NOTE: This review was written for Heroic Hollywood, but due to some unforeseen timing issues they were unable to run it today. Starting next week my Rebels reviews will be posted at Heroic Hollywood.
This review contains spoilers
Long seasons of TV are a drag. Everyone recognizes this on some level; it’s why premium cable shows are only ten or so episodes long, and it’s why seasons of 20 or more episodes always wind up containing a copious amount of filler. When it was announced that Star Wars Rebels’ second season was going to be nearly twice the length of the first, it was inevitable that a lot of that would be unnecessary. That’s proven to be true with the first half of Season Two more often than not spinning its wheels. The last few episodes have improved with introductions of important new characters and meaningful developments for the ones we’re already familiar with, but this week we’re back with another filler episode. And you know what? That turns out to not be such a bad thing.
This week we find the Ghost crew scouring an asteroid belt in search of a gas refinery reportedly supplying fuel to the empire, but with sensors scrambled by the asteroids, fuel reserves nearly depleted, and only a vague idea of where this facility is even located, they’re having a tough go of things. To make matters worse, they run into a pod of purrgil – space whales that have a reputation of wreaking havoc on starships that happen to get in their path. Hera’s content to blast the beasts into oblivion, but Ezra’s instincts tell him that rather than blasting through the purrgil and continuing on their path, they should change course and travel with the creatures. After a bit of convincing from Kanan, Hera reluctantly agrees to follow these extraterrestrial cetaceans.
As a one-off, this episode doesn’t really do much in terms of character development, but what it does do is reinforce aspects of the characters that have been previously established. Specifically, the focus here is once again on Ezra’s gift at connecting with other living creatures. Through the Force, Ezra is able to immediately connect with the purrgil, hearing their call before anyone else on the Ghost. This is a note the show has been repeating since the middle of the first season, and as they continue to reiterate this point, I’m increasingly interested in where they’re going with it. On a character level, it’s an effective expression of Ezra’s empathy and morality. As far back as we’ve known him – even before he had joined the other rebels on Lothal – he’s been going out of his way to help people, and the idea that as he hones his connection to the Force, it would manifest in a way that reflects his empathy is smart. However, the way the show keeps bringing this up clearly indicates that they’re setting up something beyond a simple character trait, and I’m anxious to see what that might be.
What doesn’t work for me is how much Hera hates these creatures. From what we see of them, the purrgil are depicted as being fairly innocuous Yeah, they bump and jostle around the Ghost, but that’s a problem easily solved by just getting out of their way. The fact that Hera’s immediate response is wanting them dead comes across as being vaguely psychotic, and this is the character who is usually the most level headed of the bunch. They pay some lip service to the idea that Hera had friends who died colliding with purrgil crossing hyperspace lanes, but even that just equates them with deer, and I’d feel the same way about anyone who went kill crazy whenever they came across a deer. If the show had initially portrayed the purrgil as seeming more openly aggressive, Hera’s response would be understandable, but as it is she’s very clearly overreacting.
Either way, the rebels follow the purrgil which eventually lead them to the Clouzon refinery they’ve been searching for. Without enough power to attack the facility directly, it’s resolved that Kanan, Sabine, and Ezra will do an upper-atmosphere jump from the Ghost down to the refinery, where they’ll use explosives to destroy the unrefined Clouzon while they sneak away with enough fuel to keep the rebellion going for the next cycle. Ezra, however, notices that the purrgil are feeding on the Clouzon, so he insists they change their plan as to not hurt the purrgil. Unfortunately, seeing as they’ve already landed on the platform, that means directly engaging the guards to create an opening for Hera to safely dock the Ghost and secure the fuel shipment. In the midst of the ensuing firefight, Ezra is knocked off the landing platform and into the Clouzon. In the Clouzon, Ezra is rescued by the purrgil, and is able to reach out through the Force and communicate with the creatures. He learns that the purrgil travel the galaxy, occasionally stopping to breathe the gas much like Earth whales surfacing to breathe oxygen. Ezra vows to protect them, and in return they aid the Lothal rebels in taking out the mining guild’s forces, allowing the Ghost and the purrgil to escape the asteroid, each with their own fuel. As Ezra reunites with his crew, they watch in awe as the purrgil make the jump to hyperspace.
I always get a kick when Star Wars stories delve into more mythological territory. I have no interest in trying to impose pseudoscientific logic on the ins-and-outs of the Star Wars galaxy, but when you play up the magical, and mythological elements I’m almost always going to be into that. It’s the same reason that the stories I responded to most in The Clone Wars were the ones that explored the nature of the Force through beings that resembled the gods of ancient myth. So when you have space whales (which, let’s face it, is something I’m going to get excited about just on principle) and then explain that these creatures are essentially responsible for the origins of interstellar travel, I’m naturally going to be ecstatic. Yes, it’s silly, but it’s silly in the way that so many of our own myths are. We know that the changing tides are not caused by the whims of an ancient deity but stories of Poseidon and his clashes with seafarers are exciting. If they’re going to explain the history of hyperspace travel, “we learned it from space whales” is infinitely more compelling than “Lance Salerity was the guy who figured out how to bend space-time around starships.”
While this episode doesn’t give us much in the way of progressing the larger story arc of the season, it does give us enough to make it compelling on its own and not feel like it’s wasting our time. Even if it doesn’t exactly break new ground on Ezra’s character development, it further reiterates and reinforces elements of his story that are likely going to become increasingly important as the series progresses, as well as giving us an interesting peak into the prehistory of the Star Wars universe. If filler episodes are inevitable (which they are), this is the best sort of filler episode one can hope for.
Even so, it looks like next week we’re back on track with major developments as the Ghost crew is set to meet a key figure in the rebellion, Hera’s father, Cham Syndulla. See you then!