This review contains spoilers.
I’m seriously considering giving up on these weekly Star Wars Rebels reviews.
I know it’s bad form of me to spend a portion of what should be a critical analysis whining about the process of writing it, but once again we have another episode of Star Wars Rebels that has the same problem as virtually every other episode this season. The team is split up for no good reason, the story still feels like it’s spinning its wheels, and the whole thing feels more like a continuation of The Clone Wars than of Rebels’ own first season. I hate harping on the same issues, but week after week the same issues keep coming up. It’s gotten to the point where I could almost pre-write these reviews and just plug in a plot recap and no one would be the wiser. This week leans into these problems particularly hard by having an episode that not only feels like a throw back to The Clone Wars, but is – in fact – a straight-up remake of one of that show’s earlier episodes.
The episode opens with bounty hunter Cad Bane boarding a ship of refugees and kidnapping a child who is sensitive to the Force. Wait, that’s not right. It was the Inquisitors who did the kidnapping, after which Ahsoka reveals that she’s uncovered locations where the Inquisitors are planning to attack, and she sends Anakin and Obi-Wan to intercept them. Wait, that’s not right either. I’m getting confused. Let’s try this again.
Kanan and Ezra follow Ahsoka’s lead and head to the planet Takobo where, along with Zeb and Chopper, they try to ascertain what the pair of Inquisitors are up to. While Kanan and Ezra go to investigate the housing complex the Inquisitors were purportedly targeting, Zeb and Chopper discover a pair of TIE Advance prototypes docked in the local spaceport – one of which contains the baby* we saw kidnapped during the opening sequence.
Meanwhile, back at the apartments, Kanan and Ezra find an Ithorian woman who is scared out of her wits. As the pair of Jedi try to calm her down, she tells them that the Inquisitors recently arrived to take her baby away, but she managed to get her son out of harm’s way by instructing her droid to carry him to safety. The rebels reconvene and retrieve the Ithorian infant, but not before they’re discovered by the Inquisitors. They’re pursued through a different apartment complex before they eventually make it back to the spaceport where Ahsoka is waiting to get her first big action moment of the series. Ahsoka fights the Inquisitors and when Imperial reinforcements arrive, the rebels manage to get away just in the knick of time.
That’s it. That’s the whole episode. Normally when reviwing these things, I tend to break up the plot recap with analysis of characters and themes. This time, though, there’s really not much for me to do. This episode is maybe the most Clone Wars-ey of the whole series – not just because it’s literally remaking a Clone Wars episode, but because it’s more concerned with clarifying a piece of Star Wars lore than it is with its own characters or thematics. The only purpose of this episode is to add another paragraph to Wookiepedia regarding the Emperor’s plan for Force sensitive children. There’s no character growth, there’s no thematic through line, it’s just “hey guys, remember when Palapatine tried to do bad things with Force babies back during the Clone Wars? Well he was still up to those shenanigans 18 years later!” There’s some halfhearted effort to give Ezra an arc in this episode, but it’s just a retread of the same journey he already went through back in the first half of Season One.
Not only that, but the whole thing ends with more empty Clone Wars fan service. Ahsoka shows up and gets to draw her lightsabers for the first time of the series, but it’s a payoff that comes without a setup. Ahsoka has barely been featured in the show so far, so this scene which should be a big moment for her carries no weight because it just comes out of nowhere. It’s essentially fanboy porn – it titillates the pleasure centers of fans by giving them exactly what they want, but it’s an utterly hollow gesture, devoid of impact or meaning. This isn’t Ben Kenobi locking blades with his former apprentice, or Luke igniting the lightsaber he constructed, or even Ezra discovering Kanan’s saber on the Ghost; it’s a moment that exists solely to elicit a Pavlovian response from fans of The Clone Wars.
The worst part of all of this for me is that I realize I’m virtually the only person on Earth who has this hangup. I’m painfully aware of the fact that in the Venn diagram overlap of people who like Rebels and people who dislike The Clone Wars I’m all by myself, so having the show cater to the whims of the Clone Wars fan base is probably being met with rapturous praise. For me, though, this isn’t what I signed up for. I loved Rebels’ first season and I wanted to see the things I loved about it continue to develop and grow in Season Two. I watched all five-and-a-half seasons of The Clone Wars and regardless of how I felt about them, that show had a good run and it was time for something else. I’ll stick with this show for the long haul because the show has earned enough good will to keep me coming back, but if this thing doesn’t get back on track by the end of the year, I’m not sure I’ll have it in me to continue with these reviews. I started these reviews because I was eager to talk about Star Wars Rebels, but I’m significantly less eager to be writing reviews of The Clone Wars Season Seven.
*Side bar: is it just me, or was the character model for this baby super weird looking and off-putting?