Rebels Review – Zero Hour

“Zero Hour”
By Jason Gibner

When I think about this seemingly epic two part season finale for Rebels, that’s about all I can come up with.  I keep telling myself that I should have enjoyed this grand conclusion to season three more.   It’s got everything I would want in a biggie size episode with massive space battles, ground battles with a Phantom Menace shoutout shield generator, Mandos shooting rockets out of jetpacks and a Force moose that becomes a giant pissed off cloud.  Sound amazing, right?

After three viewings, I’ve admitted to myself that while I’m far away from calling this one a stinker, I’m just not that into it and there’s a few good reasons why.
The episode could be subtitled The Thrawn Strikes Back as most of it is watching our Rebels get  a beatdown in space and on the ground from Thrawn and the Empire.  While the space battles are the best we’ve seen in the show so far, the fact that the jaw dropping space battles from Rogue One are still so fresh in our heads opens up some unfortunate comparisons.  One of the episode’s biggest moments should have been Commander Sato’s brave sacrifice as he rams into an Imperial ship with the Phoenix Home ship.  It’s a scene that should have played as gut punching reminder that the Rebellion will sacrifice everything or the cause.  Instead the bit pales in the deep shadow of the similar and way more effective Hammerhead Corvette moment in Rogue One.

Not helping the Rogue One comparisons is the inclusion of the Death Troopers in this episode.  These lanky undead elite troopers were breakout stars in Rogue One and while they get to run around in the episode’s ground battle, we never get to hear their garbled voices or see them do anything too interesting here.  If Zero Hour would have given them just one moment where they have an opportunity to shine or be the unstoppable ghouls they’re supposed to be, we’d all still be screaming and getting Death Trooper tattoos on our arms.

In a move that absolutely everyone predicted, Sabine comes back with the Mandalorian crew but now you have to wonder, is she back for good?  What does this mean for the fascinating story the show began for her this season? And what of Kallus?  Now that he’s gone from the Empire for good, what role will he play in the future of the Alliance?  Will grumpy cloud Bendu play into anything again?  Is he still mad at Kanan? And while Thrawn did possibly win the battle here, a lot of the Rebels did manage to escape his grip for what maybe was the 157th time.  He’s a character that becomes more and more compelling with every episode, but the threat from him has to get amped up in season four somehow.   But please Thrawn, keep wearing that goofy helmet.  It really suits you.
Another item haunting this episode is that just one week before it aired, we had that little thing called Twin Suns.  That was the episode that had everyone and their next door neighbors theorizing on who the Chosen One was and talking for hours about Obi-Wan Kenobi’s battle stances.  Love it or hate it, much like last season’s finale, “Twilight of the Apprentice”, it was a hot button moment for Star Wars fandom.  Sadly, with Twin Suns still being debated and discussed, Zero Hour just feels like an afterthought.

The whole episode plays more like what we’d expect from an epic two part season opener that begins the season with an energetic bang.  This is an episode with a lot of fun and cool moments, but none of the game changing moments we’d gotten so spoiled on with previous Rebels season finales.  Yes, this episode delivers some cool Star Warsy moments but do characters develop at all over the course of this two parter? There’s a lot of love in this episode and a lot to be excited about for next season, but Star Wars Rebels just got lost in it’s own shadow here.


Rebels Review – Double Agent Droid

“Double Agent Droid”
By Jason Gibner

NEWS FLASH: Star Wars is weird.  If you’re not sure about that, try and imagine explaining the basic plot of the eight movies to someone who has never even heard of this wacky story of magical space wizards.  Sometimes, Star Wars animation head honcho Dave Filoni and his crew like to tap into a pure, unfiltered raw version of this unique brand of Star Wars weirdness.  We saw it in Clone Wars with the infamous Sunny Day in the Void episodes which featured a tiny frog and group of droids trekking across a never ending barren desert.  Last season in Rebels, we saw a whole episode about Ezra befriending a group of hyperspace traveling space whales and it was glorious.  Sometimes these random side trips to Goofytown work and are fun pauses from some of the more heavy episodes and sometimes they fumble out the gate and are quickly dismissed by the fan community as “filler”.

Double Agent Droid exists somewhere in between with half the episode playing like a traitor in the midst kind of thing and the other half is AP-5 doing an odd one droid comedy show.  The episode begins with Hera leading a top secret mission to get some Lothal clearance codes.  Jointing Syndulla on the trip are the droids, Wedge “All Time Champion” Antilles and because he has to do everything and go everywhere on this show, Ezra. Upon sneaking onto an Imperial ship, an Imperial listening ship guy who looks a lot like Pablo Hidalgo dressed as Lobot for Halloween identifies Chopper and AP-5.  Once Chopper plugs into the main computer, Lobot Hidalgo reprograms Chopper to spy on the crew and tell the Imperials where the secret Rebel base is located.

I gotta say, the whole concept of an evil Chopper rolling around the ship and maybe trying to poison Wedge was possibly the most terrifying thing Rebels has ever done.  The whole thing just made me feel kinda gross and I had to brush my teeth after watching this one. For some reason we have zero problems seeing Ezra flop around with a Sith Holocron and murder people and be fine a week later but Chopper giving Wedge a mystery thing of space water???!!  Now that’s just going too far.

Naturally it all gets wrapped up in the end but not before we realize that AP-5 has been left floating alone in space after an outside the ship tussle with Chopper.  Seems that AP-5 enjoys this little moment of peace and tranquility so much that he bursts into a song out there.  I’m not joking. And then some little space birds come out and fly around him.  It’s a moment that’ll have fans either smiling or rolling their eyes but hey, like I was saying … Star Wars is weird.   Lucas thought of a bunch of weird stuff and when Star Wars isn’t weird enough then it’s not Star Wars anymore.

So Rebels, before we get to Maul screaming in the desert and Thrawn attacking the Bendu or something, go ahead, put up your feet and go to Goofytown this week.  You’ve earned it.


Rebels Review – Trials Of The Darksaber

“Trials of the Darksaber”
By Jason Gibner

While watching this phenomenal Filoni scripted episode of Star Wars Rebels, I kept saying to my myself that this one felt more like some of those really great episodes of Clone Wars.  Often that show would take a break from the Anakin, Ashoka and Obi-Wan slicing up battle droids action to focus on a smaller, more character centered storyline.  It was those kind of episodes that makes the show continue to win over and connect with both old and new fans what gives it the mighty legacy it still rocks today.

There’s no space battle in this episode, no droid hi-jinks, no fan friendly winks to past movies or clueless imperial moron of the week.  Trials of the Darksaber is a just a simple and powerful little look at the awesome seriousness of lightsaber training and most importantly, a real dive into the meat and potatoes of Sabine’s character.  It’s such a welcome change of pace and honestly the kind of episode Rebels should be creating much more often.

We get started on a real high five note as the episode begins with Kanan and Fenn Rau discuss the fascinating backstory of the Darksaber and just how it ended up basically being the Mandalorian version of Camelot.   From there it’s decided that the blade and what it represents is just too darn important and the crew try to convince Sabine that she has to wield it in order to try and unite her people once again.  Hesitant at first, she eventually decides she will try to let Kanan and Ezra give her a crash course in lightsaber combat.

Now for the small but dedicated fans of the nuances of lightsaber fighting and all the different numbered forms of that, this episode is like the first day Doritos tacos came out at Taco Bell.  It’s what we’ve all for real been waiting our whole lives for.  The training scenes are so well done as they not only strengthen Sabine’s character but are magically able to revive storylines that had been last seen struggling on life support.  Thanks to the Magic of Filoni’s wizard writing skills we finally get some good business this season happening with the previously limp relationships between Ezra and Kanan and Hera and Kanan.

Watching this episode unfold while thinking about the growing mystery of just what will happen next when Sabine heads back to Mandalore, and confronts the Vizsla Clan. It all makes the wait for the next episode feel almost impossible.  At the episode’s end, as Sabine still full of doubt, stands with the Darksaber as Ezra, Kanan and Rau pledge that they will support and stay with her no matter what happens on Mandalore.  They make this cool promise as they remind her they are family.  I’d say that goes for all us watching the Ghost Crew every week as well.  We will stick with this family and thanks to episodes like this one, we are just as curious as they are for where it all go next.

Grade :  A