How a Posturing Partisan Became a True Hero of the Rebellion
Spoiler Alert! If you have not read Inferno Squad or played the campaign mode of Battlefront II, be advised: this article contains spoilers.
I’ll admit it. I’ve always carried a secret forbidden love for the Empire. They had Star Destroyers. They had Vader. They had the Death Star! The Rebels had…well…whatever they could scrounge up to fight the Empire. The Imps were simply cooler to me. Now with the release of the Battlefront II video game and the Inferno Squad novel prequel to the game, the Empire had the coolest special forces squad the galaxy has ever seen: Inferno Squad. That team was led by Vardos’s own, Iden Versio.
When we first meet Iden, she is an ace TIE fighter pilot dogfighting in the Battle of Yavin. Insane terrorists (as she saw them) were attempting to pull of the impossible: destroy the Death Star with only X-Wings and Y-Wings. Then the impossible happened. Iden – and everything she had ever known to be true – came crashing down.
The Imperial Security Bureau (or ISB) had tracked the source of information that led to the destruction of the battle station to Saw Gerrera’s Partisans. Although the Partisans had mostly been destroyed in the events of Rogue One, what was left formed a new cell called the Dreamers. To defeat this terrorist cell and more importantly send a strong message to the Rebel Alliance, Admiral Garrick Versio of the ISB (and Iden’s father) formed the special forces squad known as Inferno Squad. Shortly thereafter he put his daughter in charge of the operation.
Inferno Squad’s mission was simple enough: infiltrate and gain as much intelligence as possible about the Dreamers. Then eradicate them. Iden and her subordinates willingly took this assignment in the name of law, order, and in fact, peace. Quickly though Iden and her crew found themselves pushing “morally questionable” the limit. Backstabbing. Betraying trust and friendship. Murder. In the end, however, Inferno Squad completed its mission but none of its members would ever be the same.
Three years later, the impossible once again had become reality. The Alliance had destroyed the Empire’s second Death Star and with it Emperor Palpatine. From the grave the Emperor gave Inferno Squad one last mission: Operation Cinder. Even by Iden’s standards, this mission was unusual and shrouded in secrecy. Its ramifications would eventually force Iden Versio to leave the Empire and become a warrior for the New Republic.
One more moment of honesty: when I heard the story mode of Battlefront II was about the “redemption” of Iden Versio, I cringed. Call me cynical, but I am not a big fan of stories where the bad guy seeks and receives redemption of previous transgressions. Why? Because in many cases the “bad guys” do not see themselves as “bad,” so why would they seek redemption? This point is rooted in history. Take a look at the Nuremberg Trials following World War II. Although many of the Nazis who stood trial showed true remorse for their part in the atrocities that took place in Europe, some were defiant to the very end because they truly thought they were on the right side of history.
Iden Versio wasn’t an Imperial because she was evil. On the contrary, she repeatedly proved herself to be virtuous and driven by duty and honor. She was simply raised as an Imperial and was a “military brat,” the daughter of a high-ranking Imperial officer. The Empire was all she had ever known. To understand her actions, you must put yourself in her shoes. Although we can see from an objective perspective that the Empire was evil to the core, at that time it was the governing body and the law of the land. Star Wars books and cartoons have depicted the power of Imperial propaganda, so it is highly plausible that Iden and like-minded individuals would have seen the Rebels as nothing more than terrorists. As we all know, there is no negotiating with terrorists. This is why I did not think Iden needed any sort of redemption – she was doing her duty as an Imperial.
To win a war, members of the armed forces routinely find themselves taking part in morally questionable activities. The theory is that, as Machiavelli put it, the ends justify the means. That is the hope anyway. Those with a conscience have to repeatedly convince themselves that what they are doing is for the good of the country, the world, or in some cases, the galaxy. When Operation Cinder called for the destruction of her homeworld of Vardos, Iden Versio had found her limit. This was unjustifiable.
Iden’s reaction to Vardos’s demise illustrates her progression as a character. Previously she had been able to morally justify the destruction of Alderaan as it harbored terrorists and enemies of the Empire. She now understood the mass destruction of a peaceful people could not be justified under any circumstances. Her defection to the New Republic – and subsequent redemption – now made perfect sense to me.
In the end, even though she had switched sides, I realized the things I loved about Iden Versio had not changed. She is smart. She is courageous. She is decisive and determined. She has an unrelenting sense of duty and holds honor in the highest regard. She is a powerful woman and military leader whose authority is fueled by the respect she has earned from those she has been charged to lead. Iden Versio is a hero of the New Republic.