Spoiler Warning: If you haven't seen "Through Imperial Eyes" or don't want to know what happened, turn away now. Or, y'know, go watch and come back so we can talk about it.
If you had told me back in Season 1 of Star Wars Rebels that I'd actively care about the life and health of ISB Agent Kallus, I'd have looked at you with a fairly skeptical eye. I mean, I'm not saying characters can't be redeemed and people don't change, but Season 1 Kallus was a grade-A Imperial villain who no one would have batted an eye over losing.
Of course, Lucasfilm had other ideas, and Dave Filoni is much more interested in well-rounded characters, so a character like Kallus has become much more interesting than a textbook villain. He's a double agent and, more importantly, someone we're keeping our fingers crossed will survive.
That was unexpected.
Granted, it's not like people just accepted the change without reservation. I mean, Kallus did do some terrible things (poor Maketh Tua), and it did take being trapped on a Geonosian moon with Zeb to bring him around, but this episode put any doubts to rest. Not only is Agent Kallus helping the Rebels, but he's putting his life on the line to do so.
Sadly, ISB Agent Kallus may have signed his own death warrant by deciding to stay behind instead of escaping with Ezra.
We've seen Kallus help the Rebels in previous episodes, even taking more than a few hits for the team, but "Through Imperial Eyes" gives us more perspective on how he's managed to both help the Rebels and maintain his cover. His discussion with ISB Colonel Yularen (who seems to have stayed on after the Republic became the Empire) demonstrates the fine line he walks between helping the rebels and not giving himself away. When he suggests how someone might be working with the Rebels, he tells Yularen the basic truth and makes Yularen feel that his old student is still doing his best to serve the Empire.
He walks that same tightrope with Thrawn and, by extension, Governor Pryce. To outside appearances, Agent Kallus is a loyal Imperial who's had a hard time capturing the Rebels. No one's questioned his loyalties up until now, and it's no easy thing to stay a step ahead of Thrawn. In fact, I'd venture to say that Kallus' biggest mistake was thinking he'd covered his tracks and not getting on that shuttle because he thinks he can do more good from inside the Empire's ranks.
I also think he had a fairly good reason to feel secure. From all appearances, he'd convinced Thrawn that Lyste was the traitor. He'd gotten on Pryce's good side. Even Thrawn commended him for a job well done. As far as he could tell, he'd fooled everyone and taken the heat off himself in the process.
Except for one thing.
Grand Admiral Thrawn isn't your typical Imperial soldier. I'd go so far as to say that Thrawn's exceptional by most standards and may well challenge Palpatine as a tactician and political chess master. Thrawn has been gathering data since his first appearance on Rebels, and he's used that data to build a frighteningly good picture of what he's up against. He's been closing in on the location of the Rebel base. He's identified the Ghost crew as the same Lothal Rebels the Empire has been trying to capture and, even with all that, Kallus and the Ghost crew don't take him seriously enough.
That's no slam on any of them. Don't get me wrong. Thrawn's not an adversary anyone anticipates. But the result is the same. Anytime you think you've scored a point against Thrawn, all you've done is give him more information to use against you the next time.
I'll even venture a guess that Thrawn really did think Lyste may have been the double agent after the attack in his office (which was amazing, BTW. Both that fight and the one earlier on prove that Thrawn's not just dangerous on a mental level but a physical one) for a second there. However, this is where I think both Kallus and Ezra's overconfidence tipped their hand.
First off, Kallus would have been better off implicating Pryce instead of Lyste because, let's face it, Lyste isn't the type of dude anyone would consider a mastermind. Secondly, Ezra's helmet. Talk about giving Thrawn a great big clue! It's also a stretch to think blinking Atollon off Thrawn's map and replacing it with another planet will work. Thrawn's going to figure out that his map's changed and once he figures out how he'll have a direct route to the Rebel base.
Finally, whatever their intentions, Ezra, Kanan and Rex put Kallus in a tough position by flying to his rescue without informing him. It forced Kallus to come up with a way to keep them all from getting killed. If he'd had some kind of warning and if our Rebels had laid low for a bit, the odds are Kallus would have found a way to get to them without being noticed until it was too late. There's no doubt they meant well, but any rescue that ends with Imperial officers beat up and the person you came to rescue left behind isn't what you'd call "Mission Accomplished."
The big question now is, what happens next?
Kallus is compromised. Thrawn's not planning to kill him (not yet, anyway). He's got something worse in mind: feed Kallus bad intel and let him report to the Rebels believing he's covered his tracks. Once Kallus has served his purpose, it's likely Thrawn will kill him.
Like I said in the beginning, if you'd told me I'd be actively worrying about the lifespan of one Agent Kallus, I'd have laughed in your general direction. Now? Now I'm genuinely concerned for his safety and hoping he makes it out of this alive. To be quite honest, I don't think he will. Redemption arcs tend to come with a price in the Star Wars universe, after all. But there are ways Kallus can give his life for the cause he's come to believe in instead of the Empire that's ultimately betrayed him.
I imagine that Kallus joined the Imperial academy to help make a difference and protect people as so many soldiers do. Whatever he may have become over time, he's now dedicated to those same goals. Whatever the outcome.
That's it for this week. See you next time, and may the Force be with you.
Star Wars Rebels airs Saturdays at 8:30 p.m. on Disney XD.