Walking out of “Rogue One,” those not yet acquainted with Forest Whitaker’s guerrilla fighter may have been wondering what the deal was with Saw Gererra — or more importantly, why he seemed so important in the first place. After rescuing Jyn Erso as a child and promptly abandoning her when she was a teenager, Gerrera’s vicious tactics and terrorist-style methods of achieving victories against the Empire seem just a little off.
The character, whose actual first appearance did not occur on the big screen, has a growing legacy involving several generations of “Star Wars” heroes, but conveying that in the movie seemed to be a little difficult in the heat of battle. As we gear up for his appearance on the second half of “Star Wars Rebels,” it’s important to look at where the character — who first made his debut in the “Clone Wars” animated series — has been and where he’s going.
Saw’s legacy within (and outside of) the Rebellion began long before its birth, during “Star Wars: The Clone Wars.” A native of the planet Onderon, Saw’s earliest days were spent as a freedom fighter on the battle-ridden planet. Decades before he would ever meet Jyn Erso, a teenage Saw and his younger sister, Steela, led a band of freedom fighters against the tyranny of the Seperatists — better known as the Confederacy of Independent Systems, a political effort spearheaded by Count Dooku. Under Seperatist control, Onderon’s king was deposed and the planet began to fall into economic despair.
Gererra’s rebels were one of the only things left to defend their people, and when they finally requests help from the Republic’s Jedi Council, the Jedi decided to send advisers — Anakin Skywalker, his Padawan Ahsoka Tano, Obi-Wan Kenobi and the leading member of Skywalker’s personal clone forces, Captain Rex. The group stayed for the Onderon rebels’ first tactical mission against the Empire, but left afterwards, with only Tano staying behind to oversee the rebellion’s second act. The Onderon arc spans four episodes during the third season of “The Clone Wars”
Here’s where everything starts to get interesting and the context begins to fill out. See, Saw wasn’t always so “out there” — he was once a focused and hardened warrior, too proud for his experiences and too bitter for the help of the Jedi. He resented the council almost immediately for not sending actual forces as backup against the endless Seperatist droid army. He even threw something of a miniature tantrum when Steela was chosen to lead his band of Rebels. That very same ego and pride caused Saw to land right into a Seperatist trap during an attempt to rescue the planet’s King. The ensuing Battle of Onderon was a victory for the rebels, but not for Saw, whose sister Steela gave her life to save him. With the last of his family gone, the already-serious young freedom fighter learned an extremely hard lesson about trusting team mates and having some humility in dire situations.
This, likely, is why he’s so shaken when Jyn returns. No one has returned to Saw before; not Steela, not Skywalker or Tano, not even Galen Erso. The spell of his madness breaks (and we’ll talk about that madness in just a bit) and the very compassion that he had once learned seemed to return some of the light to his damaged eyes.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves: His appearance on Rebels is set to take place just a few years before “Rogue One,” and he seems to carry the same appearance (and amount of organic body parts) as he did when he rescued Jyn Erso as a child. By the time we meet him in “Rogue One,” Saw’s interactions with the Rebellion have already happened, and evidently, they went very sour. This is where his present madness in “Rogue One” might connect: during the events of “Star Wars Rebels.” The story of how Saw lost most of his body and almost all of his mind seems like one that had to happen over a number of years, but by the time his appearance in “Rebels” is set to occur, Saw has already endured years of horrific warfare.
What we know about Saw’s status around the time of “Rebels” is that he’s leading a group called the “Partisans”. This group just happens to still be within recent memory as far forward as just five years before “The Force Awakens,” finding mention in Claudia Grey’s novel, “Bloodline.” Saw took on Imperial Agent Kallus (who is currently working undercover for the Rebels, mind you) and his troops on his home planet of Onderon. Soon enough, the Partisans joined the Rebellion as one of the first cells of the operation, notably leading an investigation mission to the fallen world of Geonosis. Some time after that, it was Saw who brought Galen Erso, Jyn Erso, and Jyn’s mother, Lyra, to the planet of Lah’mu — where we find them at the beginning of “Rogue One.”
Needless to say, by the time “Star Wars Rebels” rolls around, we’ll likely find a Saw who has served with the Rebellion for some time. What may make the episodes worth watching is that one connection between “The Clone Wars” and “Rogue One” that explains Saw’s grey hair, mangled body, and his madness. For all we know, he could have easily just had one too many interrogation rounds with his gigantic tentacle monster pet. Either way, the guy had a hard life, and only time will tell what happens to him when “Star Wars Rebels” returns.