Review: Star Wars Rebels: Empire Day

rebels logoAnd with that, those who were worried that Rebels wouldn’t have the gravitas of The Clone Wars found themselves with one less thing to worry about.

“Empire Day” begins with Hera, Sabine, and Zeb making their way into an alley of a somewhat remote outpost on Lothal. As they disappear, Sabine stops and gazes out into the distance, where she sees Ezra and Kanan training.

Kanan attempts to teach Ezra the importance of opening oneself to others and lowering your guard. Ezra doesn’t seem to be taking to the lesson well, partly because Kanan induces a Lothcat to attack him. After threatening to kill the Lothcat with a lightsaber (Hint of some Dark Side anger, perhaps), Kanan manages to get Ezra to fess up as to why he’s so unfocused today. Ezra states it’s Empire Day, and he’s got bad feelings and perhaps some dark history surrounding it. As they’re talking, a trio of TIE Fighters fly overhead and land at the outpost.

Kanan and Ezra head to a cantina in the outpost where the rest of the Ghost’s crew has holed up. The TIE pilots are busy scanning over the premises, looking for a Rodian that Ezra recognizes. One of the other TIE pilots accosts the barkeeper, demanding that an Empire Day propaganda feed be put on the holoscreen. The broadcast is interrupted by Data, sorry, Senator Traviss imploring the people to protest the Empire Day festivities.

Annoyed, the TIE pilots depart and the Ghost crew vaguely discusses their plans for disrupting the ceremonies on Lothal. Ezra says that he won’t be joining them and heads back to his tower in on the outskirts of the city. There, he hears the whispers of his parents, prodding him to go back to the city to help the people, as it were.

A jaunty Imperial March plays in the city as a parade full of Imperial walkers and transports march down the street. The crew of the Ghost puts themselves into position to pull off their protest and they watch as the Imperial contingent shows off the reason Lothal should be proud to be part of the Empire: They’re producing a new TIE Advance Starfighter.

Using a pyrotechnic lightshow devised by Sabine as a distraction, Kanan goes to blow up the TIE Advance (and then has to act like someone who had way too much glitterstim to avoid the gaze of a nearby Stormtrooper). The crew makes their escape, but their path is cut off. Zeb splits off and Ezra takes Sabine and Hera to a run-down homestead that Ezra grew up in. There, they run into Seebo, the Rodian the TIE pilots were looking for.

The episode finishes its last act with a well-choreographed chase scene that pits the Ghost against the Inquisitor and a wing of TIE Fighters. Inside the Ghost, Seebo (through Sabine acting as a translator) says that he knows what happened to Ezra’s parents.

Then the episode ends on a cliffhanger, and I groaned in abject despair.

“Empire Day” was one of the best episodes that has aired to date. The tone is a bit darker than the other episodes, and for the first time you feel that the plot of the series is starting to progress rapidly. I’m really gaining an appreciation for the core cast that every episode focuses on. Each episode adds to the investment in the story, character, and universe. I’ve said it before, but it took several season of The Clone Wars for me to get as invested as I am now in only a handful of episodes of Rebels.

There’s some interesting Force concepts in play in this episode if you squint. You have to wonder if Kanan is consciously downplaying the old Order’s prohibition on attachments. Kanan seems to believe that it’s important to open oneself up to others and be vulnerable. It’s a subtle thing, but I can’t help but shake the feeling that Kanan has his own thoughts about what a Jedi should be. Perhaps that’s for the best. The old rules didn’t save the old Order.

In all, “Empire’s Day” is an episode that brilliantly showcases what this series is capable of. Every week I’m more on board with this show, and this week’s installment only ramps up how excited I am to tune in for new installments.