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The Mysterious Evolution of Saw Gerrera, From the Clone Wars Cartoons to Rogue One

Mild spoilers for Rogue One and the Clone Wars cartoon to follow.

If you’ve seen Rogue One, or even just the marketing materials for Rogue One, then you’ve probably been drawn to Forest Whitaker’s mysterious space soldier character: Saw Gerrera, the leader of a small group of Rebel extremists. He’s got a very interesting visual design that’s striking even just in the trailers; his metal legs and the device on his chest that aids his breathing suggest that he’s been wounded in a battle, and even in the movie, we never learn the details of these injuries. We do get some very flashbacks to Saw Gerrera’s younger days, revealing that he didn’t used to have those metal legs or that breathing device, and also drawing us in to question more about his backstory.

Here’s the thing, though: Star Wars die-hard fans already know Saw Gerrera’s backstory, or at least some of it, because we’ve met him before! Gerrera first appeared in the Clone Wars cartoons, in “A War on Two Fronts,” the second episode of season 5, which first aired back in 2012.

In this episode, and the handful of episodes that follow it, we get to know a very different version of Saw Gerrera. Above all, he’s much younger than the Saw Gerrera that we see in Rogue One, to a point where the timelines don’t quite match up. He acts like a young, impulsive, but strong-willed soldier in these early episodes; we like him, but we are also unsure if he can handle the battlefield due to his impulsive nature. Over the course of those episodes, we watch as he learns tragic lessons and has to grow up fast.

I don’t think his age is ever specified in those early episodes, but he seems in the 18-25 age range (probably closer to 18, if I’m being honest–he seems very immature at first). However, these initial cartoons only take place roughly 21 years before the events of A New Hope, based on the Wookiepedia timeline–which I don’t necessarily recommend reading through, because it includes a lot of spoilers for all the cartoon shows, but it will definitely help you map out when everything happens if you’re confused.

Because of that weird timing, that means that the original version of Gerrera that we saw in the cartoons was probably older than he seemed, and also, that Forest Whitaker is probably younger than he seemed–perhaps his hair went gray in Rogue One thanks to the stress of war. Whitaker is 55 years old, but the character he’s playing should be slightly younger than that, unless we are assuming that the first time we saw Gerrera in the cartoons, he was 34. Let’s instead assume that he was about 25 in his first cartoon appearance, and about 46 in Rogue One… or, thereabouts. (I’m sure we’ll get a canonical explanation later.)

Anyway, I started thinking about the timeline issues more today when /Film revealed some concept art of a design for Saw Gerrera, in which he looks completely different. He looks significantly more muscular, and his face is covered in scars. It’s weird that the Rogue One art book would include this design for the character, given that Lucasfilm already had a design for the character, so… I’m glad they instead decided to stick with a design that was closer to the one they already had.

Although Forest Whitaker might be a bit old to play the role based on the timeline issues I mentioned, he definitely looks a lot more like the Clone Wars version of Saw Gerrera. I’m glad they decided to (more or less) stick with that design, rather than going a completely different direction with a character who has, technically, already been introduced:

saw-gerrera-22-1024x433(image via StarWars.com)

Back when we met young Saw Gerrera, he was fighting against the Separatists and needed some help getting weapons and learning how to use them, along with the rest of his small rebellious band. Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Ahsoka Tano ended up helping him out at the time, at least when it came to providing some weapons; the Jedi were still attempting to remain neutral in the conflict, however, as difficult as that proved to be at the time. This storyline lays some very interesting groundwork for Saw Gerrera’s trajectory as a character, and it also has a sad ending that I won’t spoil in case anyone wants to go back and watch those episodes (they’re streaming on Netflix).

Even more exciting is that we’re soon going to be able to fill in even more gaps about Saw Gerrera’s backstory, thanks to the Star Wars Rebels cartoon. Now that Rogue One is out, the Star Wars Rebels team is going to officially be able to include plot points introduced in that movie. Reports say that the upcoming episodes of Rebels are going to be set two years before the events of Rogue One, and that we’re going to get to see Saw Gerrera’s narrative trajectory during that time, thereby allowing us to connect some dots.

What’s interesting is that, in the promotional shots for the new season (refer to the tweet image I’ve embedded at the top of this post), Saw Gerrera doesn’t appear to have the wounds that we saw him have in Rogue One. However, his face does look older, and his design overall makes him look like a cross between his original design in Clone Wars and the physical appearance of Forest Whitaker in Rogue One. It seems very likely that these Rebels episodes are going to explain to us how Saw Gerrera got his injuries — but, more importantly, how he went from being the young, bright-eyed rebel that we once met back during Clone Wars, to the much more serious and saddened man that we meet in Rogue One. We also might get to learn more about his relationship with Jyn, and the various conflicts in which he has fought in between Clone Wars and Rogue One, the compromises he’s had to make, and so on.

Speaking of which, now’s as good a time as any to circle back and check out the Star Wars cartoons, if you haven’t yet!

(via /Film, image via StarWars.com)

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Maddy Myers, journalist and arts critic, has written for the Boston Phoenix, Paste Magazine, MIT Technology Review, and tons more. She is a host on a videogame podcast called Isometric (relay.fm/isometric), and she plays the keytar in a band called the Robot Knights (robotknights.com).

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