemy Mine (a nostalgic favorite of mine) to give us a thought-provoking examination of who Agent Kallus really is and what he believes about his place in the universe. Having crash-landed on the Geonosian moon of Bahryn, Kallus and Zeb find themselves stranded without food or adequate shelter. Bahryn’s status as an icy planetoid adds a sense of urgent desperation to their plight–as does the appearance of a vicious native creature called a bonzami (whose name is a clever anagram of Zamboni). With the dangers mounting, Kallus and Zeb can depend only on each other and must do so if either stands a chance of surviving until help comes.
As Zeb fixes the escape pod’s transponder so that nearby spacecraft can locate them, the pair of marooned warriors debate the value of their respective causes and each expresses hope that their allies will be the first to arrive. Kallus is confident that with all the resources available to the Empire, it will be his men that arrive first. In his opinion, Zeb will be treated fairly and will receive a trial if this comes to pass. The Lasat is understandably incredulous at this suggestion, and discerning viewers may also detect a hint of skepticism on Kallus’ part regarding the validity of this possibility.
With the night and freezing temperatures approaching, coupled with the imminent threat of the bonzami’s return, another time-based element has been introduced to the mix. The fate of Zeb and Kallus is now also dependent upon which of their factions is the first to respond to the transponder signal. In a fascinating bit of parallelism, each warrior continues to espouse the merits of their respective side of the war. Kallus is confident that the Empire will continue to grow and expand its influence on the galaxy. Conversely, Zeb is of the opinion that the burgeoning frustration of the Empire’s constituents will continue to grow and manifest in a larger and more organized Rebellion. In essence, the two ideologies are in a race for the hearts and minds of every being in the galaxy and the winner will decide the fate of all concerned.
And yet, when the bonzami returns with others of its kind, sworn enemies must transform into willing and complementary partners. Using the crippled Kallus’ idea to scale the cave’s pillars, Zeb literally carries his erstwhile arch nemesis on his back and the two successfully escape the cave and the hungry jaws of Bahryn’s fiercest fauna. As the pair rises to the surface of the moon, so does their hope of being rescued.
With the transponder now able to send a clear signal, the wait for rescue continues. In the interim, Kallus expresses regret for his part in the decimation of Lasan. Combined with an earlier bit of expositional dialogue that revealed a formative encounter with a Lasat mercenary on Onderon, this admission of guilt serves to humanize the ISB officer in a powerful way. For just as the vicious Lasat should not serve as a representative for his entire people, neither should the Imperials be held accountable for the actions of their worst members.
Showing how much he’s grown as a character this season, Zeb seems willing to extend that grace to Kallus. And when the Ghost is the first ship to respond to the transponder’s signal, the Lasat mercifully offers to provide Kallus with safe passage off Bahryn. But the Imperial officer is not quite ready to take this step and instead chooses to wait for his comrades. A proud warrior himself, Zeb leaves Kallus behind with his honor intact and allows his friends to believe he survived on his own.
Later, when Kallus is rescued (by an independent trader since the Imperials had deemed him a low priority), he finds himself in an awkward place. Whereas Zeb had been greeted with joy and relief by Ezra and the rest of his crewmates, Kallus’ return merited minimal response from his fellow officers–including Admiral Konstantine with whom he’s worked closely. Perhaps this episode will be the impetus for a greater transformation of Kallus and his worldview. But at minimum, it’s clear that both sides of the Galactic Civil War now have the potential to view their opposites as possessing honor.
Thank you for reading! If you have feedback or just want to say hello, you can leave a comment on this page or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also contact me on Twitter @influxman or check out my Rogue page on “Star Wars in the Classroom.”
And don’t forget to check out Rebels Reactions for even more insight, discussion, and analysis of this episode.
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