Star Wars Rebels – “Empire Day” S1E8

Sabotage

Star Wars Rebels has reached a pivotal point.  All the basics have been covered.  Who are the rebels?  How do they work as a team?  What are their biggest strengths and weaknesses?  What challenges lie ahead?  We now know the answer to those questions.  So, now begins the true test for Rebels.  Where will Weisman and his team take this series from here?  It’s a defining time for Rebels.  This week’s episode, “Empire Day,” did a lot to give me confidence that the direction this show is headed is a good one.

The Empire may be evil, but they've got style!
The Empire may be evil, but they’ve got style! 

Before the beginning of the episode I thought to myself, “I wonder how Ezra’s Jedi training is progressing?”  Almost as if bending to my exact desires, the opening sequence brought us Kanan instructing Ezra in the ways of The Force.  This scene was well done.  Kanan is turning out to be an excellent mentor.  His insight to The Force is impressive and watching him use that insight in action is consistently cool.

As the training continues it’s obvious that Ezra is struggling and distracted.  We learn that this day in particular is “Empire Day.”  Empire Day is an Imperial celebratory occasion that marks the day the Imperial Empire was established throughout the galaxy.  It is the 15th Empire Day on record, meaning (finally) we have a bit of time-reference.  15 years have passed since Order 66 and the downfall of the Old Republic – a good amount of time has passed since Episode III!

Empire Day is a tough day for Ezra
Empire Day is a tough day for Ezra

What better day to rebel than Empire Day?!  Our heroes feel the same way.  They’ve picked up a new mission to sabotage a brand new type of TIE fighter to be presented at the Empire Day parade on Lothal.  This new line of TIE is similar to Darth Vader’s TIE Advanced X1 – it looks sweet!  It’s almost a shame that the rebels have to blow it to bits.  Watching Kanan and crew carry out their mission jogged my memory of the plot in the episode prior – who is giving the rebels their missions?  The name we got last episode was Fulcrum.  I held out all episode long hoping there would be some mention of what happened to him.  I’m very frustrated to say that I did not get my wish.  I’ve said it before and I’ll continue saying it until it’s fixed: The primary hurdle in making Rebels great (as opposed to just “good”) is continuity!!!  So far the continuity has been decent, though verging on mediocre.  So much is to be gained by simply stringing these episodes together in a clear and simple fashion.

The rebels have a new ally - Tseebo!
The rebels have a new ally – Tseebo!

In the midst of the rebel’s destructive scheming both Agent Kallus and The Inquisitor are on Lothal working an assignment.  Surprisingly enough, their mission has nothing to do with Ezra, Zeb or any of the rebels.  They’re looking for a Rodian named Tseebo.  What’s so important about a single Rodian that would warrant the attention of BOTH Kallus and The Inquisitor?!  More on that in a bit.

After successfully carrying out their mission the rebels search for a place to lay low.  Ezra offers to take them all to a location where they’ll be safe for a while.  We come to find that this place is Ezra’s old home.  We get major insight to Ezra’s past this episode.  He used to live here with both his parents who were outspoken anti-Imperialists.  “Used to” being the key words.  Ezra’s parents were abducted by the Empire for hosting a secret, rebel radio show on Lothal.  We also learn that Empire Day is Ezra’s birthday!  By way of chance (or perhaps The Force!!), on-the-run Tseebo has also chosen to hide in Ezra’s old home.  We learn that Tseebo was a good family friend of the Bridgers and that he has joined the intelligence branch of the Empire.  Only now he is on the run.  It’s unclear why he’s running, but that’s mostly because he’s a little unstable and incoherent due to the faulty cybernetic headpiece attached to his skull.  All this could be the lead into the defining event of Rebels.

Kanan defending his team from the persistent Agent Kallus
Kanan defending his team from the persistent Agent Kallus

With historic ties to Ezra and potential for obtaining valuable Imperial secrets, the rebels opt to help Tseebo escape off world.  An exciting chase takes place as Kallus, The Inquisitor and numerous Imperial troops team up to try and thwart the getaway.  I can’t get over how awesome The Inquisitor looks.  This week he dons a flight suit with a bad ass helmet and it took all I had to not drool all over the remote.

Darth Vader could pick up a few style tips from The Inquisitor!
Darth Vader could pick up a few style tips from The Inquisitor!

The extraction is just barely successful and the rebels shoot out into space.  But not before Tseebo encounters a brief moment of lucidity and realizes where he and who he is with.  He recognizes Ezra and excitedly exclaims that he knows what’s happened to his parents!  That’s where the episode ends – a true-blue cliffhanger!  What I like most about this is now Weisman is forced to deliver continuity.  Maybe this is a statement from the Rebels production team that they understand what this series needs and that they plan to deliver.  In any case the trajectory is positive.

“Empire Day” scores an A this week.  The entire episode felt deeply rooted in the themes of the original trilogy.  This was an episode that focused on a story and an upcoming journey.  It was accentuated with action and suspense and it left me wanting more.  We’re getting close to the home stretch for season 1 – fingers crossed for a worthy buildup and conclusion!

Star Wars Rebels – “Out of Darkness” S1E7

Wave of explosions

Coming into this week’s episode of Star Wars Rebels, I had low expectations.  Previews from last week showed a few of our rebel team “stuck” on a foreign planet and fending off attacks by local, dangerous creatures.  I was prepared for an action packed, but ultimately pointless episode.  Once again, Rebels pleasantly surprised me.  The episode was fairly action packed (as expected), but more importantly, the focus of the episode was centered on the greater plot – why are the rebels doing what they’re doing?  Who is handing out their missions?  How does the team feel about all this?  “Out of Darkness” addressed some of the bigger questions that have been hanging out there and it made for a great episode.

Hera's a good pilot... But could she hang with Han Solo?
Hera’s a good pilot… But could she hang with Han Solo? 

The episode wastes no time upping the octane level.  We enter to find Hera piloting The Ghost’s dropship, The Phantom, in a hair-raising escape from chasing Imperial TIE fighters.  Ezra and Sabine are nervously strapped in tight alongside Hera while she shows us her mad skills.  During the cat-and-mouse routine Hera confidently boasts, “There isn’t a pilot in the Imperial fleet that can outrun me!”  The first thing that hit me after Hera’s bragging was, “I wonder how she would fair against Han Solo?!”  For those of you who didn’t know, Han Solo used to be part of the Imperial military – initially trained as a TIE fighter pilot, but quickly promoted to Lieutenant due to his unmatched skills.  Hera blows the chasing TIEs to slag, but I wonder if the result would have been the same if Han Solo had been in one of those TIE cockpits.

At first glance this opening appears to be pointless action – we don’t even know why the rebels are being chased!  Everything becomes apparent when Sabine confronts Hera regarding the ever increasing danger that’s associated with their missions.  Sabine pushes Hera to tell her where their intel comes from and why they’re continually put in harm’s way.  Hera quickly shuts Sabine down and simply asks that Sabine trust her.  To know that all the rebels aren’t privy to key information adds much needed depth to this show.  It was also apparent that this would be a heavy Hera and Sabine episode, which is a good thing – it’s long overdue.

Today's forecast is sunny with a bit of asteroid-cover
Today’s forecast is sunny with a bit of asteroid-cover

Once all the rebels are reunited back on The Ghost they quickly prep for their next mission.  Sabine, not willing to continue blindly following orders, demands to know more about the mission.  Hera throws Sabine a bone and reveals that their information comes from a contact known as Fulcrum.  No one but Kanan and Hera have ever made contact with Fulcrum.  Sabine pressures Hera into arranging a meeting with the mysterious informant at the drop site of their next supply run.  Fulcrum, via encrypted radio communications, hesitantly agrees.

She's more than a pretty face with crazy-colored hair
She’s more than a pretty face with crazy-colored hair 

As the episode progresses we learn more about Sabine’s background and why she is so adamant to be in-the-loop.  Sabine is of Mandalorian descent, that much is known.  But if Boba Fett has taught us anything, it’s that Mandalorians rarely have allegiances beyond direct family and the highest bidder.  So what makes Sabine different?  As it turns out, Sabine, at one point was training to join the Imperial Army.  The Empire established a recruitment camp on Mandalore in an effort to add to its ranks; Sabine joined in.  After some questionable and uncomfortable assignments that left Sabine with a very bad taste in her mouth, she left her home to join the rebel band she’s with now.  We don’t get specifics, but it’s enough to really give some genuineness to Sabine.  This lady Mandalorian is sharp, deadly, sexy, and she’s not afraid to think for herself.  I really appreciated the internal strife she brought throughout the episode.  It really elevated the plot!

What can rip through steel and likes to eat rebels?... This guy!
What can rip through steel and likes to eat rebels?… This guy!

In The Phantom, Hera and Sabine touchdown on an isolated, asteroid-laden planet home to a deserted military base used during the clone wars.  This is where their supply drop and meeting with Fulcrum is to take place.  Thanks in full to Ezra, Zeb and Chopper’s horseplay, the damage suffered by The Phantom from the last mission was never fixed.  This resulted in all the fuel from The Phantom leaking out and stranding the two rebels – problem #1.  Shortly after realizing that they won’t be leaving anytime soon, Hera and Sabine make contact with some very unfriendly and creepy beasts – problem #2.  Unable to take refuge in The Phantom until help arrives – these vicious little monsters can rip through armored ship hull!! – the two lady rebels are forced to make a stand against wave after wave of the killer creatures.  Sabine formulates a solid strategy at keeping them alive just long enough for Kanan and The Ghost to come to the rescue.

Rebels to the rescue!
Rebels to the rescue!

The rebels make a safe getaway with the supplies, but it feels like we’re missing something… OH YEAH!  Where is Fulcrum?!?!  He was supposed to meet Hera and Sabine at the drop point, but never did.  Was he eaten?!  Did he bail at the onset of witnessing an army of the hungry critters?  Did he even intend to stay and wait?  All these are questions I had at the end of the episode and that’s a good thing!  I’m drawn in and I want to know more.  This is how it should be with a well formulated story.  The catch-22 here is that now expectations have been set.  If next episode rolls around and no thought or mention of Fulcrums status is provided, it will be a severe let down.

But as far as this week goes – “Out of Darkness” earns a B.  By concentrating on the overarching plot, dedicating screen time to lesser known rebels and keeping things exciting, viewers can enjoy this week’s episode of Star Wars Rebels.