Star Wars Rebels – Season 1, Episode 11 – “Call to Action” -The Horror of Tarkin

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     This is the episode that shows us just how kind the Lothal Empire was by comparison to the changes in Imperial Policy happening on a larger scale. The symbol of this power and terror and the action behind it is Grand Moff Tarkin who is Governor of the Outer Rim. I’ll get into the details of his brutality later but I’m really curious now how he was handled in “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” as I know he appears in it and he makes direct reference in this episode to fighting in the Clone Wars and knowing what it takes to win a war because of it.

   “Call to Action” was directed by Steward Lee and written by Greg Weisman and Simon Kinberg.

    The story involves the arrival of Grand Moff Tarkin who has arrived to rid Lothal of it’s Rebel movement and to shape up the Imperials stationed there for their failures in stopping the Rebels prior. His first act is the execution of Commandant Aresko and Taskmaster Grint before sending probe droids around the planet. At the same time the crew of Ghost is planning the hijacking of an Imperial Communications Tower to tell the truth to Lothal and other systems of what is going on under Imperial Rule.

The Pros: R.I.P. Grint and Aresko – Grint and Aresko were actually pretty kind by Imperial Standards. They sought to protect their men and we never saw them act in opression of the population if anything they just trained people who wanted to join the Empire and I really like Aresko. Aresko could be kind and I liked how aware he could be of others. Their deaths show just how much of a bastard Tarkin is and that he doesn’t tolerate failure in the same way Vader doesn’t tolerate failure…which is probably going to cause more problems for Tarkin later in this series.

Agent Callus and Minister Tua – Much like Grint and Aresko Callus and Tua are kind compared to Tarkin, at least to the citizens of Lothal who are Imperials. They react with horror when Tarkin has the Inquisitor kill Aresko and Grint and you get the idea that they are questioning everything they do now since to some degree they are ethical and have standards in war.

The Rebel Plan – Hijacking the communications tower to deliver messages of resistance is brilliant, especially since folks probably remember Ezra’s parents. It’s a great answer to Senator Trayvis’s attempts to turn the people against them now that he’s openly loyal to the Empire now. We get to see Sabine and Chopper in action and they do a fantastic job as well as see Ezra live like his folks and give the message of hope to the people of Lothal. The seed of rebellion has been planted, though at a price.

The Inquisitor – The Inquisitor is successful in this one as the Empire manages to capture Kanan since he sacrifices himself to let his friends escape. We see a different side to The Inquisitor too as he fears and respects Grand Moff Tarkin. We also see he has the least qualms about the new horror of the Empire as he doesn’t even react when he kills Grint and Aresko. He is the closest member of the Old Guard of Lothal who most willing to take the cruelty to the fullest, though even he was willing to let the rebels go if Kanan would surrender so he does still have some measure of practicality.

Kanan’s Sacrifice – Kanan’s moment of sacrifice is one of the hardest moments for Ezra and Hera as both try to stay as long as they can before the escape with Ezra still fighting to stay after. It is his sacrifice that makes the crew ready to fight on and resolved to find a way to save him and make things right on Lothal.

Grand Moff Tarkin – This guy is brutal and I can understand why everyone fears him. He doesn’t tolerate failure and has a habit of inspiring action that brings results. We see this in his destruction of the Tower to stop the transmission and his recognition that the Rebels don’t kill so they don’t have what it takes to win against the Empire. It’s a powerful realization and we see how willing Tarkin is to kill with the execution of Grint and Aresko. What his plans are for Lothal and total victory remain to be seen but I’m glad he is in this series as Tarkin was one of the characters that made “A New Hope” so memorable as a film.

 The stakes have rose as we now have only 2 episodes remaining in the season which Tarkin in charge as the bigger bad than all the villains we’ve met prior who have been hunting our rebels. What they do and what Tarkin does are really the big questions as well as the question is can the rebels win without killing? How does Tarkin’s work in the Outer Rim contribute to him being put in charge of the Death Star? He must be victorious to some degree, so I’m curious how that will be shown, unless we don’t see his greater victories until next season. This was a favorite and stands strong on it’s own even though it is part of the final arc of the season 1 Finale.

Final Score: 10 / 10.

Star Wars Rebels – Season 1, Episode 10 – “Vision of Hope” -The Empire’s Power

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This is an episode where the Empire nearly wins and where see for just how long there hasn’t been resistance on Lothal. The Empire’s power is strong in this and we see that even though the rebels don’t lose per say, they also find that they are very much alone still in their small war against the Empire.

“Vision of Hope” was directed by Steven G. Lee and directed by Henry Gilroy.

The story begins with Ezra training and have a vision of them rescuing Senator Trayvis from the Empire. From here they discover that he puts hints in the transmissions of where he will be in order to help the Rebels. Though the crew is skeptical they trust Ezra’s vision and mount a rescue. Things soon go wrong as everything is not as it appears to be and Agent Callus’s trap closes in around them.

The Pros: Zare – Zare is his informant at the academy and the kid who stayed behind to find his sister. He is great in this in how he helps Ezra escape and there is sadness about him getting shipped out too. He’s the one who tells Ezra that Callus is planning something.

Sabine and Zeb – These two are the main folks who are defending our main characters (Hera, Ezra and Kanan) and they do a great job of it with smoke grenades, grenades and always remaining just out of reach.

Senator Trayvis – Trayvis betrayed them and was an Imperial plant the entire time. The nature of his transmissions was to destroy Rebel movements that sought him out and he’d succeeded until Kanan and Ezra’s group who just manage to escape. We don’t really get his motivations but I’m putting him down as a pro because you feel his betrayal and how it is a blow to the crew and pushes Ezra closer to the dark side.

Kanan – Kanan is the one who counsels against visions knowing they are hard to understand. He jokes that he saw Ezra in a vision but I don’t know if he was being serious or not since he makes quite a few jokes in this episode. He also saves them when he uses the force to stop the fan long enough for them to escape through it.

Hera – Hera is the one who really wants to believe too but she also suspects Trayvis when Trayvis pretends to be hurt or tired so she gives him her gun uncharged which reveals Trayvis as being an Imperial the entire time to them. She reminds Ezra there is still hope at the end though and is the one who fully gets his pain given how long she’s been running too.

Ezra – Ezra is hopeful for much of this episode until Trayvis’s betrayal ruins that. Before they escape he gives Trayvis a dark side glare which I think will be used by the Inquisitor later to try and turn Ezra to the dark side. He’s tough in this and the betrayal almost breaks him if not for Hera being there for him during and after the betrayal.

This was a fantastic episode and definitely one of my favorites! I like that Trayvis wasn’t good as it gives another antagonist who is most likely complicated for our heroes to interact with and he is also another glimpse into what happened to Ezra’s parents and part of what is pushing Ezra to the dark side. I’m curious to see where his character arc goes from here and what will happen since Agent Callus failed again.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10.

Star Wars Rebels – Season 1, Episode 6 – “Empire Day” – Moves of Resistance

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“Empire Day” is the first of a two part story with the final part being “Gathering Forces,” because of this much of “Empire Day” is setup but it still manages to be a really good world building episode and showing us more of what Imperial life is like in the Outer Rim and what it has meant for people in the present and past.

“Empire Day” was directed by Steven G. Lee and written by Henry Gilroy.

The story takes place on Empire Day which commemorates the day when the Republic became an Empire. It is also Ezra’s birthday and the day he lost his parents to the Empire. This leads to him going off on his own as he looks for a missing Rodian who the Empire is seeking who Ezra also knows. Around the same time the Empire is releasing a new Tie Fighter the Rebels destroy it which prompts them to go into hiding as Ezra brings them to the place that used to be his home where the Rodian Tseebo is hiding, who knew Ezra’s parents and has been transformed by the Empire.

The Pros: Empire Day – So happy that this is an actual thing. It’s a major holiday in the “Star Wars” universe according to “Rebels” which shows just how much influence and power the Empire has, especially since the Imperial Network must be broadcasted at all times. It’s propaganda to the extreme and it obviously gets the job done since the Rebels never grow into a large movement. They are the permanent underdog because the Empire has oppressed everyone to the point where they don’t fight anymore and just want to live.

The Imperials – The Imperials who are represented (The Inquisitor, Agent Callus, Minister Tua and Commandment Aresko) all have distinct personalities and great chemistry with each other…they also work very well together to stall the rebels so that The Inquisitor can defeat them with his fleet of Tie Fighters.

Minister Tua – Is the voice for the Governor and congratulations the population and explains why they are so important due to all the Imperial weapons they construct, especially in regards to Tie Fighters. She loses it though after the new Tie is destroyed during the ceremony and we see that she’s a true believer in the Empire.

Commandant Aresko – The Commandant was the one who was training new Imperial recruits and is one of the nicer Imperials we meet. In this we see that he is great at his job too as he has the road blockaded to attempt to the stop the Rebels who hijacked a troop transport. He doesn’t succeed but he does stall long enough.

Agent Callus – Callus is smart in this and is a one man army trying to stop the transport. He succeeds in stalling and even when he is outgunned and outnumbered still manages to get some hits and take on Kanan one on one. You don’t mess with this guy.

The Inquisitor – The Inquisitor is driven and like a predator thinks ahead at how to catch his prey. When he knows they are escaping he puts a beacon on the ship and besides that we see him using the force to track them as well. In this he’s brilliant and he doesn’t underestimate his foes which makes him a great foe to deal with.

The Rebels – This is an episode that shows our characters coming together and in many cases getting the chance to face off against some of their major foes.

Zeb – Gets helps set off the mine and is throwing the firework bombs that distract the Imperials. We get to see his love of fighting them in this and he’s the closest thing to joy in this and the next episode.

Sabine – Sabine is empathy and we see her  reach out to Ezra when she learns it is home. She also gives him space when he needs it and it is her weapons that are the distraction and used to take out the Advanced Tie Fighter.

Hera – Hera helps them all escape and is the one who Tseebo opens up too. She is the getaway and the connection to the outside and the crew’s escape. She also does a great job navigating against the overwhelming odds.

Kanan – Kanan lays the mine and is the voice of wisdom in this as he respects Ezra’s space as well. We also see that he fears The Inquisitor, from the last time they faced he knows just how outmatched he is against him.

The Chase – The chase is awesome! From the street chase to start, troop transport second and finally ending with a ship chase where The Inquisitor keeps landing hits. You feel the tension of all that is happening and there is really good pacing and action.

Ezra – Ezra gets a lot of exploration this episode. From the fact that his parents went missing and Tseebo is tied to it and didn’t care for Ezra when Ezra needed someone to care for him most…and just how guarded he is around the crew. Ezra opens up to no one about what he says to Tseebo or the pain he feels over the loss of his parents, this goes for the crew too. The crew of Ghost is full of loss and pain.

Okay: Tseebo – He functions mostly as a plot device in this. The Empire wants him because he hacked their system and has troop and ship movements known, Ezra wants him because he knows about his parents and he uses his hacking to help them escape when their ship is hit. Lots of potential but doesn’t feel like a full character yet.

I really enjoyed this episode and would consider it a favorite. It makes the “Star Wars Universe” feel lived and even the minor characters get exploration. The only con he how Tseebo feels like a plot device, but I’d still highly recommend the first part in this story arc.

Final Score: 9 / 10.

Star Wars Rebels – Season 1, Episode 4 – “Breaking Ranks” – Life in the Imperial Academy

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    “Breaking Ranks” is a great episode that humanizes the Empire and motivations for why an individual might join it, as well as the dangers and opportunity that you receive in being talented or gifted. Every character gets something to do, even if it is a small thing the plot is advanced the the minor characters are really the main focus as they help us get to know Ezra better.

     The episode was directed by Steven G. Lee and Greg Weisman.

     “Breaking Ranks” takes place in an Imperial Academy where Ezra is undercover in order to get an encoder that contains the location of a powerful Kyber Crystal, the encoder is in Agent Kallus’s office. Things soon get complicated as Oleg (a fellow cadet) helps him for his own ends and together they must convince Jai to join them when Ezra learns The Inquisitor is going to arrive to potentially take them away.

The Pros: The Crew – Kanan is worrying about Eza for much of the episode with Hera helping to mellow him out and in the final rescue Sabine and Zeb save Oleg, Jai and Ezra. They all have tiny moments of awesome that way especially when Kanan leads away the Imperial ships so that Hera can take out the shipment with the Crystals.

The Imperial Academy – I really like how the designed the academy. The teachers are harsh (the strongest shall be victorious) while still being empathetic as they are dealing with children. They are never abusive and even Kallus is kind to Oleg and isn’t cruel to him for wasting his time. It gives a much needed humanization of the members of the Empire…and the kindness bites them too as the winners of the training game got to ride an Imperial Walker out of the building to escape.

The Cadets – The Cadets have distinct personalities and are very interesting characters, which shows great writing considering they are minor characters.

Kai – Kai is played by Dante Basco and is a kind and arrogant guy who wants to be a stormtrooper. He only decides to go when Oleg tells him that The Inquisitor took away his sister for passing the test and that it could happen to them too. He’s the average citizen who just wants to do right by his family and government.

Oleg – Oleg is the rebel trying to find his sister that The Inquisitor took away and stays behind after the escape so he can continue to do so. He’s a great character and wields more power to convince others than Kai. I really enjoyed his character and his choice to stay was strong given that he is questioned by The Inquisitor.

Ezra – Ezra uses the force again this episode, it’s how he gets the decoder card and he also fights for his friends showing just how much of a hero he can be. In this episode it is the crew’s selfishness of wanting to get out of it alive and get him out alive where the contrast really is. Though do help Kai go into hiding though.

The Ending – The ending is great. The Inquisitor arrives, Oleg tells a lie about how he tried to stop Kai and Ezra from escaping, the Inquistor recognizes Ezra’s picture and gives Oleg a creepy smile that shows he is in for trouble.

This is an episode well worth checking out that has the feel of victory in escape not defeating the Empire, which is the best since the Rebels don’t have an army at this point. I really liked the relationship between the Cadets and how Ezra showed himself to be the greatest hero on the crew when at first he was the most selfish of them…the humanization of the Empire was a major plus as well. So many were just instructors doing their jobs.

Final Score: 10 / 10

Star Wars Rebels: Spark of Rebellion (2014) – The Spirit of the “Original Trilogy of Star Wars” Captured Once More

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     It has been a long time since there has been a good story that came out of the Universe of “Star Wars” in the medium of film or television. I might be wrong about “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” that was also CGI animated but I do want to give the show a chance, largely because of folks from the “Avatar Universe” being involved as one of them (Dave Filoni) was with “Star Wars: Rebels.” For me the last great story that was in the medium of film or television for “Star Wars” was “Star Wars: Clone Wars” that was done entirely with instrumentals. Sadly “Episode 3” ruined some of the cool aspects of that episode, but I’ll get into that when I eventually review the prequels. For now this is going to be the introduction to “Star Wars: Rebels” and the fantastic potential this show has after this kickoff film…and as a fan of “Star Wars” this makes me glad. “Star Wars” has needed good stories again.

       The television film was directed by Steward Lee and Steven G. Lee and Simon Kinberg. It was created by Lucasfilm and Lucas Animation and aired on the Disney Channel.

       The story follows that of the orphan thief Ezra Bridger who is pulled into the beginning of the rebellion when the crew of Ghost is stealing blaster rifles on his homeworld Lothal which also had the intention of stealing. As the Empire deals with them they are forced to work together when they receive information about Wookie slaves that need rescuing and Ezra must choose what kind of person he wants to be and to deal with his force potential.

The Pros: The Animation – The animation for “Star Wars Rebels” is fantastic! The animation flows, is distinct but also has a very organic feel to it, it reminds me of the old toys from the “Original Star Wars Trilogy.”

The Soundtrack – The music is wonderful. It plays tribute to music we’ve heard before in “The Original Trilogy” but does interesting things with it and gives it a different feel that at times feels sadder than the “Original Trilogy.” This makes sense as things have to be bad enough for a people to rebel, and this is telling that story. Kevin Kiner was a good choice for this show.

Lothal – The world of Lothal has a great design. It is a mixture of Tatooine but has more development and also the outskirts where the refugees from the Empire attempt to live. It’s a diverse world and it makes sense that the Rebellion would start here and that our heroes would be connected to this world.

The Action – The action in this film was fantastic! The Empire feels big without being overwhelming since we’re in the Outer Rim but we still get some great speeder and ship chases and the moment Kanan uses his lightsaber and reveals himself as a Jedi is one of the soaring moments of the fight.

The Crew of Ghost – The crew has a great dynamic and each bring an interesting dynamic to the series. Each of them is an outcast with Kanan and Hera being the closest thing to parents for all of them. Also the ship has a great design.

Garazeb – Is a Lasat with an Australian accent who is the tough guy with a good heart. His design looks like the early Wookie designs and he is a great character. He’s rough around the edges but will always put himself out there for others and go against his rather strong survival instincts. He is against saving Ezra but does come back after Kanan’s vote. He’s aware of the other species like him that the Empire nearly wiped out so he has a lot of reasons to want them defeated.

Sabine – Sabine is a Mandalorian who specializes in explosives and takes a liking to Ezra. They’re both orphans and she is easily his equal. She like Garazeb has a stronger survival instinct and after the trap votes against going back for Ezra. She is also the first to embrace Ezra though.

Hera – Hera is the mother of them all in a manner of speaking. She is a Twi’lek and in a relationship with Kanan (or at least feels like she is). She has the coolest head and helps Ezra to grow up. Ghost belongs to her.

Kanan – Kanan is the leader and one of the few surviving Jedi. He is dealing with the danger of Ezra being selfish and a danger to them but also his force potential. He offers to train him if the lightsaber Ezra stole from him is brought back. He’s shown to be very honorable and reveals himself as a Jedi in order to save everyone and forgiving since he gives Ezra a lot of chances.

The Message – The message is that there are things worth fighting for and how important it is to remember those who have nothing (the refugees) and to do something and stand against injustice. It is presented really well as we see Ezra go from the most selfish character to someone trying to be a good person.

Okay: Agent Kallus – Kallus is like a lite Admiral Zhao at the moment. Threatening but just not powerful enough. That may change once we see him get some victories beyond his brief capture of Ezra.

Chopper – Is a Astromech that is pretty rough and tough. I can’t really define it’s personality fully yet. I like the design though.

The Cons: The Wookies – The Wookie animations looked pretty derpy and were hard to really enjoy for that reason. The fur didn’t look like fur, it just looked like it was pasted on. Also the baby Wookie did not look cute it just looked creepy.

  I’m going to review this series. Not yet, but this television film sold me on it. “The Spark of Rebellion” was able to express motivations, lay down stakes (The Jedi Hunting Inquistor appears at the end) and we see that the Rebellion is just that, a rebel cause that is outmatched and outgunned by a far numerous and superior force. This makes it compelling and gives us a chance to see the complexity of the Rebels and the Empire.

Final Score: 9 / 10. Solidly great.