“The Mandalorian” Season 1 – For Disney+, This is the Way

Image result for The Mandalorian poster

    “The Mandalorian” is the first thing to come out of the new Disney Star Wars that feels original. There are all the trappings of Star Wars but it doesn’t feel tied back to any prior lore and is a solid series as is. It doesn’t need the rest of the Extended Universe to be good and that is where the strength of it really is. This is a space western that explores the life and story of a bounty hunter in this universe and Jon Favreau and handles this amazingly well. There is a beautiful simplicity to the great westerns that this show captures perfectly. For non-spoiler thoughts the only cons that stood out were the cliche writing tropes that happened sometimes and I had a few issues with the final episode. Also, this show is super quotable. You’ve probably already heard “I have spoken” and “This is the way” from the popular culture around you. It was wonderful being part of the experience of it all with everyone.

The show was created by Jon Favreau in collaboration with Dave Filoni, Kathleen Kennedy and Colin Wilson.

The story follows the Mandolorian bounty hunter (Pedro Pascal) on his bounty assignments as his life is changed after he discovers one of his bounties is not what he’d thought it would be.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack is what makes the world. It feels completely seperate from John Williams’s score and sets the world apart as a western. Ludwig Göransson is truly a master of his craft. I want to check out his other work now. The soundtrack is a big reason I’d watch the credits at the end of each episode, besides the cool concept art that came with it.

The World – This world takes place within “Star Wars” but has none of the major characters. The major antagonist is Moff Gideon who leads a remnant of the Empire but as far as we can see, doesn’t even have a Star Destroyer and his army seems to be made up of mercenaries. This is a world where the Mandalorian people have been nearly wiped out and our protagonist is part of a hidden group in the sewers of a planet. The New Republic is also nowhere to be seen showing that it is a new government and they have never really had an organized Navy in the way the Empire did. The world is beautiful, raw and works.

The Supporting Characters –  The supporting cast of “The Mandalorian” is a big reason this show works. You have Kuil played by Nick Nolti who is the Mandalorian’s (Mando / Din Djarin) first mentor and helps him become the father figure to “Baby Yoda.” His other ally is Cara Dune played by Gina Carano who is Mando’s fellow warrior. There is also his sometimes boss Greef Karga played by Carl Weathers who is in charge of the Bounty Hunters Guild. All of these characters who appear multiple times get development and lore. There are smaller characters like Mando’s former criminal co-workers who he ran with and of course enemies like Moff Gideon who we meet too. All of these characters give life and nuance to the world and show us who Mando is in how he interacts with them.

The Mandalorian – Our protagonist Din Djarin the Mandalorian is a character who tells us so much in his silence. He doesn’t talk much and demonstrates who he is from his actions. We see this when he saves Baby Yoda from the imperial remnant, his defense of a village from raiders and his willingness to give people a chance, even if they betray him. Pedro Pascal is excellent in the role. This is a character ruled by trauma from the Clone Wars when droids killed his parents, and dealing with that hate and distrust is his main arc beyond caring for others again. He never stops being a Bounty Hunter but he finds a way to keep to the good within that code. It is extremely well done and I can’t wait to see where future seasons go.

Okay:

Imperial Remnant – I have a few okays listed because the ideas work in some ways and don’t work in others. For example the Imperial Remnant. The Empire has so many stormtroopers killed and they are the but of jokes, but they also manage to destroy most of the hidden Mandalorians and can be threatening when there is a need. I can’t call them a pro because Moff Gideon hasn’t won on screen yet and we don’t know how powerful this remnant of the Empire is.

Unearned Happy Ending – The ending wasn’t bad, I was fine with it but it could have been better. We have heroic sacrifice, which I appreciated…but Moff Gideon never gets the chance to be a real threat and his Imperial Remnant never feels effective. I’m not putting as a con because I did like Mando and his friends fighting against the Moff, it was just way too happy. Moff is defeated in his Tie-Fighter (but survives) and after Greef just declares victory. It felt short sighted and making the episode happy rather than taking in both the loss of IG-11 and Kuiil.

This is a show that has so much promise. It isn’t perfect but I do consider it great. It had enough characters I cared about, the feel of the world is one I want to spend more time in and the fact that there is more story to tell has me intrigued. My personal hope is that it doesn’t tie itself to closely to Disney’s new lore in episodes 7-9 as I’d like this to be a show that someone who isn’t into “Star Wars” could pick up and enjoy and follow all the way through. I don’t know if this will happen, but that is the hope I’m holding onto for this series. This is a story that doesn’t need any prior lore to keep it strong and I’d like it to stay that way moving forward.

Final Score: 9 / 10

Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) – Enjoyable but Weakest of the New Trilogy

Image result for Rise of Skywalker"

      ‘The Rise of Skywalker” is a mess with a ton of flaws and is easily the weakest out of all the new Trilogy. I felt that the things that were strong helped elevate the mess enough to the point that it still managed to be an enjoyable film, even though I hate how derivative it is of “Return of the Jedi.” A lot of my fears about Abrams return were certainly validated in this film but due to actor performances and character relationships that really made it work for me, as extremely flawed as it is.

The film was directed by J.J. Abrams who co-wrote the film along with Chris Terrio.

The story picks up a few years later with Leia training Rey as a Jedi as Kylo Ren finds Emperor Palpatine alive with his hidden fleet. From here it is a race against time as our heroes must stop Palpatine and Kylo Ren before they conquer the galaxy.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Soundtrack – John Williams is once again showing why he heads this series. He is once against the master of his craft here. I will definitely be listening to this soundtrack again and all his work with the prior films.

The Action – The action is good but nothing stands out like the fights in the prior film. There is emotional resonance to some of the action, specifically anytime Rey and Kylo fight one another. This film is primarily action though so it had to be at least serviceable. In that I’d say it succeeds but it isn’t as good as the action in “The Force Awakens” or “The Last Jedi.”

The Core Characters – The core characters are what makes this film work, even though I disagreed with some of the character choices done with them. For the characters I feel like were the strongest I’ll be going into more depth below as it was really these characters that made the film work enough for me in the end.

Poe – Poe takes up the leadership role that was left in the last film as we see him leading the Resistance after Leia’s death. He is made more like Han Solo in this film (which annoyed me) but I liked us seeing him clash with Rey. Both are headstrong so it’d make sense they’d clash. It also got away from shipping them, which I appreciated. Oscar Issac’s is of course wonderful as always.

Finn – John Boyega is one of the strongest of all the new actors and that is once again demonstrated here. Here we get hints that Finn might have the force (he senses things, especially when Rey is in trouble). I wish this could have been explored further, but I did enjoy him playing such a key role in the final battle and fully embracing his role as a member of the rebellion. He even meets a former stormtrooper in this who he forms a friendship with. He is my favorite of the new characters besides Kylo Ren / Ben Solo and I would like to see what is done with him in the future.

Leia Organa – Leia finishes Rey’s training from the unused footage from prior films. It worked for me and I like that her last act was reaching out to Ben Solo so he could return to the light. It was strong and you see that Rey’s healing in the force probably came from Leia’s training. R.I.P. Carrie Fisher. I’m glad we got to know her more in this. One of the strongest scenes is when Luke tells Rey that when Leia finishes her training from Luke she realizes what becoming a Jedi will do to her son. The consequence of having the power is recognized and I like how that shaped her and made her choose to stay the politician and general instead.

Kylo Ren / Ben Solo – Ben Solo’s arc is the biggest re-tread of prior films but it is also one of the things that works most about the film. In this it is in the act of Rey healing him and his mom reaching out to him with the last of her life force that change him to the light. After this he speaks to Han in his memory before casting away his red lightsaber. Adam Driver is acting the hell out of this film and he is a huge reason the film works. His redemption story is predictable but the way Kylo versus Ben carry themselves is noticeable and the steps to the transformation are rushed but worked. It was that heart of the film that I really felt anything and I appreciate that Ben dies to save Rey. It brings the story full circle and makes him the most developed character in the entire series.

The Cons:

Knights of Ren – The Knights of Ren show up and have no payoff. They don’t feel like a threat. Phasma did more and I felt like she wasn’t fully utilized or explored. We don’t learn anything about them and they have no interaction with Kylo beyond being enforcers and fighting him at the end. They are missed potential in a big way and could have been worthy foes.

Palpatine and his Plan – We never lean how Palpatine survived “Return of the Jedi” except that the Dark Side cult is probably tied to the reasons and maybe he did have a contingency like his hidden fleet with Death Star weapons. Ian McDiarmid is of course amazing in the role, but his existence is just a re-treated of “Return of the Jedi” as we never get what his plan was for the First Order, since he created Snoke.

Rey’s Origin – I wish Rey’s parents had been nobody. Her being a Palpatine makes this universe so small, with everyone being related to everyone. Plus it is hard to imagine someone who wants to live forever (Palpatine) ever having a kid. In the prequels and original Trilogy he shows no interest in romance or sex at all. So her origin story becomes nonsensical and meaningless. She’d have fought Palpatine anyway regardless of her bloodline so it changes nothing.

Force Bloodlines and Return of the Prequel Problems – Rey being a Palpatine and Ben being a Skywalker bring back the prequel problem of the force and bloodlines, when it looked like the “The Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi” were trying to get away from that. Leaning all in just elevated the problem of the origin story in the first place and takes away the mystique of the force. I hated in the prequels and I hate it once again here.

This film is a mess and I do wish they’d been more original than re-treading “Return of the Jedi.” If you are a Star Wars fan chances are you will find something to like, though the things I hated might be a bigger deal for you as well. The Skywalker story is the strongest part of the film (Ben, Luke and Leia) and really what makes the film good. The characters are who carry this frenetic mess and elevate it to an enjoyable experience. If you liked the prior 2 films, you will probably enjoy this one. The flaws are huge and I wish Disney had been more original, but for a Trilogy that only really took risks with “The Last Jedi,” this worked but could have been so much more.

8.6 / 10

“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

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) – The “Star Wars” Mostly Works But Drags Though the Ending is Fantastic

rogue-one

     “Rogue One” is a good movie. It isn’t a great movie…not by a long shot as it has structurual problems and a lot of the characters don’t have arcs and this goes for the overall structure too. If you want an experience in the “Star Wars Universe” though, this is a good experience of that, and for what it’s worth it is better than “Return of the Jedi” but I’m one of those people who doesn’t really like that film and only finds it okay.

      The film was directed by Gareth Edwards, written by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy and produced by Kathleen Kennedy, Allison Shearmur, Simon Emanual.

      The story involves the Rebels getting the plans for the Death Star as told through the eyes of the group that comes to be Rogue One, lead by the extremely rebellious Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), daughter of the man (Mads Mikklesen) who designs the Death Star under threat from his former friend Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn).

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The World – The world of “Star Wars” in that galaxy a long time ago in a galaxy far far away…is one that I care about. I am a fan and not just of the Original Trilogy, I love KOTOR, the Thrawn Trilogy, The Clone Wars (3D and 2D) and Rebels. I grew up on the games that are no longer cannon and this is sci. fi. fantasy in it’s base form. This film captures so much of that as we really see the breadth and strength of the Empire and that is one thing that kept me in this film through it all.

The Cinematography – Gareth Edwards knows how to direct and this film is beautiful in the scenes that are shot, especially those of the Death Star and the Space Battles.

The Action – The action is the strongest part as the action has consequences. Characters die and like “The Empire Strikes Back,” we see the consequences of the Rebellion. This can’t be stated enough and knowing that the Rebellion is only going to suffer more in the coming film lends this film strength.

Grand Moff Tarkin as Character – The character of Tarkin is fantastic even if the CGI is really good video game CGI but not quite there CGI. I still enjoyed the things he did even if how he looked was a little distracting. They should have just got a look a like, they did in “Revenge of the Sith.” Beyond that though, his character is a wonderful snake who is using and disposing people to meet his final ends of holding his power and position and destroying the Rebellion. He is the greatest threat outside of Vader through the film.

Darth Vader – We got to Vader’s Palace on Mustafar! The fact that this is even a thing makes me happy as it fits, the “Dark Side” gains it’s power from pain and rage and that is where Vader lost everything so Krennic visiting him here (and getting strangled for trying to assume on Vader) gives us more to Vader’s mystique. He also kills a lot of the rebels and shows why he is one of the only 2 Sith in the Galaxy.

K-2SO – Alan Tudyk is wonderful as the cynical reprogrammed Imperial Droid and he is the only one of the “Rogue One” rebels with an arc. He goes from uncaring from someone who sacrifices for others. I really like how cynical he is and how nihilistic he is about everything. He is very Marvinesque (From “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”) and it works. It sucks the other cast members weren’t given an arc.

Getting the Plans – Getting the plans is really well done as we see Jyn and Cassian go undercover at the Imperial Intelligence homeworld to get the plans that Jyn’s father implanted in the system. It is really well done and it is this battle and heist that is easily the best part of the film. There is cost, consequences and action…it is a shame we couldn’t have gotten more of this earlier.

The Final – The rebels barely escape Vader with the plans and all of the Rogue One characters die. This is powerful and I like that for the first time since “Empire Strikes Back” the Empire felt like a threat. “Star Wars Rebels” is mostly miss on this issue sadly and most “Star Wars” lore is about the victories…but all that does is make the Empire look weak. This film did some work to change that with the final.

Okay: Rogue One Team – Bunch of guys from a Temple Guardians (a cynic and a blind man) to a rebel intelligence agent (Cassian) to K-2, an Imperial Pilot who joined the rebellion (Bodi) and Jyn. Outside of K-2 most of these folks are just there. They don’t get any arc and are just pulled along by the plot, which is sad as the idea of all of these characters was good, but none of it went anywhere.

The Ersos – The Father and Daughter relationship was supposed to be central but it wasn’t. Mads and Felicity did fine with what little they were given but we didn’t get anything on their relationship to the Empire or Krennic. They were pulled along by the plot rather than shaping the plot. This isn’t a con as it didn’t make me angry and it wasn’t bad…but it wasn’t good either.

Orso Krennic – This dude is just a pawn which for a guy who is the main villain was a waste. I cared about him more than Hux from “The Force Awakens” though as Krennic was fighting against a system that wanted to crush him. Hux was at the head of his game and was still winy.

The Cons: CGI Lore Characters – Leia and Tarkin look like video game characters. I get the look they were going for but it still looks not quite right. It worked in the story but it also took me out of the story. They should have just used look alikes.

Extremely Slow First Half – I felt like I was nodding off early on until the Death Star is finally used. This is due to characters not fully being developed and the film going way to slow. There were so many missed opportunities for character development and growth in the first hour that were never taken.

Character Arcs? – None of the “Rogue One” cast have character arcs…and they need them for us to fully feel their loss. Outside of K-2 I cared way more about Vader and Tarkin since I knew from from prior works…this film needed to develop the main cast and it failed to deliver.

   This was a film that I’d recommend to anyone who is a fan of Star Wars. I enjoyed it even though I wouldn’t call it great, it isn’t “The Force Awakens” (a film with characters that had actual arcs and growth) but it is better than “Return of the Jedi” and easily my 4th favorite “Star Wars” film. There was the potential to do so much more, either making this a complete heist type film (an under appreciated genre) or make this an ensemble film. I wanted to love Bodi, I wanted to care about to Orsos…but I was never given the chance too. We didn’t get exploration of what they really desired and were fighting for and that went for the rest of “Rogue One” which makes the deaths matter not nearly as much as they should.

Final Score: 8.1 / 10

“Star Wars Rebels” Season 2 – A Great Beginning, Character Episodes and End but Overall Lack of Focus

Star Wars Rebels Season 2

   “Star Wars Rebels” Season 2 was a season that started with a lot of promise. “The Siege of Lothal” is one of the best episodes in the series and the promise of it being “The Empire Strikes Back” of the show was a very big claim that initially looked like would be successful executed. Sadly the shows lack of focus, clearly showing the threat of the Empire and poor setup of big payoffs brought the show down overall, making it weaker than Season 1 for me. This doesn’t discount what works though and this show is still a favorite. So without further ado, here is my overall assessment of the show.

The Pros: The Animation – The animation continues to be amazing and flow beautifully, especially in regards to the action sequences and giving us what the planets look like. This has never been an issue with the show and continues to be one of the strongest points within it.

The Action – The action when it happens is fantastic. The duels between Inquisitors, fights between the Rebels and Empire and any fight that involves Darth Vader is awesome. My biggest issue is the action wasn’t all the tight so that brought it down.

Hondo – Hondo is back and one of the few elements of comedic relief that works as we see his mercenary nature rub off on Ezra and help push him to the dark side in small ways as in helping him and when he helps the crew it shows an ends justify the means mentality that illustrated Anakin’s fall.

Captain Rex – Captain Rex is a pretty amazing character and I’m glad they brought him back into this Universe. I’m still hoping he dies so he can get the warrior’s death that would fit his character arc so well…his arc is great in that he and Kanan grow to have a respect for one another as they are both mentors for Ezra.

Yoda – Yoda makes an appearance in this and it is awesome! He recognizes his past mistakes with the Jedi order and helps our heroes make peace within themselves. He even reaches out to Ahsoka and is happy to see you. He really was handled beautifully this season.

The Crew of Ghost – The crew of the Ghost continues to be where the strongest characters are as we have a “Firefly” type relationship between this crew of survivors as they find themselves pulled into a larger story that they are only pieces in. For this reason, the glimpses of the Universe we get are all the more profound and how it impacts the crew.

The Crew of Ghost – The Crew continues to be the strongest part of the show as I’ve come to care about the drama they go through and what motivates them in what they do.

Chopper – Chopper is shown to be complex in this! He helps liberate an Imperial droid, we learn he fought in the Clone Wars and the cares deeply for the crew and those around him even though he’s a bit insane.

Sabine – We learn more about Sabine’s Mandalorian side and her willingness to do anything to achieve ends even if it means killing. The only reason she doesn’t kill is because she learns from Hera and Kanan who become like a father and mother figure to her. She is a lot of fun and could have done with some more exploration, especially tied back to the Empire.

Kanan – Kanan gets some great exploration in this as we see his relationship to Hera’s father who he fought with in the Clone Wars and is a hero and from that how deeply he cares about her. We see him rise in power in this and go through his arc of letting Ezra go and knowing that he can only give Ezra so much training. He connects with the light side of the Grand Inquisitor too which is pretty amazing.

Hera – In this we see that Hera is looked down upon by her father who is a hero of his people for fighting in the Clone Wars and is willing to go any means to win. It is Hera who shows him that wider perspective of how allies are their best bet to win the war. She really is a great character and we see her abandonment fears when Kanan is going off to face the Inquisitor as she has already lost her mother to war and in a way her father too. Her character is tragic and strong.

Zeb – Zeb is my favorite character in the series and in this he becomes the Hero of the Lasat as he works with the Elders to help them find the original Lasat homeworld. We also see his growth when he connects with Agent Kallus and helps them survive on a dangerous moon. He is a character with depth who manages to bring strength and humor to any situation and is easily one of the wisest characters on the show now.

The Empire – I still really like the Empire in this though I feel the writers spent most of this season making them feel weak. This was bad on their part as we were promised “The Empire Strikes Back” of the show and I didn’t feel that at all. If anything, it was more of “The New Hope” based off the Finale.

The Inquisitors – The Inquistiors have a cool look and start out strong but become weaker over the course of the series. When Ahsoka easily beats two of them they never recover for it and end being slaughtered by Maul in the Finale. I like the idea of them but they could have been handled as a threat a lot better (same with the Empire as a whole).

Agent Kallus – In this season we learn Kallus was a grunt who lost his men to a Lasat Mercenary and that is why he hates them. We also learn the slaughter of the Lasat was not what he thought would happen and he carries guilt over it. By the season’s end he is questioning and alone as he realizes he is being lied to and is just a cog in the Imperial Machine.

Darth Vader – Darth Vader is awesome and is the best part of “The Siege of Lothal” and “Twilight of the Apprentice.” His arc ends with him once again killing Anakin so that he can destroy Ahsoka and all his connections to the past. He beats her but we don’t know if she’s dead or not (I hope she is). This season we get glimpses of the light in the overwhelming dark of Vader.

The Old Master / Maul – Maul is back and he is awesome! In this he acts as Ezra’s teacher in the Dark Side and is responsible for killing the Imperial Inquisitors and blinding Kanan. He is after power and wants Ezra as his apprentice. It is great to see him again as he’s lost everything to the Jedi and Empire and now only has hate and vengeance to drive him. He survives the destruction of the Sith Temple and is out there still too.

Ahsoka Tano – Ahsoka’s arc in this is making peace with leaving Anakin and the Jedi order as we see her fight to avenge Anakin to destroy the monster he’s become in Vader. In the end she chooses to stay with him too as her spirit is broken as she sees the monster consumed by rag and power that Anakin has become. She really is a great character and I like how she never feels comfortable being a teacher because she is a free agent and not a Jedi, just a force user who uses light sabers and the light side of the force. I hope she died, she deserves an awesome death which she got.

Okay: Commander Sato – Sato is another character with potential, though I wish he’d die this season. He is the face of the larger Rebellion that connects to the crew and he even gets captured once. Sadly this doesn’t go anywhere as he is rescued and it establishes his respect for Ezra. He is a symbol of Rebel power and that is about it.

Ezra – Ezra has great moments when we see him tempted by the Dark Side but he is so overpowering at times that he feels like a Mary Sue at times. It is far to easy for him to save the people and the crew and he doesn’t go through any trial I felt until the final battle at the end. There was a lot of missed opportunities for this character.

Other Minor Characters – Sabine’s friend a few others are pretty weak. All they exist for is to show the crew has more allies, and in the process make the Empire even more weak as they can’t seem to kill people who should be dead. At least Ezra’s parents aren’t alive.

The Cons: Lack of Narrative Focus – We have fillers, we have a lot of bottle episodes for characters and some episodes that don’t involve the Empire at all. The Empire is set up to be THE threat with the Inquisitors in “The Siege of Lothal,” but it doesn’t go anywhere until the Finale and I blame that on the lack of focus.

Filler Episodes – We get a whale episode, an episode where we meet a mercenary who worked with Sabine and a few others that just feel like baggage. All they end up doing is make the Empire look weak and expand the size of the Universe.

    This season was not nearly as strong as last, though the First and Finale episodes of the season were on part with the best from last season and sometimes better. It was these episodes where the core drama between Darth Vader and the rebels really got explored and the Empire felt like a threat. Outside of that they spent most of this season being beaten by the rebels at every turn. Seriously, the Inquisitors became useless by the end leaving me to wonder how Dave Filoni is going to fill in a new threat for them as I worry making Vader the main threat will just make him as useless as the Inquisitors, which I don’t want. If this show ruins him I’m going to hate this show. That didn’t happen this season at least, and for all of the problems it had, there were some great moments of gold.

Final Score: 8 / 10

Star Wars Rebels – Season 2, Episode 14 – “Homecoming” – How War Changes People

The Homecoming SWR Season 2

   “Homecoming” is another great episode that we needed after the travesty of “The Call.” We get to meet Hera’s father, realize why she is the way she is and how her father became the name he is (he was in “The Clone Wars” series too) and we get the chance to see how war and conflict can warp a person and their priorities. It really is a fantastic character piece.

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

    The episode involves the crew meeting up with the Rebel Cell on Ryloth lead by Hera’s father who was a hero during “The Clone Wars” and is known as the Hero of Ryloth. Their plan is to capture an Imperial Fighter Carrier above the planet but her father may have other darker plans.

The Pros: The History – The history in this is great. Kanan and Cham fought in “The Clone Wars” and are both veterans of war that lead directly to the rise of The Empire and the current dark times. This undercurrent of history pervades the script and lends it power.

Kanan – Kanan is funny as the awkward hero trying to impress his girlfriend’s father. He keeps trying to act formal around Cham and in the end Cham does respect him, which is nice to see.

The Crew of Ghost – The crew all play their part, from Zeb and Sabine capturing Cham’s agents who are trying to blow up the cruiser…to Kanan, Ezra and Hera facing Cham down and convincing him that there can be more than martyrdom and the Rebellion may not become the new Empire.

Hera – This is Hera’s episode and in this we see her convince her father there is more to the fight than Ryloth and that Ryloth is not alone in the fight against the Empire. It is powerful as she lived through the war as a child and she admits it was her father’s action that inspired her to join the rebellion and become a captain within it.

Cham Syndulla – Cham is the hardened warrior who lost his wife and is fighting a losing war against the Empire. He sees only hope in martyrdom until his daughter shows him another way, which reminds him of his wife who showed him the same thing until she herself was killed by the Empire. He’s an awesome character and I like that he’s tied to Hera and was brought into this series.

The Cons: Imperial Need a Win – I will say it again, the Imperials need a win. This was another episode that showed the Rebellion to be unstoppable, which is the biggest con of this season at the current time. It’s hard to have tension when everyone does the heroic thing in the end or our enemies are so toothless.

  Even with the problem of the Empire once again being a bit useless…this is a good character piece. We get to see why Hera is the way she is and Cham has a realistic character arc and I cared about the character, and not just because I knew him from “The Clone Wars.” In the end I’d recommend this episode and it is a favorite of the series.

Final Score: 9 / 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