Original “Dawn of War” Reviews – Dawn of War: Game of the Year Edition

Dawn of War Game of the Year Edition

       Warhammer 40K is a fascinating world and the first “Dawn of War” does a great job exploring it in the campaign and story. I wish the Tyranids had been an added faction though, as they are more well known than the Eldar it seems. Sadly the Tyranids would not be playable in this series, only through a mod are they playable in “Soulstorm” it is a pretty good mod though. Enough on what this game doesn’t have though, how does it work and what is the story?

      The story involves the Space Marine Gabriel Tosh and his Librarian Isador going to the planet Tartarus to save it from the Orks. Things soon get out of control though as Chaos is seen to be working behind the scenes and the Eldar strike against. It soon becomes a race against time to get the Malidictum as an Inquisitor arrives to root out Chaos on the world.

The Pros: The Gameplay – The gameplay is much faster than “Starcraft” in regards to RTSs and reminds me a lot of “Warcraft III” where the name of the game is speed as you only have 2 resources to deal with and build times are fast. The factions are also unique enough in how they play too which makes it interesting as you capture points on the map and seek to take out the enemy’s bases.

The Factions – You have the Orks who are my favorite who like the Zerg can get a lot of units on the map and are mostly close range in their types of attacks and like fighting for the sake of fighting, you have the Eldar who are like a weaker Protoss but are good at hit and runs, you have Chaos who has a larger build time but some of the best end game units and has caster units as they are Daemon worshippers and you have the Space Marines who are the most balanced and serve their Emperor with religious devotion.

The Ending – The ending ends with Gabriel freeing the Daemon trapped in the Malidictum and vowing to get back at him. We never know if the Inquisitor was working for Chaos all along but the fact that the Eldar and Space Marines weren’t killing each other on the final mission was major progress which I liked. Tartarus is also lost and overrun by the Orks.

Okay: The Story – The story is alright but the Librarian’s corruption could have been handled better…everyone was way to naive and stupid with only the Eldar being the smart folks. The Space Marines were just as stupid about fighting as the Orks and Chaos was Chaotic Stupid as everyone turned on everyone and only the Daemon ended up winning as all his servants died in the fight which was enough to free him. I liked the Inquisitor, the Orks and the Eldar though. Gabriel was just bland, which is saying a lot given his backstory was destroying his homeworld after believing it had fallen to Chaos.

Orks and Eldar – The Orks and Eldar are okay. The mysteriousness of the Eldar and them knowing things about Chaos was handled great, but they had no named characters. The Orks weren’t much better but their love of fighting and being the biggest and meanest and loving Waghhh! Was done really well.

Chaos – Chaos was Chaotic Stupid though I did enjoy the Sorcerer trolling everyone and Chaos did have a great aesthetic and they were tough to fight at times…they actually felt like a threat!

Gabriel and the Inquisitor – These two are alright. The Inquisitor suspects Gabriel because he destroyed his homeworld but in the end trusts him after Isidor’s betrayal and we see them have a respect for one another as Gabriel distrusts him too since he is part of the Inquisition. They both have arcs though and in the end both lost to Chaos even though they survive.

The Cons: The Librarian – I didn’t believe in this guy’s corruption. He had no reason to seek power and we never saw him use what power he had for the Imperium. For this reason his excuse of using the power of the Warp and Chaos in that way was bs and in the end he was just a weak character with missed potential.

   If you like the world of Warhammer 40K, you will probably like this game. It is one of the few Original “Dawn of War” games with a campaign and it is a lot of fun! The 10th level is the most difficult and the final level is easier by comparison but there is still a learning curve for those unfamiliar with RTSs, and if you are familiar the missions are fun and are a great way of revealing the story.

Final Score: 8 / 10 Needed more exploration of the other factions outside the Imperium and Chaos could have been written much more smarter. Still a good game though.

“Star Wars Rebels” Season 1 Retrospect – A Band of Outcasts Against the Empire

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     “Star Wars Rebels” is a great series. Such a great series in fact that it has inspired me to eventually review “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” which was made by some of the same creators. What was it that made this series great? How would this series be defined? What made this series work were the characters, the themes and the writing and within that the fact that this is the only series besides “Firefly” that really captures the feel of a band of outcasts fighting against a force so much more powerful and overwhelming, all of which made this series work.

      The series was created by Lucasfilm and Lucasfilm Animation with Dave Filoni as Executive Producer and Supervising Director while also being joined by Simon Kinberg and Greg Weisman.

      The premise of the series is that a band of rebels fights against the Empire in the Outer Rim world of Lothal as Ezra Bridger learns he is force sensitive and must deal with his role as a force user with potential to become a Jedi as all of the crew of Ghost deals with the threats of the Empire and The Inquisitor.

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The Pros: The Soundtrack – Kevin Kiner does an amazing job adapting John Williams’s original score to fit the television series. The music is one of the strongest parts of the series as it creates tension and adds to the characters.

The Premise – The premise is wonderful as we explore the lives of one rebel cell and get to see what life is like for the Rebels in the Outer Rim and how complete Galactic control really is from the Empire.

The Characters – The characters are mostly all fantastic! Whether it is the Imperials, Rebels or even some minor characters, most of them get explored and it lends great power to the series since there is still room for all of them to grow, even though they have grown this season.

The Imperials – I really enjoyed the Imperial characters. Some of them weren’t completely bad and even the bad ones had moments of empathy or mercy and we were given a chance to sympathize with them even though they are the wrong side for obvious ethical reasons.

Agent Kallus – Kallus committed genocide against Zeb’s people and is a very hands on commander. We see him put himself out there on multiple occasions and be in the thick of battle. He is not underhanded and is very Mandalorian in how he does things. You can tell how much he loves battle and he does have respect for his troops.

Minister Tua – Tua is the one trying to put a nice face on what the Empire does and she does a good job at it as she isn’t outwardly cruel though she endorses the open cruelty that others do. She does have a conscience though and we see it when The Inquisitor executes Aresko and another Imperial Commander under orders of Tarkin. So much of what she does is truly ruled by fear even if true belief is there.

Commandant Aresko – I like Aresko, we see him train the recruits and he’s actually a kind guy who looks out for those under him. He may not always succeed but it certainly isn’t from lack of trying. For this reason I actually mourned this characters death.

The Inquisitor – Jason Isaacs is wonderful once more as a fantastic animated villain!  The Inquisitor is cold and calculating and does a good job at getting into Kanan’s head. He’s introduced as a force of nature and in defeat we see his humanity as he fears things worse than death that the Emperor or Vader would do to him for failing to stop Kanan and Ezra.

Grand Moff Tarkin – Tarkin is brutal and we see why he was put in charge of the Death Star as it is thanks to his fighting the rebels as a war and not a police excercise that leads to Kanan’s capture and forces the fledgling Rebel Alliance to reveal itself to save the Lothal Rebels. After his failure to stop them and the reveal of the Alliance he decides that Vader will be brought in to deal with this new Jedi and Rebel threat.

The Crew of Ghost – The crew of Ghost is a band of misfits and comparable to the crew of Serenity in the show “Firefly.” From the witty chemistry they have with one another and wounds they carry for being refugees and the last of their people or kind we see a rich humanity to them.

Zeb – Zeb is one of the last of his people the Lasat and is an intelligent guy who doesn’t put up with Ezra’s crap, though they do become quick friends when they are forced to work together. Like Sabine he is the primary muscle and the one who causes distractions though he is good at pulling his weight for whatever the mission needs. He has a lot of pain over all he has lost and deals with it by being rough around the edges and first and valuing the time he has alone. He still has to kill Kallus for being one of the primary ones responsible for the genocide against his people.

Sabine – Sabine is a Mandalore and ex-stormtrooper who expresses herself through her art. She does a bunch of different kinds of art but specializes in graffiti and protest art. She’s a great actor and is the most witty against opponents. She also has a lot of awareness to and saves a data disk from Ezra’s home so he has a picture of his family again. Her biggest issues are trust issues because of how she was betrayed by the Empire when she served them.

Hera – Hera is the mother of the group and has to make the tough decisions. We see this in her withholding information in case the Empire captures them and the chances she chooses to run or stay low so the entire Rebellion doesn’t get eliminated. She sees the big picture, where none of the other members of the crew really do. She also gets people and is the one who makes Ezra aware of others.

Kanan – Kanan is one of the last of the Jedi who was never trained to be a Master but is forced to become one. He is unsure of himself but when he chooses to fight for his crew and to raise Ezra we see a will of iron born as he withstands torture and sacrifices himself so the Lothal rebellion lives on. He doesn’t die and they rescue him of course, but it shows that he is no longer about just surviving and is not afraid of being known as a Jedi.

Ezra – Ezra goes from a selfish thief to someone who is willing to sacrifice himself to protect his new family. He has a lot of anger and fear towards the Empire and the loss of his parents by the Empire but has potential to forgive as we see him do just that to the family friend who abandoned him as a child. He invents his own lightsaber (that also functions as a gun) and gets his first scar in the final fight against The Inquisitor. He has a lot of force potential but is very much a Padawan in training in over his head, which makes him human and gives him a lot of room to grow.

Chopper – Chopper trolls everyone but comes through in the end. Whether it’s conning Lando to steal his fuel while Lando was conning them or saving the crew on multiple occasions, Chopper may grumble an groan the entire time…but he or it comes through.

Minor Character Shout Outs – The informant Fulcrum is Ashoka (Want to “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” to know fully who she is beyond Anikan’s apprentice), Lando makes an appearance and uses the crew to his own ends and R2-D2 and C-3PO are in the first episode and show the role they play in the Rebellion. Yoda also makes an appearance in “Path of the Jedi” as a voice guiding the Jedi, which I think is what was his primary role in hiding. For those who seek the force he is there to guide them.

The Themes – The themes are fantastic! From dealing with the consequences of Genocide as Zeb’s people were wiped out, what it means to teach when training was never finished (Kanan teaching Ezra) trust and sharing of information during war (The ruling among the Rebels that they should reveal themselves and come together and Fulcrum’s secrets and Hera and Kanan being the only ones who know individual missions) and that just because you are a Rebel or Imperial does not automatically make you good or evil (which fits into the theme of the “Gundam Universe”).

The Potential – There is so much potential in this series and I love it! From showing that the Rebels could do unjust things for just ends and getting the perspective of the Empire and the players within both factions and putting them through arcs. Bringing Vader in and saying next season will be “The Empire Strikes Back” of this series is just what I needed to hear and I hope they follow through with that promise. So much potential to be a great series beyond just the first season.

The Cons: Empire Needed a Major Victory – The Empire needed a victory for me to give this show a 10. The rebels were always on the run but the one time they are “defeated” is only because Kanan surrenders himself to buy them time. It’s something he chose to do, a Imperial Victory is one where the Rebels don’t have a choice and are forced to surrender or lose one of their own. This did not happen, hope it does next season though.

   I really enjoyed Season 1, it did so much right and makes me want to watch a series I was worried about due to how much of a failure “The Prequel Trilogy” was in relationships to “Star Wars.” Not many shows can do that. I hope it will stay good all the way through but I’m not counting on anything, and for what it’s worth this first season was amazing and I highly recommend it to any “Star Wars” fan. You will see characters who grow and change, be in a world that feels lived in and experience some powerful and enjoyable stories.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10

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Star Wars Rebels Finale – Season 1, Episode 13 – “Fire Across the Galaxy” – Unifying the Rebellion

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       What a fantastic end to a great season! I got to say after the reveals at the end of this episode and the character growth we see take place, I’m excited to see where this series goes. “Star Wars Rebels” has the potential to be one of the greatest animated television shows made if it can handle it next season(s) right and have an ending.

   “Fire Across the Galaxy” was directed by Dave Filoni and written by Simon Kinberg.

    The story follows from the last episode with the crew of Ghost mounting a rescue of Kanan who has been brought to Mustafar by Tarkin in order to be destroyed. It is at this point the Rebels plan is put into motion and they infiltrate Tarkin’s Star Destroyer with the Tie Fighter taken from “Fighter Flight.” On the ship they mount their escape as The Inquisitor prepares to destroy both Kanan and Ezra as Tarkin works to destroy the Rebel Cell for good.

The Pros: The Plan – The plan starts out with stealing an Imperial Transport with Sabine being the distraction while while Zeb and the other take the ship. Next the Tie Fighter Zeb and Ezra stole is used to get into Tarkin’s Star Destroyer and a Energy Pulse is used to shut down all power on the ship (and knockout the troops). From here they make their way through the ship with Chopper staying behind to help them escape once they get off the Star Destroyer.

The Inquisitor – The Inquisitor is the main focus as the most that Tarkin does is call in more troops to overwhelm and destroy the Jedi…but it is The Inquisitor who pushes Kanan to the dark side and makes him despair over the fact that he ran during Order 66 and didn’t stay and fight. He is good at the mind games and is only defeated when Kanan is fighting with two lightsabers and nothing to lose. In the end he chooses death though as he rejects Kanan’s offer to be saved knowing their are far worse things than death if he were to change. R.I.P. The Inquisitor, what a great enemy.

Kanan – Kanan shows that he has truly become a Jedi Master. He is rescued by Ezra and believes that Ezra has died after The Inquisitor knocks Ezra off the bridge they are fighting on. This leads to him fighting with nothing to lose and we see how he has grown mentally as he even offers to save the Inquisitor’s life. He has truly become a Jedi to be reckoned with.

Ezra – Ezra is the one who came up with most of the plan and he sticks with it all the way to the end, risking his own life on multiple occasions to save Kanan. We see how devoted he is to his new family and that he is the glue that is holding them all together and truly becoming a great Padawan.

The Rebellion – The Rebels would have been killed if Senator Organa hadn’t arrived with reinforcements to Mustafar to help them escape the overwhelming forces of Tarkin. The victory at Mustafar is a major blow to the Empire as was Ezra’s transmission which has given people hope and a reason to fight. A United Rebellion is what we see at the end and they are ready to stand openly and together against the Empire.

Fulcrum Reveal – Fulcrum was Anakin’s apprentice from “Star Wars: The Clone Wars!” Ahsoka Tano survived the purge and Order 66 and is now an open resource for the surviving Jedi and the Rebellion. It’s a powerful reveal especially since the Empire is bringing in Darth Vader to deal with the Lothal Rebellion. Can’t wait to see what’s done and seeing her playing such a big role in this series makes me want to watch “Star Wars: The Clone Wars.”

Empire Rising – The Empire knows that it is fighting a larger rebellion now and is risking in turn. Tarkin is still on the scene but now Darth Vader is as well. Vader is famous for being the ultimate Jedi killer and I hope we get to see him do just that when Season 2 roles around. There is so much potential with using Vader as the main threat, especially since the creators said they want Season 2 to be “The Empire Strikes Back” of the series.

  This show is an amazing show that captures the spirit of “Star Wars” so well. The Finale did this in a great way too, even if we got less character moments with the crew as it was primarily focused on the overall arc and setting the stage for next season. Still fantastic action, amazing story and a great sign of things to come to end a fantastic season.

Final Score: 9.7 / 10.

Star Wars Rebels – Season 1, Episode 12 – “Rebel Resolve” – To Risk

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   “Rebel Resolve” is mostly setup for the finale for Season 1 but it doesn’t change the fact that it is still a good episode, especially in regards to how Hera and Ezra get defined more…and the plan to get the information on where the Empire is holding Kanan is done really well. It is a high stakes infiltration that involves our heroes taking a lot of risks to make the plan even work, but more on that later.

    The episode was directed by Justin Ridge and written by Charles Murray and Henry Gilroy.

    The story begins with the rebels hijacking a Walker to try and find out where Kanan is being held. They aren’t successful as the Imperials have changed how they communicate after they destroyed the Communications Tower. This leads to Fulcrum ordering Hera to stop the search and to hide until it blows over. She orders her crew to do so but they have other ideas as Ezra comes up with an idea to find out where Kanan is being held and is willing to go to any lengths to get the information.

The Pros: Vizago – The gangster we saw prior is willing to help after Ezra proves he is a Jedi and Kanan is too…which leads to Vizago showing him how the Imperials are transporting information (droids) and that now Ezra owes him a favor down the road. It’s another side of him we see even if he is still the same gangster.

Zeb and Sabine – These two are the support for Ezra in going behind Hera’s back and finding Vizago. They stick with him the entire time and are part of the plan as it moves forward. Sabine especially plays a big role later on the rescue next episode.

Chopper – Chopper is one of the main characters as he goes undercover as an Imperial Droid and steals their information. It is his missing of Kanan that leads to the first Alliance among the crew as Ezra has already resolved to do anything to rescue him. Chopper is great in how he ignores the Imperials and the crew at different points. Chopper doesn’t care, except about Kanan.

Hera – Hera is conflicted this episode but we see that she is a soldier. When Fulcrum gives the order to stand down, she does even though she misses her partner and lover Kanan. She eventually joins Ezra’s plot though too after Ezra apologizes and she realizes that he’s doing what she’s wanted to do all along.

Fulcrum – Fulcrum sees the bigger pictures and knows that if a larger rebellion is seen to exist the Empire will destroy them. The only reason they’ve been able to survive so long is because no one can turn another in…all that gets risked due to the actions of Ezra and the crew of Ghost.

The Imperials – The Inquisitor tortures Kanan but is not able to break him which leads to Tarkin ordering Kanan to be sent to Mustafar, which is where Jedi go to die. The Empire never feels powerless in this and always feels like a threat which makes the events of this episode actually mean something.

   This was a really good episode as we get to see Hera the soldier and what it means to to be a rebel leader (sometimes you lose people) and also how Ezra’s recklessness could lead to him going down a darker path since his risking everything for Kanan could easily push him to the edge and desperation, and with how powerful he is in the force…the dark side. Suffice to say this episode was enjoyable, I just wish we’d spent more time with the Imperials.

Final Score: 8.5 / 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 7 – “Gathering Forces” – Ezra and the Dark Side

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“Gathering Forces” is the second part of the story that began with “Empire Day.” In this we see Ezra use the dark side for the first time and see continuity as the episode from 2 episodes prior is used by Kanan and Ezra in this episode, as well as Organa’s ship and Tseebo. Suffice to say, overall it is a good end to the arc.

“Gathering Forces” was directed by Steward Lee and written by Greg Weisman.

The story picks up where we left off with Tseebo asking for forgiveness for not helping Ezra and his family. Ezra rejects his offer and he goes to fix the hyperdrive while helps them to escape The Inquisitor and his fleet temporarily. They soon realize he is still following them so Ezra and Kana return to Fort Anaxes where the Fyrnocks are located who they plan to use against The Inquisitor as well as leaving Ghost so that Hera can deliver Tseebo away to safety.

The Pros: The Crew – Sabine helps Ezra heal with the disk with his parents, Hera learns what happened to Ezra’s parents when she listens to Tseebo and they all Tseebo escape. The crew is great in this episode though Zeb and Chopper don’t really do much.

The Inquisitor – The Inquisitor schools Kanan and Ezra and forces Ezra to use the dark side, which is always a plus for a Sith. He also feels like a threat the entire episode even though they escape.

Kanan – Kanan comes up with the plan to use the Fort as a lure to pull in the Inquisitors forces and use the Fyrnocks to fight the Imperial forces. He has a lot of awareness this episode too as we see him give Ezra time and space alone after the dark side was used, knowing that it would affect Ezra even if he didn’t feel it at first.

Ezra – Ezra uses the dark side forgives Tseebo and has a moment of peace when Sabine gives him a disk that has a photo of him with his family. It’s a touching moment and we see just how much potential Ezra has as a Jedi this episode.

Okay: The Trap – The Fyrnocks were always cute and not a threat so I didn’t really like them used as a weapon against Stormtroopers since the Stormtroopers looked more threatening.

“Empire Day” was the stronger episode but this one was still great. We get to see Ezra’s force potential and The Inquisitor forced one of our heroes to use the dark side. We also see The Inquisitor fear too as he has to report his failure to his Master. This is contrasted with the peace Ezra finally gets looking at the photo of his folks and forgiving Tseebo.

Final Score: 9 / 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 – 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: 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.