When it comes to characters crossing over from the live action Star Wars films to their animated TV shows there have been quite a lot. Star Wars: The Clones Wars has arguably 70% (if not more) of the cast of Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith making appearances in animated form, for example. More recently, in Star Wars: Rebels, we have gotten even more of that with major characters from the Original Trilogy such as Princess Leia as well as Lando Calrissian, the latter being voiced, as always, by his live action actor Billy Dee Williams. With Rogue One, however, we finally get the opposite: Saw Gerrera, played by the Academy Award winning actor Forest Whitaker, is the first animated character to be portrayed in a live action film.
Saw Gerrera, originally created by Star Wars mastermind George Lucas as a character in the live action television series that never came into fruition, is a character introduced in season 5 of Star Wars: The Clone Wars and appears throughout the first four episodes of the season. He is a very hard and impatient character, but he cares a lot for his sister, Steela, and his people on Onderon. With his introduction, we are introduced to the planet of Onderon: a once peaceful planet now forced into the Clone Wars by its occupation by the droids and the Separatists. Saw and his sister are a part of a small rebellion that has been brewing overtime and want to help return Onderon to its former glory and get rid of the droid army.
Being a war and wars being dirty, political, and confusing, the Jedi and the Republic are not allowed to directly aid the rebellion on Onderon, but the three main characters of the show Anakin, Ahsoka, and Obi-Wan are able to go and help train them in defense tactics in order to make them better equipped to fight their own war against the droid army. This is where we first meet the self professed leader of the rebels Saw Gerrera. Saw comes across as a someone who has been hurt personally by the droid takeover and has lived a very rugged and tough life. He seems to be more of a street smarts kind of guy, knows his way around everywhere, and doesn’t trust politicians very much. This is evident with his interactions with one three leaders, Lux Bonteri, the son of a deceased politician who comes from a wealthy political background, as Saw does not like him one bit.
We see Saw’s distrust manifest when the Jedi begin teaching the rebels battle tactics against droid AAT Battle Tanks which involve teamwork between two people. Saw and Lux are put together and Lux, being one who doesn’t have much first hand battle experience, for lack of a better term sucks. Saw gets angry and sarcastic with him and it gets worse when Lux is able to immediately disable Droidekas, the rolling Destroyer Droids, whereas Saw’s impatience and anger makes it hard for him to be able to do it at all. However, Saw is the kind of person to learn from his mistakes and is not above asking for help, which he does with the Droideka training by asking Ahsoka to help him learn how to improve his skills.
Once the battles start we see how Saw treats his fellow people. As much as he dislikes Lux at the beginning, when he sees Lux pull through when it is needed and help stave off a small attack of droids he starts to treat him as and equal and with respect. Instead of issuing orders rudely to Lux he begins to trust him and give him suggestions and work along side him.
When Saw is in the midst of battle, we see his battle tactics: he tends to use dual blaster pistols and appreciates very close combat and being on the front lines. We see this in a few instances early on with smaller droid skirmishes, but it also comes up in the larger battle at the end of the Onderon war. Losing his pistols in favor of a better rifle for larger scale fights, Saw still prefers to be on the front lines. He rides around on Ruping, a flying creature native to the planet, and goes in fast and hard to fight against the droids. He’s not reckless, though, as when an unexpected number of new flying droid ships show up, he hides in the rocks with his Ruping assessing the situation and learning about these new droids. He tests them by flying by and dropping EMP like grenades to test their effectiveness. When he realizes he and his people are out of their depth he helps issue a retreat until they can formulate a better plan of attack.
At one point, Saw is captured by the enemy and interrogated by the general of Onderon’s army. The general convicts him of being a terrorist and going against the will of the Onderon government. Saw takes offense to that as not only is he not a terrorist, but he is working on keeping the people of Onderon safe and free, something that the general seems to be lacking in doing lately. With some intense and passionate words, Saw is able to sway the generals ideals and help him realize that he is fighting on the wrong side, showing Saw true power as a rebel and a leader.
Saw’s relationship with his sister, Steela, is usually a very good one, but during these episodes we see how it can turn rocky when Steela is appointed the official leader of the rebellion. Clearly Saw is upset and angered that he is no longer the leader he wanted to be, but at the same time he is also very proud of his sister for being someone who can not only hold her own in battle, like Saw, but also think clearly and tactically enough, like Lux, to better lead their people in this war. We can tell through his actions that part of him realizes she’s the best person for the job, but his pride and self-worth are still hurt, though this doesn’t last long as he is very close with his sister and learns to take orders from her immediately.
As a character who not only prides himself on his skill in battle, but also deeply loves his sister, the ending of this arc is the most tragic for him. Just as the battle is nearing it’s end, Saw takes out the very last of the droid ships with a rocket launcher, sending the ship careening into a cliff side right were Steela happens to be. As the ship crashes against the rocks, he inadvertently causes to fall off the cliff to her death. Saw puts all the blame on himself, even though there were many forces at work that caused Steela’s death.
The character of Saw Gerrera is a very intense and excitable personality; deep with flaws, but not too deep that he can’t usually see his own faults and try to fix them. He tries to work with others, despite his prejudices against them, although that doesn’t mean he won’t be rude to them occasionally. He is very proud and skilled in battle, especially in close combat and front lines kind of fights. He’s also an incredibly tragic character, not only with feeling like he is to blame for his sister’s death, but also in the fact that throughout the Clone Wars he was a rebel fighting against the evil ruling forces of the Separatists, just to go into the Galactic Civil War in Rogue One as a rebel fighting against the evil ruling forces of the Galactic Empire led by Emperor Palpatine.
Saw Gerrera is also mentioned by name in both the Bloodline novel as well as the Star Wars: Rebels episode “The Honorable Ones” and can be seen as a main character in the new film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.