Star Wars: In defense of Zam Wesell

ZAM WESELL. Photo: /

When I tell people my favorite Star Wars character of all time is Zam Wesell, I usually get a mix of responses ranging from “oh that’s dope,” to “who?” to “oh, you mean the purple shape-shifting lady.”

In a franchise stuffed full of some of the most iconic characters of pop culture, like Obi-Wan Kenobi, Lando Calrissian, Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker, and Darth Vader, it’s easy to see why someone like Zam, who was only in Episode IIAttack of the Clones for maybe five minutes, would fly under the radar.

Searching Zam Wesell on the internet pulls up articles remembering the Clawdite as the worst assassin in the Star Wars galaxy. After all, she fails in her mission, loses her arm, and nearly reveals the secret identity of her employer to the Jedi before Jango Fett kills her. I’m here to tell you Zam Wesell is undeserving of the title of the worst bounty hunter in the galaxy.

My love for Zam started when I was a kid. After watching A New Hope, my life changed forever and my Star Wars obsession began. I didn’t watch the films until I was older, but I would go to my local library and spend hours reading the character encyclopedias and visual guides of the films. That’s how I first stumbled across Zam, looking glorious in her purple armor. It was love at first sight—a one-sided love for sure, but love nevertheless. I checked out the novelization of Attack of the Clones and enjoyed the expanded scenes with characters like Zam, Shmi, and Padmé.

When I finally watched the film, I was excited to see my favorite character onscreen, played by the amazing and captivating Leeanna Walsman. Maybe that’s why I love Attack of the Clones so much despite its reputation—I read the book first.

I always felt that Zam was under-utilized onscreen. She was a shape-shifter for goodness sakes, and that’s cool all by itself. Jango Fett was at the forefront of Attack of the Clones‘ marketing; he was the father of the most iconic bounty hunter in the series (sorry Zam—for this occasion, I’m talking about Boba) his armor was amazing and he was the blueprint for the Clone army of the Galactic Republic. I’ll never forgive him for robbing us of more Zam, but I have to give credit where credit is due. Jango was pretty badass. And yet, Zam Wesell is the one who does most of the bounty hunting.

In the film, Zam nearly kills Senator Padmé Amidala by blowing up her ship, leading to the deaths of some guards and Padmé’s handmaiden. Zam nearly succeeds again using poisonous worms and an assassin droid, but Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi intervene, leading to one of the best chase sequences in the franchise as Zam tries to lose her Jedi pursuers in the skies above Coruscant.

The assassination plot is ludicrous when you think about it: Darth Sidious orders Count Dooku to oversee Padmé’s death, so he hires Fett to kill Padmé, Fett hires Zam, who uses an assassin robot, who uses space worms. We’re getting dangerously close to a frog-on-the-log-at-the-bottom-of-the-sea-type situation. Zam was the unfortunate last rung on the ladder of the chain of command, but she was dedicated, she was cool and collected, and she was unafraid of taking risks.

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Zam’s backstory and character were fleshed out in Legends, but much of her story was lost when Disney established their new Star Wars canon. She’s appeared in a few comic books over the years, but nothing substantial. As much as it pains me to say so, I’m not surprised and I don’t see the character ever appearing on screen again, even in prequel-related media.

It’s a shame because there’s so much to Zam that makes her compelling, especially her shape-shifting abilities. If I was going to make a Zam Wesell-related show, I’d make it a political/spy thriller set on Coruscant before the outbreak of the Clone Wars. In my show, Zam would be hired by the mysterious Sly Moore, the right-hand woman to Darth Sidious, to kill a group of Separatist sympathizers and blame it on the Republic.

It’s a plot explored in the Clone Wars series, as Dooku murders former Senator and current Separatist Mina Bonteri, an act he blames one Republic. The Zam/Sly Moore story could be a prequel, with Mina at the center of the plot as she struggles with her ideals amid a failing Republic and a growing conspiracy.

Maybe we’ll never see Zam again, but I will personally treasure what material we do have of the character. I think she’s severely underrated, and I wish Star Wars would give its female villains and complex anti-heroines their due (hi Reva we love you) without killing them before fully exploring their stories. Some fans may consider Zam the worst bounty hunter in the galaxy, but to me, she’ll always be one of the best.

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