Sunday, September 27, 2020

Opinion: Gar Saxon's Rise From Palpatine's Prisoner to Sidious' Enforcer


By Ciaran Duggan,

The Empire will make Mandalore stronger than ever.

From a cold-hearted commando in the Clone Wars to an aggressive enforcer of the Empire, Gar Saxon could hardly be described as a redeemable character.

Saxon sided with the renegade Sith Lord Maul as a general during the Galactic Civil War and later served as Imperial Viceroy of Mandalore under the reign of Darth Sidious.

The former member of Clan Vizsla would likely say Saxon upheld tradition when he swore allegiance to Maul. This came after Pre Vizsla had been executed by the “crime lord” with the darksaber in the Mandalorian throne room, which once belonged to the "peace-loving" ruler Duchess Satine.

However, Saxon suffered betrayal at the hands of his master despite his relatively polished and high status within the ranks of the Mauldalorians. It is fair to say that loyalty towards his peers went out of the window when he led Mandalore in the early years of the Empire.

The Clone Wars commando

You once liberated me from my imprisonment by Sidious and his apprentice. At the time I thought Dooku was an old fool, but now I see he and I are the same, one step behind.”

Maul’s rallying cry to his overzealous supporters prompted an audible cheer in the tunnels of the Mandalorian undercity as the Republic laid siege to the “neutral” system during the Clone Wars.

Saxon headed Maul’s forces and as the former Sith Lord’s top commando he held a position of high authority, but also had a ruthless edge and militaristic might to match his title. 

Despite being an alleged ally of Prime Minister Almec, who the fellow Mandalorian received orders and instructions from, Saxon was prepared to assassinate him at a moment’s notice when he was told to do so by Maul - showing where his true loyalties lied. 

There seemed to be a connection from Saxon’s perspective towards Maul. After all, Saxon had freed Maul from the clutches of Sidious after the former Sith Lord had been captured on Mandalore in season five of The Clone Wars and his brother Savage Opress killed. 

In the Son of Dathomir comic, Saxon had a larger role in fighting alongside the crime boss and the Shadow Collective, which included the Pykes, Black Sun and Crimson Dawn. He helped ensure Maul’s escape from the Separatist leaders on Dathomir after Talzin died.

But after Saxon’s master had failed to tempt Anakin Skywalker’s former student Ashoka Tano to the dark side, Maul left him in the hands of the Republic militia as he was detained by Bo Katan’s forces and Rex’s 501st legion during the Battle of Mandalore.

It was a rude awakening for Saxon as he realised that his union with Maul was for nothing. After calling him personally for reinforcements, Maul simply compared his top commando to a stormtrooper, with no name or personality, after he said: “Die well, Mandalorian.”

All of the history, the previous battles, the rallying cry in the tunnels and Maul’s orchestrated plan to lure Anakin Skywalker to Mandalore with Obi-Wan Kenobi to kill the Chosen One and Sidious’s “prized pupil” had meant so much more to Saxon than it ever would for the old Sith.

No doubt this betrayal shaped his future outlook. But, instead of rotting in a dungeon to answer for his crimes, he was “liberated” by Darth Sidious (ironic, right?) as Saxon later became a tyrant to his own people.

Imperial enforcer

Don’t worry Countess, Clan Wren will be well taken care of.”

Former foes become distrustful allies as Ursa Wren, who fought alongside Bo Katan to oust Maul, pledges to hand over the Jedi to Saxon in exchange for her daughter’s life, Sabine.

Despite the clear rivalry between the two clans during the Clone Wars, it appears that their alliance in the age of the Empire was seen as a way of keeping the peace on Mandalore while maintaining the status of House Wren after Sabine’s departure from Krownest. 

As a child in the Imperial Academy, Sabine had built “terrible” weapons for the Empire which were used to terrorise her own people. She publicly spoke out against them, but her family did not stand by the young Rebel. 

Ursa committed to Saxon in order to keep her family safe, which was personally crushing for Sabine, who was effectively forced out. However it showed that Saxon and Ursa’s alliance was more of a truce.

It is best showcased with the hologram scene between the two as Ursa hopes that Saxon will spare her daughter. But Gar utters dialogue which is reminiscent of Sidious to Gunray and the Separatist leaders on Mustafar in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith.

You have done well Viceroy. When my new apprentice, Darth Vader, arrives. He will take care of you.

Saxon tells Ursa she has “done well” while later assuring her that Clan Wren will be well taken care of. Just moments later the Governor and his Imperial supercommandos arrive and turn on Clan Wren after he acquires the darksaber. 

Interestingly, Saxon becomes the first Mandalorian to wield the saber against a fellow Mandalorian since Maul defeated Pre Vizsla in the Clone Wars. 

Following a similar trajectory to the Death Watch leader, he uses all of his arsenal, including jet packs and flame throwers to try and defeat Sabine. But, he could have fallen to a fate that would not have been dissimilar to Count Dooku’s - whose head was sliced off with two lightsabers by Anakin in Episode III - had Sabine not shown mercy.

However, Saxon feels he is superior to Sabine who he describes as a “child” and a person he would never yield to and goads her to kill him. 

I wonder whether Saxon would look back at his capture and detainment in the Clone Wars as shameful. He would not want history repeating itself in front of the unforgiving Emperor, who would have been searching for a new Viceroy after likely suffering a fate akin to Gunray.

Despite this, Saxon would likely look at himself as a traditionalist Mandalorian after allying with Maul when he first proclaimed himself as the “rightful leader of Death Watch”.

The tragedy, if such a word is appropriate, is that Saxon fails to see his own flaws which shows he is not a true Mandalorian in the way that Bo Katan, Satine and Clan Wren are.

The Imperial Viceroy had a lust for power and showed his greed in the same way that Prime Minister Almec did with Maul. But Almec was unexpectedly killed by an ally, Saxon, who ironically was later shot by one he had forged a temporary truce with - Ursa.

In truth, wielding the darksaber would have been used to further exert his own authority and terror on his own people while using it to justify his own actions to take out his rivals, such as the Protectors. Instead, Saxon’s death kick-started another Mandalorian civil war.

What is the legacy of Gar Saxon?

A tough question to answer for a character who almost had it all, but lost out twice in different circumstances.

In the Clone Wars, the Mandalorian commando was betrayed by a master he thought was loyal to him, Maul, but in truth was used as a puppet and left to die on the battlefield. 

Saxon was detained and lost his status as Maul’s top general despite liberating the renegade Sith Lord from Sidious and siding with the Shadow Collective leader after Pre Vizsla was killed in Satine’s throne room. Did he regret not allying himself with Bo Katan? I doubt it.

In the end, it seems that Saxon was a character who was selfish and power-mad. He betrayed Almec without a moment’s hesitation and after the Empire showed up, the former Mauldalorian willingly worked with Darth Sidious to become a despotic ruler.

Greed and a lust for power were his primary ambitions as he turned on his rivals when the opportunity presented itself, similar to both of his overlords, Emperor and Maul.

As I say, Saxon cannot be described as a redeemable character. However, he was a key player who was involved in pivotal moments in Galactic history, including the Clone Wars against the Jedi, as well as the temporary reacquisition of the darksaber. 

However, the tragedy for Saxon was that he did everything he could to become the leader or commando of Mandalore but failed at the final hurdle. His view of the “true Mandalorian” was a race that was “strong” and “warrior-like” rather than a pacifist as he allied with the Empire.

But, he neglected the Mandalorian customs to improve his own position. The Empire did not make Mandalore stronger, but rather Saxon temporarily. Although his selfish actions, much like Anakin’s, came back to haunt him when he was cast aside by Maul and later killed by a fellow Mandalorian.

His brother, Tiber Saxon, would later serve as the governor of Mandalore, using the super weapon created by Sabine, the Duchess, against his own kind. 

It means that Gar’s legacy was more a continuation of his own despotic tendencies rather than any sort of redemption.

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