Wilhuff Tarkin is definitely having a moment in the Star Wars Universe. The novel Tarkin revealed the biography of Emperor Palpatine's most valuable military officer, and now Star Wars Rebels is reinforcing the idea that if one man could have snuffed out the fledgling Rebellion, it would be Tarkin.
I must say, between the Empire scenes in Star Wars Rebels and the Tarkin novel, I sort of wish we had a parallel show set inside the Imperial Forces. On the one hand, our Rebels have a problem: now that Senator Gall Trayvis is no longer playing double agent and has come out of exile, he's broadcasting images of the Ghost crew, letting the Galaxy know that they're criminals.
It turns out that this is a problem for the Empire, too, even if Grand Moff Tarkin is the only one who recognizes it. Now there are rumors swirling around about Jedi on Lothal, which could inspire hope in the Empire's enemies. Tarkin is here to quash those rumors, not because he doesn't believe that a few Jedi who may have escaped (Tarkin, for the record, is one of the few people who suspects that Darth Vader is really Anakin Skywalker), but because he needs to make sure no one else believes it. Tarkin is all about maintaining order, and he's visibly annoyed that the Imperials on Lothal have failed so hugely in that department.
I've been falling in love with Minister Maketh Tua over the course of this season, but after this episode, I'm starting to wonder if she actually has the stomach for this Empire business. Tarkin has the Inquisitor (whom he treats as a lap dog) make an example of two low-level officers, and Kallus and Tua are both clearly horrified. We know Kallus has been involved in a bit of brutality of his own, but Tua's basically a middle manager. I don't think she ever expected this while she was back at the Imperial Academy, dreaming of a cushy post.
While Tarkin is plotting the capture of Kanan, Kanan goes ahead and makes things easy for him. The Ghost crew decide that their next imperative is to win hearts and minds. Now that they're very publicly wanted criminals, they're going to need more allies. Kanan and Hera decide to hijack on the larger broadcast towers on Lothal to send out a message of hope. It probably would have been a better idea for them to lay low.
The word of the week is "sacrifice." Ezra's parents sacrificed their safety in order to speak out against the Empire. The crew of the Ghost sacrifices their own security in order to battle the Empire. And when Kanan is cornered by Kallus and the Inquisitor, he sacrifices his liberty to protect his crew mates. He finds himself captured at the point of the Inquisitor's lightsaber.
And for a moment, Kanan thinks this sacrifice is an okay one. After all, Ezra gets to broadcast his message of blah-blah hope, and we see people listening to the broadcast, legitimately touched.
But the thing about sacrifice is that it hurts. Grand Moff Tarkin doesn't make sacrifices. He's too detached. He makes strategic kills and strategic acts of self-destruction. He doesn't bother sending someone in to dismantle the Rebels' equipment; he just orders the tower destroyed. As Kanan watches it fall, he realizes that, for the first time, he is truly in trouble.