It’s not really fair to compare Star Wars Rebels to The Clone Wars. After all, the former is only in its second season, and it’s clearly making due with a reduced animation budget under Disney, while Clone Wars had the pockets of George Lucas to fund many of its episodes.
But weighing both shows’ merits against each other is tough to avoid when Rebels keeps inviting comparisons. This week’s episode, “Brothers of the Broken Horn,” brings back Hondo Ohnaka, the smooth-talking space pirate who was a fan favorite of the Cartoon Network series and provides a much-needed boost of energy early in the season. But his captivating presence is a double-sided lightsaber, as it only highlights how dull the rest of the episode is.
We start with Ezra igniting another feud between Kanan, who wants him to focus on his Jedi training, and Rex, who’s pushing him to be a soldier. Ezra can’t help but complain that he’s being pulled in too many directions, so he decides to embark on a mission of his own when Chopper receives a distress call from Vizago, the dealer the rebels interacted with in Season 1.
Ezra and Chopper find that Vizago’s ship is now under the command of Hondo, who claims he won it from the dealer in a bet. Ezra conceals his identity by saying he’s Lando Calrissian, but nevertheless Hondo takes to the young Jedi immediately and brings him along on a shipment delivery to Azmorigan, another shady character the rebels are familiar with.
If it weren’t for Hondo (and the excellent voice work of Jim Cummings), this episode would be a snoozefest, but the space pirate always has a snide remark or a devious look on his face that keeps Ezra, and the viewer, guessing throughout the episode. As it turns out, Hondo was lying and he actually imprisoned Vizago on Vizago’s own ship, prompting Ezra to free him in exchange for taking the ship’s cargo.
But despite the shifty characters and double-crossings, “Brothers of the Broken Horn” never builds any momentum of its own, even during a shootout between Hondo, Ezra and Azmorigan in a docking bay. And Ezra’s central conflict in the episode is never really resolved because it’s never really fleshed out. The episode tries to establish connections between Ezra and Hondo, but while it’s interesting to see their relationship develop, they really aren’t that similar, which clashes with the episode’s themes.
It’s just disappointing to see Rebels still leaning on established characters from The Clone Wars rather than building its own mythology. After an intense outing last week that introduced brand-new, potentially iconic additions to the Star Wars rogues gallery, the show returns two characters from Season 1, Azmorigan and Vizago, who aren’t nearly as interesting. Probably because they weren’t in The Clone Wars.