“Star Wars Rebels” Season 3 – Some Great Arcs are Completed and one of my Favorite Villains Enters the New Canon

    “Star Wars Rebels” has found great quality again, and they do it by getting rid of the Inquisitors (who were really wasted last season) all together and bringing in a character who existed in the original canon of Star Wars, Grand Admiral Thrawn. Doing this was one of the smartest things Disney could have done as even when the Empire is losing most of the time in small battles, it all comes together in Thrawn’s master plan and a pretty glorious final that shows just how deadly the Empire is since the Death Star or Battle of Hoth. Suffice to say, I loved this season and highly recommend it.

    The story of Season 3 involves the arrival of Governor Pryce as the new Moff over Lothal and Grand Admiral Thrawn as the new Imperial Agent to destroy the Rebellion in the sector. As the rebellion gathers allies to free Lothal from Imperial Rule Thrawn uses their own strengths against them as his master plan unfolds to wipe out the Rebellion.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: Growing Rebellion Arc – A major arc this season is the Rebellion collecting allies and meeting the leaders of other cells. Whether it is Saw Gerrera on Geonosis, the stupid Iron Squadron, the Twi’lik on Ryloth, Hondo and leaders of the Rebellion like Mon Mothma. This season continues on Season 2 and 1 as the Rebellion Cells are coming together to form a greater fleet so worlds can be liberated.

The Mandalore Arc – The Mandalore arc is one in which the Empire is in firm control but slowly loses it as Sabine and Clan Wren become greater power players when she takes on the leader of the Empire on Mandalore, Gar Saxon and makes peace with her family. From here it is decided to fight and Mandalore is thrown once more into Civil War as it is the only chance for Mandalore to exist for Mandalore and not the Empire. This is where Sabine leaves too as she has found a greater purpose beyond the tech. of the Ghost crew.

The Fulcrum Arc – Agent Kallus is fully a good guy in this season and his arc is helping the Rebellion and getting information to them until he is discovered by Thrawn. In this we see the Rebellion come to trust him and his arc ends with him officially joining them at their lowest as Thrawn’s battle is a success and the Rebels are routed from their base.

Maul’s Arc – Maul’s arc continues the theme of last season of showing how the Dark Side only leaves one alone and resentful of all. By the end of the series all he has is hatred of Obi-Wan and nothing more as he was not able to corrupt Ezra. For a character who really should have stayed dead or died in Clone Wars they at least gave his story a purpose. He is a character who brings about pity as he has lost everything and the Empire is so large and powerful he has no way of gaining back his prior position. He is taking easy outs because if he stays around long enough the Empire will hunt him down. His story is sad and he shows the loneliness of the Dark Side and how empty the quest for power truly is as in the end he dies in Obi-Wan’s arms as Obi-Wan has found peace and a higher cause beyond power and is able to help Maul find peace.

The Bendu – Tom Baker plays the Bendu, a force being who is made up of both the Dark and the Light. He is the one who trains Kanan and Ezra and helps them find balance after their losses last season. He is a great character who in the end is hurt by the Jedi, showing that they aren’t good, as forcing him to fight leads to his death at the hands of Thrawn. In the end he was right in a way and in the end the Jedi turning him to the Dark Side and destroying his balance, is one of the saddest parts of the season as it is what leads to his destruction.

Grand Admiral Thrawn’s Plan and Payoff – Much of this Season involves Thrawn as the observer, watching the different players of the Rebellion and studying how they fight, discovering who Fulcrum is and developing weapons for the Empire. In the end his plan is a success, though it is isn’t a complete success. He destroys most of the Rebellion on Atollon and forces the Rebellion on the run again. He only loses due to the pride of Pryce and Konstantine who let ego get in the way of results and in order for the Rebels to even survive Commander Sato has to sacrifice himself to destroy a ship at the Battle of Atollon, which the battle that ends this season.

Revenge versus Mercy – One of the major themes this season is Revenge versus Mercy and the heart of how the Rebellion and characters should act. We see this with Saw Gerrera and his willingness to kill the last survivor of Geonosis, Cham Syndulla and his willingness to kill and risk his life for the liberation of Rylok and each cases how isolated the characters are when they don’t act with mercy and only want Revenge. It is mercy that turns Kallus to the Rebellion and helps the Rebellion gain allies from Mandalore as well as keeping Ezra’s balance. This theme is universal through the season and gave it strength.

Grand Admiral Thrawn – Lars Mikkelson plays one of my favorite characters in the EU, both in the original lore and now the new lore. This is a character who is an alien among an organization made up of humans and because of this doesn’t care about his own ego and pride. He is ruthless and cares about results and it makes sense because he is an outsider. He has a history and we see that he is honorable to as he lets Cham Syndulla escape after Cham is willing to destroy his own home to escape and is the observer. Every rebel victory is a learning experience that pays off. He is unconventional too as he is making Tie Defenders on Lothal and they are shielded ties that the ghost crew has trouble destroying. Because his greatest asset is knowledge he takes out rebels spies whenever we see him and he is the one who traps Fulcrum and nearly destroys the Rebellion, as the Rebels only manage to escape because Kanan angers the Bendu and Ezra brings allies from Mandalore. He is still alive and I can’t wait to see what he does next season. Just as he was my favorite character in the original lore he is now in the new canon.

Okay: Empire Needed More Wins – The Empire still needed more wins, and with the dead of Admiral Constantine (a stupid Admiral who is obsessed with glory) is killed in the finale that may happen. Thrawn turns even scenarios were he doesn’t crush the Rebellion into learning experiences that lead to his trap unfolding at the Battle of Atollon.

 The Cons: Iron Squadron – Iron Squadron is a rebellion run by a bunch of kids. They were super annoying and overpowered. They were the only folks from the Rebellion we meet who clash with the competence and fear that pervades the rest of the Rebellion and allies. I hated this episode, it is the only episode I hated this season. The rest are good or great.

   Season 3 was a lot better than Season 2 and was much more focused than Season 2 as Thrawn’s overall agenda was revealed at the end and the rebel plans became undone. This was a Hoth moment for the Lothal Rebellion and it was powerful to see what was supposed to be a fleet to liberate Lothal, decimated by Thrawn and the Rebellion forced to run, only just surviving because of unexpected allies. I really enjoyed this given that the Empire experienced mostly losses this season until Thrawn’s trap was finally sprung. This Thrawn is true to his original counterpart in the books in all the ways that matter, and if you were a fan of him in the books, as I was, you will most likely love him on the show. Can’t wait to see how his story unfolds and I hope he survives this series.

Final Score: 9.4 / 10

Star Wars Rebels – Season 2, Episode 10 – “A Princess on Lothal” – Leia Meets the Rebels

A Princess on Lothal

    The Empire still needs a win, but this is a great episode. In “A Princess on Lothal” Princess Leia meets up with our team and we see the ways that she has been helping the Rebellion. This is an episode that really establishes how savvy she is and part of why she is under so much suspicion come “A New Hope.” She is who makes this episode great.

    The episode was directed by Bosco Ng and written by Steven Melching.

    The story involves Leia delivering ships to the Rebels on Lothal and having to outsmart the Imperials there so that the Rebellion can get the ships. Ezra also faces the loss of his parents as the crew works to help Leia.

The Pros: The Action – The action is really solid in this episode and it is great to see our characters rise to the occasion. The Empire feels like a legitimate threat, which has been lacking this season outside of the first few episodes.

Kanan – Kanan is shown to be the experienced leader who is able to guide Leia in making her plan work. It’s great seeing him in the mentor role for a Jedi who doesn’t know she’s a Jedi and see her cover the political side of things, giving them cover for the action.

Ezra – Ezra is going through loss in this as last episode he learned that his parents died. Leia helps him get back on track and reminds him why his parents fought and why he chooses to fight. He is aware of others and it motivates his actions.

Princess Leia – Princess Leia is really savvy in this as so much of her actions are to keep Alderaan from losing it’s seat in the Senate as if they are seen to be helping the Rebellion they will lose face within the Galactic Government, and their representation. She does a good job too and is able to choose situations into her favor, like having the Rebels “Kidnap” her and using Kanan and Ezra’s stormtrooper cover as a distraction.

Okay: The Empire – The Empire is still losing a lot and I’d like to see them win. I’m going to keep bringing this up until they actually do. They are the Empire and are supposed to be a huge threat. Right now the threat feels real but not great.

The Crew of “Ghost” – They come to the rescue and support Ezra over the loss of his parents. Beyond that there isn’t much characterization.

   This was a great episode but not a favorite. There is promise but so much of that is contingent on the Empire getting some wins. The Rebellion continues to grow and if the Empire keeps losing we can’t take them seriously. Right now they are a lesser threat than the Dark Side during “The Clone Wars.” This is an issue that needs to be fixed.

Final Score: 9 / 10

Star Wars Rebels – Season 2, Episode 9 – “Legacy” – Return to Lothal

Star Wars Rebels Season 2 Episode 9 Legacy

     This was an episode that could have been more, sadly I think that giving this series more episodes has only been a detriment to the story. In giving each of our characters more exploration they end up facing the Empire and soundly defeating them making the Empire continue to be a waste of a villain, this of course after Darth Vader and the Siege of Lothal established that you don’t mess with them…hell Tarkin and the Inquisitor established that. This season has forgotten that for character development leading me to have much less favorite episodes this season, including this mid-season finale.

   Henry Gilroy was the writer of this episode.

   The story involves Ezra having visions of his parents on Lothal and wanting to return there as the Empire attacks the Rebels base that Ezra had accidentally revealed to one of the Seventh Sister’s droid. The Empire attacks and the Rebels must make their escape.

The Pros: Kanan – Kanan is the voice of wisdom here as we see him council Ezra on leaping to rage on multiple points. We also see them share the loss of being alone and losing their mentors or parents. These are great scenes that help make the episode stronger. He is the one who talks about the fact that even though Ezra’s parents are dead, they will always be with him.

Hera – Hera looked everywhere for Ezra’s parents and we see how deeply she looked, giving us a greater experience of the loss of them. It also shows how devoted she is to the crew. She is the captain for a reason. I’d watch a show just about her.

Chopper – Chopper chickens out during the battle. It’s funny given how active he was prior. It also showed how insane and temperamental he is.

Ezra – Ezra goes dark side at one point to defeat General Kallus and almost gets drawn into his destruction by the Inquisitors. Was impressed on how they handled his character and I completely expect him to go dark later, if only briefly.

Okay: Zeb and Sabine – Are just kind of there and don’t really do anything memorable.

The Rebellion – Is on the run, I never thought they were all at risk and they lost one ship. You never feel the loss of that ship.

The Empire – The Empire is still arrogant and overall useless even when they find the Rebel Hideout. They really need a win like what they had at Lothal.

  Not much happens with the Empire and Rebellion. The Rebels escape, only losing one ship and again the Rebels face no consequences and experience no real loss, while again the Empire is made to look like fools. I know they are the bad guys, but they have to win sometimes or else they will no longer be taken seriously as threats. Why even have Luke, Leia and Han if Disney XD’s rebels already had it handled…

Final Score: 7 / 10

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

Vision_of_hope_4

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 8 – “Path of the Jedi” – The Path Through Fear

Path_of_the_jedi_6     “The Path of the Jedi” is very similar to what Luke faced in Dagoba. It is here we learn that to become a Jedi a Padawan must face his or her greatest fears alone and that it is at the end the Master is there to guide them to safety and to give them words of wisdom before carrying on. It’s a powerful episode, made all the more so by the voice that appears and the fact that we never see the Jedi who is speaking and guiding Kanan and Ezra through their fears.

The episode was directed by Dave Filoni and written by Charles Murray and Greg Weisman.

The story begins with Kanan finding a Jedi Temple on Lothal and reacting angrily to Ezra for missing training again. This leads to him having Ezra find the Jedi Temple using the force. This leads to them entering it together and Ezra having to face the darkness alone to become a Jedi.

The Pros: The Temple on Lothal – I really like the Temple’s design. It is a giant Monolith that opens to reveal a passage and reacts entirely to the force and the mind of the participants. It is also connected to Yoda, which my guess is all the Temples are due to him being on Dagoba or just because is that strong in the force. The setting is wonderful and gives both our characters a chance to grow.

Kanan – Kanan fears letting Ezra down and this leads to him reacting with anger to Ezra and we learn why this is. Kanan left the order for a while and part of it was because he was reactive and angry, much like Ezra. It is this fear that drives Kanan and that Yoda counsels him through so that Kanan can have the confidence to train Ezra.

Ezra’s Fears – Ezra fears being alone and death. He fears being alone when we see illusions of the crew talking bad about him behind his back before them as well as Kanan are slaughtered by The Inquisitor while The Inquisitor continues to hunt Ezra before he finally surrenders and realizes that it doesn’t matter if he dies or not, he won’t fear what he cannot control…this leads to Yoda guiding him with his voice to finish his trial.

Master Yoda – Yoda has a lot of good advice in this. He helps counsel Ezra discover what a Jedi is and that it isn’t in anger and revenge (Kanan never acted that way) and that to be a Jedi is to protect others and to help others to feel alive. It’s a powerful scene since we see Ezra’s need for control and power since he’s been alone all his life asserted initially showing how easily he could cross over to the dark side.

Ezra – Ezra gets a lot of great development in this. We see him make peace with dying and losing all of those he loves but also how he holds onto rage and power in hopes that that will prevent it from happening even as he understands that his role is to help others to heal and to feel alive and that revenge is not the way of the Jedi. When he leaves he grows more connected to Kanan and understands him better too. He also receives a Kyber Crystal and makes his own Lightsaber using things on the ship.

I really liked this episode. It had great direction by Dave Filoni and fantastic writing that went into depth on what it means to be a Jedi. We get the chance to learn more about Ezra and Kanan and see that the Jedi that are still around still have safe havens so that they can still face their fears and come to fully understand what it means to be a Jedi. This is one of my favorite episodes thus far in the series and I highly recommend it.

Final Score: 10 / 10.