Star Wars is a cinematic icon, but it is much more than its movies. Blaine and Josh dive right into the middle of Star Wars Rebels, the fantastic animated show on Disney XD, and will be reviewing the first half of Season 2. As a show aimed at kids, but also clearly for the kid in every adult Star Wars fan, they’ll also have a discussion section to talk about the themes covered in each show.
Picking up right where we left off after last week’s episode, the Ghost crew is trapped on a planet of the Seelos system after a run in with an Imperial Probe Droid. The Phantom has been damaged and both the three clone commanders: Rex, Wolffe, and Gregor, and the Ghost crew scramble to fix the Phantom and avoid Imperial entanglements.
Their avoidance is short-lived when Kallus contacts Wolffe, who had called in a Jedi sighting in the previous episode and later repents for his behavior. The Imperial Agent and Admiral Konstantine send a TIE Fighter to destroy their modified AT-TE, only to have it blown away by an expert shot from Gregor, proving the clones still have what it takes to fight. It’s one of the many fun battle moments to come as the clones blood gets pumping at the prospect of more action than they have seen in a long time.
The reprieve from Imperial meddling is short-lived and lumbers back into their view. The ground begins to rumble as they rush to fix the Phantom and in a classic callback to The Empire Strikes Back, Rex views three AT-ATs, Imperial Walkers, through his binoculars. Their only choice is to hightail it out of there and into an approaching dust storm, which will scramble sensors and hopefully give the clones and Ghost crew an advantage with a Jedi onboard.
A battle of wits, Jedi senses, and battle tactics ensues between the AT-TE and the three AT-ATs in this dust storm. Dave Filoni, the creator of Rebels along with Simon Kinberg, has said this episode was born out of a desire to see a Pacific Rim-style episode between two titans of the Star Wars world. It’s the mecha-tank of the Clone Wars era versus the mecha-tank of the Imperial era. What I love about this episode is how Filoni’s joy over this confrontation plays out in the clone commanders, who giddily compare notes on how great AT-ATs are and also commit to a sterling resolve to take them down. It’s a rather joyful moment that feels more like a kid playing with his Star Wars toys than an episode of a serious TV show about a galaxy far, far away. To me, this is what sets apart Star Wars from any other space drama on TV or in movies. There are elements of play at work and also an appreciation for what has come before, even if it wasn’t that good–aka the prequel trilogy.
It is the harkening back to the prequels successor, The Clone Wars TV show, that makes this episode so great. The clone commanders put their faith in Kanan, their “Jedi general”, much the same way Rex put his trust in Anakin Skywalker and Wolffe put his trust in Jedi Master Plo Koon. They also put their trust in the Ahsoka-like Padawan, Ezra, and it is Ezra who shoots down the first AT-AT to even the odds a bit. Sabine fixes the Phantom and after escaping the dust storm, they take off leaving the clone commanders to go down in a blaze of glory holding off Kallus and the other two AT-ATs. It’s a sacrificial move for Rex, Wolffe, and Gregor, but it is a decision they would have made one hundred out of one hundred times for their generals during the Clone Wars.
And just like in the TV show, when it seems hopeless and the clones will be exterminated, Kanan has a change of heart toward the clones he has not trusted since the fateful day of Order 66, and they return to fight. As Kanan and Ezra leap out of the Phantom onto the top of the AT-AT and commandeer it by cutting a hole in the cockpit with their lightsaber, Rex opines, “Just like the old days.” It’s a misty-eyed moment remembering Rex fighting alongside Anakin and Ahsoka and remembering the best moments of the TV show where Rex was a principal character.
But it’s not the last time things get a little dusty. With the AT-ATs defeated, and Kallus escaping in a speeder bike, Rex decides to tag along with the Rebels and is reunited with Ahsoka. Their meeting in this moment is meant to mirror their first meeting in The Clone Wars, the only change being when Ahsoka throws her arms around Rex and they both share a moment of appreciation the other is alive.
What I love the most about Rebels is its unabashed love for all things Star Wars. There are no apologies for what the prequels were, nor is it a fanboy service of the original trilogy. This series is meant to introduce the joy of what has come before to a whole new generation. This is why I have no problem with introducing characters from the first animated TV show— it makes sense given its producers are virtually the same, as are a large part of the animation team–nor introducing characters like Lando and Tarkin. They might be seen as relics, as the name of the episode suggests, and they might be written off like Kallus does to them, but the mean something to us. There is joy and meaning in nostalgia, as long as it is done well, and the Rebels team delivers another great episode filled with both of those and executed to perfection.
Star Wars Rebels is a family show. Parents love watching as much as their kids. Infusing the spiritual with the fantastic and adventurous, Rebels continues the spirit of what makes Star Wars great. In order to foster the young minds and hearts of your Reel World Theologians, each week there are questions you can use during or after the show to talk about with your kids. Enjoy the show and then enjoy conversation, but always remember that story is powerful and Star Wars Rebels is not mindless.
- What does it take to work together as a team? Can you not trust someone and still be able to work well with them?
- How do the three clone commanders model a Christ-like attitude for the Ghost crew and us? How does Kanan model it, as well? Do you think he shows that he trusts Captain Rex and the other clones?
- What does Kanan learn in this episode? What about Ezra? How do you think having Rex a part of the team could change how the Rebels interact?
- Our first look at the Fifth Brother Inquisitor is in this episode. His design comes from unused concept art from The Force Awakens. Who was he supposed to be a design for? Possibly a Knight of Ren? Some day we might know.
- Commander Wolffe, early on in the episode, mentions his cybernetic eye. He lost the use of his eye in a confrontation with Assajj Ventress, Count Dooku’s sith apprentice, on the planet Khorm.
- The musical cue when Ezra is concentrating on firing at the AT-AT in the dust storm is the same cues used when Luke is using the Force to focus on firing proton torpedoes into the exhaust port of the Death Star in Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope.