I am cognizant of the fact that I am one of the very few people in the world who enjoys Star Wars Rebels while also disliking The Clone Wars. This is something I’m kind of sick of talking about, and I’m sure you’re sick of reading, but once again I’m forced to bring up my distaste for that series as Rebels’ second season continues to go down the rabbit hole of Clone Wars fan service. Fan service that continues to alienate me from this show that I care so much about.
In case it wasn’t clear by now, I did not like this week’s episode of Rebels one bit.
The episode in question bears a lot of similarities to Rebels’ Season One low point, “Idiot’s Array,” with the appearance of a (supposed) fan favorite character who drags members of the Ghost crew along on a series of mishaps that offer little to the series beyond the masturbatory satisfaction of “hey, I remember that guy!”
This time, subbing in for Lando, is space pirate and all-around irritating waste of flesh, Hondo Ohnaka. Like Ahsoka and Captain Rex, Hondo was a frequently reoccurring character in The Clone Wars, but unlike Ahsoka and Rex who have rich arcs and bring with them the potential to explore interesting stories in this new setting, Hondo’s entire role can be summed up in two quick sentences. Hondo arrives on the scene when Ezra intercepts a distress signal from the Broken Horn – a freighter belonging to Vizago, who you may remember provided work for our Lothal rebels back in Season One. Hoping for a chance to get out of both the debt he owes to Vizago and the chores he’s been assigned by Hera, Ezra takes the Phantom, along with Chopper, to investigate the situation. When he arrives there’s no sign of Vizago, instead Hondo is on hand attempting to repair the ship’s broken hyperdrive before Imperial forces blast the ship out of orbit. Hondo claims to have won the ship from Vizago in a game of Sabaac, and is now using it to smuggle valuable power cells – the same kind of power cells the rebels have been looking for to aid settlements that have come under fire from the Empire.
Herein lies a big part of the problem with this episode: it’s 100% Hondo’s story, not Ezra’s. Ezra is present, and he’s still technically the audience identification character, but his role in the narrative is negligible and is totally overwhelmed by the presence of Hondo. There’s some lip service paid to Ezra’s arc, with some talk of how he’s bristling against the added responsibility he’s been forced to take on now that the our heroes have joined up with the larger rebel cause, but that pretty much goes out the window once Hondo shows up until it eventually gets a half-hearted, unearned resolution at the end of the episode. Yet again, I am forced to reiterate that this show is about the Ghost crew, and that they cannot become supporting characters in their own show, and yet again that’s exactly what’s happening. This time it’s even worse than when the clones showed up to push our heroes to the margins, because at least that established story threads that directly tie in to the rebels’ journey this season; this Hondo nonsense is just total one-off, existing purely as an excuse to bring back a character who had no good reason to be resurrected.*
Worse still, the show burns through one of the lingering repercussions of last season, wasting it on a plot device to bring Hondo into the action. Ezra’s bargain with Vizago in the penultimate episode of Season One could have been used in any number of ways – forcing Ezra to make a difficult moral choice or putting him in a risky situation – instead, Ezra frees Vizago from the brig (because Hondo, of course, was lying about winning the ship in a bet), and now they’re square. What a waste.
I’ll own up to the fact that a big part of why I disliked this episode is that Hondo is such a deeply irritating character – so much so that even when Azmorigan shows up (in another parallel to “Idiot’s Array”) he’s only the second most insufferable character in the episode – but beyond the fact that I despise Hondo, this episode is still an abject failure. It fails to progress the arc of the season, it fails to develop our main characters in any meaningful way, and it even fails to be compelling as a self-contained 22 minutes of entertainment. I’m not sure if it sinks below “Idiot’s Array” as the new series low point, but it certainly comes close. It’s time for Dave Filoni to get over The Clone Wars and instead focus on letting Rebels stand on the strength of its own merit and its own characters. I am a big fan of Rebels and I want to see it continue to tell exciting stories with this new cast of characters, I don’t want it to be reduced to being a backdoor continuation of The Clone Wars.
*After a full season of Rebels, it’s safe to say that the show will almost definitely loop back around and tie this episode in to something that happens later on down the road, but that does not negate the fact that this episode is completely worthless on its own. Again, comparing this to “Idiot’s Array,” even though Lando has played a meaningful role in the show since then, it does not excuse the fact that his introduction to the series was completely botched.