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 – Through Imperial Eyes

“Through Imperial Eyes”
By Jason Gibner

Oh Kallus, I really think this time you and your awesome mutton chop sideburns are in trouble.  I’ll admit, at first I didn’t like you at all.  Back in that first season of Rebels you seemed like the real Imperial stooge of the week and you ran around like a Scooby Doo villain. Seriously you were one step away from blurting out “My mission would have succeeded if it weren’t for those meddling Rebels!!”

Then something changed in you when you had that surprisingly game changing season two episode “The Honorable Ones”.  All of a sudden we saw that maybe you weren’t the guy just drinking the Empire’s Kool Aid and just maybe you were a character with some actual dimension beyond that grey uniform and trendsetting facial hair.

With the latest episode of Rebels “Through Imperial Eyes”, Kallus’ story is either just beginning or coming to it’s ghastly conclusion.  Here we see what constitutes a day in his roughsville drab and secretly rebellious Imperial life.  Through season three we’ve seen that Kallus is now serving the Rebels as being the newest Fulcrum aka Super Secret Spy.  Which is fantastic except Kallus’ boss is that whispering blue skinned, art gallery creeper weirdo Grand Admiral Thrawn.  The evil Smurf in white is no dummy and he’s figured out Kallus’ game a long time ago.  So as Ezra comes on board an Imperial ship to warn Kallus that even the Alliance has figured out that he has been caught, Thrawn allows the whole charade to go down as it’ll just help his dastardly master plan of slowly wiping out the Rebels.

This episode takes that fairly simple plot and turns it into what could be the most tense, thriller style episode of Rebels so far.  The whole thing plays like a never ending chase through Thrawn’s Star Destroyer as he is almost constantly behind every door Kallus and Ezra try to hide behind.  It’s a dark and spooky 22 minutes of Star Wars action that’ll have you biting your nails just WAITING for the moment where our heroes get caught.

There’s an awkward subplot with Chopper and AP-5 in there and some really wasted stuff with Kanan and Rex aboard yet another stolen Imperial Shuttle but thankfully it never manages to slow down the episode’s rapid fire pace.  We do however get a welcome addition to the roster of bad guys with the return of former Clone Wars hero of the Republic and A New Hope background guy with a mustache, Colonel Yularen.  It’s rough seeming this former friend of the Jedi and the Clones now acting as basically the CIA director for the Empire but we all new that’s how it had to happen eventually.

Through Imperial Eyes just adds to what so far has been an outstanding second half to Rebels season three.  Top shelf stuff like this episode and the previous Sabine arc shows that we have a lot to look forward to in coming weeks as with the Thrawn stuff coming to a possible conclusion , Maul’s showdown with Old Ben Kenobi and the further birth of the actual Alliance coming to a head. Rebels has it’s foot on the hyperdrive gas these days and hopefully isn’t letting up.


Rebels Reviews – Legacy of Mandalore

“Legacy of Mandalore”
By Jason Gibner

Alright Rebels, you earned it.  That’s right, you get the intercontinental championship belt with this one.  Legacy of Mandalore is yet another blue ribbon brilliant episode that somehow not only captures that elusive brand of Star Wars magic but show that the galaxy far, far away can thrive on the small screen.  This is an episode to show to anyone who ever questions not just this show but if it was possible for Star Wars Rebels to ever match the quality of Clone Wars.  This is an episode that makes the entire series better while it echoes some the best qualities of its older sibling series.   Here we have a story that is not afraid to take the time it needs to properly convey real deal  emotion, have a dash of saber fueled fist pumping action and manage in 22 minutes to take viewers somewhere they’ve never been before.  This is just good Star Wars.

Opening up right where Trials of the Darksaber left off, we see Sabine, Ezra, Kanan and Fenn Rau headed to the snowy planet Krownest so Sabine can bring the mythical Darksaber to her mother and hopefully convince her to have Clan Wren join the fledgling Alliance.  Things do go as planned as when they enter the atmosphere, they are attacked by a group of totally cool looking rocket jetpack flying Mando warriors.  Once on the ground, the saber is handed off and some old family wounds are opened up before a seriously fun action climax takes place.   To say that the last couple episodes of Rebels have finally given the criminally underused Sabine Wren some brilliant material is a bit of a parsec of an understatement.   By deepening her relationship with her Mandalorian past, her family, the built in connection with Star Wars history, and her exciting future in the saga, the show has finally shown the character the respect she’s been due for quite a while now.

This episode’s bittersweet ending could start some Twitter wars about how it goes down and what it means for the future, but show head honcho Dave Filoni promises the obvious fact that more Mando action is on the way.  Mandalorian history and culture is something that’s existed in the minds of fans since 1980 and for Clone Wars to begin to tell that story and for it to continue so surprisingly and in such a compelling way in Rebels is just plain awesome.  I for one can not wait to see what happens next with this Mandalorian epic they’ve created here and if this is any indication on how the rest of season three is gonna go then we are in for some fun.

Final grade: A

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