Unfortunately some things bear repeating. Saying that the neither the animated series nor books and comics are canon is the Star Wars equivalent of being a flat-earther. The mere fact that one refuses to *believe* or *consider* something to be true does not alter the fact that it is. The books and animated Star Wars series are very much canon, indeed. Why am I bringing this up again? Because a recent subplot of The Mandalorian Season 2 highlighted one of the better Imperial redemption arcs of the franchise…. But it’s not the best. That arc belongs to a Stormtrooper we’ve only seen in the novels.
When it comes to The Mandalorian, we’re of course referring to Migs Mayfeld. In the Season 2 episode “The Believer” an emotional Mayfeld revealed how Operation Cinder turned his stomach, and heart, away from the Empire for good. He lamented the loss of his battalion, and inflicted some much overdue justice for the atrocity. But as compelling as Mayfeld’s redemption arc is (and yes, we acknowledge he wasn’t actually a Stormtrooper), it pales in comparison to that of Archex, a/k/a Captain Cardinal.
Captain Cardinal’s Star Wars Stormtrooper redemption
Delilah S. Dawson introduced us to Cardinal in her background Star Wars novel, Phasma. Cardinal was a First Order Captain, clad in bright red armor, charged with physically training new recruits. As Phasma’s power grew, and his dwindled, Cardinal sought whatever information he kind find regarding his rival Phasma from Resistance spy Vi Moradi. Appealing to his humanity, Moradi chipped away at his First Order indoctrination. His Stormtrooper redemption arc would begin in earnest when Phasma defeats him and leaves him for dead. Only then does he truly begin to see the First Order, and Phasma, for what they truly are.
The Resistance welcomes Cardinal in, and helps him to rehabilitate from the poisoned wounds Phasma inflicted both physically and emotionally. The former Stormtrooper captain is lost. He believed in a lie, First Order propaganda, for so long that he no longer knew how to function without it. We only get a glimpse of Mayfeld’s introspective journey in The Mandalorian. Dawson’s follow-up novel Black Spire puts Cardinal’s on full display in deep, emotional detail.
Cardinal struggles to cope with his own disillusion, Phasma’s betrayal, and the First Order’s lies. Pushing the pain, including thoughts of suicide, aside, Cardinal finds a new purpose. Ultimately, he relieves himself of his guilt-ridden burden, sacrificing himself in the process. He repaints some Stormtrooper armor red, standing off against his former trainees. Cardinal becomes a symbol no longer of the First Order, but of the resistance against it.
Mayfeld give it a good run, but it’s hard to top that as redemptions go.