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 – Season 1, Episode 3 – “Rise of the Old Masters” – Enter The Inquisitor

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     This episode establishes the new threat of The Inquisitor really well as well as implying that Order 66 and the aftermath has been very successful. The only folks around now are untrained Jedi like Kanan who were never able to finish their training and now are the best hope for people like Ezra who are force sensitive but have no experience or discipline. It is a great stakes episode.

   The episode was directed by Steward Lee and written by Henry Gilroy.

    The story begins with Kanan training Ezra but it going wrong and Kanan realizing he doesn’t know enough about being a Jedi himself.  After they receive information that Jedi Master Luminara is captured by the Empire they decide to mount a rescue for her. This leads to Ezra feeling like Kanan doesn’t want him and the things soon become complicated as their information about the prison is outdated and they are forced to improvise.

The Pros: The Infiltration – Finding a way in to the base is one with high stakes all the way through. They have to drop in a shuttle, go in least guarded door, make it look like nothing happened and get to Luminara before the alarms are sounded. Nothing goes as planned and when Ezra and Kanaan reach the location they find Luminara dead and that she was a trap laid by The Inquisitor to capture and kill them.

Kanan – Kanan is very human in this. We see his insecurities in this and realize he was never fully trained but we also see that he uses the force like Ezra. They are most in contact with it when protecting others. In this case Kanan saves Ezra and after they rescue the crew using the force before he begins training Ezra without being insecure.

Ezra – Ezra is arrogant per usual but has a good head. He has no desire to join the dark side and is very attached to his new family. We see him get schooled by the Inquisitor but at least providing a distracting while Kanan fights. He also is key in their escape from the base and says he wants Kanan as a Master.

Sabine and Zeb – Sabine helps them escape the turbo lift and is key in the escape. Zeb trolls Ezra at the beginning of the episode but comes around at the end is key with Sabine. There is also a moment where they make fun of Kanan in front of Kanan about how the plan keeps getting worse and that he never makes good plans.

Hera – Uses her skills as a pilot to use the fact that Ray like beasts want to mate with the ship to be her Calvary against the Imperial forces attempting to stop the Crew from escaping. She does a good job in this and is once again the solid base for all of them.

The Inquisitor – Jason Isaacs is wonderful in this role! This guy is confident, deadly and from what we can gather has killed quite a few Jedi already. He’s the kind of guy you don’t want to mess with and he is so powerful Kanan and Ezra get their buts handed to them and the crew is forced to run away from him. He’s just that dangerous that victory means escaping him not defeating him. Can’t wait to see what they do with this guy. He has a great design with Sith tattoos and the grey skin of his species, the Pau’an.

   I really enjoyed this episode. It establishes the threat of The Inquisitor and The Empire and we see just how outmatched our heroes are, considering their only victory is in surviving not stopping or preventing anything. The Jedi religion is pretty much dead at this point and you really feel it. The Jedi are survivors (those few that are left) and are hunted, there is no safety when the Empire controls all.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10.

Star Wars Rebels – Season 1, Episode 2 – “Fighter Flight” – When Brothers Fight

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   This was a good episode. We get more of Ezra’s backstory and the writers deal with the fact that Ezra and Zeb have clashed with each other since “Spark of Rebellion.” We also see more Imperial Cruelty (though at this point I’d like to see conflicted loyalties with a character and the Empire do more than oppress). For a character episode, it is fantastic though.

    “Fighter Flight” was directed by Steven G. Lee and Steward Lee and written by Greg Weisman.

      The story begins with Chopper trolling Ezra and Zeb which leads to them getting into a giant fight throughout the ship. To force them to make peace with one another Hera sends them on a supply run and asks them to get a fruit that isn’t grown on the planet. From here things unfold dangerously as the Empire buys the only fruit on the planet and things unfold from there.

The Pros: Sabine – Sabine is an artist and doesn’t put up with any of Ezra’s flirting. She is a great character who is very much just doing her own thing. She does art with spray paint and specializes in cartoons.

Chopper – Chopper is a troll and needlessly cruel even though he does help around the ship. This is the first droid I can think of that is an actual jerk like Chopper is. Putting this as a pro because I haven’t seen any droid like this in the Star Warsverse.

Kanan and Hera – Kanan is the worrying Dad when they are out as he predicts trouble is going to happen, though Hera is right as Zeb and Ezra become friends after their adventure and stealing of the Tie Fighter. She is really good at gauging people which makes her one of my favorite characters on the show.

Zeb – Zeb has a quick temper but has a surprising amount of patience with Ezra. We learn in this one that it is due to how similar they are. They are both reckless but will risk everything for other people. They also love having new things as it is implied they keep the Tie Fighter they stole from the Empire.

Ezra – Ezra is an arrogant prick but is capable of growth. We see this in how he holds saving Zeb’s live over his head again and again, but that at the core he is good. Whether it is using the Tie Fighter Zeb steals to rescue the friends of his parents from the Imperials, or putting himself out there for Ghost. He’s reckless but has a good heart.

The Cons: The Empire – The Empire is pretty incompetent this episode and needlessly cruel. I hope this doesn’t become too common as a threat has to be felt as a threat for beating it to mean anything.

Final Score: 8.3 / 10.

Star Wars Rebels – Season 1, Episode 1 – “Droids in Distress” – Weapons of Genocide

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       This episode was great and shows that “Rebels” can take the 20 minute episode format and still tell amazing stories that advance character and plot without needing a television movie like they did with “Spark of Rebellion.” This episode had similar themes to “Avatar: The Last Airbender” as we learn what the Empire did to Garazeb, whose people where wiped out with these weapons when the Empire exterminated his world. But more on that later on. I was really impressed with this episode though and the themes and situations it covered.

     “Droids in Distress” was directed by Steward Lee and written by Greg Weisman, Anthony Daniels and Phil LaMarr.

     The story begins with the crew of Ghost running low on everything and knowing they need a job. When an oppurtunity comes around to steal a shipment for Cikatro, they decide to take the deal. Things get more complicated though as the Imperials come after them and the shipment is revealed to be the weapons that were used to destroy the Lasan.

The Pros: The Empire – This is an episode where you really feel the threat of the Empire and what they are capable of. The fact that Zeb is the last of his people is a big reason for that and that Agent Kallus defeats and nearly kills him in the final fight is as well. The Rebels are truly the underdogs even if they manage to scrape by small victories and sometimes get paid.

Kanan – Kanan makes some tough calls this episode as he decides to take the deal with the gangster since they are just that desperate for money, but when it falls through does the right thing and destroys the remaining guns and delivers the droids back to their master Bail Organa. He also starts to formally train Ezra after Ezra save Zeb using the force.

Hera – Hera is once again the one aware of everything going on. Zeb’s pain over the guns used to kill his people, the fact that they’ll have to sell Ghost if they can’t get a job soon and reminding Kanan of his responsibility to Ezra and that he needs to be trained. She’s the most aware person on the ship.

Sabine – Sabine has a lot of fun this episode. She gets to overload the rifles when R2-D2 suggests it and says it was the original plan (Why they were working with an Imperial Representative) and we see that she lives up to her Mandalorian heritage being one of the strongest fighters when the Imperial Walkers arrive to get the shipment.

R2-D2 – R2’s got sass and is also one of the most active members of the Rebellion as he is connecting them to Organa so Organa can better use them later against the Empire and provide them the much needed funding they need. He was going to destroy the rifles and is a very independent droid, much like in every “Star Wars” film.

C-3PO – C-3PO is the worry wart and calls Kallus to them as he thinks they’ve been kidnapped by the rebels. This leads to the fight with the guns and the stormtroopers shooting at him (stupidly). 3PO wasn’t any help at all this episode and was the but of every joke, but at least was a nice contrast to R2’s selflessness.

Bail Organa – Bail Organa gives the Rebels money for delivering him his droids and his shown to have a higher plan in mine as he asks R2 for everything he recorded while he was with the Empire and Rebels. It’s a great scene and we see how in the fight he is, which in a way shows Alderaan isn’t exactly an innocent player in the game of Imperial Resistance.

Agent Kallus – Kallus killed a Lasan Honor Guard for his weapon and defeats Zeb in combat when he fights using it. The fact that he has one and is so genocidally bent makes him more complicated than Zhao. Why would he use the weapon of the people he hates and views as lesser than himself? I get the idea he fears the Lasan and that’s why he has embraced their combat and probably how he helped destroy them when he gave the order.

Ezra – Ezra really wants to be a Jedi and the first half of the episode deals with that, while the other deals with his caring for Zeb after he hears what happens when Zeb kicks him out of his room and later on it is his fear for Zeb being killed that leads to him force pushing Kallus away from making the kill shot.

Zeb – Zeb’s story is that of tragedy. He is the last of the Lasan and in this episode meets the man who gave the order and was there killing his people. We see how understandably deep his anger and pain are as he joins Kallus in combat. After Ezra saves his life we see he has the beginning of respect for him.

Okay: Cikatro – He would have been humanized if he’d altered the deal and gave them some money. I’m still waiting for this guy to be more than just a classic gangster. He has a great design at least.

    This was an episode that articulated why the Rebels fight (the Empire commits genocide against all who resist), where Ghost fits into the bigger picture (the meeting with Senator Organa and it being secret) and character arcs as now Zeb will want to defeat Kallus even more.

Final Episode: 10 / 10