Let’s Talk About Some Imperial Women of Star Wars Rebels as the Show Winds Down
As Star Wars Rebels edges toward its conclusion, I’d like to take a look back at some of the women of the Empire we got to know during its run. Maketh Tua and Governor Arihnda Pryce are two fascinating Imperials.
Does anyone remember Minister Maketh Tua from season one? You do? Good.
Tua doesn’t do much. She tosses a few orders at stormtroopers, but lacks a cool villain spark. All she does is talk and keep an amiable front to the citizens of the planet Lothal. All things considered, she’s kind of useless as an Imperial. Ironically, that’s what made her kind of enjoyable, if not a tad compelling. She’s not a faceless stormtrooper. She has the quirks of someone you might have met in real life.
Onscreen, Tua lacks an extensive backstory and serves as a minor lackey to the higher powers of the Empire, but Kath Soucie’s vocal inflections do the impossible and suggest a history, even if nothing explicit is given. Her voice contains youthful vigor in her allegiance to the Empire. Whenever Maketh opens her mouth, I immediately get why she’s serving a despotic government: She’s a product of her environment. This woman joined the Empire because she really believes that they’re the “good guys.” In an easily fandom-imagined childhood, Tua was fed a diet of propaganda that told her the Empire was a benevolent force. She wears her loyalty as a badge of honor because she’s more than happy to “do good” with the Empire.
Soucie’s youthful performance made it easy for portions of the fandom to project sympathy for Tua, even consider her a victim, but her nature as a product of society doesn’t necessarily negate her culpability. She participates in oppression and stands on a pedestal of privilege.
But there’s still room for redeption. By “Siege of Lothal,” the Empire’s brutal tactics overwhelm her, and her incompetence earns her a blacklist from the Imperials, but it’s more her implied impending execution than concern for Lothal’s welfare that leads her to abandon her Imperial duties—Tua is no Finn. Whereas Finn both wanted to survive and had a genuine concern for people hurt by oppression, Tua obsesses over her own self-preservation.
To prioritize her life first is an understandable act of self-preservation, but while the rebels afford her a charitable sympathy in her defection, there is little sign that she would put the grunt work into undoing her Empire. She offers to barter valuable information to the rebels, including key intel of “something far worse” for the planet, but she withholds this urgent info, rather than immediately entrusting it to the rebels, to hold more leverage over them. We never find out if she can fully redeem herself, because she perishes in her escape attempt.
Rebels wasted Tua. There were more creative ways to utilize her rather than to fridge her. It’s a shame the writers did not grant her longevity for the series. Bizarrely enough, Imperial Agent Kallus, a man who participated in her assassination, is the one who survives to receive a redemption arc.
Then we get to Tua’s superior, Governor Arihnda Pryce, who lies on the irredeemable spectrum of villany. At first sight, Arihnda Pryce became one of my favorite Imperials. I couldn’t quite explain it at first. She radiated a steely presence. Her line, “The Empire taught me well,” when boasting of her combat insinuates that she joined out of a kind of Darwinism: She joined the strong to become the strongest.
Mary Elizabeth McGlynn gives a killer performance as Pryce, and like Soucie, powers her character with a suggested history of ambition when none is given explicitly. Unlike Tua, Pryce possesses canonical texts elaborating on her backstory. Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn contextualizes Pryce’s ambitions, where her ascent to Imperial power shares equal footing with the titular character’s rise. Her backstory provides her some relatable traits and identifiable personal stakes. As the bored daughter of Lothal factory owners, Pryce feels stifled by her environment. In Pryce’s headspace, she desires freedom. But from a distance, the reader observes she’s more after privilege than liberation. On Rebels, it’s no accident that Pryce, a white woman, displaced a Lothal governor who is coded as an indigenous man.
I like to juxtapose these two women because of their nearly identical loyalty to the Empire. But while they may have some allegiance to their government, they demonstrate different reasons people would fall for the Empire in the first place. They’re attracted to privilege or promises of something better, even at the expense of others. They show that no matter who you are, whether you are well-intentioned enough to convince yourself you’re on the right side or an egomaniac concerned with your own advancement, you can serve the wrong side of history.
Carol is a queer Vietnamese-Houstonian Earthling surviving under the fickle weather of New York while buried in her Non-Fiction MFA homework like Hermione Granger and her Hogwarts studies. When not angsting over her first poetry manuscript or a pilot screenplay about space samurais, Carol is cooking her own Chinese food instead of buying take-outs and dreaming of winning Hamilton lotto tickets.
She chronicles the quirks of New York living, runs writing and scripting services, and lends her voice to Birth Movies Death, Film School Rejects, and The Script Lab. She’s also lurking in the shadows waiting for you to follow her on Twitter or Tumblr and read her Star Wars fanfiction.
Want more stories like this? Become a subscriber and support the site!
—The Mary Sue has a strict comment policy that forbids, but is not limited to, personal insults toward anyone, hate speech, and trolling.—