Note: This review contains SPOILERS
We’re one episode away from the Star Wars Rebels first season finale, and before we (presumably) send the season out with a bang we have to take care of a little bit of house keeping. In terms of its core story, this week’s episode is a little bit weak, but it’s the deep breath before the finale – moving pieces around the board to get ready for whatever we have in store next week.
This week the focus is on the Ghost crew reacting to the capture of Kanan by the Empire. The episode opens with Ezra, Zeb, Sabine, and Chopper hijacking an Imperial walker, hoping to hack into the Imperial network to get information on where they’re holding Kanan. Unfortunately the Imperial network on Lothal is down, thanks to the destruction of the primary transmission tower. As the crew returns to the Ghost to come up with a new course of action, Hera receives a transmission from Fulcrum, warning Hera that their broadcast has elevated them into symbols for the entire rebel movement, and if anything were to happen to them, it might crush any hope the rebel cause has established. Fulcrum urges Hera not to take any action to rescue Kanan, lest their failure undermine their previous efforts.
Before we continue, I’m going to take a moment to speculate a bit about Fulcrum. At this point they’ve teased the Fulcrum reveal long enough that it simply has to be a character we already recognize, and with all the cameo appearances we’ve seen so far, the list of possible choices is growing smaller and smaller. While we don’t see his or her face, the hologram we see this time around seems to squash the popular fan theory that Fulcrum is none other than Ahsoka Tano – Anakin’s former apprentice from The Clone Wars. I mean, it’s possible that she’s gone all Hellboy and shaved off her horns, but I don’t find that terribly likely. It’s also possible that it could be another semi-obscure character from The Clone Wars, but that’d be disappointing, and frankly wouldn’t line up with Rebels’ M.O. of playing to Original Trilogy nostalgia. That leaves us with only a few real contenders. Any of the core members of what will eventually be known as the Rebel Alliance are a possibility – Mon Mothma being the most obvious choice, but I think it’s someone else, someone more well known. I think it’s Leia.
The biggest hole here is that, at this point, Leia is no older than Ezra, and it’s potentially hard to swallow the idea that Hera is taking orders from some 15-year-old kid. That said, it’s not like there isn’t a precedent in Star Wars for kids being important players in the larger Galaxy-wide conflict. We all recognize that The Phantom Menace is bad, but two of its four pseudo-protagonists were 9 and 14 respectively, meanwhile the Ghost has a 15 and 16-year-old on board, and both are depicted as being highly cable and generally well-regarded by the rest of the crew. There’s also the fact that Fulcrum’s ship is an Alderaan Cruiser, but it’s NOT the Tantive IV (though it could possibly be the Sundered Heart, Bail Organa’s other CR90 corvette seen in Revenge of the Sith – both have blue striping, but the patterns are slightly different). Since we’ve already met Bail Organa, I don’t think it’s him; they wouldn’t be teasing it out this much if it was someone who already made an appearance in the second episode. That said, another Organa is a strong possibility. Even with all the Original Trilogy cameos we’ve had in Rebels so far, we still haven’t caught up with any of the “big three.” Personally I think that’s for the best (if Luke shows up in Rebels I’m going to throw the biggest fit), but if we were to see any of them on the show, Leia’s appearance would make the most sense.
Wow, that got long, and really, really geeky. *Ahem* moving on…
Anyway, as you can imagine, Ezra’s not particularly thrilled about leaving Kanan to whatever fate Tarkin has in store for him, so he conspires with the rest of the crew to form a plan behind Hera’s back. The plan: use Chopper as a distraction to keep Hera busy while they sneak off aboard the Phantom to barter for intel with Vizago. It turns out that the Ghost crew’s new found fame makes them an unappealing business partner for Vizago, and he refuses to share what he knows. In a desperate move, Ezra reveals that both he and Kanan are Jedi, and promises to provide an unconditional favor in exchange for any information on Kanan.
This is an obvious Chekhov’s gun moment that will likely lead to some major consequences at some point down the line in Season Two, but for now it’s interesting to see Ezra take up the mantle of leader in Kanan’s absence. There’s obvious parallels here to Luke’s decision to leave Dagobah to rescue Han and Leia, with Ezra making rash, probably bad decisions for the best possible reasons, but beyond that it’s an unexpected twist on the group dynamic that we’ve seen in previous episodes. Kanan has the energy and charisma to lead, but it’s been clear from very early on that Hera is the beating heart of the operation. She has the connections, the skill, and the personal investment in the rebel cause that sets her apart from every other member of the crew, and I fully expected her to step up and fill the power vacuum. And she does, or at least she tries to, but her decision to put the larger rebel cause above the more immediate concern of rescuing their captured comrade puts her at odds with the rest of the crew. It’s Ezra’s undying loyalty to his new family that causes the rest of the crew to rally behind him.
It’s an interesting inversion to be sure, but from a feminist perspective I’m not 100% sure it sits right with me. I’ve talked before about how Hera is a great example of strong woman character that smartly avoids all the trite clichés of “strong woman character.” She’s highly skilled, highly intelligent, and highly capable, but none of that is treated as being at odds with her femininity and maternal nature. She’s not a hyper-masculine character in a woman’s body, she’s a woman, through and through, who just so happens to be as competent, if not more so, than any of the men in the crew. So when she tries to step forward and assume the role of leadership only to be outdone by a boy who’s ten years younger than her, I find it to be… problematic. I get how this plays into the larger themes of the show, but it still feels like an unfortunate choice to me, one I wish they could have found a better answer for.
Regardless, when Hera shows up, she’s suitably angry, but decides to give Ezra’s plan a shot. It turns out that with the transmission tower down, the only way for Imperial forces to send and receive transmissions off-world is to send droids back and forth to an Imperial cruiser orbiting the planet. The plan: send Chopper in to search the system for any information about Kanan. The plan ends up going off without a hitch (is this a first for the Ghost crew?); Chopper boards the ship, gets the intel, and escapes onboard the Ghost, no muss, no fuss. Turns out that Kanan is still onboard Grand Moff Tarkin’s dreadnaught, but he’s scheduled to be transferred to Mustafar, which, as Hera notes, is where Jedi go to die.
If it weren’t already obvious, the episode ending on a “To be continued…” tells us that we’re going to Mustafar next week and I’m very curious to see what that entails. I’ve talked before about how painfully stupid Order 66 is, and any opportunity to expand on the mythology of the “great Jedi purge” is okay in my book. I don’t know what we’re in store for, but my mind is already painting pictures of what amounts to a Jedi death camp, which is 100 billion times more interesting and resonant than a montage of Stormtroopers shooting unaware Jedi in the back, we’ll also apparently be getting a guest spot from Darth Vader, so that should be fun.
Again, on it’s own this episode is a fairly minor entry in the series, but it does drop enough hints and set enough things in motion to be interesting in the larger arc of the series. Here’s hoping it all pays off in next week’s finale. See you all then!