Rebels Review: Through Imperial Eyes

When I saw the teaser for “Through Imperial Eyes,” featuring the POV shot of Agent Kallus waking up, I was momentarily thrilled. Was Rebels going to do an entire episode from Kallus’ point of view? Would they be so bold?

Then I remembered that (a) this is a kid’s show, and (b) TV shows of any stripe tend not to get experimental until their 6th or 7th seasons and they’re hurting for ideas (see: the one-shot experiment in The X-Files’ 6th season episode “Triangle,” or the live episode in The West Wing’s 7th season). And indeed, the shot in the teaser was the only POV shot in the entire episode.

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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: 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

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Review: Stranger Things, season one

The following review endeavors to be as spoiler-free as possible. Obviously, however, there is some discussion of plot and character elements. If you’ve already decided to watch the show and want to go in as fresh as possible, maybe save this review until after the fact.

Netflix, by this point, has well-established itself in the original programming department. From flagship programs like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, to more esoteric shows like Sense8 or Hemlock Grove, Netflix’s shows run the gamut in both genre and quality. Its latest effort, Stranger Things, which premiered Friday, July 15th, was announced out of the blue a month ago, promising a nostalgia-driven science-fiction/horror drama set in the eighties. The trailer evoked the adventure and innocence of ‘80s adventure films like E.T. or The Goonies, as well as the harder edge of classic horror fare like The Thing or The Evil Dead. The show stars Winona Ryder and Matthew Modine — stars emblematic of the eighties — alongside an ensemble of relative unknowns, in a story of a small town besieged by mysterious disappearances, bizarre occurrences, and shady government operatives. It is created, produced, and many of its episodes written and directed by Matt & Ross Duffer, The Duffer Brothers. Two more relative unknowns, the brothers are probably best known for working on the Fox series Wayward Pines.

The trailer generated a lot of excitement, not only due to the fact that Netflix had stealthily made this show without hardly anyone hearing about it, but for the promise of its intoxicating blend of sci-fi, horror, and ‘80s paranoia. Does the eight-episode series live up to that promise, or is it just another empty vessel for self-indulgent nostalgia?

 

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Why Thrawn Needs to be in Rebels

thrawnIf you ask people who the most well-known Legends character is, you’ll probably get one of a few common answers: Mara Jade, Revan, Starkiller, Jacen or Jaina Solo. Probably the most well-known antagonist (if not the best antagonist) from the Legends universe is Grand Admiral Thrawn, aka Mitth’raw’nuruodo, created by Timothy Zahn for the first post-Return of the Jedi novel Heir to the Empire. Thrawn did not survive his eponymous trilogy, but his legacy lived on in other novels and games. Perhaps it’s because he was one of the first breakout Legends characters, perhaps it’s because he wasn’t a Force user, perhaps it’s because of his similarities to Sherlock Holmes — whatever the reason, Thrawn struck a chord with many readers. Even though he’s now a “Legend,” the Thrawn trilogy is still considered some of the best in the Expanded Universe. And many people have asked to see him make the jump to the new canon.

Spoilers for Aftermath: Life Debt under the cut.

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Our 2015 Superlatives – TV Edition

It’s the end of 2015, which means it’s time for Best of Lists! Here at Tosche Station, we thought we’d break up our lists into categories, and post a different topic per day.

In this installment, we discuss our favorite TV shows of 2015.

Nanci – I know I sound like a broken record, but I don’t watch a lot of serialized TV shows. I still haven’t watched The Man in the High Castle, or Jessica Jones, or Daredevil, or…take your pick. (I did finally see some episodes of Supergirl and loved them, but I need to catch up.) Anyway. The one show I did watch religiously was unfortunately one of the shortest–Agent Carter. I love Peggy. I love Jarvis. I even love to hate Howard. Everything about this show spoke to me on a spiritual level. Yes, there’s lots of room for improvement–the diversity on the show is lacking, and will hopefully improve in Season 2. But Peggy is such a well-rounded character, and we need more women like her on television. I’m so glad Agent Carter is coming back for a second season next month. Like Peggy, we all know her value.

Saf – I watch a lot of things, but at the same time feel like I watch nothing. My favourites would be Brooklyn Nine-Nine for its humour and characterization; iZombie because everyone is super cute and it’s just super fun; The 100 because, damn, that story is so good and there are also queer ladies; and How to Get Away With Murder because that is one heck of a twisting drama story with a lot of really interesting characters.

Bria – Oh yeesh.  I watch too many darn shows.  Agents of SHIELD continues to thrill me to no end and Marvel certainly didn’t slack with Daredevil or Jessica Jones.  As far as new shows go, Quantico turned out to be oddly addictive and the fight scenes in Into the Badlands were rad as hell.  The dark horse though was definitely Fresh Off the Boat.  It’s funny without making Chinese people the butt of the joke.  Actually, more than a few times, I would watch an episode and then call my mom and go “Oh hey Mom so Jessica did this in the episode tonight and it was so you!”

Brian – Pretty much echoing what Nanci said. I don’t watch a whole lot of TV either, but what I did watch was great. Peggy Carter was the highlight of the year for me for all the reasons Nanci said. I also got into Supergirl and Man in the High Castle. While I’m not caught up, I love both of those shows tonally and can’t wait to see more of them.

Rebels Review: Wings of the Master

heraThis episode of Star Wars Rebels was made for me.

After three episodes with cameos from The Clone Wars and not much for Hera to do, Rebels came back and reminded me why I love this show so much. This isn’t to disparage the other characters, but I much prefer Rebels when the show is an ensemble cast rather than Ezra’s story. If they are going to focus on Ezra for a few episodes, then they have to give the same amount of time to the other characters.

Just as I was grumbling about “Where’s Hera?” Rebels said “don’t worry; we got this” in the best possible way. Introduction of the B-wing? Check! A fantastic Mon Calamari engineer who’s a tribute to Ralph McQuarrie? Check! Rousing music by Kevin Kiner in honor of James Horner? Check! Hera musing about her love of flight and being the best damn pilot in her corner of the Rebellion? Check!

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