I wasn’t too excited when I first heard that ABC was going to broadcast “Spark of Rebellion” with a new Darth Vader scene added in. Sure, I love Vader as much as the next Star Wars fan, but it seemed like selling out to me. I wanted him to show up in Rebels, but only as the trump card — similar to Darth Sidious finally showing up in the Season 5 Maul arc of The Clone Wars. When Darth Vader shows up, you should know shit has gotten real.
As it turned out, the scene didn’t add much; it was just Vader giving orders to the Inquisitor. I thought the episode worked fine with or without the scene. But now, after seeing “Rise of the Old Masters” and “Breaking Ranks,” I wish this scene had been included in the pilot film the beginning, because it has vast ramifications for the future of the Empire and its Force users. Spoilers under the cut!
In “Rise,” the Inquisitor sets a trap for Kanan and Ezra. He attempts to kill Kanan outright, but offers Ezra a deal to join him in the Empire. Ezra refuses, and the two eventually escape with the help of the rest of the Ghost‘s crew. “Breaking Ranks” has Ezra going undercover in the Imperial Academy to get some important information about the kiber crystal. While sneaking around in the air ducts (of course), Ezra hears his officers reporting to the Inquisitor about cadets who meet specific criteria–meaning, they show signs of being able to use the Force. The Inquisitor says he will arrive to test them himself, and they can either join him or be killed. He also recognizes Ezra as the padawan he encountered on Stygian Prime.
I may have jumped up and down a little bit at this development. I loved that the Inquisitor tempted Ezra upon their first meeting, but I love even more that the Inquisitor is actively searching for Force sensitive children in the Academy. It ties in perfectly to his scene with Vader, and I’m really excited for this type of linear story that connects all the episodes. I love the storyline potential, and I can’t say I’m not a tiny bit excited about the prospect of the Inquisitor capturing Ezra (which would be a fantastic season finale, I’m just saying).
Obviously the Emperor wants to destroy the surviving Jedi Knights, but he’d also want to find as many untrained Force sensitives as he could and use them for his nefarious purposes. I mentioned this in my review of “Rise of the Old Masters,” which I wrote before seeing the Vader scene. Palpatine already has Vader, and he has the Inquisitorious.
But not every dark side adept can, or should, be an Inquisitor.
Palpatine can’t have a bunch of tiny dark side adepts running around the Empire with no structure or organization. They’d need to be trained, and most importantly they’d need to be molded to his will. What better way to secure their loyalty than having them eradicate corruption throughout the Empire? It’d give them a sense of purpose while allowing Palpatine to keep them in the dark about his true nature.
And why shouldn’t they feel grateful to him for doing this? He’d give them power and prestige, something most of them wouldn’t have previously in the Empire, and he wouldn’t kill them for having the Force. Not all kids are going to be as bold as Ezra, especially if they don’t have a Jedi teacher. Could you imagine how awful it would be to suspect you have the Force but not be able to talk to anyone about it? That’d be frightening enough as an adult, but now imagine you’re only eight years old. Given the choice between dying or serving the Empire, which do you think most children would choose?
That’s why these young dark siders would be perfect for the role of Emperor’s Hand. They’d willingly do all the Emperor’s dirty work, because at the end of the day they’d get to live a plush life without fear of getting killed at a moment’s notice. And they’d finally get to learn about the Force.
Mara Jade, the original Emperor’s Hand, once told Luke that by killing the Emperor he took away everything that made her special. While at first glance that accusation seems petty, it makes a lot of sense when you put it in the context of her only being twenty-one when the Emperor dies. Being an Emperor’s Hand is the only life she’s ever known, and it made her feel important. It’s very easy to dismiss that as vanity or pride, but those are extremely powerful emotions, especially in children. It’d be so easy for Palpatine to take advantage of such emotions and mold an entire army of “Children of the Force”.
I must admit, this argument is completely self-serving. I want the Emperor’s Hands to be canon so that Mara Jade can still exist somewhere in the galaxy. Would she be the same character we saw in Legends? Probably not, but I can deal with that. Fanfiction exists for a reason.
But even more, utilizing the Emperor’s Hands make sense in the universe Rebels has created. Palpatine wouldn’t order the Inquisitor to capture Force-sensitive children without having a plan for them. And he wouldn’t just use them as Sith, or part of the Inquisitorious, or even random fallen Jedi who could turn on him at any moment. He has contingency plans upon contingency plans.
He’s the Emperor; why wouldn’t he also have Hands to do his bidding? These Hands wouldn’t just be loyal to the Empire as an organization, or even to the dark side of the Force. They’d be loyal to the Emperor, and only the Emperor.
If you don’t think Palpatine would take advantage of such a group, I’ve got a plot of land to sell you on Alderaan.