“Rebellions are built on hope.” Jyn Erso was right, but hope doesn’t win rebellions. Hope merely inspires people to fight them. Because while every successful rebellion has its legendary figures like Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa, their victories came on the shoulders of countless courageous individuals history books never remember. These unsung heroes, who were not powerful Jedi like Yoda or Rey, have always been the foundation of Star Wars war between light and dark. Obi-Wan Kenobi gave us a new hero who truly exemplifies the best of the galaxy far, far away. Tala, along with her dedicated droid NED-B, gave everything to do what’s right no matter the personal cost. And her sacrifice shows that whether you get credit or not, the only path worth taking is the one we know is right.
Luke didn’t blowup the Death Star alone any more than Leia stole the battle station’s plans by herself. Each served under and alongside people who had fought against the Empire while those two were children. Without scores of individuals few ever knew—from pilots and engineers to spies and soldiers—nobody would ever have known about Padmé’s kids. That’s been true of Star Wars from the beginning. Watch A New Hope‘s Death Star attack meeting and see how many people crammed into that small room. Just as many fought and died on Hoth or headed to Endor’s forest moon.
Rogue One explored that side of the Rebellion in depth, giving faces and names to otherwise forgotten heroes. It showed what someone like Cassian Andor sacrificed just to give others a chance to build a better world. But that movie was only possible because even though Star Wars revolves around Jedi, the franchise always remembers those Force users are only the face of a larger battle. It’s why every fan knows many Bothans died to bring information about the second Death Star, even if most fans have no idea who or what a Bothan is. It’s enough to know they gave their lives in a war for the galaxy’s soul, because that’s what matters.
Star Wars animated shows The Clone Wars and Rebels are populated with these types of figures. Whether standing up against wrongs on their own planet, or committing to the cause of freedom throughout the galaxy, there’s always an abundance of hope even during the darkest times. The Hera Syndullas and Rose Ticos of the world keep it from breaking apart. And, as Indira Varma’s Tala showed, they join the fight even when they have every excuse not to.
Tala joined the Empire when she thought it stood for something. It’s easy to think no one could have ever believed that. But how many people knew what Palpatine had actually done? All they knew was the Galactic Senate responded to years of devastating civil war by creating a new government, one dedicated to harmony and prosperity. You don’t need to look back to a story from a long time ago to know how easy it is for even good people to fall for those lies. Evil thrives when desperation gives way to exhaustion. It’s why Lord Sidious promised the Separatists peace. He knew it’s what they wanted, even if the cost was war, and he exploited that desire.
How Tala became an Imperial officer isn’t what’s important, though. It’s what she did when she learned the truth about the Empire. She witnessed Imperial atrocities firsthand. That was enough to move her to action while most did nothing. The majority of people in her position did nothing to stop the Empire’s crimes. Some actually relished their roles under Palpatine. Whether through cowardice, indifference, or hatred, Tala’s colleagues made the Empire possible same as the many nameless heroes made the Rebellion possible. Palpatine and Vader, Snoke and Kylo Ren, didn’t maintain their grip over the galaxy by themselves. Evil men rely on regular people to give them their power.
It’s easy to understand why someone in Tala’s shoes could choose inaction in the face of such overwhelming power and evil. Even if they weren’t afraid of dying or losing everything, what can one person do against such odds? How can one person make a difference? The same way you build a successful Rebellion – one act at a time. Every child she helped along the Path was a small act of defiance that led to Palpatine’s downfall. Each notch on her holster marked another hole in the Empire’s strength. That might not seem like much on its own. Nor will most people ever know what Tala did. But with enough small holes you can bring down even the strongest structures, and everyone will know when it falls.
Obi-Wan Kenobi showed what can happen when someone chooses the other path, too. Reva stands as Tala’s foil. Their stories began in opposite directions. The Third Sister was a Jedi youngling whose hatred and quest for vengeance led her to the dark side. While the selfless Tala made it her mission to save kids, the selfish Reva hunted them down. One gave everything for others, while the other took everything from the innocent. But had Tala simply remained a disillusioned Imperial officer, she would have been just as bad as Reva. Indifference and inaction in the face of evil is itself an evil act.It’s why Han Solo only became a hero when he returned to help Luke during his trench run. Han had everything to lose in that moment, but he risked it all to do the right thing.
Star Wars began as a story of hope. Decades later that’s exactly what it still is. But hope is only as good as the people it moves to action. Because as Poe Dameron learned, heroes are simply the spark that light the fire to inspire others to fight. Hope didn’t come to the rescue at Exegol. Hope drove thousands of ships manned by thousands and thousands of unseen people willing to stand up to evil. Without those people—people like Tala, NED-B, Roken, and those who serve the Path, people who did the right thing with no promises of fame or safety, those who risked everything—the Empire would never have fallen.
Rebellions are built on hope, but they’re won by brave, everyday people. That is the true legacy of Star Wars, the one we should always remember in our own galaxy.
Mikey Walsh is a staff writer at Nerdist. You can follow him on Twitter at @burgermike. And also anywhere someone is ranking the Targaryen kings.