Rebels faced another big test this week in delivering the second half of its very first two part episode. For me, this episode would make or break the rest of the season. Well fan boys & girls let me say… Star Wars Rebels has unequivocally been “made.” I loved, loved, loved “Gathering Forces!!” I’ll tell you all the reasons why.
We picked up right where we left off. The rebels are running from Imperial forces in The Ghost, attempting to get their new ally and Imperial defector, Tseebo, to safety. I have to give it up the Imperials this time. Not only did they send way more than the standard FOUR TIE fighters after their quarry, they dropped two Star Destroyers on the fleeing heroes. A-plus effort troopers! Lucky for Hera, Tseebo’s more than just baggage; he helps the rebels make a narrow getaway.
In the midst of the commotion we get more background on Tseebo’s relationship with Ezra. After Ezra’s parents were abducted, he was left in the care of Tseebo who (apparently) abandoned him and did nothing to try and save his parents. Ezra is convinced that his parents are dead. This aspect is left lingering at the end of the episode, which is a guarantee that this will come up again in a big way.
Speeding through hyperspace, Kanan senses a disturbance in The Force – he doesn’t feel like they’ve made a clean escape. Tseebo confirms as much and shares the specs of a new tracking device developed by the Empire. It can actively track a ship through hyperspace – so cool!!! And yes, you guessed it, the rebels have been hit with one all thanks to The Inquisitor. Kanan devises a plan to draw the pursuing Inquisitor and Imperials away with Ezra, so that the others can get Tseebo into safe hands. I really applaud the use of sweet sci-fi tech here. It’s not forced and it weaves very seamlessly into the story. It kept me engaged and anxious.
Kana and Ezra take the tracking device and use The Ghost’s dropship, The Phantom, to peel off from the main ship in mid hyperspace flight. The following scene of The Phantom perilously and uncontrollably exiting hyperspace was sweeeeet!!! I’m a little confused about how a faster-than-light object naturally decelerates in the presence of a frictionless vacuum, but then again, I don’t really understand faster-than-light travel in the first place, so I’ll let this slide. Kanan and Ezra are headed back to the abandoned asteroid base that we first witnessed in episode 7. I’ll lay on more applause for Weisman and his team for tying past episodes together in a meaningful way. It’s apparent that the Rebels creative team is (and has been) deliberate and strategic with the happenings of prior episodes. Practically ALL my grievances with continuity and random events of this season were addressed this episode; even the situation with Fulcrum!
More than just creating a diversion for the main mission, Kanan intends to use his time on the planet to teach Ezra more about The Force. Instead of avoiding the “shadow-beasts” that nearly killed Hera and Sabine, Kanan wants Ezra to connect with these creatures. A touching and masterfully delivered Master-Padawan moment ensues. This sequence is the second best one of the entire show thus far. The single best sequence (so far) happens right afterward! The Inquisitor and his troops take the bait and follow Kanan to the base. Inquisitor vs. Kanan round 2 takes place, with The Inquisitor taking the upper hand. The Inquisitor is so flippin’ stylish and menacing that I can hardly stand it. Consider me an Inquisitor groupie at this point. With Kanan unable to hang, Ezra is left as the last line of defense. In quintessential Star Wars fashion, The Inquisitor goads Ezra into harnessing his dark potential. This plays out in the most stark and impressive show of Ezra’s untapped abilities. We witness firsthand how powerful Ezra can be and what’s possible if his abilities are left unchecked and subject to the dark side! This moment was defining for Rebels and has really boosted my confidence (and enjoyment) of the show.
It’s no surprise that Kanan and Ezra are able to elude capture from the clutches of the evil Empire yet again – they’re top class escape artists after all! As the episode wraps up, viewers are left with just the right amount of questions and intrigue. What will happen to Tseebo? What really happened to Ezra’s parents? What does Ezra’s brush with the dark side mean for his future? I’ve doubted the Rebel’s production team’s ability to deliver continuity – this is mostly the fault of their predecessor series, The Clone Wars – but after “Gathering Forces” I’m convinced that this band of Disney TV makers knows what they’re doing.
Star Wars Rebels gets a Hutt-sized A+ this week. “Gathering Forces” is hands-down, the best episode of the series so far. It wasn’t just great compared to the other episodes, it was great relative to some of the best moments of classic Star Wars. It was super-cool, believable (for sci-fi) and most importantly, it felt like Star Wars. The only bad thing about any of this is that the series will be taking a break for the holidays. We’ll all have to wait until January for the adventure to continue. Until then we’ll all have to practice Master Yoda’s timeless lesson of patience… Patience young Padawan…