First there was Bail Organa, then Darth Vader, then Yoda, then Lando Calrissian. Now Grand Moff Tarkin joins the lists of classic characters joining the cast of Star Wars Rebels. While I don’t want the Ghost crew to be overshadowed by an endless list of guest stars, I can’t deny that Rebels has put them all to great use. So when I heard that Tarkin was going to appear in the next episode, I was super excited to see what Filoni and company would do with him. I loved his appearances on The Clone Wars, and as it turned out his appearance on Rebels didn’t disappoint either. Not only that, but he brought the expression “*@$! getting real” to a whole ‘nother level.
The episode starts with Minister Tua, Agent Kallus, and the Inquisitor serving as the welcoming committee for our favorite Grand Moff. Tarkin isn’t happy with the reports of the cell of insurgents wreaking havoc on Lothal, and has no problem with calling out each of them about their failures. Specifically, he doesn’t believe the reports of the leader being a Jedi. Why, do you ask?
“Ah yes, let us not forget the sudden appearance of a Jedi, as if leaping from the pages of ancient history. A shame we don’t have someone who specializes in dealing with them, otherwise our problem might be solved. Minister, tell me, have you ever met a Jedi?”
“Well, no, I–”
“I actually knew the Jedi, not from the pages of folklore and children’s tales, but from flesh and blood. And do you know what happened to them?”
“Well, there were rumors…”
“They died. Every last one of them. So you see, this criminal cannot be what he claims to be, and I shall prove it.”
Can I just say that I absolutely love this exchange? Not only is it perfectly acted and written, but it has major implications for the galaxy at large. If Minister Tua, who’s effectively second-in-command to Governor Price on Lothal, only knows rumors about what happened to the Jedi, then what must the rest of the galaxy believe? What do the rebels believe?
We jump to that particular cell of insurgents wreaking their particular brand of havoc in one of Lothal’s outlying towns. After a successful mission stealing supplies they head back to the Ghost, where Gall Trayvis is on the holonet, talking smack about them and offering a reward for their capture. (Please note that the picture Trayvis broadcasts includes all five of them, including Hera. Take heed, Disney marketing department.) Kanan gets the bright idea to assault one of the communication towers on Lothal and use the Empire’s signal to send out their own inspirational method.
The two Imperial baddies Commandant Aresko and Taskmaster Grint (we’ve seen them before) are called to report to Tarkin about the rebel cell. Tarkin isn’t happy that this cell seems more principled than others, nor with the idea that they’ve allowed the supposed Jedi leader to become a symbol of hope. And he will no longer let failure go unpunished.
So he has the Inquisitor chop off their heads.
Minister Tua and Agent Kallus are, unsurprisingly, horrified. I, on the other hand, cannot contain my glee. Tarkin is taking none of your crap and he will not rest until the rebels are captured or dead. I sincerely hope that Tarkin’s resolve provides the necessary kick in the pants to get the Ghost‘s crew off Lothal, not to mention foreshadowing them uniting with other rebel cells throughout the galaxy. After all, as Tarkin says, that would be disastrous for the Empire.
Kanan, Ezra, and Sabine go to scope out the main communications tower. Once again, Sabine is in charge of the tactics, because she’s awesome. I just wish they’d tell us more about her backstory, okay? How does she know all this stuff? The three of them manage to investigate the tower, formulate a plan, and escape undetected–or so they believe. Immediately afterwards Kallus reports to Tarkin and shows him a probe droid picture of the speeder bikes zooming away from the tower. Tarkin orders Kallus to allow the rebels to believe they have the element of surprise, and Kallus agrees despite his confusion, because you do not refuse an order from the Grand Moff. Tarkin also orders the Inquisitor to capture Kanan alive; this will be his chance to redeem himself. Man, look at Tarkin, tossing around orders to the freaking Inquisitor.
We head back to the Ghost, where the crew is finishing the last bit of planning. Ezra feels uneasy about the entire situation, and he later tells Kanan he’s afraid of losing them like he lost his parents. (Cue more foreshadowing!) Kanan reminds Ezra they’ve all lost things (and Kanan would know, wouldn’t he?), but they have to be willing to make sacrifices for a higher cause. It’s something they’ll have to learn to do together.
After this touching moment (and a fantastic musical cue), the plan is afoot. Kanan, Ezra, Zeb, and Sabine begin the assault on the tower, while Hera remains on the Phantom to play pick-up. Chopper installs the computer spike, but instead of the three minutes Kanan promised Sabine, the Empire shows up immediately. Eeek!!!
(Aside: Why is there a random road leading to the communications tower? Can’t the speeders and transports hover over grass and stuff?)
Kanan sends Ezra, Sabine, and Zeb to the top of the tower to meet Hera. He remains on the ground to confront Kallus and the Inquisitor and provide a distraction for Hera’s arrival. Always self-sacrificing, those Jedi. Remember the foreshadowing? After being defeated in battle Kanan urges Hera to leave, and in a heartbreaking moment, she actually listens to him and flies away, leaving Kanan in the hands of the Inquisitor.
Tarkin shows up to have a little chat with Kanan, and Kallus tells Tarkin that the communications signal has been hijacked. Well, Tarkin isn’t having any of that. The Imperials zoom away from the tower and then, with Ezra’s inspirational message playing in the background, the Empire destroys their own tower in order to squash the rebels.
“You don’t know what it takes to win a war, but I do.”
Ezra is full of despair, wondering if anyone heard the message. Hera, on the other hand, is pissed. Ezra says this isn’t over, and Hera, jaw set in resolve, replies, “No, it isn’t.
CUE CREDITS. WITH TWO WEEKS INSTEAD OF ONE IN BETWEEN EPISODES. CURSE YOU, DAVE FILONI.
I really loved this episode, for several reasons. First, it completely upped the stakes. I’m going to have a really hard time suspending my disbelief if the crew remains on Lothal after this incident. Second, the performances were stellar. Stephen Stanton brings a ton of gravitas as Tarkin, and it was great seeing him interact with the other Imperials. Third, the animation, music, and plot meld together and create a compelling story from start to finish. As heavy-handed as the foreshadowing got regarding Kanan’s capture, it was still hard to believe the Rebels crew actually went as far as they did. And this isn’t the season finale. I mean, we end the episode with Kanan captured by Grand Moff Tarkin and the Empire destroying their own communication tower to ruin the rebels’ plans. How can it get better than this? We have two more episodes in Season 1 to find out.
This episode was fantastic, and I cannot wait to see where they go from here. Bravo, Rebels crew. Bravo.