You Seek Knowledge: The Dark Side of the Rebellion and the Fulcrum Program
Well, well, well. We sure did learn a lot from the release of Rogue One. So many things that we could discuss for days if we had the time. The Guardians of the Whills was a bit of a shocker, that’s for sure. Catching the connections to Rebels was a great example of how connected the canon currently is. Seeing how the Death Star plans were stolen will forever change the opening scroll (and the entire film) of A New Hope. Getting to visit Darth Vader’s Mustafar castle was breathtaking and quite unexpected.
For me one of the most interesting things was seeing the Rebel Alliance and how it functioned. The original trilogy showed us the heroics of our Rebel heroes, but Rogue One was the first time we were able to see them as a legitimate rag-tag group of freedom fighters at the highest levels of leadership. But more importantly we discovered that the Rebel Alliance was not purely heroic and noble.
The original films have is an extremely straightforward view of the battle of good versus evil. Yes, Obi-Wan’s “certain point of view” may have been a bit of a moral grey area, but other than that the good guys did good things and the bad guys did very, very bad things. The prequel introduced us to some characters (I’m looking at you Mace Windu and the Jedi) that made some bad choices while trying to be as good and noble as possible. While they might not have been on the right path during the Clone Wars the Jedi always believed their actions were justified and on the side of good.
Now in a rather unexpected turn thanks to Rogue One we have learned that the Rebel Alliance was not entirely pure as we were led to believe over the last 40 years. The first seeds were planned with the character Saw Gerrera whose tactics were met with not only disapproval from the Rebel leaders, but an outright separation between the two sides. Mon Mothma tells Jyn that Saw’s extremism has caused problems for the Alliance. While she does not say what these incidents are, supplemental materials have stated that Saw’s methods included collateral damage in the way of innocent lives, all which he believed were a necessary evil.
Of course when you are trying to fight against an evil organization such as the Galactic Empire it is not very useful to act like an actual terrorist. It gives the Empire a chance to show the “horrors” which the Rebel insurgents commit and will not help change the minds of those who may been deciding to join the Alliance or not. Given the situation it is understandable why Mon Mothma, Bail Organa and other council leaders would not allow Saw to remain part of the official Alliance. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t others who share similar mindsets to a degree. This includes General Draven who was part of the Alliance High Command. He helped oversee Intelligence and Military aspects of the Rebel Alliance while holding one of the top ranks in the Rebellion.
We already knew from the previews that General Draven was not the comedy relief of the film. In fact, he ended up being one of the most serious characters we met. Not only did he have to make unpopular choices publicly, but he did so privately and without permission throughout the film. While the official mission was to bring Galen Erso to testify in front of the Senate, Draven was looking at the larger picture. He realized a mind like Galen’s could be used to create other terrible weapons if he were to end up back in the service of the Empire. Because of this he decided to change the mission from a rescue to an assassination.
Let that sink in. One of the leaders of the Rebel Alliance, who are the HEROES of Star Wars, not only goes behind the back of all the other leaders but does so by asking his subordinate, Cassian Andor, to murder a man in cold blood. This doesn’t sound like the Rebel Alliance we grew up with.
Unfortunately there may be a lot more to this than we see in the film. If you read the pages about Cassian Andor in Rogue One: The Ultimate Visual Guide for we learn that he has done missions like this for the Alliance in the past. However there is one little detail that at first glance sounds cool, but could potentially be terrible:
Cassian was once a Fulcrum recruitment agent. How cool is that! He’s like Ahsoka and Kallus, right? Neato!
NOT NEATO! Not neato at all! We need to consider what we learned about Cassian as a character. The film starts off with him killing an informant, not only to escape but to protect the information he had. Later in the film he very publicly admits he has done terrible things in the name of the Rebellion. We can assume that means similar killings as we saw earlier.
Now let’s take a moment to consider what the purpose of the Fulcrum “program” is. It is a secretive line for informants to be able to pass information between Rebel cells or join the Alliance. When Ahsoka was a Fulcrum we knew we could trust her. She’s Ahsoka. As for Agent Kallus we still have not seen a lot of him as Fulcrum, but his character development is showing us that his conscience is steering him away from the Empire and the evil things they do.
This is not the Cassian we see at the beginning of Rogue One. The Cassian we see kills his informant to stop a potential leak. If he is willing to do this what makes us think that he would not do that same while he acted as a Fulcrum? Now, he may have been following orders from someone like Draven, but that does not excuse the potentially shameful bastardization of the Fulcrum name and program that Ahsoka established. In Cassian’s role as a Fulcrum recruitment agent his job not only may have included bringing people into the Rebellion, but keeping them out and keeping them quiet.
We know Cassian is not the only rebel who made these difficult choices. The team of soldiers who go to Scarif all did terrible things for the Alliance. Even General Dravin seems unhappy to be making these dark decisions as the movie progresses. This “most desperate hour” only brought to the surface how far some of our “heroes” had to fall to defeat the Empire.
Were these difficult choice in Rogue One the right ones to make even if they seemed so wrong? Could the Alliance council continue to consider themselves to be in the right if they knew just how far they potentially had fallen beneath the surface? The Rebel Alliance was clearly better than the Empire from an overall moral standpoint, but now we know the difference between the two was not strictly black versus white. There is a lot more grey to our heroes than we realized