Rogue One trailer breakdown 3

The Normalization of the Empire

But why aren’t the citizens of the former Republic not crying out over the destruction of these worlds, many of them “Legacy” planets that were supposed to remain untouched by law? It’s simple, really: no one cares. The media isn’t reporting it. The citizens of the core worlds don’t pay attention to what’s happening at the fringes of the galaxy. When Orson Krennic is confronted by a lawyer representing one of the planets being torn apart for its resources, he literally shrugs her off. No one is going to get their day in court.

It’s startling how quickly the galaxy settles into being ruled by an Empire. Everyone is shocked at first, but the wars are over and people aren’t dying anymore and things don’t seem that bad. Why not give Emperor Palpatine a chance? It’s made explicitly clear that the Empire is at its weakest in its earliest days and that a concerted resistance could topple it. Instead, everyone waits and sees, allowing more planets to fall under its sway. I’m reminded of one of the highlights of the prequel trilogy: Padme, watching Palpatine give himself total control, says “So this is how liberty dies, with thunderous applause.”

This is best explored through Galen himself, who rationalizes his new supply of kyber crystals by assuring himself that the Jedi were traitors (because the Emperor said so) and that they deserved to be wiped out and that he might as well make use of what they left behind. The Jedi doomed themselves, he says. And now, he’s working to achieve “Palpatine’s dream” of infinitely renewable energy! None of the Empire’s decisions have personally affected him yet, so he has no reason to be alarmed. Of course, Galen eventually does need help and finds that his list of allies, of people who can stand up the Empire, has dwindled to almost no one.

And if you’re wondering why the Jedi seem like an ancient myth in the original Star Wars despite being active just decades earlier, Catalyst explains: “In what seems merely standard weeks to Lyra, the Order all but passed into myth, with scarcely a trace or mourning or grief. Orson’s new age had dawned and the Jedi were relegated to history.” When things are changing so quickly, it’s easy to not realize that your situation is not normal.

Grand Moff Tarkin

Wilhuff Tarkin

One character from the original Star Wars trilogy plays a major role in Catalyst. Wilhuff Tarkin (played by Peter Cushing in the original 1977 film) is a high-ranking Imperial intelligence officer and one of the first men to achieve the Emperor’s new rank of “Moff.” He also has his eye on Orson Krennic’s top secret weapons project and intends to take it off his hands when the opportunity arises. As Tarkin sees it, Krennic can spend years getting dragged through the mud, absorbing every hardship involved in making the battle station happen, allowing him to swoop in and take over when he’s at his weakest.

The rivalry between Tarkin and Krennic is actually the most entertaining part of Catalyst, feeling like a Game of Thrones subplot implanted into the Star Wars universe. Both men see the long game, trying to think two moves ahead of their opponent, sacrificing thousands of lives and entire planets to land a proper blow. Of course, we all know how this ends: Tarkin is in command of the Death Star during the events of the original Star Wars film. It takes 30 years, but he gets what he wants. It’s a short-lived victory, but at least you may understand why he’s so dead-set on remaining on board the Death Star during the Rebel attack – this is destiny.

Rogue One Star Wars forest whitaker

The Earliest Days of the Rebellion

One of Orson Krennic’s most extreme chess moves against Tarkin involves using the growing conscience of Has Obitt against him. Realizing that his chief weapon in framing planets to extract their resources is having second thoughts about the whole endeavor after meeting Lyra Erso, he decides to kill two birds with one stone. He gives Has a new assignment, to deliver weapons to the planet Salient II, knowing that the smuggler won’t go through with the assignment and will choose to warn the system instead.

So when Tarkin shows up with his Star Destroyer to confiscate the illegal weapon and claim the planet in the name of the Empire, he finds himself facing immediate resistance from both the Salient military and a ragtag group of smugglers and mercenaries assembles by Has Obitt himself. Suddenly, Tarkin has a war to fight and can’t concern himself with whatever Krennic is up to.

Among those ready to fight to protect Salient II is a veteran of the Clone Wars named Saw Gerrera, a soldier who sees the Empire for what it is and plans to fight (Saw originally debuted in the Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series and an older version of this character is played by Forest Whitaker in Rogue One). This group manages to keep Tarkin’s forces at bay for some time, but their resistance eventually crumbles, with Has being captured and Saw escaping.

While this group is ultimately crushed by Tarkin and while the whole resistance effort was a side effect of Krennic needing to tie up his rival with a conflict to keep him out of his hair, the defense of Salient II is noteworthy for being the seed that will eventually sprout into the Rebel alliance. This is the first time anyone stood up the Empire and at least one man present (Saw Gerrera) will continue to fight them for decades. When you pause and think about it, the two people responsible for the Rebel Alliance are Orson Krennic, whose sneaky plan to keep Tarkin occupied will really blow up in his face in the long run, and Lyra Erso, whose acts of kindness toward her smuggler pilot gave him the conscience to stand up against his superiors.

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A New Home… and Jyn Erso

In the end, Galen gets some sense knocked into him by Lyra, realizes that he’s being manipulated by Orson Krennic, and decides to flee Coruscant with his family. Galen refuses to destroy his research, hoping that leaving it behind will give the Empire less incentive to hunt them down (although they won’t be able to actually finish the Death Star’s main weapon without him). He’s wrong, of course. Catalyst ends with Krennic receiving a demotion for letting the Ersos escape, ending his rise to power and humiliating him. He vows to track down Galen at all costs.

We know from the Rogue One trailers that he eventually finds them and things go to hell for the Erso family in a big way. But Catalyst ends on a happy note, with Saw Gerrera rescuing the Ersos from Coruscant and taking them to a distant and unspoiled planet called Lah’mu, where they can live in peace and hide from the Empire. Saw promises to visit, giving Galen a comm card that will put them in instant communication should the need ever arise.

The book ends with young Jyn, only a few years old and blissfully unaware of everything that has happened, looking forward to building a new home with her mother and father. Her hopes will soon be dashed. But we’ll have to wait until Rogue One is in theaters to see how older Jyn (played by Felicity Jones) deals with her father’s legacy while battling the old “family friend” that ruined their lives decades earlier.

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