This is a particular collection of my thoughts on Cad Bane that I have been wanting to write for almost a year now, but I've kept putting it off. But working on the final arc of my current Bane fanfiction finally prompted me to write it.
These thoughts are from my own frustration in how Bane has been interpreted by not just the Star Wars fandom, but most anyone who knows the character in general. I would go so far as to say that Disney/Lucasfilm itself has treated the character poorly, but that's a whole other topic. Right now I want to focus on the fandom's views on Bane especially.
First off, to answer the question in the post's title, yes, of course! Cad Bane IS a villain by definition. I agree with that wholeheartedly, and unless he undergoes some sort of major transition into a less-villainous side character or even an antihero in the near future (which is very unlikely, I should add), my view on that will never change. He is a bad guy, pure and simple.
And he also does very villainous things. He has murdered innocent people just to prove a point or intimidate others. He has kidnapped children, tortured a Jedi to death, and cruelly manipulated people under life-and-death circumstances, among other things. He is calculating. Cunning. Ruthless. Brutal. Cruel. He betrays his employer if it gives him more payment from another employer. He cares more about how much money he gets paid for the job than the morality of the job itself. He has even directly said, and I quote, "I'll take on any job for the right price," and "As long as I get paid it makes no difference to me."
Based on those quotes and his actions, just about the entire fandom has concluded that Bane is an evil, heartless bounty hunter and there is literally NOTHING he won't do for money.
But. BUT BUT BUT.
THERE IS A WHOLE OTHER SIDE TO THIS.
FIRST OF ALL, let's take those two quotes into context. Was Bane speaking to the audience or to himself? Nope! He was speaking (and this is very important) to his employers. When he said "As long as I get paid..." he was talking to Darth Sidious; and when he said "Any job for the right price," he was speaking to the Hutt family. Now why is this important you ask? Because it suggests that Bane stated these things to IMPRESS his employers. That is, to give the impression that there is nothing he won't do for money. And why would he want to give off that impression? Obviously, because that will make them respect him more, and there will also be a much more likely chance that they will hire him. To Bane, he has to make it appear that he will do any job as long as he's paid; this is a great impression to give to villains like Sidious and the Hutts, who are pretty evil by themselves. How else could Bane earn their respect? He has to show him that he is "their kind of scum," otherwise why would they hire him?
Now of course those were just words, and it's not like Bane believes "if I say this thing they'll believe it." But here I should add that Bane is also a manipulator, and he has more than often proved that he knows how to use words to his own advantage. Example: when he kidnapped Ahsoka in "Cargo of Doom," he used a mere conversation with her to discover that Anakin would come to rescue her. See, earlier after he tortured Bolla Ropal to death he mentioned that he had to find another method in order to make a Jedi open the Holocron. He kidnapped Ahsoka to use her as part of his next method, but when she told him "my master will be coming for me any minute," he figured it out: "Oh. Skywalker will open the holocron for me as long as I have his Padawan's life at stake." And then when Anakin does show up, Bane talks him into opening the Holocron just as he planned. Point being, Bane is good with words. Not to mention that nearly everything he says, save for the rare snarky remark, is not without intention. He is not one to throw around useless dialogue.
This means that he wouldn't state those two things in front of his employers without good reason. He's not necessarily saying them because they're true; he's saying them to get his employers' attention. He wants them to know, "Hey, I can hire this guy to do anything and he's ruthless. I can use him." Bane knows this.
Here is my point. Even though Bane is directly quoted as saying there is nothing he won't do for money, that does NOT mean it is completely true. The chances that he said those to give a good impression to his employers is VERY high. If he had said this to, say, Ahsoka while he held her captive, that would be a completely different story, since he would have no real reason to say that to her unless it was the pure truth. But the fact that he said them to Sidious and then the Hutts changes it a lot. You may argue that he meant every word of it, but the context in which these quotes were taken cannot be overlooked. (Now of course being a fan who likes to have her fun now and then, I have liked to say these lines are all true and interpret that as I will. But at the end of the day, when I get down to the serious stuff, of course I cannot say in all honesty that I believe Bane was speaking the complete truth here. Again, context.)
This, of course, raises the question: is there anything Bane would NOT do for money? And to that I'd have to say there is simply not enough in canon to give us a direct answer. After all he's only in ten Clone Wars episodes (two of which were filler, another two of which he was barely in), a short kids' book series, a few comics, a video game, and a short story. Obviously that's not a lot of material to go by. But is there a chance that Bane does have a moral line where he says "No. I won't do this thing for money"? I would think YES. There is a chance!
But what if Bane really is completely immoral? What if what he said was true? What if he's ruthless and brutal to the core? Here is where the Deception arc comes in to prove otherwise.
I'm actually very surprised at how often this arc is overlooked when it comes to fans discussing Cad Bane, because when it comes to Bane's character development, I'd say this arc is HUGE. And why?
RAKO HARDEEN. RAKO. HARDEEN. (that is Obi-Wan disguised as Hardeen, but you know. BTW from now on, when I mention Hardeen, I am referring to Obi-Wan disguised as him unless otherwise noted.)
And more importantly, "The Box." This episode really did something interesting and crucial to Bane's character. In this episode, there is a scene where Hardeen is about to fall to his death, and, in a big "shock value" move, Bane rescues him! Now I've thought about that scene a lot ever since the episode aired almost three years ago now and I've come to some pretty hefty conclusions based on it. It's a small moment - and yes, most likely added more for the shock value effect over Bane's character development - but it says a lot about Bane, and that's been sadly overlooked by the fandom. It's funny because I've read lots of reviews for this episode and it seems most of the fandom felt that Bane's saving Hardeen was out of bad writing and a very out-of-character moment for Bane.
OR IS IT?
Let's take another look at that moment, and the moments leading up to it. We first established in "Deception" that Bane does not like Hardeen. They clash mere seconds after meeting (more on Obi-Wan's part, granted, since he's the one who kicks off the insults and the snark. But Bane plays it right back at him, and it does not start out their partnership well at all), and Bane is reluctant to let Hardeen escape with them. Later when Hardeen hesitates and does not shoot a clone (who is then able to activate the security alarms), he tells Bane that his blaster jammed. But later Bane gives him a good punch on the jaw saying it's because Hardeen hesitated. So we know that Bane saw through that lie and he disrespects Hardeen enough to smack him.
Moving right along, in "Friends and Enemies," Bane kicks Hardeen out of the job and leaves him to the Hutts. Also, it's important to point out that when Moralo Eval asked Bane why he planned to turn Hardeen in "Is it for money, or personal?", Bane's answer is, "Both." So does this mean he already carries a personal grudge against Hardeen since meeting him in prison? And if so, what? Did Hardeen's hesitation in shooting the clone really set Bane off that much? Was it Hardeen's insults in the cell? Or does he just dislike Hardeen because he jumped in on the job at the last minute? It could be any of those or a combination thereof. But it's safe to say that Bane really doesn't want to have anything to do with Hardeen.
And then in the box, he saves Hardeen from certain death. WHY?
Let's take a closer look at this episode. In each level of the box, Hardeen helps the group of bounty hunters figure out how to get out (which wasn't the brightest move on Obi-Wan's part since it made Dooku realize that he was actually Obi-Wan, but that's not our focus right now). On the first level, Bane doesn't follow Hardeen until he realizes there is no other option. However, on the second level, he quickly follows Hardeen's idea without looking around for an alternative. And then on the third level, even when Hardeen says there is only a 50/50 chance they'll survive because of his idea, Bane doesn't blow up at him and get angry that they could be killed (which he probably would have done in the previous two episodes). He mutters an apathetic "Great" instead. Which suggests that he's actually not as worried about getting killed on the level as he might make it out to be. And why is that? Because at this point he TRUSTS Hardeen. (Remember that because it's important). Not like in "Deception" when he hit Hardeen for not killing the clone who set the alarms off, thus almost getting them caught. Not like in "Friends and Enemies" when he turned Hardeen in just so he could get more money. Nope, now when Hardeen says they have a 50/50 chance, Bane says "Are you certain?" and then is like "oh, okay, great. We could die but whatever." But he doesn't panic. Interesting.
Something else I should add. Twice during "The Box," Hardeen offers Bane his help. The first time is a simple offer to help pull Bane up. Bane, in response, slaps Hardeen's hand away. The message Bane is sending to Hardeen is quite clear there. The second time, on the next level, Bane temporarily dangles off one of the platforms before Hardeen quickly pulls him up. And wouldn't you know it, this time, Bane doesn't fight back. He lets Hardeen help him up, then waits for Hardeen to keep moving and continues following him. So why the sudden change? Again, Bane is slowly beginning to trust Hardeen. By accepting his help in the second level he's saying "I know that if I let you pull me up you won't drop me and let me fall to my death."
Interesting, Bane. Because just in the last episode he turned Hardeen in to the Hutts. So Bane should know that Hardeen hasn't forgotten that (even though Hardeen claimed "We're even now," of course we know bounty hunters like Hardeen don't forget things like that anytime soon). And yet Bane still chooses to trust him. Granted, it's not THAT much of an expression of trust. It's only a small, simple moment, but it contrasts the previous one. Bane accepts Hardeen's help. Very interesting.
Now we get to the big moment, when Bane saves Hardeen. Here, Moralo Eval plays a dirty trick on Hardeen to get him killed. Just when Hardeen is about to fall to a fiery death, Bane catches him just in time. When Moralo Eval becomes angry at Bane for "defying" him, Bane's reply is "If you're gonna kill him, do it like a man." Now, of course, let's once again take into context that Bane said this to his employer, so he probably didn't mean that completely. Or if he did, he isn't telling everything. If Bane trusted Hardeen, now is not the time he would confess it aloud.
But you know how I interpret this line? I see it as this: "I may not like you, Hardeen, but I do respect you. You helped us get through each level successfully and I might have died without you there. You proved that I can trust you to lead us to get the job done. Because of that, you have earned my respect. In fact, I respect you so much, that I cannot let you die this way. I am not going to let you fall to your death because Moralo Eval played a trick on you. You deserve to go out with more honor than that. So I'm going to save you. If Moralo really wants to kill you he'd better do it by treating you like the man you are. I'm saving you because I think you deserve better than this."
That is why he told Moralo to kill him "like a man." And that is why he went out of his way to save a bounty hunter he previously left for dead. Hardeen has earned both his respect, and his trust.
You may point out that in the next and final episode of the arc, "Crisis on Naboo," Bane tells Dooku that he's keeping an eye out on all of them (the bounty hunters). But yet again Bane is saying this to his employer. Of course he would say that. It would be completely idiotic to say "Everyone except Hardeen because I trust that guy." And granted, it might even be true, and Bane still does not completely trust Hardeen. However, he does give Hardeen the job as a sniper, which is probably the job that requires the most trust of a person, since for goodness' sake that means Hardeen can see everything that's going on.
And then we get to that one scene where, you know, Hardeen draws the gun on Bane, they fight, Bane is thrown to the ground, and then Windu, for no apparent reason at all, exposes Hardeen's true identity in front of Bane. (Seriously, Windu, what was the point in that?). In that scene, if you focus on Bane's expression, you can see the anger and hatred in his eyes as soon as he realizes Hardeen has betrayed him. He looks hurt. He even steps out of his normally cold and calculating persona to lash out at Obi-Wan ("I'll give you a reward when I plug you full of laser bolts!!"). This is one of only two times that Bane has really lashed out with this much hatred on someone (I'll get to the other instance in a bit). Even when the Jedi tortured him back in Season Two, he didn't seem to have any ideas of vengeance. Or when Anakin nearly killed him in Season Four, he didn't lash out then. No, the ONLY time Bane expresses pure rage is when he discovers he has been betrayed. The other time Bane went on a bit of a rampage was when, guess what, Hardeen betrayed them to the Hutts back in "Friends and Enemies." Those are really the only times we have seen Bane get that angry.
Are you sensing a pattern here? Betrayal makes Bane tick. Remember that.
Why is that so important? I have two points, and oh my goodness, this has made the way I see Bane's character as a whole grow so much.
First of all, it's easy to establish that Bane trusts pretty much no one. He doesn't trust Sidious, Nute Gunray, the Hutts, other bounty hunters, no one. Yet as "The Box" proves, his trust in others is not non-existent. Hardeen did gain Bane's trust. Yes, it was only trust to some degree, but I wholeheartedly believe that if that had been the real Hardeen and the job was successful and everything, Bane would have grown to trust Hardeen more and more. It was only cut short because Hardeen was actually Obi-Wan and Obi-Wan's mission was to stop the plot to kidnap Palpatine, not become besties with Bane. But point being, Bane CAN and he HAS trusted people.
Now the question is, why does he trust so few, and why is it so difficult to earn even a part of Bane's trust?
The answer to this, of course, is simple. Bane has had his trust in people broken too many times in the past. He's been betrayed, hurt, rejected, and abandoned over and over. For how long, I don't know. By how many people, not a clue. But enough so that he works alone and only with others when he's in charge, and relies solely on himself to get the job done (this is canon because the only times you see Bane working with others are when he's in charge, the only exception being in the box but that wasn't a job so it doesn't really count.) That is why it took saving him three times for Bane to finally warm up a bit to Hardeen. And of course, he was betrayed yet again when he found out Hardeen was Obi-Wan all along.
We already know Bane only trusted Hardeen to a degree, not complete trust. There was still a wall between them, but at least Bane let Hardeen pull him up without smacking his hand away a second time. Yet, holy cheese, he only trusts and respects Hardeen a LITTLE, and that leads him to SAVE HARDEEN'S LIFE. Now let's also note that Bane stood to gain nothing from saving Hardeen; in fact, for all Bane knew, Dooku or Eval could have punished Bane for saving him. We don't know. But we know this much: Bane trusted and respected Hardeen only some, yet that was enough to compel him to save Hardeen.
Now here's my second point and this is so important. Imagine if Bane and the real Hardeen continued in a partnership after the kidnaping plot was successful. Imagine if Bane trusted him more and more, and Hardeen never betrayed that trust. If he went out of his way to save his life after trusting Hardeen some, what would he do if he trusted Hardeen completely? I think he would do most anything to protect Hardeen, just as he protected Hardeen from a cheap, pathetic way to die. He would kill anyone who threatened Hardeen and do whatever it took to make sure his friend was okay. And it would not be an exaggeration to say that he would put his own life on the line if that's what it took to save his friend.
This is my final conclusion. Bane's trust is very, very hard to gain, but OH MY GOODNESS, if you have Bane's trust, you have got someone who will protect you no matter what and is dedicated to you with a wolfish loyalty. And while I'm here let's take this a step further: imagine if you managed to earn Bane's love. Who cares if it's friendship, family, or romance love...just love in general. I think that if Bane loved a person he would do whatever it took to keep them safe and also probably spoil that person NUTS. Like if you're in the mall and everything you point at and say "I want that" to, he would just buy it for you without even thinking because he wants you to have everything your heart desires. Can you imagine if Bane had KIDS? Those kids would be the safest, most spoiled little ones in the galaxy, like he literally could never say No when they asked him for something and on birthdays and Christmas he goes into debt all over again because of all the treats he gives to them.
How can I claim all these things? Because Bane went out of his way to save the life of a guy he only trusted slightly. Thus, if Bane trusts (or loves) you fully, you're going to get a whole lot more than just someone who saves you when you're in peril. You have someone who will burn down the whole galaxy to get you back, who when he hears you're being bullied will personally dismantle the bullies with his own bare hands, and will repeatedly give up his own needs to meet yours even if it ends up killing him in the end. BECAUSE Bane's trust and love is nearly impossible to access but once you got it, you got it 200%.
And that is why I do NOT believe Bane is evil, or completely brutal, or completely ruthless. I do believe that his whole cold and calculating attitude, plus the "anything for the right price" claim, is a big part of his character, and should not be overlooked. But that denies the whole other side to him, as subtly hinted at in the Deception arc. I believe that he is a very dark, villainous character, but in the end he is still a person, and every person is born with the need to love and be loved. And I believe that he is rotten but not rotten all the way to the core. And I believe that buried underneath his villainous traits is someone who knows what it is to be used, rejected, and abused on repeat, and is waiting to trust and to love again, and when/if he does, he'll give that person his heart in full.
He is not a heartless droid. He is not cold as stone. He is still a person and he was broken many times in the past. How was he broken? No backstory yet so no clue, but I do know part of it was a series of trusting someone and having that trust violated - over and over and over again, until he stopped trying to trust people.
Am I justifying his actions? Nope! No level of suffering can justify some of the downright horrible things Bane has done, and he needed to be stopped (but I wouldn't say he deserved the mind-rape torture the Jedi put him through because nobody and I mean NOBODY deserves that). Am I saying that all he needs is a little bit of love to fix him? Absolutely not! If there really were a way to make Bane a "good guy" (relatively speaking), it would take a lot more than love. It would require a very long process of understanding his issues, processing them, and working to fix each and every one, not to mention the doing away of bad habits, behavior, and ways of thinking, plus his general bad attitude, among a bunch of other junk. And you can't just fix all that with someone who loves you. It takes so, so much work. You can't just love someone and solve all their problems as a result. Healing takes hard work. Love opens up their heart but doesn't clean it up.
But I AM saying that Cad Bane is not what everyone thinks him to be. He is so much more than an evil bounty hunter who will do anything for money. The hints have been very subtle throughout the series, but I believe they have still shown us other sides to Bane. And I can only hope that in future appearances we will see more to those sides. But if you ever EVER think that Bane is pure evil, please stop and think about what you have done.
You may say that I pulled a lot of these "theories" out of thin air, and you may be right, but HEY! I did not have much to work with. And I have done my best with what we have been given to date. I have taken notes, written many essays, discussed Bane with close friends, compared theories, and written and re-written lots of stuff on the character. Someday I hope to work with a lot more Cad Bane material of course, but until then, THESE ARE MY PERSONAL HEADCANONS AND THEORIES AND I WILL STAND BY THEM. YOU'RE JUST GOING TO HAVE TO LIVE WITH IT IF YOU DISAGREE.
WITH LOVE FROM THE CAD BANE QUEEN/EXPERT/FANATIC - ELIAN LISETTE OUT.