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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!