Shared universes may be all the rage, but the Star Wars franchise is unique. Its canon was effectively rebooted after the Disney purchase back in 2012, and now Lucasfilm treat all media — from the movies to the novels, from the animated series to the comics — as equally canon. It's all supervised by the Lucasfilm Story Group, who do an excellent (if not perfect) job of ensuring the pieces all fit together.
The last year has seen the best example of Lucasfilm's approach to canon, with a careful focus on rogue rebel leader Saw Gerrera. Most moviegoers first met Gerrera in Rogue One, but his story has gradually spun out to tie-in novels and even to the animated series Star Wars: Rebels. It's been a fascinating approach, one that develops a character across several different channels, and shows just how united the Star Wars universe truly is. Let's take a look at his story.
Introduced In 'The Clone Wars'
Surprisingly, the character of Saw Gerrera was actually created back in 2012 for the animated Clone Wars series. He was introduced as a freedom fighter on his homeworld of Onderon, battling against the Separatist armies, and soon became an uneasy ally of the Jedi. He was an extremist even at this early stage, often clashing with the rigid military structure of the Clone Army, and even coming close to blows with Republic soldiers on occasion. Tragically, Saw's alliance with the Jedi cost him personally when his sister was killed.
Clone Wars showrunner Dave Filoni was delighted when Lucasfilm decided to reintroduce the character in Rogue One. As he told Slashfilm, Saw was a perfect fit for the kind of story Gareth Edwards was telling. More to the point though, Saw's presence in the film was a subtle continuity nod that embedded ideas from Clone Wars into the canon.
"I like that it seeds off of the ideas that we had at Lucasfilm in the very early days of Rebellion story, which is that it is rooted out of Jedi’s training these groups on a small planetary scale. And that those are the seeds that were placed throughout the galaxy of the Rebellion."
It's a smart detail. The Jedi had traveled the galaxy, training small groups of fighters to oppose the Separatists. These, it seems, were the first rebels against the Empire.
'Rogue One' And Jyn Erso
Most fans will have been introduced to Saw Gerrera in December 2016, when Lucasfilm released Rogue One. Played by Forest Whitaker, Saw was introduced as a brutal warrior who didn't flinch at torturing his prisoners. He ran an organization known as the Partisans, viewed as terrorists by the rest of the Rebel Alliance, and essentially left to do their own thing. There was clearly a lot of bad blood between these different rebel groups, but the reasons mostly went unrevealed.
If you really want to get a sense of Saw Gerrera's Partisans, you have to look beyond the movies. Little by little, the Star Wars novels and TV shows have given us a sense of how Saw became a rebel in the first place, and what kind of men he gathered around himself. James Luceno's novel Catalyst, published as a prelude to Rogue One, introduced Saw a weapons smuggler supporting rebels in the Salien Sector. What Saw didn't know was that he was being manipulated by Orson Krennic, who sought an excuse to impose Imperial order on that sector. Saw escaped from Krennic, and was drawn into an alliance with the young Erso family, helping them flee Coruscant. This was Saw's first hint that the Empire was working on some sort of superweapon, and he'd pursue that lead relentlessly.
As we saw in Rogue One, Galen arranged for Saw to come to his daughter's rescue should the Empire ever find the Erso family. That led to Jyn's being taken in by Saw when she was only a child, and we saw her upbringing in Beth Revis's Rebel Rising. That young adult novel gave us a sense of just how harsh a father figure Saw really was, and also highlighted his strategies. Most tellingly, Saw showed blatant disregard for civilian casualties, aiming to make any who lived under the Empire afraid of him. The novel revealed that he was unwittingly undermining the Rebellion as a result. Saw's actions allowed the Empire to portray all rebels as terrorists, justifying their continued military buildup, while the Empire would studiously leak Saw targets who could potentially develop rebel sympathies.
Return To 'Star Wars: Rebels'
Season 3 of #StarWarsRebels saw Whitaker reprise the role, still hot on the trail of the Death Star. He allied with Hera's team when they investigated the barren world of Geonosis, which had been sterilized of life after the Geonosians helped construct the Death Star. The plot presented an interesting contrast between the main group and Saw, who was willing to torture one of the last surviving Geonosians and even risk that race becoming extinct as a result.
The latest two episodes of Season 4, a two-parter bearing the title "In the Name of the Rebellion," has hammered the point home. The first part revealed that Saw attempted to undermine the leadership of the Rebel Alliance, publicly challenging Mon Mothma. What's more, we again saw the Partisans and the Rebel Alliance working at cross-purposes. The Rebel Alliance intended to sabotage a sensor relay, aiming to create a blind spot so they could move ships undetected. Saw settled for destroying it, an approach Mon Mothma viewed as foolish. As she noted, the Empire would simply replace it.
The second part again contrasted the two teams, with Ezra and Sabine working alongside Saw in investigating a civilian cargo transport that was secretly shipping prisoners and Kyber Crystals for the Death Star project. Saw was willing to risk any number of innocents in order to uncover the Empire's secret project, and even stunned Sabine and Ezra when he felt they'd disagree with his choices. This episode dropped the first hint that the Empire's occupation of Jedha was tied to their superweapon program, and explained why Saw then made Jedha his base.
The most disturbing example of Saw's methods was surely in Greg Rucka's Guardians of the Whills. Centered on Chirrut and Baze, this young-adult novel saw the two Guardians deciding how to respond to the Imperial occupation of Jedha. Saw's methods tempted them for a while, but little by little they realized how ruthless he was. In the novel's climax, Saw attempted to use a group of child refugees from Jedha in a sneak-attack on the Empire. Every one of the children would have died as a result of Saw's brutal strategy, and Chirrut and Baze ultimately betrayed Saw to save their lives.
A Fascinating, Complex Character
Saw Gerrera may have only made a brief appearance in #RogueOne, but the character has become potentially the most interesting one in Star Wars canon. His story is currently the best example of Lucasfilm's cross-media approach, with portions of his tale told on the big screen, the small screen, and even in the novels.
What's most remarkable is that, because of the careful oversight of the Lucasfilm Story Group, Saw's overarching narrative makes perfect sense. Lucasfilm is drip-feeding us his story, revealing little by little just why Saw and the Rebel Alliance became so bitterly divided. In doing so, they're adding an intriguing 'shade of gray' to the moral tone of the Star Wars universe, while also using Saw to cast our heroes in an even brighter light. It's proving to be a smart approach, and shows just how effective this strategy can be.
What do you think of Star Wars: Rebels Season 4 to date? Let me know in the comments!