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.

Actually, most of my expectations for this episode were thwarted. In that brief dizzying moment when I considered what a POV episode might look like, I considered that the final shot might be Thrawn shooting Kallus, and the screen flickering to black as the Imperial-turned-Rebel-spy died. Even after I realized that the episode would be of a more standard format, I still assumed it would end either with Ezra successfully extracting Kallus to the Rebellion (the episode’s driving plot), or with Kallus dying. I did not expect an extension of the status quo. Though, again, given the show’s history and its intended audience, I should perhaps not be surprised.

That’s a little unfair, though. The extension of the status quo — in this case, Kallus framing Lieutenant Lyste for his own crimes as Fulcrum and continuing to act as an undercover agent for the Rebels — works both as a method to extend the tension of this particular arc, and within the framework of Grand Admiral Thrawn’s character. Thrawn is playing the long game, and it makes sense for him to want to keep Kallus around and use him to feed disinformation to the Rebels. As we are fairly close to the end of the season, I suppose I can forgive the writers for wanting to squeeze a little more juice out of this particular meiloorun. The Rebels know who Fulcrum is, and now Thrawn knows who Fulcrum is. The tension as we wait for Thrawn’s endgame to unfold, and for Thrawn to “drop the hammer” (as Thrawn’s creator Timothy Zahn himself might put it) on Kallus should be palpable.

Beyond questions of season-long story structure, this was a strong episode. We got to see Thrawn’s deductive reasoning in action, we got some amusing sneaking around with Ezra, Kallus, and Kallus’ sleight of hand with the code cylinders (so that’s what those pens are for), and we even got a little bit of character development for the poor, hapless Lieutenant Lyste. We also got to see Governor Pryce kick some serious ass, which was awesome. We even got a couple nice Heir to the Empire easter eggs — I believe this episode was the first time we’ve heard Thrawn’s command ship referred to as the Chimera on-screen, and Thrawn’s vocal command for shut-down of his assassin droids calls back to another assassin he once employed, in another life/universe.

Even more exciting, we got the return of Wullf Yularen, now a Colonel and looking much more like the background extra from A New Hope who inspired the character, than the younger Admiral we knew from The Clone Wars. It was fun seeing (and hearing) Yularen again, and I hope Rebels does some more episodes with him. I’d love to get his perspective on the Empire and how things have changed since the Republic.

All in all a very strong episode. It was weakened by the lack of Hera and Sabine, and surprisingly light on the action, but I enjoyed it, and am enjoying the slow, inexorable march towards the season finale and Thrawn’s endgame for the Ghost Rebels.