Rebels Review: An Inside Man

rebels logoThis week it’s a return to Lothal, and yet another return to Ezra, kiddo, why are you like this?  All up, An Inside Man is a pretty classic undercover episode with Kanan and Ezra infiltrating an imperial factory on Ezra’s home world with the assistance of Ryder Azadi. Fulcrum has told the Ghost crew there’s a new weapon being developed and it’s up to them to find out more. Unfortunately for Ezra and Kanan, the malfunctions caused by rebel sympathizers at the factory haven’t gone unnoticed, and Thrawn has come to find out why.

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Rebels Review: The Wynkahthu Job

rebels logoGary Whitta is, without a doubt, living his best life.  He not only wrote the forthcoming Rogue One but now he’s also responsible for two episodes of Star Wars Rebels this season.  Add all of that to how his episodes have featured Wedge Antilles AND Hondo Ohnaka and…well… Four for you Gary Whitta!  You go, Gary Whitta!

The Wynkahthu Job starts as most Hondo episodes do: he has a job for the crew of the Ghost.  It’s a job with the potential to leave him rich and the Rebellion with a lot of bombs.  The only catch is that they’re also going to have to work with Azmorigan.  (Yeah you remember: the squat red alien who tried to buy Hera.)  Needless to say, Hera’s not pleased by this turn of events (which Ezra was aware of) and, for some reason, doesn’t immediately go get another tray but instead puts Zeb in charge of the mission.  It’s not surprising that Ezra’s not happy and that the mission goes far less smoother than expected.  This is Star Wars after all. Continue reading

Rebels Review: Iron Squadron

Last time I reviewed Rebels, it was for a Maul episode. This time it’s an episode with a group of ragtag kids out to fight the Empire. Even with the inclusion of Thrawn in this episode, I feel it’s again way out of my wheelhouse. Despite the fact this episode left me saying “meh” when it was over, there were a lot of cool bits of backstory and plot elements I hope return in later episodes.

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Rebels Review: 3.06 – “Imperial Supercommandos”

Fenn Rau returns, we learn a little more about what’s happened on Mandalore since the Empire took over, and Sabine finally gets a jetpack. “Imperial Supercommandos” serves not only as a sequel to season 2’s “The Protector of Concord Dawn,” but doles out a little more insight into Sabine’s backstory.

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Rebels Review: 3.05 – The Last Battle

star-wars-rebels-the-clone-warsFeaturing Captain Rex and a bunch of battle droids, The Last Battle is an episode for fans of The Clone Wars and the prequels more than a standalone Rebels episode. As a huge fan of The Clone Wars, it’s hard for me to disengage myself from that love to look at this episode from a Rebels point of view—as it is, it’s already very interwoven with The Clone Wars and other stories from within the GFFA. Forgive me for my implicit bias in the review beyond this one sentence: The Last Battle is a average-to-good episode that not only shows Rex, Ezra, and Kanan’s growth as characters, but also explores the ideas of the clones and droids as programmed “tools” during the Clone Wars.

In The Last Battle, Captain Rex and some of the Ghost crew head to Agamar to collect weapons. Instead, they find themselves sucked into a war game as they encounter remainders of the Clone Wars—droids for whom the war never ended. They consider this their chance to really end the war, finally solving the question of just who won the Clone Wars. It is exactly what the episode title says: the last battle.

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Rebels Review: 3.04 – Hera’s Heroes

rebels logoIt’s no coincidence that the episode that stars Hera and gives Thrawn his first real spotlight is my favorite of the season so far.

Hera’s Heroes brings the crew of the Ghost back to Imperial-occupied Ryloth. They’re able to help Cham out of a tight corner but Hera is dismayed to learn that a priceless family heirloom has been left behind when the Empire took over the Tann province. When she decides to undertake a personal mission to retrieve it, everyone offers to help. It’d be a challenging yet easy mission if any other commander but Grand Admiral Thrawn was there and that’s where the trouble begins.

For months now, we’ve been hearing Timothy Zahn say that he feels really good about how the Rebels is using Thrawn. Some naysayers have protested that he’s just saying that because Disney’s making him et cetera et cetera. After this episode? There is no doubt in my mind that this is the Grand Admiral Thrawn on the screen. Everything about his encounter with Hera as he systematically deduced her identity (and Ezra’s) was note perfect and I literally had chills running down my spine on multiple occasions. This is absolutely the Thrawn from the books that we know and love from his excellent manners to his interest in art to his ability to be downright terrifying if you cross him.

This was also a great spotlight episode for Hera. Often, our dear Captain Syndulla has to take a backseat to the rest of her crew. Every time we learn more tidbits about her past, the more intrigued I am. There’s something fascinating about how Hera grew up as both the daughter of a prominent local hero and as someone who was forged by war. She’s so dedicated to the Rebellion that she clearly feels guilty about involving her crew with a personal mission even though she’s helped each of them many times in the past. Add that to how easily she can slip in and out of the Ryloth accent as the mission requires it and, well, it’s getting harder and harder for people to just define her as ‘Space Mom.’  It also certainly says something that Cham’s so easily willing to trade himself for Hera not just because she’s his daughter but also because he knows the Ryloth Rebellion would be in very capable hands.

Kevin Kiner’s work continues to be incredible and we do not deserve him. Every time I think his score can’t possibly get better, he surprises us. Thrawn’s theme is sinister yet not overtly so. The use of the percussion is just fantastic. Rebels is damn lucky to have him.

A few assorted side notes:

  • Even Chopper has a tragic backstory! His moment with the Y-Wing was sad and almost (dare I say it) adorable.
  • Any day that Chopper gets to blow things up is a good day.
  • I’m digging Sabine’s new look more and more with each episode.
  • The real tragedy of the episode is that Ezra doesn’t even get to keep the Scout trooper helmet.
  • Thrawn pronounces Hera’s name slightly differently than we usually hear. I’m wondering if that’s just his accent or a subtle callback to how twi’lek names were pronounced in Legends.

Overall, Hera’s Heroes is a fantastic episode written by new writer Nicole Dubuc. Not content with just putting Thrawn on the screen, Rebels is definitely bringing their A-game this season and I am happily along for the ride.

Rebels Review: 3.03 – The Antilles Extraction

Sabine sent undercover to extract Wedge Antilles and Hobbie Klivian from the Imperial equivalent of Top Gun? Yes please I will take a dozen episodes just like this one.

The Antilles Extraction starts with a Rebel relief supply mission getting jumped by an Imperial carrier and blown to bits. Of note here are the first appearance of TIE Interceptors in the show, and did you notice those red stripes on the panel tips? Perhaps the 181st? Oh we can only hope. Back at the Rebel base, the Ghost crew and Rebel command staff are debriefed over the disastrous mission failure and note that they lost six A-wing pilots, and from the sounds of it, pilots are increasingly hard to come by.

Commander Sato mentions that he’s heard from Fulcrum of a small handful of top Imperial pilots needing help defecting from the Empire. Now, Fulcrum is either dead or trapped on Malachor, you say. Well you’re half right. Fulcrum is apparently a shared moniker used by numerous agents throughout the Galaxy helping Rebel cells, a concept created by Ahsoka. That little bit of heartbreak out of the way, Hera says that they are sending Sabine undercover to extract these pilots. Ezra gets angry that it’s Sabine going in and not him, because in his mind he’s the most qualified as he’s gone undercover before. Hera and Sabine shoot Ezra down by pointing out Sabine has actually been enrolled in Imperial academies and that Ezra is too well known now. Unsaid is that Ezra screwed things up so spectacularly two episodes earlier but we’ll gloss over that.

And then Sabine gets sent undercover and the best episode of Rebels ever happens. Listen, I had so much fun watching this I can’t put coherent words together. So I’m stealing Bria’s dot gif review format for the rest of this. To the jump!

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Rebels Review: Holocrons of Fate

rebels logoLast week Rebels came back with a vengeance, aka the canon reintroduction of Grand Admiral Thrawn. This week the threat took on a decidedly more dark side tone in the form of Maul. Last time we saw him, he was escaping Malachor. Now he’s back and on the hunt for Kanan and Ezra, but mostly the Sith holocron. He takes the Ghost crew captive in order to persuade Kanan and Ezra to give him not just the Sith holocron, but Kanan’s Jedi holocron as well. Apparently, combining the two will provide seeeekrits. After a “fun” quest in which Kanan and Ezra have to learn to work together again in order to reclaim the Sith holocron from Bendu, they rendezvous with Maul, combine the holocrons, and all hell breaks loose.

Let’s talk about those secrets, shall we? This episode gives us Bendu’s awesome line from the Season 3 trailer: “Once a secret is known, it cannot be unknown.” In this case, both Maul and Ezra want the Sith holocron because they want to learn the key to destroying the Sith, but for very different reasons. Maul wants revenge. Ezra wants to protect his found family. (He seems to be making a turn away from the dark side already, which I’m kind of disappointed about. I hope we see more of him using the holocron.) They both see different things: Ezra sees planets, and then exclaims “twin suns”; Maul escapes the base muttering over and over, “he lives!”

I didn’t think I’d have many feelings about this episode. I wasn’t a big fan of the way The Clone Wars treated Force mysticism, although I’m glad to say I like Rebels’ take a lot more. The character of Bendu, delightfully voiced by Tom Baker, made what could have been an eye-rolling episode a lot more palatable. I like when the Force is a mystery, a riddle, a puzzle, and it definitely is that way with Bendu around. I also liked that this episode continued to explore the repercussions of what happened on Malachor, both with simple things like Ezra explaining to Kanan what he’s seeing and more complicated matters like the two of them learning to work together again. Not only that, but Maul is free and continuing his mission to wreak havoc in the galaxy.

But the real meat of the episode comes at the end, in which a shrug-worthy story (for me) becomes Super Important. Ezra sees twin suns, but doesn’t understand what it means. We all know, of course: the key to destroying the Sith is safely hidden on Tatooine in the form of Luke Skywalker. It seems like Maul’s vision was a lot more specific, because his exclamation of “he lives” can really only refer to one person: his old nemesis, Obi-Wan Kenobi.

I admit, I’m excited for the implications. While I never read “Old Wounds,” I love the idea of that story. And if they had to bring back Maul (grumble mutter forever about how I like his story arc in TCW and Rebels, I just wish Lucas hadn’t CUT HIM IN HALF specifically so he couldn’t come back in the future, but then he changed his mind and we still don’t know how Maul survived a bisection, but I digress), the least they could do is give us one final Obi-Wan and Maul showdown on Tatooine.

Of course, there is one other option. Maul wants to destroy the Sith. The holocron showed him Obi-Wan, who has defeated a Sith in combat. Instead of wanting revenge on Obi-Wan, what if Maul goes to him with a proposal: help me destroy Vader and the Emperor, and I won’t kill you.

Obi-Wan, of course, is not stupid. Unlike Ezra, he wouldn’t take Maul’s word at face value. He knows Maul cannot be trusted. Once Obi-Wan refuses Maul’s offer, knowing he has to stay on Tatooine to protect Luke, then Maul’s vengeance would take over and we might see a that final showdown.

Or I could be wrong about all this and Rebels takes the straightforward revenge route from the beginning. Or perhaps we won’t see this story in Rebels at all because this show is about the Ghost crew.  Could we get a Maul/Obi-Wan rematch in a book? Or, dare we hope…a standalone movie? When it comes down to it, the only way I’ll forgive Robo-Maul is if that arcs ends with a rematch.

Whatever happens, Rebels continues to deliver solid storytelling. I just hope this particular ball isn’t dropped.

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REVIEW: Star Wars Rebels: complete season two Blu-ray set

It’s safe to say season one of Rebels was a success, though it was criticized by many as being too small scale and low stakes. Season one certainly had a limited scope — by design, and, in my opinion, smartly so — though the three-part season finale, which reintroduced Grand Moff Tarkin, included a spectacular battle in orbit of Mustafar, and teased us with the arrival of both Darth Vader and Ahsoka Tano, hinted at a somewhat wider scope and scale for season two. Did season two build on what season one laid down in a logical and satisfying way? Was the show able to continue to develop its characters while achieving a larger scale? And is the recently released Blu-ray set of season two worth picking up, even if you’ve already seen all the episodes? That, my friends, is what I’m here to tell you.

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The second season set of Star Wars: Rebels looks and feels a great deal like the season one set. As before, the video is 1080p, presented in the show’s original 1.78:1 aspect ratio. English, French, and German audio tracks are available in Dolby Digital 5.1, while Spanish-speaking fans will have to be satisfied with a 2.0 mix. The season’s 22 episodes are spread out across 3 discs, along with each episode’s corresponding installment of Rebels Recon, the YouTube after-show hosted by Andi Gutierrez, StarWars.com’s social media correspondent. Disc three also includes two short featurettes, “Connecting the Galaxy,” and “From Apprentice to Adversary: Vader vs. Ahsoka,” both of which I’ll discuss below. Continue reading