Rebels Review: The Occupation and Flight of the Defender

The past two episodes of Star Wars Rebels marked a departure from the previous two episodes. First, unlike “Heroes of Mandalore” and “In the Name of the Rebellion,” we saw a return to the half-hour episode format. Second, the Ghost crew returns to Lothal for the first time since last season’s “An Inside Man.” Much has changed on Lothal during the Imperial occupation, and Mon Mothma has finally granted Ezra the mission he craves: to save his homeworld.

To be honest, during the first few minutes of “The Occupation,” I thought I would roll my eyes throughout the entire episode. I understand that Ezra is a teenager, but I have a hard time when he fights against the Rebellion leadership. (I also wonder what he has done to be granted the rank of commander.) But, to my surprise, I was wrong, and ended up enjoying the episode a lot. The plot of the episode is simple: the Rebellion has received a broadcast from former ally Ryder, and she wants the Specters to make contact. Ezra, to no surprise, takes this as his chance to help liberate Lothal. Locating Ryder doesn’t go as easy as planned, with the Specters going on a wild chase below the surface to find Ryder’s stronghold. The action sequences in this episode were great, and it was wonderful to see the entire grew interacting again. My main criticism of this season’s episodes so far is splitting up the team. Since this is the final season, I hope we continue to see the crew as a cohesive unit going forward. This episode also made me laugh, between the return of the jaunty Imperial march, Baron Fail–I mean, Rudor as a bartender, and Sabine and Ezra’s banter. We also get the return of Jai Kell from Ezra’s stint infiltrating the Academy.

Can we talk about one major gripe, though? You know what it is. Hera and Kanan finally get some alone time together, and remark as such, and almost kiss, only to be interrupted by Zeb on the comlink. Why? Whyyyyyyyyyy do we keep being deprived of on-screen displays of affection between them? So many viewers see Hera and Kanan and see a couple in a relationship, even if we don’t see them kiss or hold hands. Why not just straight out confirm they’re in a relationship from the beginning? It’s not like Zeb or Sabine or Ezra wouldn’t know. It’s not like they have to hide anything. They’re two consenting adults. I don’t understand the hesitation, and now it just feels like trolling. Especially because you know they’re going to kiss and then Kanan is going to die.

Whoa boy, that turned into a rant. Sorry not sorry. Moving on…

“Flight of the Defender” isn’t technically a continuation of “The Occupation,” but it does continue the plot to liberate Lothal. Sabine and Ezra are on a mission to get the flight data recorder from the TIE Defender constructed on the planet in order to return it to the Rebellion. It doesn’t go as planned, of course, when Thrawn shows up with Governor Pryce in tow. Sabine and Ezra end up stealing the entire Defender, not just the recorder.

Can we talk about Thrawn for a moment? I loved how he so casually figured out who was flying the Defender. I loved how he stared down the ship with no fear and fired on it with his blaster pistol. I loved how he said that if Ezra Bridger could fly a ship that well, the Rebellion wouldn’t stand a chance against trained Imperial pilots. I just love Thrawn so much, and I was so glad to see him again in the flesh in this episode.

Sabine and Ezra crash the Defender and remove the hyperdrive. Ryder’s U-wing needs a hyperdrive if they’re going to escape the planet and return the recorder to the Alliance. They stow the hyperdrive in a hiding place, because it’s too heavy, and set out across Lothal toward Ryder’s stronghold. And then things get weird, as a mythical loth-wolf helps Ezra and Sabine return to the rest of the Specters. And the wolf speaks, too; he leaves Ezra with the parting word “Doom.” Except, if you watch with subtitles, it’s actually “Dume.” Yes, Kanan’s true last name.

What does it mean?!

I don’t know. I don’t normally dig this kind of Force mysticism. I don’t mind philosophical conversations and displays of unusual Force powers, but I dislike when things seem weird just for the sake of being unexplained. It’s hard to explain where this line is for me, but the last minutes or so of this episode crossed it for me. Your mileage may vary.

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the episode. I liked it a lot. It’s unfortunately I wasn’t a fan of the TIE Fighter video game, because I can only imagine what it must have felt like to see the TIE Defender in action. (Judging by my friends on Twitter, it was absolute glee.) Starfighter combat always makes me happy, and it was great seeing Skerris again.

I’m interested to see how long the crew stays on Lothal, and what the end game is there. It would be very interesting if the series ends on Lothal, where it all began. I won’t deny the symbolism there, but I’m also eager to see the larger Alliance. One thing’s for sure: this season is going to be a roller-coaster ride.

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