(Welcome to A Different Point of View, a column where we explore the supporting characters of the Star Wars universe and discuss why they deserve more time in the spotlight.)

With Star Wars Celebration — Chicago Edition officially over, fans around the world have seen their first look at Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and how Rey’s (Daisy Ridley) story might play out. But while Rey’s narrative is front-and-center in the Disney era of Lucasfilm, there is another with that name that deserves recognition on the big screen. First Order Admiral Rae Sloane.  

Who is She?

Hailing from the industrial core world of Ganthel, Rae Sloane was born in 41 BBY (the same year as Anakin Skywalker). While the planet was under Old Republic Control, a young Rae was nearly kidnapped by slavers at a port city. The slavers had been raiding the planet for years. When the Empire took control of Ganthel in order to access its shipbuilding capabilities, they brutally stomped out all the gangs and slavers, thus solidifying the Empire as heroic in Rae’s eyes.

From there, her future was set. Joining the Imperial Naval Academy at her earliest eligibility, Rae distinguished herself from the pack of cadets early on. After graduating from the Academy, Rae began studying navigation aboard the Flight Training Institute (FTI) starship, where she first met both Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader. She came to their attention when she rightfully corrected the navigational course to keep the entire FTI ship from crashing into the heart of a sun, a plot concocted by traitors to the Empire in order to assassinate Palpatine.

This loyalty would help her ascend quickly through the ranks. From Commander through Captain and onward to Vice Admiral, by the time the Battle of Endor occurred she had achieved the rank of Admiral. After that disastrous defeat, Rae would become integral in the reformation of the Imperial fleet, have a massive presence at the Battle of Jakku, and become a founding member of the First Order, so much so that she was the one to name it.

When Was She Introduced?

Rae Sloane was created by author John Jackson Miller for his Star Wars novel A New Dawn. Written in 2014,A New Dawn was the first book added to the canon since Disney acquisition of Lucasfilm reset the timeline in a galaxy far, far away. Set in the years prior to the animated television show Star Wars Rebels, it told the story of how former Jedi padawan Kanan Jarrus met the ace pilot and rebel Hera Syndulla. At the time, Rae was merely a secondary villain helping to move the plot along, with no indication of her bright, complex longevity within the galaxy.

Even from the beginning though, Rae was no slouch. Appearing in her first posting as the Captain of an Imperial ship, Rae showed a knack for sussing out traitors. InA New Dawn, she uncovers a plot by her charge — a cyborg mining tycoon named Denetrius Vidian — to blow up a moon basically to spite his competitors. Working in tandem with the rebels in what would become a bit of a habit for Rae, they stopped Vidian from completing his plan. Though their motives varied (the rebels wanted to save lives, the Empire wanted to save raw resources), the outcome foreshadowed future uneasy alliances.

What Makes Her Fascinating?

Rae is a True Believer™. In her eyes, the Empire is doing the right thing, purging lawlessness from a galaxy overrun by bureaucrats that care little for the common people. She’s wrong, but like great villains before her, audiences can see where she’s coming from even if they don’t agree with it. Throughout her many appearances in the supplemental Star Wars narratives, she is constantly pushing for the Empire to be “just.” When things start to fall apart after the Battle of Endor, Rae struggles to keep the remnants of the fleet playing by the unspoken rules of warfare and is frustrated to see the Empire careen into backstabbing and incompetence. You can see Rae’s influence in the First Order with its strict hierarchy and minute by-the-books stringency that makes Palpatine’s Empire look positively laissez-faire by comparison.

What Stories Could Lucasfilm Tell?

Since her introduction in A New Dawn, Rae Sloane has popped up in multiple Star Wars narratives. From novels such as Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath series and comics like Kanan from Greg Weisman and Andrea Broccardo, the First Order founder spans over four decades of canon lore at this point. But the most interesting time period yet to be explored by Lucasfilm would be the mysterious years between the Empire’s fall after Jakku and its return to power in The Force Awakens.

It was Rae Sloane who picked up the pieces and gave the order to retreat after the Battle of Endor. It was Rae Sloane who cajoled a bunch of bickering space Nazis into a summit where they could be systematically slaughtered per Palpatine’s post-mortem orders. It was Rae Sloane who stopped Jakku from exploding, another of Palpatine’s contingency plans to make sure neither the Empire nor the Republic would outlive him. It was Rae Sloane who took the limping Imperial fleet into Wild Space, following a transmission (again from the Machiavellian Palpatine) with Brendol and Armitage Hux. It was Rae Sloane who befriended Armitage and his child soldiers, protecting them and thus setting herself up at the top of the First Order hierarchy.

Yet it is not Rae Sloane who gives the orders in The Force Awakens. It’s Emperor Snoke, not Empress Sloane. So what the actual heck happened in the nearly two decades between Jakku and the destruction of Starkiller Base? We know Sloane was still alive during the lead-up toThe Force Awakens as she is mentioned in the novel Phasma by Delilah S. Dawson. The book takes place only a few years beforeThe Force Awakens and at one point the threat of Grand Admiral Sloane disapproving of certain actions is brought up. So how did the woman who nearly single-handedly kept the Empire home fires burning end up ousted from power? Did she know Snoke was gunning for her position? Was it a shock? Or is she still the true power behind the throne, biding her time for the right moment to once again reveal herself?

Only Lucasfilm knows for sure. Hopefully one day they choose to tell the rest of us.

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