Rebels Review: 3.04 – Hera’s Heroes

rebels logoIt’s no coincidence that the episode that stars Hera and gives Thrawn his first real spotlight is my favorite of the season so far.

Hera’s Heroes brings the crew of the Ghost back to Imperial-occupied Ryloth. They’re able to help Cham out of a tight corner but Hera is dismayed to learn that a priceless family heirloom has been left behind when the Empire took over the Tann province. When she decides to undertake a personal mission to retrieve it, everyone offers to help. It’d be a challenging yet easy mission if any other commander but Grand Admiral Thrawn was there and that’s where the trouble begins.

For months now, we’ve been hearing Timothy Zahn say that he feels really good about how the Rebels is using Thrawn. Some naysayers have protested that he’s just saying that because Disney’s making him et cetera et cetera. After this episode? There is no doubt in my mind that this is the Grand Admiral Thrawn on the screen. Everything about his encounter with Hera as he systematically deduced her identity (and Ezra’s) was note perfect and I literally had chills running down my spine on multiple occasions. This is absolutely the Thrawn from the books that we know and love from his excellent manners to his interest in art to his ability to be downright terrifying if you cross him.

This was also a great spotlight episode for Hera. Often, our dear Captain Syndulla has to take a backseat to the rest of her crew. Every time we learn more tidbits about her past, the more intrigued I am. There’s something fascinating about how Hera grew up as both the daughter of a prominent local hero and as someone who was forged by war. She’s so dedicated to the Rebellion that she clearly feels guilty about involving her crew with a personal mission even though she’s helped each of them many times in the past. Add that to how easily she can slip in and out of the Ryloth accent as the mission requires it and, well, it’s getting harder and harder for people to just define her as ‘Space Mom.’  It also certainly says something that Cham’s so easily willing to trade himself for Hera not just because she’s his daughter but also because he knows the Ryloth Rebellion would be in very capable hands.

Kevin Kiner’s work continues to be incredible and we do not deserve him. Every time I think his score can’t possibly get better, he surprises us. Thrawn’s theme is sinister yet not overtly so. The use of the percussion is just fantastic. Rebels is damn lucky to have him.

A few assorted side notes:

  • Even Chopper has a tragic backstory! His moment with the Y-Wing was sad and almost (dare I say it) adorable.
  • Any day that Chopper gets to blow things up is a good day.
  • I’m digging Sabine’s new look more and more with each episode.
  • The real tragedy of the episode is that Ezra doesn’t even get to keep the Scout trooper helmet.
  • Thrawn pronounces Hera’s name slightly differently than we usually hear. I’m wondering if that’s just his accent or a subtle callback to how twi’lek names were pronounced in Legends.

Overall, Hera’s Heroes is a fantastic episode written by new writer Nicole Dubuc. Not content with just putting Thrawn on the screen, Rebels is definitely bringing their A-game this season and I am happily along for the ride.

Rebels Review: Holocrons of Fate

rebels logoLast week Rebels came back with a vengeance, aka the canon reintroduction of Grand Admiral Thrawn. This week the threat took on a decidedly more dark side tone in the form of Maul. Last time we saw him, he was escaping Malachor. Now he’s back and on the hunt for Kanan and Ezra, but mostly the Sith holocron. He takes the Ghost crew captive in order to persuade Kanan and Ezra to give him not just the Sith holocron, but Kanan’s Jedi holocron as well. Apparently, combining the two will provide seeeekrits. After a “fun” quest in which Kanan and Ezra have to learn to work together again in order to reclaim the Sith holocron from Bendu, they rendezvous with Maul, combine the holocrons, and all hell breaks loose.

Let’s talk about those secrets, shall we? This episode gives us Bendu’s awesome line from the Season 3 trailer: “Once a secret is known, it cannot be unknown.” In this case, both Maul and Ezra want the Sith holocron because they want to learn the key to destroying the Sith, but for very different reasons. Maul wants revenge. Ezra wants to protect his found family. (He seems to be making a turn away from the dark side already, which I’m kind of disappointed about. I hope we see more of him using the holocron.) They both see different things: Ezra sees planets, and then exclaims “twin suns”; Maul escapes the base muttering over and over, “he lives!”

I didn’t think I’d have many feelings about this episode. I wasn’t a big fan of the way The Clone Wars treated Force mysticism, although I’m glad to say I like Rebels’ take a lot more. The character of Bendu, delightfully voiced by Tom Baker, made what could have been an eye-rolling episode a lot more palatable. I like when the Force is a mystery, a riddle, a puzzle, and it definitely is that way with Bendu around. I also liked that this episode continued to explore the repercussions of what happened on Malachor, both with simple things like Ezra explaining to Kanan what he’s seeing and more complicated matters like the two of them learning to work together again. Not only that, but Maul is free and continuing his mission to wreak havoc in the galaxy.

But the real meat of the episode comes at the end, in which a shrug-worthy story (for me) becomes Super Important. Ezra sees twin suns, but doesn’t understand what it means. We all know, of course: the key to destroying the Sith is safely hidden on Tatooine in the form of Luke Skywalker. It seems like Maul’s vision was a lot more specific, because his exclamation of “he lives” can really only refer to one person: his old nemesis, Obi-Wan Kenobi.

I admit, I’m excited for the implications. While I never read “Old Wounds,” I love the idea of that story. And if they had to bring back Maul (grumble mutter forever about how I like his story arc in TCW and Rebels, I just wish Lucas hadn’t CUT HIM IN HALF specifically so he couldn’t come back in the future, but then he changed his mind and we still don’t know how Maul survived a bisection, but I digress), the least they could do is give us one final Obi-Wan and Maul showdown on Tatooine.

Of course, there is one other option. Maul wants to destroy the Sith. The holocron showed him Obi-Wan, who has defeated a Sith in combat. Instead of wanting revenge on Obi-Wan, what if Maul goes to him with a proposal: help me destroy Vader and the Emperor, and I won’t kill you.

Obi-Wan, of course, is not stupid. Unlike Ezra, he wouldn’t take Maul’s word at face value. He knows Maul cannot be trusted. Once Obi-Wan refuses Maul’s offer, knowing he has to stay on Tatooine to protect Luke, then Maul’s vengeance would take over and we might see a that final showdown.

Or I could be wrong about all this and Rebels takes the straightforward revenge route from the beginning. Or perhaps we won’t see this story in Rebels at all because this show is about the Ghost crew.  Could we get a Maul/Obi-Wan rematch in a book? Or, dare we hope…a standalone movie? When it comes down to it, the only way I’ll forgive Robo-Maul is if that arcs ends with a rematch.

Whatever happens, Rebels continues to deliver solid storytelling. I just hope this particular ball isn’t dropped.

Why Thrawn Needs to be in Rebels

thrawnIf you ask people who the most well-known Legends character is, you’ll probably get one of a few common answers: Mara Jade, Revan, Starkiller, Jacen or Jaina Solo. Probably the most well-known antagonist (if not the best antagonist) from the Legends universe is Grand Admiral Thrawn, aka Mitth’raw’nuruodo, created by Timothy Zahn for the first post-Return of the Jedi novel Heir to the Empire. Thrawn did not survive his eponymous trilogy, but his legacy lived on in other novels and games. Perhaps it’s because he was one of the first breakout Legends characters, perhaps it’s because he wasn’t a Force user, perhaps it’s because of his similarities to Sherlock Holmes — whatever the reason, Thrawn struck a chord with many readers. Even though he’s now a “Legend,” the Thrawn trilogy is still considered some of the best in the Expanded Universe. And many people have asked to see him make the jump to the new canon.

Spoilers for Aftermath: Life Debt under the cut.

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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: Shroud of Darkness

rebels logo“Shroud of Darkness” starts right in the middle of the action, with Kanan and Ezra fighting the Inquisitors. They took the Phantom to find a new base, and somehow the Seventh Sister and the Fifth Brother managed to track them. They’ve been tracking them for a while, actually, and Kanan decides it’s time to ask the Force for guidance. Thus Kanan, Ezra, and Ahsoka head off to the Jedi Temple on Lothal.

It’s no secret I don’t usually care for Force-centric episodes, which is ironic considering my favorite scenes in the Original Trilogy involve Luke’s Jedi training and confrontation with Palpatine. The “luminous beings” speech from The Empire Strikes Back is my favorite in the entire saga. At some point, I feel like The Clone Wars and Rebels went overboard with Force mysticism, to the point where it’s just too weird for me. Your mileage may vary, of course, but I prefer to interpret events like Mortis as happening in the Force, not in real life (or ignore them completely).

This is a long way of saying I probably shouldn’t have liked this episode, but I did! I liked it a lot, actually, mostly because of Kanan and Ahsoka’s plot lines. I love Kanan having to deal with the implications of training Ezra, and that he might fail in doing so. I love him facing the Temple Guard and realizing the answer is not to fight. His insight is very similar to Luke’s in Return of the Jedi (and makes me really excited to see Episode VIII and why exactly Luke decided to leave the galaxy). Kanan being a full Jedi Knight has a ton of implications and I’m really excited to see how this affects the show going forward. The revelation that the Grand Inquisitor was once a Temple Guard was a bit predictable, given what we’d heard in behind the scenes interviews, but made me wonder if that’s how the Emperor got all of the Inquisitors.

I also loved Ahsoka dealing with her suspicion that the Sith Lord they faced is actually Anakin Skywalker. Hearing Matt Lanter’s voice again was awesome, not to mention a knife to the heart. Ezra seeing Yoda was a nice touch, but I’m much more interested in Kanan and Ahsoka. Sorry, I know people love Ezra, but he’s just not my favorite. The idea that Ezra might go dark, however, intrigues me a lot. I can’t lie.

The Inquisitors track our heroes to the temple, but the Force helps them escape. Vader arrives at the temple too late to catch them, but he has some insights of his own. Insights that will most certainly spell certain doom for some of the Jedi. (It should spell doom for all of them, but that’s another blog post.)

We’re nearing the end of Season 2, and this episode made me really excited to see how things wrap up. I also can’t wait to see Ahsoka confront Vader again, because I’m masochistic like that. Overall, “Shroud of Darkness” was a great episode, with little to complain about. I just hope we get more with the other characters throughout the rest of the season as well!

Rebels Review: The Call

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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: Legends of the Lasat

This week on Star Wars Rebels, we finally got some backstory about our favorite grouchy muscle guy on the Ghost, Garazeb Orrelios. We also got a return of fan-favorite scoundrel with indeterminate loyalties, Hondo Ohnaka!

“Legends of the Lasat” features the crew’s mission to rescue two refugees, who turn out to be Lasat, aka Zeb’s species. Only thing is, Zeb thought he was the last of his species. So why isn’t he overjoyed to see more of his people still alive?

Turns out the two Lasats are kind of wacky, and you can’t fault Zeb for thinking they’re kind of crazy. They want Zeb’s help finding their new homeworld. Zeb hesitates at first; then the other Lasats defer to him as part of the honor guard, and refer to him as captain. That made me sit back and go, “aw, Zeb, you’re important!” I really need to know more about his history.

In the end Zeb uses his apparently magical bowrifle to send the Ghost into a sea of black holes to find the new home of the Lasat. Yes, you read that correctly: a sea of black holes. This is definitely one of those stories that puts Star Wars firmly in the “space fantasy” genre.

There’s a lot of mysticism in this episode, which can sometimes (*cough* Mortis *cough*) make me roll my eyes, but here it didn’t bother me. I like the idea of people other than the Jedi and Force users being spiritual and respecting the Force. To go along with the mysticism, the Rebels team really overdid itself with the episode’s visuals. The scene of the Ghost approaching the cluster of black holes was absolutely gorgeous (and I’m not the only person who thought of the Maw at first glance, right?). I’ll never grow tired of seeing crazy hyperspace shots, whether it be in Rebels or in The Force Awakens.  And the music…wow, the music was just incredible. Why is that not in my earholes yet?

We got a lot of nice character moments with Zeb in this episode, seeing him as a reluctant hero and then accepting his destiny to help his people find a new home. Turns out that there are already Lasats living on the planet when they arrive, which makes it easier for Zeb to return to the Ghost. He’s already found his new home with Kanan and crew, but he’s more than willing to help other Lasats they may come across find their way to the new homeworld. After all, they have the hyperspace coordinates now and don’t have to black hole diving again! (This also makes me hopeful that, maybe, perhaps Zeb can survive the Galactic Civil War and live in peace afterwards?)

I’m definitely looking forward to seeing more Zeb episodes in the future. He’s a funny character, but with a lot of depth, and Steve Blum plays him wonderfully. I’m also dying to know what happens to Hondo! Last we saw him, he was with the Imperials, having sold out the Ghost crew. Does he get away? Do they kill him? They can’t kill Hondo, despite his questionable loyalties! Inquiring minds need to know what happens, Dave Filoni!

“Legends of the Lasat” was a solid episode, and I hope this trend of character-focused episodes continues into the second half of Season 2.

If you haven’t already, check out Rebels Recon for the best Pablo Hidalgo question yet.

 

There is Peace: Anakin, Ezra and Emotional Support

Yoda: Inside you much anger, much fear.

Ezra: I just want to protect myself and my friends.

Yoda: And this is why you must be Jedi?

Ezra: Yes, and not just them. Everyone. I’ll protect everyone. Before I met Kanan, I only ever thought of myself, but Kanan and the rest, they don’t think like that. They help people, they give everything away, and I see it. I see how it makes people feel.

Yoda: Feel, yes. How?

Ezra: Alive. They feel alive, like I do now.

Rebels S01E09, Path of the Jedi

Anakin at nine: The golden child of the twin suns, given the choice to leave his hard but love-filled slave life behind to become a champion of the galaxy. He is warm, talented, and compassionate, but fear and anger already have firm footholds in his heart.

Ezra at fourteen: A street rat who will help others subjugated by the Empire, as long as it suits him. Trust doesn’t come easy after years of being alone and he is afraid, though he’ll never admit it. Still, there is goodness deep inside him, and Hera and Kanan encourage the light inside him.

Both of these young boys are taken in by a new family at the start of their respective stories, the promise of becoming a Jedi dangled before them. We know where Anakin’s journey takes him—his fall, his redemption at the end—but we don’t know where Ezra’s heading yet. His future is totally open.

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Source: Lucasfilm.

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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.

Rebels Review: The Future of the Force

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Rebels season 2 has really been hitting its stride these past few weeks, and The Future of the Force was just the latest of a line of great episodes.

From baby Ithorians, to speeder chases, to Ahsoka kicking butt in a way that is so like the young padawan we once knew, this episode has a lot going for it. Despite the lack of Hera and Sabine, there’s plenty of Ahsoka and a good amount of the Seventh Sister, too.

In this episode Ahsoka informs Kanan that she’s been monitoring transmissions from Mustafar to try and learn more about the Sith Lord, and has learned the Inquisitors have a mission beyond hunting Jedi which involves retrievals, though of what she’s not sure. She has two decoded sets of coordinates, and while she heads to one she tasks Kanan, Ezra and Zeb to check out the second on the planet Takobo.

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Literally the best trivia to ever come out of Star Wars. Source.

It doesn’t take long for Ahsoka to learn what the Inquisitors are doing: stealing Force-sensitive babies, similarly to how Palpatine tried before in the The Clone Wars episode, Children of the Force. On Takobo, Zeb finds the first kidnapped baby with the Inquisitors’ ships while Kanan and Ezra find a distressed Ithorian, Oora, who sent her child, Pypey, away before the Inquisitors arrived.

The rebels find the child, but are almost completely defeated by the Inquisitors before Ahsoka arrives, emerging from white light like some kind of guardian angel. Where the Seventh Sister easily disarms Kanan, the Inquisitors hardly seem a threat to Ahsoka. She is an extremely capable fighter, with a great command of the Force, and it’s great to see her in some real action in this episode. Her little Obi-Wan moment made my heart skip a beat though. Don’t scare me like that, Rebels!

Ending with everyone safe and sound on an at first hopeful note, the episode takes an ominous turn when the Inquisitors learn that the Ghost crew are hiding out on Garel, thanks to one of the Seventh Sister’s probe droids overhearing Ezra. The music during this scene is on point, but then the entire episode has a pretty great score, especially during Ahsoka’s entrance and fight with the Inquisitors. 

While quite an intense episode with hints at darker things to come, there are still lighthearted moments in typical Star Wars style. Zeb and Chopper, as always, are a great comedy duo, and the brotherly relationship between Ezra and Zeb is always sweet, if not frustrating when they argue.

Despite Ezra still being his typical, somewhat immature self, it’s nice to see the kid grow throughout this season (and the last). Even though he has trouble at first, he manages to calm Pypey in the midst of very real danger using the Force, showing his ability to find calm in even the most desperate situations and his use of the Force growing stronger. He’s even willing to take on both of the Inquisitors alone to try and save the child, though he obviously doesn’t stand a chance.

I like seeing his interactions with Ahsoka, though they are brief. The little details in the way characters interact within Rebels, such as Ahsoka’s wink at Ezra, deepen relationships in a nuanced way. Ahsoka likely sees a lot of her younger self in Ezra—headstrong, brave, but so determined to become a Jedi—and seeing her playful side come through with him is very sweet.

Chopper is still absolutely a terrible droid, suggesting they blow up the Inquisitors’ ships with the baby, Alora, still inside. But literally nobody is surprised by Chop’s lack of empathy or casual disregard for human life anymore.

The most interesting part of the episode for me was when the Seventh Sister asks Ahsoka, “Well, who doesn’t want to be a mother?” While this could be a throwaway line, I do wonder if there’s something more to the Inquisitor hierarchy, already with titles like Brother and Sister. Perhaps they have some kind of dark family, related not by blood but by ambition and brainwashing.

All in all, a great episode with a lot of action and maybe a little too much of crying babies, though one thing I did find weird was Alora’s grandmother, Darja, looking relatively young. I was somewhat surprised when the Seventh Sister called her “old one,” and it wasn’t until Darja stated Alora was her granddaughter that I realised she was meant to be older. Guess that anti-aging cream really does work in a galaxy far, far away.