When EA’s Star Wars: Squadrons was announced, fans (rightfully) got very excited about glimpses of familiar faces among the cast of starfighter pilots: Wedge Antilles, flying for the New Republic! Rebel’s Hera Syndulla, now a general! But there’s one more familiar face in there that has fans talking, and it’s not a hero of the Republic. It’s Grand Admiral Rae Sloane.
Sloane has been a part of Star Wars’ modern canon since the very beginning. She made her first appearance in John Jackson Miller’s A New Dawn, the first novel to be set in the revised canon since Lucasfilm transitioned the old expanded universe into what became known as “Legends.” Since then, she’s been through the rise of the Empire, its fall, and even beyond, a fundamental factor in its transformation into the First Order. But even then, we don’t know all that much about her. With her about to make another big “debut” in the video game Squadrons later this year, here’s what you need to know about the Imperial Remnant’s most vital commander.
Born on the planet Ganthel roughly 20 years before the Clone Wars, Sloane’s childhood was one of wanderlust and dismay. Driven by the push and pull of wanting to leave her backwater world and help improve the rampant piracy and crime that dominated it, the young Sloane signed up for the local Imperial Academy as soon as she could. She admired the newly restructured Empire’s commitment to order when it arrived on her homeworld and policed the various criminal elements she’d spent her youth despising.
Sloane rose through the ranks of the Navy with an almost unprecedented haste: as a cadet, she inadvertently stopped an assassination attempt on the lives of both Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader by one of her instructors aboard the Defiance Flight Training Institute. After graduating, she served aboard several starships as part of the officer class, and before she turned 30, had served as both the Executive Officer to Grand Moff Tarkin and — albeit temporarily — commanded her own Star Destroyer, the Ultimatum as Captain.
It was during her command of the Ultimatum that Sloane first encountered Kanan Jarrus and Hera Syndulla, and was forced to work with the would-be insurgents during the Ultimatum’s mission to escort an Imperial efficiency expert to the Gorse system (where the in-hiding Kanan was working as a miner) to boost the mining of Thorilide, a key component in turbolaser manufacturing. When it turned out that the expert, Count Denetrius Vidian, was a corrupt madman who planned on detonating Gorse’s moon to swoop in and take control of mining himself, Sloane begrudgingly worked with Kanan and Hera briefly to stop his plans, the reward for which was permanent captaincy of the Ultimatum.
We don’t actually know much else of her career in the Empire’s heyday. At some point, she’s promoted once again to Vice Admiral (and even attempts to capture Kanan when he’s become a full-on Rebel working with Hera), a rank she would still be holding by the time of the Battle of Endor. Sloane, commanding the destroyer Vigilance, was one of several admirals acting as part of the Imperial’s blockade line cutting off the Rebel fleet after it assaulted the seemingly dormant Death Star II, and also one of the first to notice that the battle was not going the Empire’s way. Ordering the surviving Imperial ships to flee to a safe distance as the Death Star exploded, it would be Sloane that other commanders would turn to as a stoic figure in the face of what was seemingly the Empire’s end, given that, with Admiral Piett’s death and the destruction of the Executor, she was pretty much the highest-ranking officer the Navy had left after Endor.
Sloane’s stoicism and fervent belief that the Empire should survive even without its Emperor made her quickly become an vital figure in the Imperial Remnant after Endor. Even as the newly formed New Republic began liberating world after world from the Empire’s faltering grip, Sloane found herself quickly becoming one of the Empire’s most vital figures. She first attempted to form a council of the Emperor’s former advisors on Akiva, and when that world fell to rebellion (and the timely arrival of the New Republic), Sloane was drawn into the plans of Fleet Admiral Gallius Rax — unaware that it had been him that had subverted the Imperial Future Council in the first place as a way to weed out any potential opponents in his bid to rule the Empire. Granted the rank of Grand Admiral and a place on Rax’s Shadow Council, Sloane found herself the public face of the Imperial Remnant, while he controlled it from the, uh… shadow. You see what he did there.
Rax’s bid for power and Sloane’s own commitment to bringing about a semblance of order between the increasingly powerful New Republic would reach a head when Rax attempted to betray her and take out New Republic command in one fell swoop. Coaxing Sloane into arranging and attending peace talks with the New Republic Senate on Chandrila, Rax used brainwashed prisoners in a terrorist attack to assassinate key Republic leadership and potential threats to himself in the Remnant like Sloane. Vowing revenge, the Grand Admiral would once again find herself working with rebel insurgents to expunge what she saw as a blight on the Empire, briefly teaming up with Temmin “Snap” Wexley and his mother’s Rebel cell during the Battle of Jakku to capture and ultimately execute Rax for double-crossing her.
Over the desert world that would see the true end of the Galactic Civil War, Sloane once again found herself taking charge of what was left of the Imperial forces battered by the New Republic on Jakku. Sloane took solace from her adversary’s goals to rebuild the Empire and set out to do it herself, taking what was left of the Imperial fleet and fleeing toward the Unknown Regions alongside Commandant Brendol Hux and his son, Armitage. Sloane’s actions would lay the course for what would ultimately blossom into the First Order, of which she was one of its earliest leaders.
We don’t know what happened to Sloane beyond being the catalyst for the Remnant Navy’s transformation into the military branch of the First Order. Much of her story, even her time in the Empire before Endor, is still relatively unknown to us, despite the fact she has been positioned as such a key figure in what happens to the Empire after Return of the Jedi. Hopefully, Star Wars: Squadrons will be able to flesh some of that story out when it arrives later this year, but for now, much of Grand Admiral Sloane’s past in the Empire — and her future in the First Order — remains a mystery to us.