Why We Need More of NBC’s “The Brave”

In the fall of 2017, NBC put out a little show called “The Brave” starring Mike Vogel, Anne Heche, and a full cast of truly delightful people. The Brave follows a small military unit led by Adam Dalton (Vogel) that specializes in extractions, rescues, and yes, even the occasional assassination. They are overseen from D.C. by Patricia Campbell (Heche) and her brilliant staff.

The components I just listed are not that extraordinary in and of themselves. Many military dramas have had the same ingredients, and they never rose in rank above their peer shows. On paper, The Brave looks no different. So why is this show so great?

I believe what sets The Brave apart from other military shows is the heart.

The heart of this show IS the military men and women it seeks to represent. Our real life heroes are truly the stars of this show, even though the roles are portrayed by actors. Dean Georgaris (writer, creator), the cast, and the crew give every moment 110%, because their top priority is to honor and represent our real heroes. This heart of respect and passion shine through every moment, every line, every wounded look and new scar that is gained.

The Brave is character-centric, as a good story should be. Unlike many other action-heavy shows, The Brave does not rely on explosions, fancy gadgets, or trumped up inter-personal drama to bring viewers in. Does that mean its boring? Heck no! Each new episode brings a unique location, creative problem solving, and some straight up epic scenes that often do involve explosions. Not to mention humor that is natural and classy. These elements are all the better because they are not carrying the weight of the show, but rather highlighting the true pillar of this series, the characters.

The team is composed of imperfect, broken, beautiful people who have come together with a common purpose. They share a goal to protect freedom and innocent lives, even if it means giving their own. They laugh, they fight, and they cry together. No one is left behind. The Brave doesn’t use cheap and gratuitous sex, gore, or language for shock value like so many shows do. It showcases real people, who love each other, doing a very hard job. And it does it well.

The Brave addresses the male/female equality discussion brilliantly, it doesn’t talk about it. Talk is cheap, actions are not.

Deputy Director Patricia Campbell (Anne Heche) is a competent and strong leader. She evaluates, gives orders, and supports wherever, whenever she is needed. Her tactical and analyst teams, composed of men and women, trust and respect her without question. Hannah Archer (Sofia Pernas) and Noah Morganthau (Tate Ellington) have developed a brilliant rhythm where they play to each other’s strengths and use their different approaches to create a broader perspective.

Sergeant Jasmine “Jaz” Kahn (Natacha Karam) is the tactical team’s sniper, and one of the toughest women currently on TV. She’s had to work incredibly hard to be where she is, but she is valued and respected by the men she calls “my guys”. Even pretty boy medic, Sergeant Joseph J. “McG” McGuire (Noah Mills) carries himself with respect and compassion, which is not always the case for his character type.

The men of The Brave are fully men, the women are fully women. Together they are powerful. There is no “us” and “them”, no struggle for the spotlight. Each person, be they tactical, or analyst, know their strengths, and their weaknesses. They celebrate and lean on each other’s strengths, and support each other through their weaknesses, just as God intended.

This is the key to a good team, if only the rest of the world would quit spewing useless words and just start treating each other with the same value and respect.

The Brave represents the true heart of America. This is the show where a Muslim intelligence operative, Agent Amir Al-Raisani (Hadi Tabal), and a Christian family man, CPO Ezekiel “Preach” Carter (Demetrius Grosse) fight side by side as brothers and friends. They face evil as allies with a common cause.

That has been the heart of America, even through our biggest mistakes and worst moments, the goal of this country is freedom, life, and unity. We are made up of all colors, shapes, sizes, and religions. We come from different circumstances, we carry different baggage. But that isn’t something to fear, it’s something to celebrate and enjoy. The men and women of The Brave fight to protect these ideals, and to protect the brother or the sister beside them. The love these characters have for each other is so beautiful, so rich. It’s what America was meant to be, and it’s what I still believe in.

And now for my favorite part of The Brave.

Because I have watched this show, I feel like I better understand the hearts and minds of our service men and women.

I have not had the privilege of knowing many service men or women in my life, so my knowledge regarding their experience has been limited. Through watching The Brave and subsequently interacting on Twitter with service members, I have learned so much. In the most recent episode, Grounded, Dalton (Vogel) had a monologue describing something very personal, very emotional regarding his experiences in combat and how they have effected him. A gentleman on Twitter responded so powerfully.

@Mike_Vogel just told the story so many of us veterans have tried to get out into the world in that monologue in that final part of #thebrave

To which Mike Vogel replied….

It’s your story _________. We’re sorry the world is so slow to listen, but we thank you for answering the call and being part of it. We owe you guys everything.

Got chills yet? I know I do.

I believe the call of a storyteller is to tells stories that bring life, truth, and understanding. It is to delight an audience, to give them a good time, but to also instill in them a deeper understanding of something, or someone. It is to share an experience that the audience may have never had. It is to be a voice for someone who either can’t speak, or doesn’t know how. Or in this case, a voice for someone who has been yelling, but no one has heard.

It is to tell the people it represents, “I hear you, I see you, and you are NOT forgotten!” And to give the rest of the audience a chance to say, “We see you, and you are loved.”

Stories are meant to bridge experiences, to delight, to teach….to heal.

The Brave has accomplished all of this in a glorious, beautiful way. No, I am not just talking about the fact that this entire cast is almost too good-looking and charming for my TV screen to handle. Who needs explosives on hand when you have dynamite smiles to work with?

I have seen The Brave, and I have seen the people it is touching….

….and I see life.

Something this special is worth protecting. This show is worth renewing. Our team has more missions to go on and more stories to tell. NBC, we hope you are listening, ’cause you have a treasure right now, and we want more of it.

Part 1 of the Season 1 finale airs Jan. 22, at 10/9c on NBC. If you aren’t already watching, you will be before long. 

 

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4 Commercials That Use Story to Sell

Commercials can get so run-of-the-mill, am I right?

Car commercials come in 3 categories. #singleandhot #flannelandrugged #puppyandkidsinacarseat

Then there are cosmetic commercials where women of impossible and unrealistic heights of “attractiveness” tell us about how great this makeup remover is (it can’t be that great because we all know they are still wearing makeup).

The drink commercials where we watch people’s Adam’s apples go up and down, and then they smile stupidly.

The teeth whitening commercials where actors with florescent white teeth complain about “yellowness” and “stains”.

Prescription drug commercials with laughably long lists of side affects such as turning into a T-Rex, randomly being transported to the Bermuda Triangle, and or death. If you or a loved one has died then here is the number to call to get in on the lawsuit.

Obviously there are exceptions to these. Geico can make a regular TV series or film as far as I am concerned, I would watch it. Jake from State Farm is more famous than some Founding Fathers. I adore Flo from Progressive, I love Farmer’s Insurance Commercials, and Lily for AT&T is adorable. Still, these ARE the exceptions to the millions of mind-numbing and annoying commercials that choke up our favorite TV shows.

However, I have found a few gems that really touched my heart and actually made me want to purchase the product advertised. This is because instead of flashing bright colors, these are not actors (when I KNOW they are), or singing about narwhals, these commercials decided to use the power of story to reach my heart and tickle my imagination. And since story is the most powerful way to connect with a person, these commercials were incredibly effective.

Here are a few of the best ones, enjoy.

1. Rock, Paper, Scissors (Android)

This is so incredibly cute and clever, it just tickles me!

2. A Love Story (Chipotle)

Life lessons on what really matters.

3. Best Buds (Budweiser)

Who else cried?

4. Lonely Pony (Amazon Prime)

This girl is me if I had a pony.

Using the power of story to sell, how can I get annoyed with that ad when I am wiping away tears?

Have you found any amazing commercials that touched your heart? Made you laugh? Tell me in the comments!

 

 

The Flash: Why We Love West-Allen

Barry and Iris

Legendary relationships can become landmarks for certain TV eras, and West-Allen is no exception. In a world of TV shows where commitment and long-lasting devotion have been cast aside for cheap overnight romances, West-Allen is like a breath of fresh air.

Barry- “I love you Iris.”

Iris- “Aw, I love you too.”

Barry- “When we were kids I loved you even before I knew what the word ‘love’ meant.” (Season 1, Ep 9- The Man in the Yellow Suit)

Iris West

Iris is the one constant Barry has ever had in his life. She is his safe place, his sounding board. She is his heart and his home.

Iris “I don’t want you to think that there’s nothing for you here….do good, Barry, and then come home.” (Season 2, Ep 13- Welcome to Earth Two)

Iris- “Barry, you’ve always had someone to come home to. Me.” (Season 2, Ep 20- Rupture)

Iris has a superpower, her superpower is that she can reach Barry’s heart when no one else can. She was the sweet hand that picked him up when his life was torn apart as a child. She has been his greatest source of strength, comfort, and represents the beautiful things in his life. She’s his soft place. That’s what women can bring to men, beauty, comfort, security, compassion, and life. It’s a uniquely feminine touch, and without Iris, Barry would have lost that the moment his mother died.

Barry Allen

Barry is a hero, he has been his entire life, even before he became The Flash. Barry runs headlong into danger without question, it’s who he is. Being around someone like Barry her whole life has changed Iris. His brokenness taught her compassion, his heroic heart inspired her, and his steadfast loyalty and will to keep trying is a light that she has relied on for years. Barry brings that light to everyone around him, he has a magnetic pull that draws people in. Iris knows he will always be there for her, she knows he is someone she can count on.

Iris- “Barry, I need you to know, that it doesn’t matter to me if you’re the Flash or not. You, Barry; that’s who I want to see if I have a future with.”

West-Allen

The years of sweet memories built between them are firmly rooted in going through the bad and the good times together. When one makes a mistake or a poor choice, the other person is willing to call them on the carpet about it. But they are also both willing to walk through the consequences of those mistakes together.

Any moments either one shared with Linda, Patty, or Eddie simply pale in comparison to the connection that these two have.

When Barry was lost in the Speedforce, it was Iris’s voice that called him home. He rose from speaking to his “mother”, the symbol of his past, and stepped forward to take the hand of Iris, his future.

“Come home to me.” 

She’s been his home since his life fell apart. When he broke, she put the pieces back together again.

Iris has also felt lost and alone in her life. Being abandoned by her mother has left sore places in her soul.

“I never really liked that book…..because it was about a mother who was always there for her child and that wasn’t my mom….we never had anyone who was just right for us.” (Iris, Season 2, Ep 21 – The Runaway Dinosaur)

That line speaks volumes about Iris’s brokenness in her past. Growing up without a mama is hard, she had to learn some things about becoming a woman all on her own. But Barry has seen her from the beginning. He knows what a spectacular person she is, he knows what she has meant to him all of these years.

“All I know is you’re everything to me and you always have been, and the sound of your voice will always bring me home.” (Barry, Season 2, Ep 21, The Runaway Dinosaur)

Speaking of those mistakes.

Iris wasn’t my favorite person in Season 1. The fact that she was with Eddie instead of Barry felt so wrong. We knew it, he knew it, Joe knew it, and somewhere deep down inside, Iris knew it. We can’t exactly blame Iris for the mistakes she made in Season 1  regarding the Flash, she had no idea who he actually was. But, the Iris of Season 1 made choices with far less maturity than the Iris of Season 2.

Still, Barry was forgiving. He loved her through it all, valued her opinion, and desperately wanted her to be an even more intimate part of his life. When she lost Eddie, Barry didn’t push. He didn’t force anything with, despite the fact that his love for her hadn’t changed. Barry helped her heal, he put her needs ahead of his own.

We all know what mistakes Barry made in Season 2. The Earth 2 field trip was a big disaster. Our season finale ended with the biggest mistake at all, Barry’s choice to go back and save his mother. It was maddening, heartbreaking, and we all know there will be nasty repercussions.

Still, Iris didn’t judge. She stood beside Barry, called him on the carpet when he was being foolish, held his hand when he was hurting, and was his refuge whenever he needed it. Now Barry is going to need to heal, he’s making mistakes and he’s blinded by his pain. He’s hurting so bad he can’t even accept the one thing he has always dreamed of; being with Iris.

But Iris doesn’t panic or lay it all down, instead…

“Barry, listen to me. You waited for me for years, you let me get to a place where this was possible. So I am telling you, I am gonna do the same thing for you. Wherever you need to go, whatever you need to do, do it. And when you get back, I’ll be here.” (Iris, Season 2, Ep. 23 The Race of His Life)

“I love you, Barry.” (Iris)

“I love you too….and I always will.” (Barry)

True love waits.

Loving someone means that you put their needs above your own. It means that you are in tune with where they are at and you seek to fit your life around that person to help them be okay.

Loving someone means that you listen, you comfort, and you encourage. Both Barry and Iris have been given opportunities to be this for each other.

Barry and Iris are the perfect couple because they have grown strong together through their imperfections. Their interaction is beautiful because they have been there for each other through the beautiful and the ugly times. They don’t give up, they hang on for the long haul. They are a team, the best of friends. They better together than apart.

I am so utterly delighted that we are able to enjoy such a great romance such as West-Allen. Big thanks to The Flash writers, and to Grant Gustin and Candice Patton for bringing this legendary couple to life. We can all learn a lot from watching these two, and I can’t wait to see what Season 3 has in store!

*****

Season 3 of The Flash premieres Tuesday, October 4th on the CW! 

 

Why Ezra Bridger Will Ultimately Choose the Light Side

Season 3 of Rebels is only 2 days away!

Season 2 wrapped up with a show-stopper finale that left us with so many questions and very few answers.

Is Kanan blind for life?

Is Ahsoka truly alive after her duel with Darth Vader and will we ever see her again?

But I think the biggest question on everyone’s mind is….

….will Ezra turn to the Dark Side?

Our last shot in the Season 2 finale was of Ezra Bridger seated alone in his room, full of anger and sorrow. As he sat there, the Sith holocron he collected at the Sith temple opened in his hand, a sign that he had tapped into the Dark Side of the Force. And, for just a moment, his eyes had glowed orange.

Ezra has been a volatile member of the Force wielders since the beginning. His biggest moments and steps forward often come piggybacked on intense emotions. Ezra himself is a person who feels things very deeply. When he loves, he overcomes any obstacle to fight for his loved ones. And when he is angry,  he becomes an almost unstoppable force. Ezra is also fiercely protective, he hates seeing the innocent suffer and he wants to protect all those he loves from harm.

Darth Maul definitely manipulated Ezra’s fierce emotions during their shared time in the Sith Temple. Maul senses in Ezra a powerful Force user, one that Maul would like to use for his own agenda. Ezra showed some pretty concerning signs by tapping into his anger, sorrow, and hate to accomplish things while he was in the temple. There is no doubt that he was beginning to toy around with the Dark Side.

Still, here is my biggest question.

Is all of that enough to truly turn Ezra to the Dark Side?

And to that, I would say….

….no, it isn’t.

Here’s why.

1. Ezra’s No Anakin Skywalker

Anakin Skywalker is everyone’s go-to guy when it comes to an example of someone turning to the Dark Side. Well, of course he is! He is actually the only main hero-turned-villain that we have ever experienced. However, Anakin’s story has led to some over-generalized statements and black and white beliefs about how you turn to the Dark Side that simply don’t add up with regular human, or alien nature.

Yoda anger GIF - Yoda anger hate GIFs

This is probably the most over-used and wrongly applied statement in Star Wars history. In this scene, Yoda was speaking about what he sensed in young Anakin Skywalker, a specific person. He sensed much fear. Yoda was concerned about where Anakin’s unstable soul might lead as he grew in the Force. There is a downhill pattern created by continual choices made out of fear, anger, and hate. And the consequences of those poor choices always leads to suffering. I don’t deny any of that, what I take issue with is applying the one situation and character to every new character who hyperspeeds onto our screen.

We all know what happened to Anakin Skywalker. He was volatile and reckless, he gave into fear, hate, thirsted greedily for control, and he hurt the ones he “loved”. Anakin came up against the hardships of life and he chose the Dark Side to fix them instead of clinging to the Light.

People pull the above quote and Anakin’s story out of the hat every time a good Force-wielding character shows any hint of anger or poor decision making. But that’s not very realistic, nor does it fit into this larger story and huge cast of characters we have been introduced to. The only character we have thus far seen this apply to would be Anakin himself.

Despite the fact that Star Wars is a galaxy far, far away, a place full of strange worlds and species, it is still a story that reflects our reality. Every great story has to reflect our reality in order to make sense in our minds, if it doesn’t, we reject it because we know that things don’t add up. I know for a fact that I don’t become a serial killer every time I get angry and react; so why is it assumed that will happen to any Force-wielding hero who gets angry and reacts in the Star Wars world?

People in reality feel things. We feel sad, we get angry, we face fear. We loved people, we lose people. Hardships and experiences change us. We go through times of triumph, and times of trial. Some of us wander but are eventually brought home to the Light again. Some of us give into the Dark Side and never come home.

We make good choices, we make poor choices. We face the consequences for both. We are regularly faced with a question of, “Who am I and how am I going to live my life?”

This is our reality, and since Star Wars must reflect our reality, that means it is also Ezra Bridger’s reality. And if the makers of Rebels understand that as well as I hope they do, then they know Ezra Bridger is no Anakin Skywalker, he is his own person.

Ezra Bridger is on a journey. He has had people come and go in his life. He has loved and he has lost. He has been frightened, angry, devastated, happy, and he knows what it means to love and be loved. Ezra is us, a person trying to navigate life in a scary world, where the Light and the Dark sides are both pulling at him.

Anakin Skywalker lived his story and made his choices, for better and certainly for worse. He chose wrong for the majority of his life. But his pattern doesn’t instantly become every other character’s. Let Anakin Skywalker be, Ezra Bridger is no Darth Vader.

2. Anakin Was Easily Seduced Because He Was Alone, Ezra Is Not Alone

“I know you have to go, but that doesn’t mean you have to go alone.” (Kanan)

“We support you. We’re family.” (Hera, Season 2, Ep 11)

As I mentioned in Tuesday’s post, Rebels has a family structure. Our characters are not isolated and alone, they are not left vulnerable. Those who are alone are more susceptible to deception.

Palpantine preyed upon Anakin’s sense of fear, lack of control, and isolation. He made Anakin feel safe and in control, two things he had always craved. Obi-Wan Kenobi was Anakin’s strongest support, but he was absent on the day that Anakin really needed backup the most. I believe had Obi-Wan been there the day that Palpantine turned the tables, Anakin wouldn’t have given into the Dark Side.

But instead, Anakin was alone. He was frightened, he was angry, and he craved power. And he was seduced.

Ezra spent several years of his life alone on the streets of Lothal. He shares the characteristics of Anakin in that he has felt isolated. However, Ezra is now a part of a family who will never let him go. They are his greatest strength and his greatest allies. When one member of the family falls down, the others crowd in to carry that person through.

ezras-support

Ezra may wander, he may struggle, but he will never be lost. His family will not lose him. The power of the Dark Side pales in comparison to the power of their family bond.

3. There is No Room For Family In the Dark Side

Family is everything to Ezra. It matters the most to him. The Dark Side is no place for family, it has no room for love, compassion, and unity. Even if Ezra is drawn in somewhat by the illusion that he can have greater power by using the Dark Side, he will eventually be repelled by the fact that the Dark Side comes in conflict with the thing that matters to the most to him….his family.

rebels

“I already lost my parents, I’m not about to lose my new family.” Ezra (Season 1, Ep 13)

4. Ezra’s Legacy IS One of Hope

From childhood on, Ezra has been surrounded by hopeful and good people who are willing to stand up for what they believe it. It began with his parents, who would broadcast messages of hope and resistance to the desperate people on Lothal.

the-bridgers

Ezra was bitter and angry about his parents’ disappearance for a long time, but truly, deep down, he was just heartbroken. He loved his parents so much, he loved their courage and their hope. The Bridgers planted a seed in Ezra’s heart that took root and the finally bloomed when he met the crew of The Ghost.

“What’s wrong with us?” Ezra 

“We have hope; hope that things can get better. And they will.” Hera (Season 1, Ep 10_

Even after learning about the death of his parents, Ezra’s hope shone out like a lightsaber. He no longer carries their memory with regret and sorrow, he now sees the beautiful legacy that they have left him. It is a legacy of hope.

There is no room in the Dark Side for hope, it chokes the life out of anything beautiful and hopeful. Hope is who Ezra Bridger is, who he was made to be. From the moment he was born he has been surrounded by people of hope.

Ezra may have forgotten that part of who he is for a short time. I think at one time or another we all forget who we are when the pain and anger gets strong. But, those who are lost are often brought home again, especially when they are surrounded with the people they love.

Ezra has a wonderful family who will not let him forget who he is. Ezra’s family is everything to him. He will wander, but he will come home again.

rebels-ss2-finale

Ezra is going through a difficult time right now, no doubt about it. His soul is weary and his heart is torn. He has made some poor choices and some mistakes.

However, he still carries a huge heart of compassion, a sense of right and wrong, and a deep desire to do good. Ezra has grown into a very self-sacrificing person during his time with the Rebels. None of these characteristics fit into the Dark Side, they are the complete opposites.

Ezra Bridger is a hero. Like all heroes he will struggle, he will be tempted, and he will make wrong choices. He wouldn’t be a realistic hero if he didn’t experience those things.

But he also wouldn’t remain a hero, if the Light didn’t ultimately prevail.

ezra-bridger-hero

 

6 Ways that StarWars: Rebels Differs From StarWars: The Clone Wars

Both Star Wars Rebels and Star Wars The Clone Wars have been a wonderful addition to the Star Wars canon. Making serial stories for the small screen has enabled Star Wars storytellers and fans to dig into some of the meaty details and behind-the-scenes plots that just cannot fit into a 2-and-a-half hour movie time.

The Clone Wars took on the great task of filling in the very rich and colorful background that we were given only a taste of in the Prequel films. The world that Anakin experienced as a boy and Jedi was far richer than was the world of Luke Skywalker. The movies only had time to skim the surface of all of this material, but in The Clone Wars we were given a chance to experience this vast world on a episode by episode basis.

swtcw

We learned about the clones, senators and rulers, the underworld of Corusant, smugglers and bounty hunters, many different Jedi, and multiple unique races and cultures. Clone Wars gave so much more meaning to the Prequels by filling in  the background and giving us all of the individual stories that fed into the bigger story.

Star Wars Rebels is another great gift to the Star Wars universe, but it is a gift uniquely its own. Here are 6 ways that Rebels is different from The Clone Wars.

1. Rebels Keeps it Simple and Intimate

The Clone Wars was layered and complex. Even though we had a primary group of characters (Obi-Wan, Anakin, Ahsoka, Padme, Captain Rex), we were introduced to literally hundreds of new characters and story lines, and we only got a fraction of the available stories. The Clone Wars was a very busy series.

Rebels by contrast, is very simple and intimate. We have 6 main characters (Hera, Kanan, Zeb, Sabine, Ezra, Chopper) that we stay with all the time. Even our cast of background characters (Ahsoka, Kallus, Rex, Commander Sato) is kept to the minimum. This enables us to just focus on our Rebels, day in and day out. We see everything through their eyes and perspective.

rebels

The Empire destroyed the connections and layers of the Republic. It destroyed trade, government structures, and long-living groups like the Jedi. Even as it encompassed most of the galaxy, the Empire managed to disconnect the peoples in the galaxy more than ever before. Therefore, it makes sense that we are going to experience fewer people at a time, fewer people are having shared experiences that they can communicate about.

This simplicity also sets the stage for our Rebels to begin fighting to join with other rebel forces. The Empire knows it cannot face a united front, so it fights tooth and nail to keep people apart through military and propaganda. In Rebels we get a front-row seat to the beginning of the unifying of the Rebellion. It starts small, but we know it will become something more.

2. Animation

The animation of The Clone Wars was very angular and structured. There were far more harsh angles and lines. This kept up with the fast pace of that series where a large-scale war was constantly raging.

clone-wars-animation

Rebels by contrast has very soft, rounded animation. It is richly colorful with layers and tones to both the settings and the characters themselves. This animation is very approachable and puts you at your ease with the more focused pace of the series.

rebels-animation

Both series have used the beautiful designs created by the talented Ralph McQuarrie, but the animators also managed to give each series its own unique look, thus separating them in our minds.

3. Rebels Has a Family Structure

This is one of my absolute favorite aspects of Rebels, and it goes along with the smaller cast and more intimate setting.

While The Clone Wars showed us people in all occupations and social levels, we never experienced a “family”. Everything was formality and rules. Sure, we knew that Obi-Wan and Anakin loved each other as brothers. Anakin and Padme carried their love as husband a wife secretly. And we especially know how much Anakin loved and cared for Ahsoka as a mentor and older brother. But none of these things could ever be acknowledged because of stifling rules and protocols that ended up contributing to the downfall of the Jedi and the Republic.

A family unit and affection is the strongest bond known to anyone. It’s stronger than any government, organization, or group. That is part of why our Rebels are so strong and effective, because they are a family first.

The writers have recognized this fact and how much we love it about their show, as a nod to it they even put in beautiful lines and scenes that accent the “family” side of Rebels.

Kanan and Hera love each other deeply. They have this subtle current of love that is built on shared strength and experiences. They function as husband and wife or mom and dad. This gives the rest of the crew something to depend on and take comfort in.

kanan-and-hera

“Kanan’s family, and we do anything for family.” Hera (Season 1, Ep 15)

“Alright kids, make mom and dad proud.” Hera (Season 2, Ep 1)

“He takes after Hera sometimes.” Kanan (referencing Ezra, Season 2, Ep 9)

“Sabine, you’re sounding more like a Jedi than a Mandalorian.” (Hera)

“Well, I guess I’ve just been raised right.” (Sabine, Season 2, Ep 13)

Hera has a tenderness for those on her crew that is very motherly. She makes Sabine feel acknowledged and understood. Ezra finds deep comfort and sympathy in his and Hera’s shared hope. Zeb and Chopper would be lost without Hera’s gentle compassion and strong leadership.

hera-and-sabine

Kanan’s attitude towards the crew of The Ghost is one of protection and leadership. He prioritizes their well-being first and values each of their skills. He has taken Ezra under his wing with a very fatherly hand and Ezra soaks it up like a sponge.

protective-kanan

Sabine, Ezra, Zeb, and Chopper fall into place under Kanan and Hera’s strong leadership. They all love each other and fight fiercely together. They are able to be brave because they know their family has their back. Each of them knows what they have lost, and they deeply value what they have gained….a new family. This love drives each of them to be better.

“I already lost my parents, I’m not about to lose my new family.” Ezra (Season 1, Ep 13)

4. Rebels is in a Harsher, more Primitive Setting

The glamor of The Clone Wars seems to be just a distant memory, just like the Republic is.

clone-wars-glamor-2

All that once was has fallen into ruins and is now under the dark shadow of The Empire. We were introduced to some very poor and desperate corners of the galaxy in The Clone Wars, but since the Empire came into being more systems have fallen into poverty and despair.

tarkintown

This sets the stage beautifully for the ragged Rebellion that will welcome Luke Skywalker in just a few years.

5. Tying Together the Republic, and the New Hope

The Clone Wars filled in the missing years between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the SithRebels fills in the gap between Revenge of the Sith and A New HopeIt sets the stage for not only A New Hope, but also the upcoming story of Rogue 1 where we will get more of the behind-the-scenes story.

Rebels has done its job beautifully in taking the last remnants of the Republic and Clone Wars, and tying that in with the new generation. We have gotten to see beloved characters from the Prequels and Clone Wars series such as Obi-Wan (via hologram, but perhaps more one day), Ahsoka Tano, Captain Rex, Hondo, Sentaor Bail Organa, and Tarkin.

old-and-new-clw-rebels

As we have revisited these old characters and few of their stories, we have also been seamlessly introduced to the new generation of characters. Princess Leia, Lando Calrissian, and more to come in Season 3.

princess-leia

Rebels has been a place where the past is meeting the future.

6. Rebels Introduces a New Generation of Jedi, One That is Much Stronger

The old Jedi Order has been wiped out. Kanan Jarrus is one of the few remaining Jedi, and he has now taken on Ezra Bridger as a padawan. As far as they know, they are the only ones in the entire galaxy. Kanan, whose training was cut short by Order 66, never officially reached “Jedi Knight” status. He was forced into hiding as a teenager, and since then has developed his own methods of survival and fighting.

Kanan has a much more loose and raw way of fighting than the Jedi of old. He can wield his fists and a blaster as well as he does a lightsaber or the Force. He doesn’t just rely on Jedi knowledge, but also his own wits and tricks of the trade to accomplish his goals. He’s scrappy and agile. And let’s be honest, he’s really, really good at it.

Kanan’s version of being a “Jedi” is also far more familiar and less formal than the Jedi of old. He doesn’t hold Ezra and those around him at arms length and keep all emotion at bay. Kanan engages his feelings for those he cares about, and he isn’t hindered by those emotions, he is empowered by them. This is so much more natural than the emotional sterility that the Jedi of old attempted to practice.

Kanan is the perfect mentor and father figure to Ezra, who is also scrappy and skilled. Ezra is very down to earth, he feels things very deeply, and he has skills outside of just being a Jedi. These two are a master/padawan match made for each other. Ezra loves his master like a father. He trusts Kanan, he takes comfort in Kanan.

My favorite scenes involving these two is when Ezra experiences something so horrible or sad that he starts to weep. Kanan doesn’t tell him to be quiet or get control, he holds Ezra in his arms and comforts him. This is natural, the Jedi of old were not.

ezra-and-kanan

Kanan and Ezra open the doors to introduce the new breed of Jedi, a breed that isn’t steeped in stale tradition and zero emotion. This new kind of Jedi is more compatible with the galaxy as it is and far more effective than the aloof old Jedi. Kanan, Ezra, Luke Skywalker, Rey, Finn, and hopefully more in the future are all members of this “new” order.

Rebels has been a delight for Star Wars fans old and new. A major shout-out and thank-you to the makers (we love you Dave Filoni) and actors behind this amazing series. You have given us a new Star Wars family to fall in love with and cheer on.

*****

Star Wars Rebels Season 3 premieres Saturday, September 24th on Disney XD! And I for one, cannot wait to return to a galaxy, far, far away. Keep fighting Rebels!

Girl Meets Ski Lodge Part 2- The Perfect Death to the Triangle

Finally! The triangle that came into existence in Girl Meets Texas Part 1 has been laid to rest where it belongs. We can all take a deep sigh of relief now and turn our attention to other aspects of this magnificent show.

I was utterly amazed at how the writers wrapped this messy triangle up. I am continually in awe of how much depth they are able to incorporate into each, 22 minute episode. The writers are able to do this because they are experts at foreshadowing, setup, and keeping running plot threads going that they can recall in a moment’s notice.

Girl Meets Ski Lodge Part 2 is probably the greatest example of this. This masterful episode brought so many moments together, starting from the pilot episode in Season 1 and going through the seasons from there.

I could not be happier with the result. The writers managed to destroy the triangle while only lifting our hearts up. I could go on and on, but I’ll consider your valuable time. Instead, here are a few of the very best aspects of Girl Meets Ski Lodge Part 2.

Lucaya ended, but our hearts were not broken.

Lucaya

I’ve made it no secret that I was pulling for Lucas and Riley from Day One of this aggravating triangle. I wanted the quirky, non-“cool” girl to get the handsome Western hero. I loved the way they interacted. I love the expression on Lucas’s face when he looks at Riley.

Still, I know there were a lot of fans pulling for Lucaya. They loved the interaction between Lucas and Maya. The conclusion of this triangle had the potential to grieve Lucaya fans deeply, but our GMW writers are just too good to leave broken hearts behind.

Instead, they had Maya end Lucaya naturally and gently by discovering that she, Maya Penelope Hart, doesn’t care for Lucas that way. Now that she remembers who she is, she is happy to keep Huckleberry as a good friend and nothing more. The look of sheer relief on Lucas’s face was beautiful. He could never hurt her, and she saved him from that burden.

But even better, the person who helped Maya come to this conclusion wasn’t Riley, it wasn’t Evan, it wasn’t Farkle, it wasn’t even Maya herself. It was….JOSH! Uncle Boing, the boy she has cared for in her heart of hearts since Season 1. The pure joy and radiance on Maya’s face during her conversations with Josh in this episode made angels sing. I can’t imagine anyone NOT being happy for Maya and Josh.

GMW joshaya

Josh became possible, and it was perfect.

According to the writers, Josh was supposed to have been a larger part of Season 2. However, due to a near-fatal motorcycle accident, Uriah Shelton (Josh) had to be absent during the beginning of this triangle mess. I honestly wondered how they were going to bring him back into the story and introduce growth in his character when we hadn’t seen the progression of maturity.

I had nothing to worry about. Josh Matthews comes onto the scene with a depth of maturity that he has not shown before. His position as the chaperone during the ski trip, and his role as guide and mentor completely pulled his character onto the relevant timeline and made up for any lost episodes.

“Josh?”

“What?”

“Why have you let me hold onto your hand this entire time?”

“I don’t know, I don’t know everything.”

Mature people know that the value of a person isn’t dependent upon age. Before, Josh was too immature to see past 3 measly little years. But now that he’s grown up and has a desire to be a mature person, he can recognize the incredible treasure that Maya is.

“For me to think that I don’t ever need a friend like you, in the world, just ’cause I’m a little older? That’d make me a lot less mature than I wanna be.”

Oh, just watch his cute face. I could just eat up his facial expressions and Maya’s along with them.

“You once said you were playing the long game.”

“I like you, Josh, it’s you I like.”

“I like you too.”

“I’ll play the long game. Live your life, I’ll live my life, I know you’re out there and….I’m out there too.”

“Someday?” “Someday.” 

Eat it up, people. Every person who has ever loved someone older is crying their heart out right now. We are SO happy for Maya!

Purple shirt, purple jellybean, his favorite thing in the world, it was Riley all along

jealous Lucas

Lucas comes down the stairs wearing a purple shirt. His face falls and he looks both threatened and devastated when he sees that Riley spent the entire night having a heart-to-heart with another guy. Why?

Because,

“My favorite thing in this world is when you talk to me.” 

“It is?”

“It’s okay for you to talk to whoever you want, Riley. You know why? Because I am a secure Western hero.”

“Yes, yes you are.”

“But the important talks, the ones that we’re gonna think about and always remember….can those just be between you and me?”

Lucas has opened up his heart to Riley in a way that he has to no one else. She touched a deep place in him and he fell in love. The best friendships and romantic relationships are built on a deep, lifelong conversation. It is when we converse deeply that we reach each other’s hearts and souls. Riley reached Lucas’s, and she has owned his heart ever since.

“So, this is our moment?”

“Mmhmm. I promised you, that my moment, would be my moment. This is it.”

Watching Lucas’s face during this whole scene is priceless. His dialogue along with his face are telling the story of a boy who has loved a girl deeply, and feared he would never get to have her. You know that feeling when you are looking at your favorite thing? Or when you can’t believe that you are so blessed as to experience something uniquely wonderful? That is what Lucas is feeling.

Riley has the sweetest response. Her face is both surprised and thrilled. She has hoped and dreamed for this, and yet, she’s still in awe of the fact that she is this blessed. She’s on the verge of tears this entire conversation.

The climax is when Lucas pulls out a jewel box- momentarily freaking Riley out- and produces a purple jellybean.

“It means you, Riley, I choose you. And I really want you to choose me.”

“I do.”

He’s had that purple jellybean in the ring box this whole time, even when he thought the triangle was still a thing. This is the biggest clue of all, it has been Riley all along.

Look at Lucas and Riley’s faces, they both landed on the right person to talk to.

landing in the right lap

The long game, playing for the future

Both Josh and Maya, and Riley and Lucas have the gravity and maturity that few people their age have. They think long-term, not just about instant gratification which often leads to heartache and poor choices. Their relationships are built to last.

Riley and Lucas talk about landing on the right person to talk to for the rest of your life. They aren’t in this just for the momentary fuzzies (even though they are enjoying the fuzzies), they are willing to work for this long term.

Whether that ends up happening or not, you will always make better decisions when you keep your head on straight and think about long-term results. Cory and Topanga modeled this when no one else did, and it is changing how relationships are depicted on GMW.

Josh and Maya know it’s too soon for them to be together. Still, they are grown up enough to recognize the value they see in each other and their desire to be together. Real love is willing to wait. Real love plays the long game.

GMW the long game

Girl Meets World does it yet again, overturning cheap, cultural tendencies and instead promoting life and commitment.

I held my breath during this entire episode. I knew what I wanted to happen, and yet, my imagination never came close to the glorious result that is this episode. Well done writers! Well done actors! Well done everyone, you make a show that is a gift our world.

Also, Girl Meets World needs a Season 4 and MANY more seasons to follow! Here’s to taking on the world for many years to come!

 

The “On-Off” Switch That Kills Romance

Jamie is pretty, spunky, and has a thing for drinking lemonade on bridges under a sky full of stars. Tom is hunky, smart, and thinks pug-nosed pups are cute.

These two characters just so happen to work in the same crime-fighting division. Their chemistry is instantaneous and obvious, something that both the audience and the coworkers all notice. They click right into place like puzzle pieces.

Jamie and Tom make a great team. They are dynamite on the dance floor. They both love cheese pizza. When Jamie was devastated about her mother’s cancer diagnosis, Tom was there to be her shoulder to cry on. When Tom got hurt and was laid up for a while, Jamie came over to cook him homemade meals every night. They stayed up until 3 in the morning talking about their favorite childhood memories.

Jamie and Tom belong together, it’s as plain as day. The writers told us in every way in possible. They have practically spelled it out in bright neon letters JAMIE AND TOM BELONG TOGETHER.

Our emotions are now invested. We are now printing up #Tamie t-shirts and talking on message boards about the latest developments. We’ve picked out names for Jamie and Tom’s first 3 kids and have mentally written up plots for 4+ season’s worth of episodes. We hold our breath every time one of them gets close to saying those 3 words we know that they feel.

“I love you.”

First date. Yes, finally! We’ve had enough of the longing looks from across the water cooler.

Tom changes his blazer 3 times to make sure it’s just right. Jamie goes out and buys a new red dress. They go to an Italian restaurant and have a great time dipping bread sticks in marinara and then walking the waterfront. Oh boy! We even get a first kiss!

All is happy in Tamie-town. And then it happens!

Jamie and Tom go into work the next morning, the happiness of their date lingering in their smiles.  The coworkers notice, some ribbing takes place. Uh oh! A crisis happens and it’s all hands on deck. For some reason, Jamie and Tom are having trouble getting their heads in the game. Their teamwork is off. Someone almost dies, and the most natural assumption is that the near miss is somehow their fault.

“I can’t do this. I’m sorry.”

Tamie fans get off of the couch and walk out of the living room, leaving little pieces of their heart and emotions in a trail behind them.

And so it begins. Jamie and Tom still love each other, but continue to deny it.

They lie to themselves and others.

“We’re just friends.” 

They date other people

“I’m so happy for you, she/he seems nice.”

More longing looks over the water cooler. More sweet and endearing talks during a stakeout. A tear-jerking hospital vigil after a dangerous run-in with the bad guys.

“Maybe….we could give this another try?”

Up and down, up and down. On and off, on and off again. There is an engagement ring for a while….and then it’s handed back with some trite line.

“This just isn’t going to work for me.”

After a few seasons of this garbage, we are done. Our emotions are strung out all over the place and we are tired. We get our hopes up only to have the writers dash them once more! The passion and fire die, and now it’s just getting laughable.

We stare numbly at the screen. Literally the only reason we are still watching is because of Tom’s dog, Mr. Puggles.

 

Why do writers do this? What is wrong with them?

When writers create lovable characters and put them onscreen, they are asking us to invest a little piece of our hearts in those characters. They are asking us to entrust our emotions to their care.

So why do they take that precious trust and just trample all over it?

Writers also ask us to suspend our belief in reality as we know it. They are asking us to believe in things like superheroes, zombies, guys walking around after major head trauma, and that the female lead’s makeup still looks good. We know that all of those things aren’t real, so we need a bit of real life authenticity to ground this fictional story and make us believe.

I know that a lot of real people struggle to maintain relationships. I know a lot of real people don’t know what the heck to do with their love life. But there are far more people, who, if they found someone to love, would move forward and not keep jumping back. This is particularly true for well-rounded people with a measure of maturity. (You know, like characters that are supposedly mature enough to save the world but can’t get up the courage to date and marry their soulmate???)

Somewhere along the way, TV writers believed the lie that commitment and allowing their characters to stick together would kill any chance for romance. The only way they know how to write romance is in the pursuit stage, or, the lack thereof. They also know that the ups and downs are a cheap way to string along an audience for a time.

Guess what?

I’m done. I’m sick of the fruitless ups and downs that lead no where. I’m sick of the idea that having characters commit instantly kills the romance. Seriously, just watch the first few minutes of UP. Or great shows like Hart to Hartor Dr. Quinn Medicine WomanI assure you, the romance doesn’t die once there is a ring involved. If anything, the potential for new plot ideas grow.

If TV shows want to keep an audience along for the ride, they are going to have to take us on different routes, and not just keep reversing the plot vehicle. We’ve been there, done that, seen that, ENOUGH!

Be bold, be brave, let your characters move forward with their lives. Enough of this infinite loop, this up and down, this road that leads nowhere!

Enough of the on-off switch! You are killing the romance and turning off the interest of your audience!