STAR WARS REBELS Opener Is Mostly Grand

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Episode 301 & 302 “Steps Into Shadow”
Written by Steven Melching and Matt Michnovetz
Directed by Bosco Ng and Mel Zwyer

In a two-part episode, the rebels get an opportunity to steal some ships, Kanan gets an opportunity to make a new friend, and Ezra has an opportunity to be in charge of a mission.

And a million voices suddenly cried out as a master strategist from the Extended Universe becomes canon…

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We begin at the Imperial prison facility on Maracca, where Ezra (Taylor Gray) and his team infiltrate to break out a prisoner. Zeb (Steve Blum), Sabine (Tiya Sircar), and Chopper zip in with the help of Ezra’s flashy new Jedi skills (probably came with the new haircut?) and discover that the gang is there to rescue Hondo (Jim Cummings), who has information about ships being scrapped at the Empire’s Reclam Station.

Hondo to his rescuers: “Purple guy, Mando girl… Ezra Bridger!” Hondo doesn’t really fuss with details, does he?

These ships, even though they’re old, would make useful additions to the Rebellion, so Commander Sato (Keone Young) promotes young Bridger to Lieutenant and puts him in charge of the reconnaissance mission to scout and see what’s what before they go in to steal the ships.

And of course it doesn’t go right, mainly because Ezra doesn’t think everything through, and because his new skills have made him a little cocky. There are only a few Y-wing bombers left at the scrap yard, so Ezra changes their mission from one of recon to recovery, making a lot of noise and causing a lot of damage — including the loss of the Phantom.

So Hera (Vanessa Marshall) and Kanan (Freddie Prinze, Jr.) have to swoop in with ships from the fleet to rescue the team at the last minute.

That’s the main plot. The secondary plot involves Kanan dealing with his blindness and the fact that Ezra has abandoned his mentor in favor of the Sith holocron. Despite Kanan’s warnings, Ezra has been using it to learn new skills, and it’s not without its cost, as we see several instances in the first two-thirds of this hour where Ezra moves too close to the dark side of the Force:

  • Taking over the mind of the scout walker pilot to turn on his fellow troops
  • Trying to justify his use of the holocron to Kanan with the “ends justify the means” argument
  • Wanting to destroy all of the witnesses who could put the Phantom in the space near Reclam Station
  • Pulling rank on Sabine when he orders the team to go ahead and steal the Y-wings
  • Casually destroying the power grid on the station with very little regard for how many people could die

Even when Rex (Dee Bradley Baker) joins Sabine in refusing Ezra’s wish to destroy the mining guild ships isn’t enough to shake him up. It’s only when Ezra’s arrogance gets him trapped on the station, that he realizes that he’s pushed too far.

An interesting exchange during the breakout has Hondo asking, “Is that Ezra Bridger?” and Sabine responding, “Most of the time.” Does this mean “most of the time” Ezra is a pretty skilled Jedi? Or does it mean “most of the time” he’s not quite the same Ezra Bridger? Only time will tell if that’s a throwaway line or if it will lead to a significant plot point.

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source: Twitter/@StarWars

Kanan, meantime, faces his inner turmoil as it awakens a new Force-sensitive being: the Bendu (Tom Baker).  “Jedi and Sith wield the Ashla and Bogan, the light and the dark. I’m the one in the middle.” The Bendu serves as a Yoda-esque teacher for Kanan to re-center and realize that just because he’s blind, it doesn’t mean he can’t see. His perception of his surroundings will come from his other senses, most strongly from his sense of the Force.

It remains to be seen just how much the Bendu will figure into the season, but how cool is it to have Tom Baker in the Star Wars universe? Just the idea of the Fourth Doctor advising a Jedi Knight in the use of his senses…  and that’s a nice sideways callback to Obi-Wan’s “Your eyes can deceive you. Don’t trust them.” from way back in the first training session with Luke. The Bendu helps Kanan realize that it’s his inner turmoil that attracts the giant spiders on the planet, so when Kanan is calm and centered, the spiders stay away. It’s this realization that allows Kanan to jump back into action to rescue his apprentice, leaving the holocron with the Bendu.

Now let’s get to the Coolness Factor Ten part of the episode: the introduction of Grand Admiral Thrawn (Lars Mikkelsen) into canon.

source: Star Wars Twitter
source: Twitter/@StarWars

Thrawn is brought in by Tarkin (Stephen Stanton) at the request of Governor Pryce (Mary Elizabeth Glynn), as she knows that Thrawn is a much better tactician than Admiral Konstantine (Dee Bradley Baker again). Pryce knows that Thrawn can see “the bigger picture” — perhaps referring to the fact that Thrawn studies art in order to understand his opponents?

Although I’m not sold on Mikkelsen’s voice for Thrawn, I am very pleased to see the character officially in the Star Wars universe now. And while some may have a concern that his appearance in Star Wars Rebels makes it less likely he shows up in live-action film, it’s also just as likely that one could actually lead to the other because they’re all officially connected now.

Those with sharp hearing will recognize Nika Futterman’s voice coming out of the Sith holocron — and it’s Ventriss’ voice. Not just the same actress, but she’s delivering the same voice as the “Presence”. Does this give us some connection between the holocron and Ventriss? Or is it just some way to bring Futterman into the Rebels cast?

In which case… where’s our buddy Tom Kane?

Also, did anyone else notice Ezra’s lightsaber is different?

Also also, did you catch the name-check for General Dodonna as Hera mentioned where the Y-wings would be useful?

It remains to be seen if there will be any connection between this season of Star Wars Rebels and the upcoming Rogue One, but we’re now just two years apart in the story. So it would be odd if they don’t have some kind of connection, even if it’s just a few minor bits that we don’t recognize until after the movie comes out.

 

Star Wars Rebels airs Saturday nights at 8:30/7:30c on Disney XD.

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Jason P. Hunt

Jason P. Hunt (founder/EIC) is the author of the sci-fi novella "The Hero At the End Of His Rope". His short film "Species Felis Dominarus" was a finalist in the Sci Fi Channel's 2007 Exposure competition.

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