“Do or do not, there is no try.”
It appears that “Star Wars Rebels” is finally listening to Master Yoda’s advice.
For the first time in the series, “Rebels” gives us an episode that seems effortless from beginning to end (“Spark of Rebellion” had bursts of that, but sputtered here and there.)
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What’s more impressive is that the show is shining more as it starts to tackle heavier material. Not only are we introduced to the series’ main antagonist, but the twist midway through the episode is the show’s darkest revelation yet.
I thought that the delay in showing Ezra’s Jedi training was the result of the writers’ lack of confidence in how to approach that storyline. But now it seems like a savvy move on their part. This episode reveals that maybe Kanan was putting off training the kid because he knew he wasn’t that great of a Jedi himself.
The episode opens with a gorgeous shot of Ezra learning the ways of the Force from Kanan on top of the Ghost … while it’s in mid-flight. The session doesn’t end well, with Ezra almost falling to his doom when he’s knocked off the ship, but the whole scene signals a subtle change in the series’ tone.
Rather than go for the straight slapstick in a scene like this (which they kinda do, thanks to Chopper’s presence), the whole scene is treated with seriousness, and Ezra’s and Kanan’s disappointment in each other is all the more palpable.
Winter is Coming
I’ve harped on Disney’s obsession with Jedi in the past, but here, the characters’ use of the Force is integrated well into the story. We get a display of Kanan’s wide range of powers, and they’re used to dramatic effect in a handful of scenes to help build the dynamic between Kanan and Ezra.
The development of their relationship is just one element from the episode that adds some balance to “Rebels” after it overdosed on silliness the past two outings.
What also helps is the introduction of the series’ main antagonist, the Inquisitor, an Imperial agent who hunts down surviving Jedi with a badass lightsaber. (I used to bemoan the prequels’ attempts to constantly upgrade the lightsaber fights by making the weapons more and more impractical, but the Inquisitor’s sword/boomerang/spinning wheel of death is pretty damn cool.)
He leads our heroes into a trap by tricking them into rescuing Luminara Unduli, a Jedi master who Kanan thinks would be a good teacher for Ezra in place of himself. But when they arrive, it turns out that Unduli has been dead for some time. It’s a gutsy move by the showrunners to kill off a well-known character who made an impact on “The Clone Wars” show, but it’s worth it to raise the show’s stakes and show that the Inquisitor is not someone to mess with.
That’s not to say that the rest of the crew is shortchanged. Zeb gets to deliver a few beatdowns and wisecracks, Sabine blows stuff up, and Hera has an amusing encounter with some animals during the mission that ends up coming in handy. (Only Chopper is left out of the proceedings, but honestly he’s not that missed.) It’s the show’s most efficient episode to date in terms of distributing time in the spotlight.
It seems that the show is starting to tap into the potential we glimpsed early on. Let’s hope it can keep up the momentum it’s built with this latest episode.