The Expanded Universe is an absolute gold mine when it comes to story ideas in Rebels. From characters to planets to mere concepts, there’s plenty for the taking and tweaking. The Clone Wars already proved how successful that tactic could be with their use of Dathomir. In our continuing series here at Tosche Station, we’re pitching you things we’d like to see make it into Rebels. This week? Bria Tharen.
Before you grab your pitchforks, hear me out. A.C. Crispin introduced Bria Tharen into the Star Wars galaxy with the Han Solo Trilogy during the Bantam era. When readers first met her, Bria was a wealthy young Corellian who’d fallen into a religious cult’s trap where they exploited their pilgrims as slaves in their spice mines. Enter Han Solo and a crazy plan that gets both of them (and friends) off Ylesia followed a sudden lack of purpose in her life. The short version of what follows is that Bria ends up leaving Han behind so he can go to the Imperial Academy and she can go off and break her addiction and find a new meaning for her life. She ends up joining Senator Garm Bel Iblis’ resistance group, eventually becomes the commander of Red Hand Squadron in the Alliance to Restore the Republic, and dies in service to the Alliance.
For a show called Rebels, she’s potentially an obvious choice to bring into the new canon. While her story is linked closely to that of Han Solo, it doesn’t need to be in order for her character to be well used in Rebels. The writers can retcon away any mention of the brash pilot and instead condense her backstory down to something easier: she’s a former slave who was freed, joined the Rebel Alliance, and has neither tolerance nor mercy for slavers. Doing so would not only actually help strengthen Bria as a character but also allow the show to tackle several tough topics. Seeing how Rebels is a show that’s already touched on genocide and execution? These probably won’t be too much of a stretch.
Slavery has been a driving force in the Star Wars universe from the start. Han Solo and Chewbacca’s friendship is known for beginning when Han freed the wookiee from slavery. Even young Anakin Skywalker was a slave when we first met him. The crew of the Ghost could meet Bria Tharen and her Red Hand Squadron on a mission where both groups’ goals overlap. (Think the freeing of the wookiees in Spark of Rebellion.) For the purpose of the viewers, Hera or Kanan could later explain to Ezra how Tharen’s Red Hand is known amongst the resistance groups for their hatred of slavers and how they’ll take any mission where they have a chance to free slavers. The explanation wouldn’t stop there though.
Hera and Kanan would then explain to Ezra that Tharen’s Red Hand is also known for showing no mercy to the slavers they encounter. (Just go ahead and picture it: Earlier, Hera or Kanan would have ordered Ezra and Sabine back to the Ghost under the pretense of them help escorting the freed slaves out because they recognize Bria’s group and don’t want either of them to see the forthcoming execution. This would lead to the handy exposition explanation later.) While our heroes have never been particularly squeamish about shooting enemy combatants, there’s always been a line they don’t cross. The notable exception was Anakin Skywalker’s execution of an unarmed Count Dooku which was shown to be a dark side act. Presenting Red Hand Squadron would be a fantastic moral counterpoint. What the slavers have done to these poor sentients is unspeakably cruel, they’ve likely killed many beings either directly or indirectly, and they are almost guaranteed to continue in their slaver ways if Red Hand lets them go. The opposing argument is, of course, whether this means Bria and her people are any better by killing them. It’d be fascinating to see where the show takes this.
Moral arguments aside, including Bria Tharen would definitely help the show in terms of showing more capable ladies. Bria’s backstory, even tweaked and retconned, is one that shows her overcoming adversity to become a confident and capable operative in the Rebel Alliance. As with Winter, including Bria Tharen in Rebels would be a great nod to Expanded Universe fans and also show strides towards incorporating more women into leading and supporting roles in future episodes. Finally, retconning away some of the details of her backstory would go a long way towards establishing her an even stronger character than she was in the books who’s not just there to further a man’s story.
Finally, the writers would have a decent amount of freedom to use her as they see fit. Even in Legends, Bria didn’t survive long enough to hear about Alderaan’s destruction so there’s no need to worry about how she might be used post-Original Trilogy. She’s also a character whom the writers could use on a recurring basis. They could introduce her originally to ask the morality questions and then have appear every now and then throughout the seasons and tie up her story as necessary potentially even with her death in battle. They could do all this and more while simultaneously giving a sense of familiarity to hardcore fans and creating something new for those who don’t yet know who she is.
So come on Rebels. Give us Bria Tharen and Red Hand Squadron. Han Solo not included.