Rebels Review: Iron Squadron

Last time I reviewed Rebels, it was for a Maul episode. This time it’s an episode with a group of ragtag kids out to fight the Empire. Even with the inclusion of Thrawn in this episode, I feel it’s again way out of my wheelhouse. Despite the fact this episode left me saying “meh” when it was over, there were a lot of cool bits of backstory and plot elements I hope return in later episodes.

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Rebels Review: The Forgotten Droid

rebels logoWith a potential new base found, the Rebels need fuel, and the Ghost crew is once more on the case. Heading to a well-guarded Imperial refueling outpost, Hera puts Chopper in charge of staying with the Ghost and monitoring Imperial transmission, but he instead gets distracted by a new leg strut at a nearby shop.

Chopper being Chopper, he ignores his orders and instead steals the leg. After being accidentally abandoned by the Ghost crew, he is chased by stormtroopers into an Imperial cargo ship, where he meets an inventory droid, AP-5.

In The Forgotten Droid, we learn a bit more about Chopper’s backstory and his character beyond the fact he is a somewhat malicious, unpredictable droid. He’s a veteran of the Clone Wars, where he was a military droid, saved from a crash by Hera on Ryloth. AP-5, too, is a Clone Wars veteran, having been a tactical droid during the same Ryloth campaign. The two droids bond over their war stories, and Chopper shows he can care about something other than himself, surprising even Hera. This episode helps to build upon previous episodes, such as Homecoming, with little tidbits of character history.

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Rebels Review: The Call

rebels logo

The Call introduces the new best creatures to inhabit the GFFA: the Purrgil, strange space whale-cephalopods that interrupt the Ghost crew’s mission to steal fuel that is meant for the Empire, fuel that is desperately needed. 

Low on fuel, Hera is forced to redirect any non-essential systems, including heat and the lights. This gives the ship a very enclosed and almost claustrophobic atmosphere throughout the episode, as well as some pretty high stakes: they fail this mission, and the Ghost may never leave the ground again. The entire episode is quite dark aesthetically, not being set on any planets, but the overall tone is of hope and wonder.

Something that Rebels can do well—and The Clone Wars did well—is expand the universe in more mystical ways because of the animated medium. The Call shows how this can be done well, developing the ancient mythology of Star Wars through the Purrgil and their connection to hyperspace travel and the origin of hyperdrives. Star Wars has such an old galaxy that spans a few millennia, that any glimpses into the way things came to be are always quite interesting and refreshing. 

Not only does this episode expand on the lore of the universe, but it also broadens Ezra’s understanding of the Force and of his abilities, showing how much he has changed and grown since Rebels first began. No longer is he the bitter, selfish child on Lothal, but a calm, compassionate boy who has a deepening connection with nature and others around him, a connection that even Kanan doesn’t seem to have.

There’s something almost beautiful about seeing the way Ezra interacts with the Purrgil, and especially so when he finally understands what they’re doing. While the others are quick to either dismiss the Purrgil or consider them a threat, he wants to learn what causes them to act as they do and help them with their distress.

Hera and Ezra have rather subtle development in this episode, though Ezra’s is more obvious. Over the course of The Call, Hera seems to gain the sense of wonder that Ezra has to begin with, a kind of childlike curiosity at the mysteries of the world. Vanessa Marshall’s acting is, as always, amazing. Kanan, for some reason, seems even snarkier than usual, though he still stops to let Ezra explain himself.

The whole crew has grown a lot since the beginning, and it’s clearer in each episode how much they’ve learned to help each other. They banter, but they plainly care for each other, which is one of the strengths of the show. Though an episode not based around their ensemble so much, The Call still shows this in little ways.

Filled with great visuals and absolutely stunning shots, The Call is largely a mystical episode that ends on good feelings—something that is likely needed during this time in the season. Though it may not be a plot-heavy episode, it’s a gorgeous one that is a welcome moment of peace before the storm the rest of the season is bound to be. The Purrgil are a great addition to the GFFA, and this episode will probably make a good standalone in the same way many of the lore-expanding episodes of The Clone Wars did.

I am personally keen to see how Ezra develops further over the rest of the season, as The Call has definitely shown him as a wiser character than he once was. He’s a good kid, and he’s only getting better.

Rebels Review: The Protector of Concord Dawn

SabineWrenIt’s been and up and down season of Rebels for me. Every now and then, there’s a great character episode I love to pieces, but mostly it’s been Ezra, Ezra, Ezra and more Ezra. This episode was a whole lot more of the former than the latter.

Sabine had an episode to shine earlier this season, but for large chunks of the second season run it feels like she’s been sidelined. That definitely isn’t true in this episode. We get a little bit of everything. Attitude and characterization for Sabine, Madalorian backstory, and even Kanan proving that Hera is his anti-Idiot ball.

The crux of the episode is the Rebels are searching for a new hyperspace route since the Imperials are cornering them left and right. Sabine suggests a shortcut through Mandalorian space, which prompts her to leave with Hera and Phoenix squadron to secure safe passage. The Mandos aren’t happy to see them, a few members of Phoenix squadron are killed, and Hera is badly wounded. Thus sends Sabine on a Western-style quest for vengeance. VENGEANCE!

I could keep breaking down the plot and the set piece detail, but let’s get into what made this episode so great. Sabine finally, after really a season and a half, had a chance to shine. She’s been begging Kanan and Hera for a chance to prove that they should trust her, and in this episode she made it clear why everyone needs to stop doubting her. Sabine is more than just an artist and explosives aficionado. She proves she’s smart and more in control of her emotions and surroundings than anyone has given her credit for.

If there’s something I’ll take issue with in this episode, it’s going to be something that has bothered me all season. Every episode seems to find a new way to sideline Hera. This time around, it’s putting her in the medbay. As great as this episode episode was, imagine how much better it would have been if it was Hera in Kanan’s place. Just let Hera do something outside of the one token episode about her, please.

Overall this is probably my second favorite episode of the season, right behind Wings of the Master,  and one of the better ones in the whole run. More character focused episodes, please!

Rebels Review: Legacy

rebels logoI’ve been struggling to write this review, for several (some more obvious than others) reasons. The first was time. Because of a podcast recording I didn’t get to watch the episode live, so my entire schedule was thrown off. Then we were busy all weekend, so I didn’t get a chance to sit down and re-watch the episode until Sunday.

Second, I have a one-track mind right now, and it belongs to The Force Awakens. Sorry not sorry. (I still love you, Rebels, but you’re not TFA.)

But enough with the excuses. “Legacy” was the mid-season finale for Rebels, and it was a good, if not great, episode. Once again we focus on Ezra, and once again I think, ehhhh. It’s not that I dislike Ezra, I’m just annoyed with him in large doses. Rebels has done a good job so far interspersing episodes about other characters in between the Ezra-centric story arcs, so hopefully the next episode after the mid-season hiatus will focus more on the team as a whole, or another character. Because that, in my opinion, is where Rebels truly shines.

The episode starts with Ezra having a vision about his parents, and he decides he must find out the truth about what happened to them. Thanks to some help from Hera and Kanan, he discovers there was a prison breakout, and wonders if his parents were involved. His Force visions urge him to return to Lothal. I loved seeing Kanan and Hera give advice to Ezra throughout the episode, especially Kanan. They’re open and understanding, while also telling Ezra he needs to be mindful of his visions. He can’t go rushing in headfirst to find out what happened to his parents, but they’re also not going to sit there and tell him to just get over it (unlike some other Jedi we know).

Ezra’s objective is threatened when Imperial forces arrive, having learned from the Seventh Sister’s probe droid that the rebels have a base on Garel. This episode featured good team interaction as the crew struggles to escape. I’m glad that plotline carried over from the last episode, and it’ll be interesting to see where the rebels go now.

Eventually the rebels escape Garel (with some awesome flying and teamwork from Hera, Sabine, and Zeb), while Kanan and Ezra head to Lothal to find out what happened to Ezra’s parents. There he meets a friend of his parents (voiced by the great Clancy Brown), who was with them in prison. He reveals that they recently instigated a breakout, but were killed in the process.

The end was a bit of a letdown for me. Ezra wants to go on this big quest to find the truth…only to learn his parents are dead. Not only that, but they get killed off-screen. I understand the purpose–it’s permanently separating Ezra from his old life. But I don’t see how that finality changes much about his character. He’s still an orphan. He’s still learning to use the Force. He still blames the Empire for his parents’ deaths.

Perhaps the story team has something more up their sleeve, and I’ll be eating my words at the end of the season. But compared to last year, when we got the awesome cliffhanger of Tseebo knowing what happened to Ezra’s parents, this episode fell short for me.

I did, however, love when Kanan stopped Ezra from going after the Inquisitors. That was a great moment, made even greater when Ezra realized Kanan was right to stop him, and when Kanan told Ezra he was going to help him on his quest. It makes you wonder what would have happened to Anakin Skywalker if he hadn’t been bound by the Jedi dogma of non-attachment; if he’d been more open and honest with Obi-Wan; if the Jedi had been more understanding of his background. It certainly makes a good case for the Jedi having attachments and parents/guardians who can guide them through learning to use the Force, doesn’t it?

Be sure to check out this week’s Rebels Recon, in which Dave Filoni teases what we can expect to see in the rest of the season.

Review – Star Wars Rebels: Stealth Strike

rebels logoHow do you please totally disparate segments of fandom all at the same time? You write Stealth Strike.

There’s a little something for everyone here. Rex reliving his military days and putting on his Big Damn Hero pants. One former clone trooper against an entire starship worth of stormtroopers? Sign me up. Kanan confronting the ghosts of his past by being forced to trust Rex? Check. A loving nod to the Death Star corridor chases? Yup. An Interdictor on trial runs that hearkens back to classic Expanded Universe material? Double check.

I’ve called Rebels a bridge series several times. It’s designed to be a link to the past, present, and future. This episode is full of nods to The Clone Wars, but its triumph is a brilliant homage to the Death Star escape in A New Hope. Corridor chases, sneaking around to disable critical infrastructure. You can show this to a young fan that’s new to Star Wars, ask them if they enjoyed it, and when they respond affirmatively you tell them you’ve got a great movie to show them.

That’s the brilliance of Stealth Strike and Rebels as a whole.

I could do a more detailed plot breakdown of this episode, but the plot really is secondary in this episode. We see some new Imperial tech, we get a fun rescue adventure, but what’s important is this episode is a 22-minute textbook example of Rebels succeeding at one of its most important goals.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • Ezra really is a whole lot more tolerable and entertaining when he isn’t acting like he’s deserving of Sabine’s attention and affection. When he’s doing his job, he’s great.
  • I need a gif of Rex shaking his boo-tay trying to fit into stormtrooper armor.
  • How cool was that shot of the Interdictor collapsing on itself? Extremely cool.
  • Chopper: sadistic droid or most sadistic droid?

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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Rebels Review: Relics of the Old Republic

rebels logoI wasn’t a huge fan of the previous episode of Rebels, “The Lost Commanders.”  I’m not a huge fan of the clones or The Clone Wars series, although I like them well enough. It’s just I like Rebels so much more. However, I was very excited for Rebels to be back on the air (even if Hera got the short end of the stick in the episode).

In the last episode, the crew of the Ghost (minus Hera and Chopper) went on a mission to meet old colleagues of Ahsoka Tano. Kanan, to no surprise, wasn’t very keen on hanging out with old clones. Understandably, he’s got a lot of PTSD from surviving the Jedi Purge. The rest of the episode seemed a bit like filler to me, although it did allow the Spectres to bond a bit with Rex, Gregor, and Wollfe.

The second episode begins with Agent Kallus attacking the clones and the Spectres (see what I did there?). The plan is to take the clones’ crazy prototype AT-AT into a dust storm, therefore the much larger and more effective Imperial Walkers can’t sense them. Only problem is, the Rebels can’t use their sensors, either. It’s up to Kanan and Ezra to use the Force to save the day.

I liked this episode a lot more than the previous week’s, and it leads me to wonder if this two-part arc could have been condensed into one episode. I really enjoyed the chase in the dust storm; it was so slow and methodical and the Battle of Hoth music really made the sequence shine. And what can you say about the clones putting all their trust in Kanan, and Kanan grudgingly learning to trust Rex and his buddies? Honestly, their blind trust in Kanan was really sort of sad, for a variety of reasons — knowing the history of Order 66, and considering the idea of whether or not the clones are people or property. It’s all just a very sad, ambiguous, and disturbing situation. Especially when you consider that the clones will live much shorter lives than normal humans.

The episode ends with the Spectres saving the clones and bringing them back to the frigate. There, we have our money shot of the show, when Ahsoka reunites with Rex. It was a sweet moment, even though I’m not a huge Clone Wars fan, I have to admit. (Although it makes me wonder what Ahsoka would have done if Rex had refused to return with the Ghost.) What is next in store for the old clones? Only time will tell.

We also get a tease for next week’s episode, and the first appearance of the Fifth Brother. The new Inquisitor is very creepy, and I can’t wait to meet his partner, the Seventh Sister. I can’t wait for the Spectres to meet them, either.

Review – Star Wars Rebels: Servants of the Empire: The Secret Academy

I don’t want it to end. the secret academy

That’s the thought that kept running through my mind while finishing the last few chapters of The Secret Academy, Jason Fry’s awesome conclusion to the Servants of the Empire series. I’ve talked enough about how great the series is, and how Fry is absolutely incredible at portraying serious concepts like rebellion and totalitarianism for young readers without dumbing them down. After his stellar entries to the Journey to the Force Awakens line, I knew Fry wouldn’t disappoint with the finale to the series. But I still wasn’t happy to see Zare and Merei go.

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