Review: Star Wars Rebels Season 2, Episode 4

“Brothers of the Broken Horn” was last week’s episode of Rebels, so this review should be out just hours before the newest episode, “Wings of the Master”, airs and is made available for streaming.

The episode begins with Ezra training under Rex, using a Clone Wars-era rifle for target practice. Cue the arrival of Kanan, who is irritated that Ezra is missing Jedi training, leading to Ezra’s off-hand comment that perhaps he shouldn’t be a soldier or a Jedi and sets up Ezra’s conflict for the episode.

With the rest of the crew off on a mission, Ezra and Chopper are left behind to perform maintenance on the Ghost. While complaining about how life was simpler on his own, Ezra receives a distress call from criminal Vizago, a recurring Season 1 character to whom Ezra owes a debt. Deciding to ditch his responsibilities for the moment, Ezra takes off in the Phantom with Chopper in tow.

Vizago is nowhere to be found, but his ship, the Broken Horn, is now apparently under the captainship of Clone Wars fan-favorite pirate Honda Ohnaka. Poor Hondo has gone through tough times since the Clone Wars – he has no crew, just one ship he won in a card game, and is apparently broke. The Empire has been hard on business.

Enter a game of scheming not seen since Lando Calrissian’s Season 1 appearance in “Idiot’s Array” as Ezra and Chopper scheme both with and against Hondo, face-off with Season 1 villain Azmorigan (also from “Idiot’s Array”), and spring Vizago from his own brig, turning the climax into a three-way match which ultimately ends with no one completely happy with the conclusion. (Best line goes to Vizago – “I hate children.”)

Ultimately, Ezra tells Kanan that he used to be like Hondo, scheming and out for himself, but he’s on a different path now – the Jedi path.

Ultimately, though, the episode falls flat and leaves a few head-scratchers. Ezra can’t carry an episode by himself the way Kanan can (though I’m very interested to see if Hera can manage it tonight in “Wings of the Master”), which means Hondo steals the spotlight. We never do find out how Hondo managed to both lock Vizago up and how he stole Vizago’s droid controller. Also, why did Hondo leave Vizago alive? During Clone Wars he was clearly capable of and had no compunctions about killing.

Further, Ezra’s conflict isn’t really explored. He begins the episode as “I’m not sure I want to be a Jedi or rebel”, and partway through he questions whether he wants to join Hondo as a pirate, but at the end he tells Kanan, “I’m on a different path.” Those are all great mile markers on a road, but they’re just markers; what’s missing is the road between them. At no point does Ezra express discomfort with what he, Hondo, and Vizago are doing – he never, for example, takes a moral stand. On the contrary, when Vizago demands Ezra spring him from the brig, Ezra tells him that he has other problems to deal with, and only relents when Vizago brings up the favor Ezra owes him. Overall, the arc in the episode is too much tell, not enough show.

It doesn’t mean there aren’t some great moments in the episode, particularly involving Hondo. “One of my best friends was a Jedi! At least, I think we were friends.” And, as expected, Chopper is the one who schemed furthest, ensuring the Rebels ultimately acquired the cargo they needed – again, not unlike “Idiot’s Array” when Chopper played a long-con game to steal Lando Calrissian’s fuel. (Though in “Idiot’s Array”, Lando was ultimately the long-term winner.) Hondo explaining to the Rebels crew at the end how he and Ezra worked together against Vizago is laugh-out-loud worthy; the Weequay can lie like a politician.

In totality, though, the episode comes off mediocre. It’s certainly not terrible, but as a character-centric episode for Ezra it’s no match for Season 1’s “Empire Day” and “Gathering Forces” two-parter.


Review: Star Wars Rebels Season 2, Episode 3

Remember how I complained the opening two episodes of Season 2 were a bit weak? Episode 3, entitled “Always Two There Are”, is a return to form.

The episode opens aboard the Ghost and quickly devolves into an argument between Jedi Kanan Jarrus and clone captain Rex. The undertone is clear – they’ve been arguing like that since Rex arrived, and there’s definitely still tension between the two. Kanan may have forgiven the clones, but it’s a work in progress, not an instant fix.

Ezra, tired of being in the crossfire, slips away to join Chopper, Zeb, and Sabine on a mission to retrieve some medical supplies from an abandoned Old Republic medical station. (Side note – I saw some viewers complaining it was ridiculous for the Old Republic/Empire to abandon a perfectly good facility. I live in North Dakota, which is home to plenty of abandoned military installations.)

The facility is mostly shut down, with a near-perfect creepy vibe not out of place in any number of horror movies. And horror is coming – the Rebels crew soon find themselves hunted by not one, but two Inquisitors.

And they thought the Inquisitor from last season was the only one of his kind.

Full marks for mood and setting in this episode – the darkness of the station is a perfect compliment to the new Inquisitors. And as is fitting dark side adepts trained by the Sith, there’s clearly tension between them, with hints that all of the members of their order are jockeying for power in the vacuum left when Kanan offed the Grand Inquisitor in the Season 2 finale.

The limitations of a children’s show did restrain the actions of the Inquisitors. Rebels is pitched at a younger audience than Clone Wars was, and it showed. The “torture” inflicted by the Seventh Sister on hero Ezra was literally an invisible use of the Force, and neither of the Inquisitors actually did anything to Sabine when attempting to use her to get Ezra to talk. (In a more adult setting, I would have fully expected something like limb loss or, at the very least, lightsaber burns.)

The Fifth Brother also picked up the dummy ball at one point in a completely nonsensical way; after besting both Sabine and Zeb, he picked up Sabine and told the Sister’s droids to do whatever they wished with Zeb…minutes after he’d been angry with the Sister for denying him the killing of Ezra. I have a hard time believing he wouldn’t have run Zeb through with a lightsaber just for the fun of it.

Nonsensical survival aside, it gave Zeb a shining moment of character development. For once, the big guy isn’t just the big guy – he expresses doubt and a feeling of inadequacy when he’s measured against the Jedi and the Inquisitors…but ultimately decides to take a chance, set aside his doubts and brawn, and uses his brain to attempt a rescue via deception. Ultimately, I hope they’re sewing the seeds for some real character development for Zeb later in the season, because he’s been very undeveloped thus far.

Ultimately, Zeb’s rescue mission and the escape from the Inquisitors was fairly well-handled, with the Inquisitors showing more raw strength than I would have expected. But the best scene of the show happened upon their return to the Rebel fleet.

Rex and Kanan are still feuding, with Kanan triumphant in a game of dejarik. Rex’s comment, “Looks like you can be disciplined when you set your mind to it,” sparks Kanan’s irritation again, with him observing, “I’m not sure if I like you more or less now.” Clearly, some tension is going to remain for now.

But when the crew tells Kanan that they just escaped a pair of Inquisitors, he can only gape at them. And when they ask him why he didn’t tell them there were more Inquisitors, he has no answer – just stunned silence.

Kanan continues to be the most interesting character on the show (and this coming from someone who, as a rule, isn’t a fan of Jedi), and the episodes ahead look to be more interesting than ever. Killing the Grand Inquisitor in the Season 1 finale wasn’t really a victory, it turns out – it was just kicking over a bees’ hive.

I suspect Season 2 is going to get much, much darker. This was definitely an episode worth watching.

Review: Star Wars Rebels Season 2, Episodes 1 & 2

Star Wars Rebels is back and coming out with new episodes regularly. I’ve been a bit behind, so I hadn’t gotten a chance to review as I’d intended. However, it appears the fifth episode is going to be B-wing-centric, and I figured I’d better catch up on my review duties before it came out.

The first two episodes of Season 2 are a back-to-back story arc, and really deserve to be reviewed together.

The Ghost crew head out to an uninhabited world, looking for an unnamed military officer recommended by Ahsoka Tano. Ahsoka herself is present only at the very beginning and end of the arc; otherwise, she is presumably investigating the Dark Lord of the Sith, Darth Vader, who was once her master, Anakin Skywalker.

The leader in question was unnamed for a good reason – it’s Captain Rex of Clone Wars fame, and a clone to boot. Order 66 survivor Kanan Jarrus understandably distrusts a member of the army that slaughtered Jedi from Coruscant to the Rim, leaving his own apprentice, Ezra Bridger, to handle the three Clone Wars veterans, all dysfunctional in their own ways, while he deals with his own anger and hatred.

There’s a danger to Star Wars Rebels in this arc. It spent the first season carefully building its own identity and feel, returning to the more adventuresome spirit of A New Hope that is a distinct contrast to the darker, war-is-hell approach of Clone Wars. With the return of Clone Wars characters, it could quickly revert back to the spirit of its predecessor.

The writers seem aware of that, and took things a bit too far in the light-hearted direction. While the fishing-for-sand-worms bit was hilarious and clever, it also made too light of the fact that the clones had risked Zeb’s life as bait – and were well-aware that their own equipment wasn’t in great repair, as evidenced by Rex’s warning to Sabine that she had to keep it going or Zeb would die. And at the end of the sequence, the only person that seemed angry – and legitimately so – about the near-loss of Zeb is Kanan. Everyone else, including Zeb, just brushed it off like, “Oh, those wacky clones.”

The no-consequences feeling continued with Wolfe, who contacted the Empire to turn Kanan and Ezra over as Jedi. At the end of the first episode, it’s brushed off as a no-harm, no-foul affair, even after he was exposed as intercepting messages from Ahsoka to Rex to ensure Rex never saw them. This isn’t a live-and-let-live situation; his poor judgement almost got them all killed, and he was interfering with a friendship where he had no right to be.

The Empire responds as expected in the beginning of the second episode, arriving at the planet in response to Wolfe’s message and deploying AT-AT walkers to hunt down the Rebels and the clones on their Clone Wars-era AT-TE.

In one of the best sequences in the series thus far, the good guys realize they’re outmatched and flee into a dust storm, blinding both friendly and enemy sensors alike and allowing the Jedi to gain an upper hand. With Kanan guiding the clone crew, Ezra mans the AT-TE’s weapons as the only other one capable of hitting a target in the storm.

Agent Kallus, the Imperial Security Bureau agent who has been pursuing the Rebels since the beginning of the series, proves a competent commander. He underestimates the Jedi in the dust storm, losing one of his walkers, but still has the situation fully under control until his air support is pulled without his knowledge, allowing the Rebels crew to escape aboard the Phantom while the clones cover their escape.

In a sequence reminiscent of “The Charge of the Light Brigade”, the clones take on the two remaining Imperial AT-ATs in a head-on confrontation. The new Imperial armor is more than a match for the clones and their twenty-year-old equipment, however, and the battle quickly turns against them. Only Kanan’s change of heart and the return of the Phantom and its crew turn the battle back in time to save the clones from dying.

While the first episode of the two-parter came off too light-hearted for my taste (save Kanan’s well-deserved dislike of the clones), the second part was a great take on both characters and warfare as we’ve seen it in Star Wars. There’s no fanservice done here; although the clones, particularly Rex, were favorites from Clone Wars, they clearly lost the fight. The final reunion between Rex and Ahsoka aboard a Rebel blockade runner was touching as well: “You grew up,” the clone observes.

Overall, though, the stakes seem small for the season opener. It made sense for Season 1 to start small; it was introducing us to new characters and a small crew, and the stakes grew throughout, culminating in the rescue at Mustafar that brought a Rebel fleet out of hiding. Season 2’s movie kept the tension high with Darth Vader’s appearance, the Imperials crushing the spirit of the Lothal Rebels, and the final space combat between Imperial and Rebel forces that saw most of Phoenix Squadron wiped out and their command ship destroyed.

And suddenly, we’re back to a desert with three characters, aside from the Ghost crew. I understand very well that the stakes can’t always continue to escalate, and breather episodes are necessary, but this would’ve made a great episode 3 and 4 for the season. As the premiere? A bit weak.