Ben: Two major things happened “between” this episode and the last episode: Hera apparently got a promotion after basically cussing out Mon Mothma and the other Rebel leaders, and a squad of X-wings came out of nowhere. I understand the need for narrative velocity in a show that only lasts twenty-two minutes and has a cut-down episode count for its last season, but c’mon. It’s been almost a year since we learned that Hera was even getting a promotion, and now that the show has reached that point it happens off-screen?
It’s pretty obvious at this point, and should have been obvious before, that they’ve had to trim a few corners narratively to get to the finale at the end of this season. Again, this is a trimmed-down season as it is, and they’ve already crammed a lot in. But some of the corners that they’ve cut are the wrong ones, in my opinion.
On the other hand, this episode gave Thrawn a pretty solid victory, which I think has gotten lost in a lot of the discussion about it. He successfully predicts not only the attack, but that the Rebels would be tenacious enough to pierce the blockade despite everything, so he kept most of his fighters in reserve and then slaughtered the Rebels when they thought they had already been through the worst. He even had Rukh capture multiple downed pilots, including Hera herself. That visual of seeing all of the X- and Y-wings raining down on the city was really, really nice. » Read more..
Call it a reference, call it stealing, or lazy, or being “inspired by”, one fact cannot be denied: Star Wars loves its homages. From whole plots, to character archetypes, to vehicle designs and dialogue, you can see the collage of homages built into Star Wars’ DNA right from the first frames of the first movie. As time has gone on, those homages have expanded to include Star Wars material itself. The breadth of Star Wars material is so vast, that it can successfully draw from other places within the multimedia empire to lend inspiration, or just pirate ideas wholesale. So, in lieu of doing a deep dive into Kanan and Hera’s ever-evolving relationship or how the Loth-wolves represent the same mystical elements of the Force that the Bendu did last season, we’re going to talk about something everyone loves to debate: whether the homages within these last two episodes are valuable, or just creative ripoffs used to get old-school fans to sit up and take notice.
Star Wars Rebels is an odd show from a creative standpoint. The creative team is made up of people who grew up watching and reading about Star Wars rather than creating it themselves, so of course they try to slip in references both direct and indirect to stories and characters that they grew up with but, until now, haven’t been elevated to the same level as the film canon. We see this most blatantly with Thrawn’s inclusion, but once Thrawn is in the mix it’s only a matter of time before other elements of his trilogy begin to creep their way into the show as well. Ladies and gentlemen, from stage left and voiced by the fan-favorite Warwick Davis, please welcome Rukh to the spotlight.
Now, let’s make one thing clear from the outset: the Rukh from Rebels is not the same as the Rukh from the Thrawn trilogy of books. For one thing, the Noghri are a very different race in the show than they are on paper. Gone, for instance, is their comic book-level ability to smell all the way back through people’s bloodlines just by sniffing their hand, replaced with a heightened sense that is believable but still alien. Rukh from the books was a personal bodyguard of the Grand Admiral who never left his side, while this Rukh (from what we’ve seen so far) is more of a freelance assassin and tracker, the sort of troubleshooter that someone in Thrawn’s position might use to do the dirty work he can’t put on the books. » Read more..
The common parlance (taken, of course, from a line the first film and applied liberally by fans) for the period between the fall of the Republic in Revenge of the Sith and the rise of the Rebellion in A New Hope is “the dark times”. This is when the Empire is at its zenith, with the Jedi long dead and any other opposing forces deep underground to avoid being summarily crushed. For many, especially when Star Wars Rebels was first announced, having a kid-friendly show about the adventures of a precocious teenager set in a time that should be the hallmark of an oppressive authoritarian regime was a perfect example of the “Disney-fication” of Star Wars as a whole. A show like Rebels, with such a light, comedic tone, would never be able to properly show the extent of the Empire’s oppression.
How easy it is to forget that when the Rebels media blitz was getting revved up and the series itself was finding its sea legs, we got a glimpse of the future, of how the show would handle that very subject. Various supplemental sources, like the Servants of the Empire series, hinted that the Empire was going to start to strip-mine Lothal for its natural resources, turning it from its idyllic pastures and rolling hills into yet another cog in the Imperial war machine. As Rebels itself left Lothal in the second season, we lost sight of that vision a bit. On periodic return visits, everything seemed relatively fine aside from the gradually increased Imperial presence, though sources outside of the show like the Thrawn novel touched back on the planet’s mining riches as general background.
Now, though, after the time-skip between the second and third seasons of the show, we’ve finally returned to Lothal proper in “The Occupation”. We go back to familiar locales first glimpsed all the way back in the show’s pilot shorts, now seeing the wind-swept McQuarrie-inspired grassland covered in heavy industrial smoke and dust. We hear that the friendly Ithorian bartender Old Jho, an early ally featured across multiple episodes of the show and even some of the books, was evicted from his establishment and summarily executed by the Empire for treason. The once-friendly locals don’t even dare brave the streets after dark anymore, with all motorized transports impounded and Imperial patrols everywhere. Lothal may have been under Imperial rule before, but now it is under true Imperial occupation, with all efforts being taken to stamp out any further potential rebellion. » Read more..
Jay: This two-part episode really did a great job highlighting the Mothma-Saw conflict and presenting their opposing viewpoints in the clearest way, while simultaneously developing Saw in a way that didn’t make him look like a two-dimensional cartoon character (lol). But this episode’s strengths highlighted the weakness of its handling of Kallus, who has somehow transformed himself. I don’t mean the Hot Kallus thing, that’s mostly funny (and people are allowed to be fans of characters even if they aren’t the purest). What I mean is that Kallus, formerly Fulcrum, formerly ISB Agent Kallus, is now important enough to the Rebellion that he’s present in councils with Mon Mothma and General Dodonna. He, a former genocidal Imperial agent, gets treated better than a fellow Rebel, Saw. He also gets more trust than Jyn, a person who’s been anti-Imperial her whole life, and more trust than Bodhi Rook, another defector who is in fact distrusted by the Rebel high council.
This is problematic, not least from an optics point of view. Saw, Bodhi, and Jyn are mistrusted (POCs and a woman) while Kallus (white male) is implicitly believed. This disparity is a bad look, even though it is obviously not the intent of the writers (indeed, it’s easy to justify the contrast between Bodhi’s treatment and Kallus’s–Kallus’s Fulcrum stint has earned him credibility, and Bodhi is an unknown quantity). But it doesn’t look good, and I think people are noticing the troubling optics there. But leaving that potentially controversial point aside, it’s hard to see why Saw’s extremism makes the Rebel leadership so uncomfortable with him when they’re apparently fine with Kallus.
It’s possible there will be story repercussions for Kallus, and a treatment of his war crimes just hasn’t shown up in the show yet. That’ll satisfy the need for it to be addressed, but it makes me ask — why put it off until later? Kallus was, more than any other character, the main antagonist for the Ghost crew. His defection is a big deal, and the consequences of it and his addition to trusted Rebel staff deserve to be addressed before we suddenly see him as one of the good guys. I have enough faith in the writing team to believe that it will be addressed, but the fact that it hasn’t been addressed yet bothers me. » Read more..
Full disclosure: I had part of the idea for this article in mind after having seen the first of this duology at Star Wars Celebration Orlando in the spring. My expectations for the second episode, then, were a bit colored by having to wait six months for the next bit of the story to finally be revealed. A cruel, cruel man is Dave Filoni, giving Celebration attendees the first of a two-parter as a special sneak preview and leaving us with one of the cruelest cliffhangers in any Star Wars media that I have personally consumed.
There will, of course, be many, many spoilers for both episodes of the “Heroes of Mandalore” two-parter coming up ahead. Only proceed if you’ve already watched the episodes for yourself, it’s well worth the events hitting you fresh.
Star Wars Rebels has always been a very serialized show, with heavy continuity and character development from episode to episode and season to season drawing the viewer ever deeper into the stories of the main cast. This duology serves as a climax, of sorts, for Sabine’s story. While she’s guaranteed to return throughout the remaining season as a member of the ensemble, this is the climax of the arc that’s been building since the show’s first season, when we first glimpsed this extremely talented, yet highly unorthodox, Mandalorian girl. » Read more..