Why Zeb was a cameo done right

Garazeb "Zeb" Orrelios. Image courtesy StarWars.com
Garazeb "Zeb" Orrelios. Image courtesy StarWars.com /

I’m going to say this right up front: The Lasat hero of Star Wars Rebels, Garazeb “Zeb” Orrelios, was the perfect cameo in the most recent episode of The Mandalorian, “The Pirate.”

And that’s saying something. Star Wars has not always nailed the landing when bringing animated characters to live-action.

I say this begrudgingly and as a die-hard fan who has consumed nearly every second of animated Star War television. When Cad Bane appeared in The Book of Boba Fett, I got chills; when we learned Ahsoka Tano was going to show up in The Mandalorian, I couldn’t be more excited. I thought the Inquisitors were a perfect menace for Obi-Wan Kenobi in his self-titled TV show.

But the problem too often is this: When these characters appear in live-action, the entirety of their story is immediately consequential. If you don’t show up to a given episode with a full knowledge of that character’s backstory, you’re starting out behind. The story unfolding in front of you makes that much less sense.

Take Cad Bane for example: Sure, he clearly looks menacing. We animated fans know just how menacing he’s been—and why his story is bound up with Boba Fett’s.

But to watch it unfold on screen, you’d be forgiven for thinking: “Wait—who’s this guy? What’s he doing—oh. He’s dead now. I don’t understand why any of that happened.”

And how about the Grand Inquisitor? We had weeks of online discourse over whether or not the guy was actually dead at the hands of the Third Sister. Why? Those of us who had watched Star Wars Rebels knew he had to be alive—you know, the timeline and all that. But for those viewers who are live-action purists, a lightsaber through the stomach sure looks decisive. This unnecessary confusion hung over every subsequent episode of Obi-Wan Kenobi until we learned from the not-at-all-dead Grand Inquisitor himself that revenge does, in fact, do wonders for the will to live.


These characters didn’t get the runway for animated-to-live-action character development that Bo-Katan Kryze and Saw Guerrera have gotten but were all still consequential to the plot of their corresponding TV shows. Casual viewers barely had time to do their sudden necessary homework. (I mean, if you’re meeting Ahsoka in The Mandalorian cold, you have a lot of homework to do.)

Enter Zeb. He was only on-screen for twenty-nine seconds, a minor plot device to set up Captain Carson Teva’s—played by the great Paul Sun-Hyung Lee—failed pilgrimage to Coruscant. You don’t need to know anything about him other than he’s purple, he’s someone with insight into the fledgling New Republic and it’s great to hear Steve Blum’s voice again.

His appearance, in short, sparks curiosity.

And that’s the key. That’s why the anthology series, From A Certain Point Of View, is so well-conceived: We want the chance to wonder about the people and places we see on screen. We want to ask the questions. Star Wars is full of compelling characters that wander on and off screen. They have mere seconds of screen time. They sit in the background; we get a glimpse of them in each panning shot. We wonder at the curious looking characters in the corner of the cantina and ask questions about the fantastical bounty hunters doing the bidding of Lord Vader.

In short, Zeb’s cameo in The Mandalorian isn’t so unlike Boba Fett’s brief appearance in The Empire Strikes Back. Or Max Rebo in Jabba’s palace! It stirs up the imagination without breaking up the enjoyment of the story. The invitation to dive deeper into more Star Wars stories is just that—an invitation and not a requirement.

At least, not yet. We’ll see what role Zeb plays in future stories. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see him more and more, particularly as the Ahsoka series returns us to the characters of Star Wars Rebels.

At the end of the day, I love seeing characters cross the threshold from animated to live-action and back again. I love the integrated storytelling. And I want other fans to, as well.

That’s why I’m glad we all have fair warning—and plenty of time—to catch up on all things Zeb in Star Wars Rebels before we see more of him.

At least, I hope we do.