Rebel. Hero. Terrorist. These words have all been used to describe Saw Gerrera, a Clone Wars veteran and key architect of the rebellion against the Galactic Empire. Fans well-versed in the lore of Star Wars may already be familiar with his contributions to the galaxy, but most Star Wars fans have never heard of him before. That will change with his appearance in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, marking the first time an animated character that debuted in Star Wars: The Clone Wars has made the transition to live-action. Before seeing the film, learn all about the secret history of Saw Gerrera…
SPOILER ALERT: This article contains plot spoilers for Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel and light spoilers for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
Saw Gerrera is One of the First Rebels
During the Clone Wars, the Separatist Alliance occupied the planet Onderon and replaced its ruler, King Ramsis Dendup, with a puppet ruler named Sanjay Rash. Despite insurmountable odds, a group of citizens fought back against the Separatists. Saw and his sister, Steela, were two of the most prominent members of that group. They asked the Jedi Council for help in the hopes that the Grand Army of the Republic would intervene, but the Jedi chose instead to send three of their own—Anakin Skywalker, Ahsoka Tano, and Obi-Wan Kenobi, along with Clone Captain Rex—to train the rebel forces to fight back against the Separatists.
The Jedi turned this disorganized and ineffective band of rebels into a well-oiled resistance against the Separatists. The rebels defeated the Separatists and returned King Dendup to the throne, though it was at the cost of Steela’s life—a tragedy that helped turn Saw into a more ruthless fighter. His rebellion did not end with the Clone Wars, and he continued to fight when the Republic was transformed into the Galactic Empire. He became one of the earliest leaders in that fight, but his extremist tactics were alarming to other rebel leaders like Mon Mothma and Bail Organa. He nonetheless eventually led a cell rebels on the Imperial-occupied holy world of Jedha.
Saw Gerrera Knew Jyn Erso Before Rogue One
During the Clone Wars, Galen Erso worked on a project with his old friend, Orson Krennic to study the kyber crystals used in a Jedi’s lightsaber. He believed that his research was for energy development. Instead, Galen soon found that it was to power the Death Star.
Galen, his wife Lyra, and their daughter Jyn soon went on the run, as Galen wanted no part in the Death Star project. He managed to secure passage off of Coruscant from none other than Saw Gerrera, who brought them to a planet called Lah’mu. He believed they would be safe there, as it was remote and desolate yet with a bit of tranquility. Young Jyn formed an immediate attachment to him and looked at him as a friend. She even wanted him to stay with them on Lah’mu, but Saw couldn’t remain behind. He told the family, though, that he would visit whenever he could and would always be there to help them. This is a promise that will surely manifest itself in Rogue One.
Saw Gerrera Has a Mixed Legacy
There’s an old saying: One person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter. It’s a fitting saying to describe Saw Gerrera. He helped liberate his planet from the Separatists. He helped forge the Rebel Alliance. We’ll soon find out how he helped destroy the Death Star. All of these actions led to good ends, but do the ends justify the means?
Mon Mothma and Bail Organa, the primary architects of the Rebel Alliance, were deeply uncomfortable with Saw’s approach to the rebellion. Even by the time of the New Republic, not everyone looked at Saw as a hero. Leia Organa and Ransolm Casterfo, both New Republic Senators, argued—20 years after the fall of the Empire—about the tactics of the Rebel Alliance. Castero, someone with a noted interest in Imperial culture, said the Alliance was right to oppose the Empire, but that didn’t justify their approach. He specifically cited Saw and his rebels as an example of the rebels using terrorist tactics.
Saw Gerrera is a George Lucas Creation
George Lucas moved on from the Star Wars franchise when he sold Lucasfilm to Disney in 2012, but Saw Gerrera is a great example of how Lucas’ legacy lives on. When fans learned that Forest Whitaker plays Saw in Rogue One, Pablo Hidalgo of the Lucasfilm Story Group took to Twitter to explain that Lucas himself created the character. Lucas developed Saw for a live-action TV series, which never saw the light of day. He envisioned the character as an extremist, and then introduced him in The Clone Wars to show his backstory before he became a hardliner.
Lucas envisioned Saw as an architect of the Rebel Alliance, but not to the extent of Mon Mothma and Bail Organa. “Think of Saw as the uncle mom and dad don’t talk about,” Hidalgo said. “Something bad went down. He’s ‘disowned’ to some degree.” Hidalgo further revealed that this stemmed from Lucas’ interest in history and how art can reflect it: “Saw was militarized by the Republic to fight a proxy war against their worst enemy. A generation later, he becomes their worst enemy.” Perhaps Lucas was thinking of the rebels that the United States armed in Afghanistan to fight the Russian invasion, but who later became enemies of the United States.
We’ll finally see the realization of Lucas’ ideas for Saw in Rogue One: A Story Wars Story, which opens in theaters on December 16th.