Star Wars Rebels – “Empire Day” S1E8


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 – “Breaking Rank” S1E6


Enter the massive Stormtrooper training academy on Lothal.  This week’s episode of Rebels has our hero, Ezra, donning a bit of a different uniform – Stormtrooper cadet armor!  Initially this seems a bit surprising.  Why is Ezra training to be a Stormtrooper?  Has he betrayed his new family?  But, once we learn that Ezra is using an alias, Dev Morgan, it becomes a bit clearer that there is more to this situation.

While the opening sequence does a good job at drawing the viewer right in, I can’t help but stressfully wonder about the aftermath of the last episode.  How did The Inquisitor’s appearance impact the rebels?!  Up until the events of Order 66, the only lightsaber wielders in the galaxy were the Jedi.  In centuries worth of time there had only been four exceptions: Darth Maul, Count Dooku, Darth Vader and the Emperor himself.  So don’t you think Kanan, A JEDI, would be a little shocked in meeting this new dark and powerful being?  Especially since he got his butt kicked by this new baddy!  This is another repeat offense (first perpetrated by The Clone Wars animated series) that bothers the crap out of me.  Just a few seconds of dialogue or tie-in content between episodes would do galaxies worth of improvement for the series.

Fun sized Stormtroopers!
Fun sized Stormtroopers!

Not knowing exactly what Ezra’s M.O. is, we wait and witness what training is like for aspiring Stormtroopers.  Boy-oh-boy does it look tough and dangerous.  The cadet company is lowered into “the pit” and tasked with escaping.  The pit is essential a high-tech room, depressed deep into a hangar bay floor.  The walls shoot out moving and tiered floating platforms that are the only means of ascending back to the main hangar bay floor.  Oh – and the platforms are also electrified.  Maybe if the Empire trained their Stormtroopers as diligently in target practice as they did in climbing skills, the Death Star would stand a better chance down the road.

It's like a sick and twisted game of Space Frogger
It’s like a sick and twisted game of Space Frogger

After an exciting sequence where Ezra makes escaping The Pit look like a walk in the park, we get some insight into why Ezra is at this academy.  We also get to meet some of the other cadets that Ezra’s befriended in his time training.  One in particular, Jai Kell, looks EXACTLY like Justin Bieber.  I could not get over this all episode long; the Star Wars universe is no place for the Biebs.  Anyway… We learn that Ezra is on a covert mission to infiltrate the academy and obtain a decoder that will pinpoint the location of a valuable Imperial shipment.  More on that later.  After sneakily obtaining the decoder and just as Ezra is about to make his getaway, he’s caught in the act by a fellow cadet!  Surprising to all, the cadet, Zare Leonis, is more interested in helping Ezra than thwarting him.

Justin Bieber has a new calling - Stormtrooper training
Justin Bieber has a new calling – Stormtrooper training

Turns out Zare has his own grudge against the Empire, revolving around his sister’s disappearance from the very same academy he is now training at.  With aligned interests, Zare and Ezra team up and find a way to safely get the decoder to the other rebels.  The decoder reveals the location of the top secret shipment.  What’s the cargo?  Kaiburr crystals!!  For those not familiar with the Kaiburr crystal, it was originally introduced in the very first published Star Wars novel ever (titled Splinter of the Mind’s Eye)!!  The Kaiburr crystal is said to resonate strongly in and drastically increase the powers of those able to wield The Force.  This is a nice tie-in from expanded universe content to more modern events in Star Wars chronology.  Determined not to let yet another game-changing tool into the Empire’s grasp, Hera and Kanan speed away in The Ghost to take out the convoy.

Cover to Alan Dean Foster's novel, Splinter of the Mind's Eye, featuring the first appearance of the Kaiburr crystal
Cover to Alan Dean Foster’s novel, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, featuring the first appearance of the Kaiburr crystal

As Ezra works on his final escape plans with Zare and Star Wars Bieber, I began to ponder how the rebels are given/select their missions.  In the past few episodes each mission has been extremely high profile and brought with it significantly dangerous obstacles.  I hope the lack of this explanation is a subtle working of the creative team and not just a means to string together a series of one-off exciting episodes.  I feel it in The Force that the truth is in the latter statement.  Then again, I still can’t levitate and summon the remote control from across the room to my comfortable position on the couch…  I guess we’ll wait and see!

Ezra’s escape and the final raid on the Kaiburr crystal convoy play out in typical, awesome Star Wars tandem.  Ezra and his posse are able to pass the final Stormtrooper test which lands them a special training session aboard the AT-DP mechanical walker.  They quickly stun the operator and commandeer the tactical vehicle to make their escape.  Everyone escapes with the exception of Zare, who instead elects to stay behind so that he can dig in deeper to his sister’s disappearance.  Hera and Kanan also partake in an exciting dogfight among the stars that results in a brilliant explosion of Kaiburr crystal energy.

Kanan & Hera battle among the stars for Kaiburr crystals

The episode concludes with another appearance of The Inquisitor.  He’s come to the training academy on Lothal in hopes of locating the rebels that just narrowly escaped him on Stygeon Prime.  After identifying Dev Morgan as “The Padawan,” he confronts Zare to obtain more information about the rouge rebels.  Viewers are left on somewhat of a cliffhanger.  Not know exactly what The Inquisitor has in store for Zare leads me to believe this will be of significance later in the series.

Hush Comics gives “Breaking Ranks” a B for delivering another exciting escapade, but poorly addressing lingering questions from the previous episode.  I want more of The Inquisitor vs. the rebels and less of these sporadic and seemingly unrelated missions.  It’s time to start weaving things together!

The Inquisitor - hot on the rebels' tail
The Inquisitor – hot on the rebels’ tail

Star Wars Rebels – “Rise of the Masters of Old” S1E5


Last week’s episode of Rebels was a fairly disappointing experience.  In many ways it reminded me of The Clone Wars animated series (which I was not very fond of).  My expectations were tempered this week.  I’m happy to report that those expectations were blown to space dust!  Every single grievance I had last week was addressed in this episode; it’s almost like the producers read Hush’s “Fighter Flight” review and decided to shape up!  “Rise of the Old Masters” took Rebels to a new level.  Let’s dive into the details!

Yep!  That's Ezra upside-down on top of the FLYING Ghost!
Yep! That’s Ezra upside-down on top of the FLYING Ghost!

An aspect that has been continuously neglected thus far is Ezra’s Jedi training.  The opening sequence did a lot to squash that neglect.  We enter with Ezra practicing his Jedi skills as instructed by Kanan.  Ezra uses one hand to balance his upside-down body on top of The Ghost while it’s in flight!!!  The scene is mesmerizing and it’s impossible not to draw a connection to Luke’s training on Dagobah in Episode V.  There’s even a Yoda quote thrown into this scene!  I really bought into Kanan’s method and instruction.  The added distraction from Chopper and Zeb was comedic, but also relevant to Ezra’s training.  Altogether, it was the perfect way to start the episode.

After a little misstep in Ezra’s training, the crew takes a break to check the underground Holo-news to see what’s bubbling in the galaxy.  What they find is their next mission.  Luminara Unduli is alive and an Imperial prisoner!  Die-hard fans will draw an immediate connection with the Jedi Master of the Old Republic.  She was thought to have died in the events of Order 66.  After witnessing a brief holo-clip of Luminara being transported to an Imperial prison facility Kanan urges his team to help him orchestrate a rescue.  The team agrees and gets to work.

Luminara Unduli.  Jedi Master - Imperial Prisoner.
Luminara Unduli. Jedi Master – Imperial Prisoner.

The decision to rescue Luminara brings out a lot of enduring qualities of the rebels.  I won’t touch on them all, but overall, the decision alone speaks to why this band is destined for greatness.  Risking their lives to penetrate one of the most secure holding facilities of the Empire to rescue an ally, all on independent fruition and for no monetary gain, gives me faith that a strong and unified rebellion is possible under this team.

The next nod I’ll give to the Rebels creative team is their decision to place the Imperial prison on a different planet!  Lothal was getting really old.  Viewers got to experience a refreshing change of scenery.  But more than that, this new planet presented unique and unexpected challenges for the rebels.  Who knew that such a carefully planned rescue mission could be thrown askew by giant flying beasts looking for a little affection from The Ghost’s dropship?!  Hera does a superb job at not only overcoming this obstacle, but using it to her advantage at the best possible opportunity.  Visiting a new planet and giving Hera a meaningful role really amplified this episode’s greatness.

Hey baby... You come here often?
Hey baby… You come here often?

All this awesomeness and we still haven’t gotten to the best part!  Well, let’s not waste anymore time.  The Inquisitor finally makes his appearance!!  It took a premiere movie and three other episodes, but he’s finally here!  The Inquisitor’s introduction was probably the thing I was most excited for in this first season of Rebels.  Historically Star Wars has excelled in initial (key word here) crafting of their villains.  Vader, Palpatine, Maul, Boba Fett, Cad Bane, Mother Talzin, Count Dooku, Grand Moff Tarkin, General Grievous… I could go on, but I’ll spare the page.  My point is every Star Wars bad guy stepped onto the scene in a major way and each of them has some unique trait or quality that made our bones shake.  This usually doesn’t last because the franchise also has a strong history of bastardizing or otherwise ruining a villain and what we love most about them.  We won’t get into that right now – instead, let’s talk about why the Inquisitor holds true to that initial formula.  He is sinister.  He is clever.  He is powerful and dangerous.  He is BAD-ASS!

The Inquisitor vs. Kanan - Round 1
The Inquisitor vs. Kanan – Round 1

We come to find that the rescue mission is actually – queue Ackbar – A TRAP!  Let me be the first to say though – I didn’t see this one coming.  The trap part I could have guessed.  But the lure!!  Luminara was seen, actually seen, being transported by Imperial Stormtroopers to the prison complex.  So how is it that when our heroes arrive at her holding cell, all they find is her dried and withered remains along with The Inquisitor?!  Now, I’m pretty well versed in all things pertaining to The Force, but I’ve never seen a trick like the one The Inquisitor pulled off.  Kanan, a full-fledged Jedi Knight, SENSED Luminara’s presence, he SAW her.  What Kanan sensed and saw was actually something conjured and manipulated in The Force.  I don’t yet understand how this was possible, but the ultimate takeaway is that The Inquisitor’s understanding of The Force is impressive.

Oh, hey LuminarAHH!!
Oh, hey LuminarAHH!!

Reason number two why the Inquisitor is a badass: double-bladed, spinning lightsaber.  I vividly remember the goosebumps I had witnessing Darth Maul brandish a double-bladed lightsaber for the first time in Episode I.  I had the same goosebumps this week watching Rebels.  This weapon is sooo beautiful, all the way from hilt to blades.  The way The Inquisitor wields the weapon is stunning and terrifying.  I’m a sucker for new, futuristic weaponry regardless of how hokey they might be.  So let it go on record that I am completely enraptured with The Inquisitor’s choice of weapon and I can’t wait to see more of it.

This isn't your standard lightsaber  people.
This isn’t your standard lightsaber people.

The last thing I’ll say about The Inquisitor is that more than just being powerful in The Force and wielding the coolest weapon in the galaxy, his overall persona is on point for Star Wars villainy.  His sinister expression, the calm/confident demeanor and his regal attitude all serve to make him a believable and endearing character.  Having The Inquisitor on screen makes up for many of Rebel’s shortcomings thus far.

Hush Comics gives “Rise of the Old Masters” a resounding A for adding creative diversity, showcasing the most beloved aspects of the franchise and for finally giving us The Inquisitor!  The trajectory is upward at the end of the week.  Stay on course Weisman!

All Pictures belong to Disney.