Traitor, Renegade, Rebel: Tala's Dark Side Defiance in 'Obi-Wan Kenobi' – Collider

Tala Durith has the makings of a true Rebel.
Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for Obi-Wan Kenobi Episode 3 and 4We’ve had Imperial officers, generals, and Stormtroopers defect before. Agent Kallus (David Oyelowo) from the animated series Rebels, FN-2187 aka Finn (John Boyega) and General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) from the sequel trilogy. But whereas Hux merely betrayed the First Order just because he wants “Kylo Ren to lose,” Imperial officer Tala Durith (Indira Varma) in Obi-Wan Kenobi has a more compelling reason to betray the Empire. In Episode 3 of the series, Tala reveals to Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) and Leia (Vivien Lyra Blair) how she initially joined the Empire with righteous beliefs but then quickly became disillusioned when she found out what they were really doing – spreading fear and suffering across the galaxy. She then found a new calling, one that would give her some redemption with the Light Side. Using her status as an Imperial officer, Tala began shepherding refugees such as Jedi and younglings on the Path. It’s a very dangerous position to be in, yet Tala proves more than capable as she holds her own against other Imperials and even comes face to face with an Inquisitor. With her skilled ability to feign fidelity to the Empire while demonstrating her determined commitment to the Jedi cause, Tala Durith is a true example of a Rebel even before the Rebellion was fully formed.
In Episode 4, Tala tries to infiltrate Fortress Inquisitorius, the main headquarters of the Inquisitors, and is not too far from Darth Vader’s Castle in the Mustafar system. “I have officer class C,” Tala insists. When the security officer takes some more time investigating her credentials before letting her through a gate, she conveys nervousness for a split second before slipping into a performance of annoyance and frustration. “I’m your commanding officer,” she says sternly to the lead security officer, “and you will address me as ‘Sir.’” She threatens to report the officer to the Grand Inquisitor, claiming she has classified information to deliver. This threat and Tala’s harsh words, eventually get the job done: the officer quickly lets her through. But not without Tala getting the final word, “Why am I wasting my breath with you?” One can see how Tala has made it all this time as an Imperial officer helping out rebels and Jedi under the cover of the Empire. She is controlled and disciplined, and she knows how to keep up her Imperial appearance. Tala doesn’t flinch, especially not to a lower-ranking officer.
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However, Tala is prepared to do more than lie to complete a mission. When another officer comes asking for her identification, she is taken to the back of the control room. Knowing that lying a second time probably wouldn’t work on this officer, she makes a split decision to take more fatal measures, especially since Obi-Wan and Leia’s lives depend on her. After a brief altercation, the officer falls to the floor, either unconscious or dead from Tala’s strangling chokehold. While it may be unsettling to see one of the good guys take such violent measures, Tala isn’t the first rebel to do so. In Rogue One, we’ve seen the complicated ethics of the Rebel Alliance, specifically through Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) who is willing to kill an innocent, wounded man for information — Andor’s slippery morality will surely be explored in his own spinoff series Andor premiering in August. But we’ve also already seen Tala kill some Stormtroopers in Episode 3 when she saved Obi-Wan and Leia and revealed herself to be the contact of Haja Estree (Kumail Nanjiani). Tala knows what’s at stake after all her years working the Path and saving Jedi such as Quinlan Vos. She is willing to get her hands dirty for the greater good.
But her unflinching commitment to the Jedi cause is further tested when she comes face to face with Reva (Moses Ingram), the Third Sister of the Inquisitors. In order for Obi-Wan to free Leia from an interrogation chair, Tala makes a distraction. Again, she puts on the performance of a confident and disciplined Imperial officer who is fully pledged to the Empire. Standing in front of Reva, Tala convinces her that she’s been an Imperial spy who has infiltrated the Jedi and other refugees on the Path. She tells her that Obi-Wan and the others are on the planet Florrum instead of the truth that their camp is actually on Jabiim. Knowing the kind of Force powers the Inquisitors have in the Dark Side — even as she witnessed Darth Vader himself nearly burn Obi-Wan alive — Tala is willing to lie to Reva, risking her life on the spot. Whereas before she could easily assert her rank against a lower officer or even apply her physical prowess and skills to incapacitate another officer, Tala is no match for a Force wielding Inquisitor with a lightsaber. Still, Tala sticks to her guns. She doesn’t show any fear nor nervousness, fully committed to the story that she has fabricated and told Reva.
Of course, Indira Varma’s performance is absolutely key in selling Tala’s stoicism in all these instances. Varma manages to communicate Tala’s good-heartedness whenever she’s around Obi-Wan and Leia, confidence and cool when she needs to keep up her Imperial bravado, and ultimate Rebel spirit all at the same time. When Reva confronts her and says how she is “betraying everything you are,” Tala confidently states, “This was never who I was.” Whatever atrocities Tala had committed when she first joined the Empire can’t be undone, but what she is doing now arguably makes up for it. She is not only instrumental in helping Obi-Wan in saving Leia at the present moment, but she has kept hope alive for the many runaway Jedi and refugees of the Empire passing through the Path. While her name might not reverberate throughout Star Wars history like Luke Skywalker’s name, Tala’s story complements the ragtag Rebels in Rogue One, the everyday heroes whose small acts of rebellion helped defeat the Empire. Hopefully, we’ll see Tala make it out of the series alive, as she has the making of a great leader, someone the Rebellion can use down the line.
Patrick Caoile is a freelance writer for Collider. While he calls New Jersey his home, he is now pursuing a Ph.D. in English–Creative Writing at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. When he’s not at a theater or investing hours in a streaming service, he writes short fiction.
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