The details on the main cast of Rogue One are finally out, and it’s official: Forest Whitaker‘s character, whose identity has been shrouded in secrecy, is Saw Gerrera. Fans of Star Wars: The Clone Wars will remember Saw as the brother of Steela Gerrera, both of whom were members of the Onderon rebels in the TV show’s fifth season. In the teaser trailer for Rogue One, Whitaker’s Saw can be seen asking protagonist Jyn Erso, “What will you do when they catch you? What will you do if they break you? If you continue to fight, what will you become?”
I’m thrilled that Whitaker, who won an Academy Award for his starring role in 2006’s The Last King of Scotland, will be bringing a Star Wars character to life on the big screen. I’m equally thrilled that his character is one from the TV side of Star Wars, since the franchise’s TV shows don’t get much recognition beyond their own scopes. Here’s what Rogue One‘s inclusion of Saw Gerrera will mean for the Star Wars Saga.
Recognition for ‘Star Wars’ TV
For many entertainment franchises that are comprised of both films and TV series, the films often do a poor job of acknowledging the continuity of their neighboring TV shows. Recent films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe have fallen short of recognizing TV series like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Daredevil, and Jessica Jones, whether through making passing references in dialogue or directly including a TV character.
The Star Wars Saga has suffered from the same problem. Part of the reason is that the Saga’s two main TV shows haven’t tied directly into any recent releases. When Star Wars: The Clone Wars was on the air, it was bridging the three-year gap between Episode II: Attack of the Clones and Episode III: Revenge of the Sith after both films had already been released. The currently airing Star Wars Rebels leads into Episode IV: A New Hope and the rest of the original trilogy, which have been out for decades.
Now, things are finally changing. Rogue One takes place three years after Star Wars Rebels and immediately prior to A New Hope, and while Rogue One‘s mission isn’t to bridge the gap between those two stories, there are some connections that can’t be ignored. In Rebels, the disparate cells of the nascent rebellion haven’t yet coalesced into the centralized Rebel Alliance of the original trilogy. The leaders of the rebellion (lowercase “r”) are attracting allies and finding unity, but it’s still a work in progress.
The fact that the Lucasfilm Story Group selected Saw Gerrera — a character who originated in one of the Saga’s TV series — to be one of Rogue One‘s stars is, hopefully, a sign of greater things to come. While the time frame of Episode VII: The Force Awakens and its sequels is too far removed from that of Star Wars Rebels, I’m hoping that Saw’s inclusion in Rogue One means that the Saga’s films will do a better overall job of integrating their nearby TV series in the future.
A Touch of Gray
If you’re planning on watching Rogue One this December, then now is the time to catch up on the foundation that Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels have established for the Rebel Alliance. Saw Gerrera is from Onderon, a world that originated in the Expanded Universe. During the Clone Wars, Saw worked alongside his sister, Steela, and the Onderon rebels to liberate their world from Separatist occupation. George Lucas, who executive produced The Clone Wars, originally created Saw for Star Wars: Underworld, the live-action series that Lucas once hoped to launch.
I wasn’t a huge fan of the “Onderon” story arc of The Clone Wars, which featured the Gerrera siblings. In a previous article here on Fandom, I wrote about how the story arc failed to address the collateral impact that war has on civilians and refugees. Still, one of the themes of the “Onderon” arc was the line between freedom fighting and terrorism, and that question seems to have haunted Saw ever since the Clone Wars.
Recent Star Wars material has hinted at Saw taking a darker — or at least grayer — path to justice. In the Rebels episode “The Honorable Ones,” Agent Kallus of the Imperial Security Bureau mentioned that Saw employed a Lasat mercenary who single-handedly wiped out Kallus’s entire unit. Most recently, Claudia Gray‘s novel Bloodline revealed that decades later, Centrist Senator Ransolm Casterfo and others in the New Republic regarded Saw and his rebel allies, the Partisans, as terrorists.
There are many characters within the Star Wars galaxy who purported to be fighting for justice, but were consumed by their lust for power or scars from war. In The Clone Wars, Chairman Chi Cho wrongfully instigated a war with the Talz of Orto Plutonia, a battle that cost him his life. Rebel spy Eneb Ray was revealed to be the villain of the recent Rebel Jail comic story arc, after a harrowing defeat changed his outlook on the Rebel Alliance. Even Free Ryloth movement leader Cham Syndulla, who was featured in the Rebels episode “Homecoming,” became obsessed with liberating Ryloth at any cost. Only his daughter, Hera, managed to rekindle his sense of honor and hope.
Saw Gerrera’s story will be following a similar path, as his years spent fighting the Empire have grayed not only his hair, but also his beliefs. Though he’ll be an ally to Jyn Erso’s squad in Rogue One, his true agenda remains unclear. Rogue One is the perfect place to examine the spectrum of beliefs and ethics that shapes the Rebel Alliance, particularly since the film will be an opportunity to explore the ethics of war within the Star Wars Saga. I’m looking forward to seeing this darker side of the Rebellion, especially as Forest Whitaker shows us what Saw Gerrera has become.