Spoilers will be present for the most recent episode of Star Wars Rebels, so proceed with caution!
Star Wars Rebels returned for its final run last night with a shocking two-part episode that offered up one of the franchise’s most memorable, and quite frankly one its saddest character deaths. I’m not just talking about the Rebels franchise either, I’m talking the all encompassing Star Wars franchise, so yes, this death was highly emotional and weighed heavy on my geeky heart. Who may this character be? Well, it’s none other than Kanan Jarrus, or as the Jedi used to call him – Caleb Dume.
Like most of the heroic characters to die in Star Wars, Kanan sacrificed himself so his lover Hera, his apprentice Ezra, and his friend and compatriot Sabine could escape certain death at the hands of the Empire. Like Obi-Wan before him, Kanan selflessly gave himself to the Force in an effort to allow his friends a chance to survive, and it was a beautiful, but extremely sad moment. It was as perfect of a death as a fan could want for a hero, so while none of us ever want to see a character like Kanan die, his death was done with selfless honor, and for a cartoon it was scripted perfectly to tug as hard as possible on your heart’s strings.
I didn’t just shed a tear, I welled up, and stayed that way for a few minutes after watching his very Jedi-like sacrifice. This just goes to show that regardless of medium, if the characters are strong and the world is expertly crafted around them, they can elicit real life emotions that can rock a fan to the core. I’m said fan, and I’ve been rocked, but I appreciate the shock, because it reflects great storytelling, and that is all that us Star Wars fans can ask for.
I’m not exactly sure what aspect of Kanan’s death makes it so shocking and sad, because I don’t think there is just one part of his sacrifice that makes it so emotionally impactful, and I think most of us figured he wouldn’t make it anyway, so it shouldn’t have felt so depressing. The setting really helps, which again was a rescue mission to save his love Hera. In fact, just before Kanan’s sacrifice she finally pledges her love to him, something he has been looking for, and she has been wanting to do for years, but the moment was never right as they both were leading the fight against the Empire. In an ironic twist of fate, just as she finally gives in to her feelings and expresses her love for him, he shows her why she loves him in the first place by saving her, Ezra, and Sabine from certain death by using the Force to hold off an explosion while also pushing them out of harm’s way. When you couple the gravity of the situation with the excellent cinematography and musical score featured in his death, it’s nearly impossible to not let the sheer emotional weight of the scene knock you on your ass.
It gets compounded in the follow up episode when all of the Phoenix squadron members cope with Kanan’s death in their own way — in a sense you’re left to greave with them — so you as a viewer continue to experience the emotional pain alongside the crew. It makes you feel like you’re watching your own friends greave the loss of a family member, so again, this death is heavy, but in a good way that reinforces the power of great storytelling regardless of medium.
Disney XD has released the clip in its entirety, which you can see below. Even though I know what is going to happen in the clip, it still punched me in my heart rewatching Kanan’s sacrifice play out again. Hopefully you haven’t discounted Star Wars Rebels and The Clone Wars as just childish animated Star Wars projects, because they’re probably some of the best canon-based Star Wars tales around. This is reinforced by the emotional relevance of the death of a main character, and how sad it was to see him go. People like me don’t get wrecked by much, at times I wonder if I even have a human soul, but when storytelling is perfected with great characters and narratives — like it has been in Star Wars Rebels, especially during Kanan’s death in “Jedi Night” — even I can experience the pain of sadness, which goes to show how special of a moment this character sacrifice was.
Kanan’s death is now up there with Obi-Wan’s, Anakin Skywalker’s, and Luke Skywalker’s. I would even say it was just as emotionally relevant if not more so than a few of those, but it was also very similar to all three. Kenobi’s sacrifice still gets me to this day, even though I’ve seen it hundreds of times, but it doesn’t carry the same weight as Kanan’s because we had only known Obi-Wan for not even half a movie when he became one with the Force. Sure it was sad to see Luke’s reaction to losing the only person who knew about his real past, but we as fans didn’t really spend much time with Kenobi before his passing. Anakin’s sacrifice in ROTJ is a big one, and probably my most favorite and treasured Star Wars moment (sans Lucas’ special edit of Vader yelling NOOOOOOOO!), but Kanan’s now gives it a run for its money. Luke’s is now up there for the manner in which it went down, but it didn’t quite kick me in the balls like Kanan’s did emotionally. If I had to rank them I’d probably put Anakin and Kanan as tied for first with a nod to Anakin if I had a gun to my head, and then Luke’s inspired death, and finally Obi-Wan’s strategic death.
The fact that I’m including the death of an animated character in the same breath as three of the most iconic live-action Star Wars characters of all-time is just one final reason as to why Kanan’s last heroic act is now easily one of the Star Wars franchise’s most memorable sacrifices. If his actions don’t choke you up, then you my friend are indeed a Sith Lord and follower of the Dark Side of the Force. There is no saving you.
RIP Caleb Dume, may the Force be with you, always…
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