Narthax Reviews Rebels

Narthax’s critical take on Star Wars Rebels on a weekly basis.

I’m not canonical. I’m legendary.

Hello all. My name is Henry, commonly known as Narthax around here. The guys at fasterandmoreintense were good enough to invite me onto their podcast a while back to discuss Star Wars figure customizing. We ended up discussing new episodes of Rebels and following this they offered to bring me on as a blog writer and I’m happy to be here!

Owing to life and other reasons however, I was a tad delayed in getting set up around here. My goal was to review each new episode of Rebels as they were released this season, which fortunately I did I just didn’t post them anywhere and saved them for a rainy day. So, at long last here they are, my reviews of season 2’s episodes thus far, and hey we’ve got a new one tomorrow as well so let’s get started.

First of all, here’s my rating system…

10. Great shot kid! That was one in a million!

9. Impressive. Most impressive.

8. The force is strong with this one.

7. Great kid, don’t get cocky!

6. I call it luck.

5. I have a bad feeling about this

4. The dark side clouds everything…

3. That is why you fail…

2. I find your lack of faith disturbing.

1. You have failed me for the last time.

0. Nooooooooooooo!!

The Siege of Lothal

When Rebels first premiered with “Spark of Rebellion” I favorably compared the show with early episodes of the Clone Wars. I found Rebels to be more confident and focused in terms of what it wanted to be as a series and while it may not have been up to the standards of later Clone Wars episodes, I knew it had to potential to become not only on par with its predecessor but also to surpass it (though I may be biased as I much prefer the Empire era to the Clone Wars era). Rebels had a fantastic first season with only one really weak episode which is rare for any new series.

If I was impressed with “Spark of Rebellion” I can only say I was truly astounded by “Siege of Lothal which is thankfully pushing the series in the same direction that the final episodes of season 1 started moving towards. If season 1 lacked anything it was genuine stakes, not to say that there were none but they were low and the threat wasn’t always tangible. It appears all that is about to change.

The rebels return to Lothal to rescue Minister Tua, who is attempting to defect to their side in exchange for secret information. This time not even the good intentions or creative wits of our heroes are any match for what they’re now up against.

Throwing Vader into the mix is a surefire way to increase tension and raise the stakes for the show astronomically. I understood keeping him out of season 1, as he would have looked fairly inept as a Sith Lord not to be able to handle this tiny band of rebels, so bringing him into the story this early concerned me. My fears were allayed by his portrayal here, as not only is he genuinely threatening he is downright scary. The Inquisitor served as less of a character and more of an obstacle for Kanan to overcome, almost as the personification of his fears and self-doubt, but Vader is different in that there is nothing to overcome with him. It’s clear that whenever Kanan crosses blades with him in the future he will be lucky to limp away alive. In this case Vader wasn’t even trying his hardest, which becomes clearer as the episode progresses, he’s simply using all the other characters like chess pieces in his own game.

The tone has drastically shifted from the lighthearted playful feeling of season one, and the tonal shift is very much in evidence as the episode plays out. Things just get progressively worse for the heroes and everything they do backfires. As the story begins, not only are the Rebels more confident in their own abilities but they now have an army of their own which just makes them look unstoppable. It takes a humbling from Vader to nip that right in the bud. Halfway through the show the feeling of hope from last season fades and is replaced with constant dread and hopelessness hanging over the heroes as everything they accomplished on Lothal has been almost entirely in vain. Watching Vader take on the entire rebel fleet single handedly showcases just how screwed our heroes are on their own, with the mere fact that Vader wants Ahsoka alive being the only asset keeping them alive.

As for the characters, Kanan has shifted from the figurehead leader of the Ghost to being very unwilling to involve himself with a formal military, just reinforcing how little direction he has in life. Hera and the others are fully devoted to the rebel cause leading to some tension with Kanan who is going to have to make some hard decisions this season about what he’s fighting for. Ezra is a completely different person than when we first met him, now eager to help anyone in need with wide-eyed enthusiasm. Even Chopper who had been a real hinderance to the crew is finally proving to be useful. Still, poor Sabine and Zeb may as well be nameless rebel soldiers given how little we know about their characters, and this episode does nothing to remedy this. Given that this is just the beginning for this season however, that’s a minor problem. “Siege of Lothal” marks a new and very different chapter in the Rebels story. The stakes have risen as the Empire takes the heroes more seriously, setting up what looks to be a bleak but exhilarating season.

9.3/10

Impressive. Most impressive.

Sidenotes

-The death of Maketh Tua was another jaw dropping moment on parr with the execution scene last season. In this case however it does sadly feel like a wasted opportunity to develop her character as a former imperial.

-I’m hoping Lando becomes a more rounded character and not just an occasional cameo/plot device. He deserves that much. I hope his droid comes back too… I liked his southern gentlemanly personality.

-I’m guessing Vader will be an infrequent presence on the show, especially since the Emperor is having him use more inquisitors to find the rebels.

The Lost Commanders

After a masterful season premiere with “Siege of Lothal” this episode is considerably low-key. I love a good low key episode as long as the stakes still feel palpable, and in this case yes they do, in the tension is only increasing. Unfortunately this episode falls victim to some of the problems that plagued season 1 early on, that being zany antics and some questionable character moments.

To combat the Empire the Rebels realize they will need more allies. Ahsoka sends the Ghost crew to find her old friend and comrade Captain Rex to persuade him to join their cause and lend his expertise. Kanan is forced to face his past and confront a few of his demons.

Unfortunately this episode feels a little underwhelming. After the dramatic reveal of Ahsoka last season, Rex’s arrival felt somewhat lackluster. Ultimately his introduction is fine, and isn’t the real problem with this episode. The dynamic between Kanan and Rex is the strongest aspect of the episode, with Ezra trying to play the peacemaker as he has no understanding of Kanan’s prejudice towards the clones. In terms of character there are some strong moments in this episode.

Where everything falls apart is the extended sequence in which the Clones drag the heroes into a bizarre fishing trip. The idea itself is amusing but in terms of execution there are several problems that bothered me. First off, it does nothing to advance the plot and feel like a pointless diversion, and most importantly they used an unaware Zeb as live bait without telling anyone (though it was pretty obvious…). Of course he comes out unharmed, but the clones couldn’t have guaranteed that in the slightest making them look incredibly callous and untrustworthy. Even that might have worked if they wanted to pursue the clones as shifty characters, but that isn’t the cast and their using Zeb as bait doesn’t seem to bother anyone just because it all worked out in the end. And is if this wasn’t enough, Wolf sells out the heroes to the Empire for which he too quickly repents and is even too quicker forgiven.

After the fishing sequence the episode wraps up rather nicely with Rex stepping up and proving to himself he may still have some fight in him. The flaws are pretty major, but it still manages to be a good not great episode. It may benefit from being a two parter though as this was basically the buildup episode and I expect next week will be payoff.

8.2/10

The force is strong with this one.

Sidenotes

-This episode does require a little supplementary material to fully grasp. First off the episode arc in Clone Wars season 6 that tell the story of the control chips that force the clones to kill their Jedi Generals is important to know, and secondly the comic series depicting young Kanan’s experience of Order 66. The episode does fine with explaining the important parts, if only briefly.

-It appears Kallus has been promoted! I guess he did his job well for Vader, and I assume this will be a continuing theme throughout the series.

Relics of the Old Republic

After a somewhat less than stellar introduction to the clones last week, Rebels hits the mark with this weeks installment. This episode not only stands on its own as a terrific installment, but also corrects a few blunders made last week.

The Empire arrives and forces the heroes to employ some inventive and risky tactics to overcome the attack. Kanan continues to wrestle with his prejudice and is forced to make some decisions that will impact the rest of the season.

After last weeks low key buildup, this episode is nonstop payoff, with the entire episode essentially being an extended action sequence and it’s just pure fun. Wolf is forced to actually make up for his betrayal and attempts to lie to Kallus, which of course doesn’t work but it was nice to see some actual consequence to his actions and force him to prove his loyalty. Rex slowly goads Kanan to step up and take command, inspiring him to become like the Jedi of old that he fondly remembers. It becomes clear that Kanan needs Rex to remind him of his full potential but also to force him to take more responsibility within the rebel military.

It was nice to see the heroes have to use creative and borderline crazy tactics to defeat the imperial walkers, rather than just sheer force and hoping the imperials will be as incompetent as usual.

The character arc with Rex started last week, with him reluctantly agreeing to help in a minimal way, believing himself to be outdated and too old to be of any real use. Here we see that not only is he useful in tutoring the other rebels but he is still a formidable soldier himself despite his age. Rex’s old school style of command as a selfless a soldier contrasts well with Kallus’ self-preservation. Seeing Rex go face to face with an imperial walker was a lot of fun and just spoke to the strength of his character, and watching Kallus run away with his tails between his legs (and leaving a man behind!) was just perfect.

Moreover, the episode seems to be trying to subtly take on common prejudice through Kanan having to overcome his dislike for the clones, admitting in the end that while he may not like them they don’t deserve to die. This will be the first step towards him overcoming his grudge and it rings true to any number of prejudices held by everyone.

It is exciting to see Rex being brought into the show as a regular, bringing his cool level-headed thinking to the sometimes crazy Ghost crew. This can only mean the show is still moving in the right direction.

9/10

Impressive. Most Impressive.

Sidenotes

-Ahsoka and Rex reunited and it feels so good. As a fan of the Clone Wars it was hard to not want to be part of that hug.

Always Two There Are

Let me start by saying I’m going to be unfairly comparing this episode to “Rise of the Old Masters” a lot. With that in mind, sadly this episode pales in comparison but it’s worth noting the similarities. We are introduced to not one but two new inquisitors, this episode also focuses on Ezra’s lack of discipline as a Jedi, and the darker elements of this episode prove to be the stronger half, much like its predecessor.

This is not to say that this is a bad episode, on the contrary, the elements that work are truly intriguing . It’s just a shame that it gets dragged down by an inconsistent tone that clumsily tries to balance horror with comedy, not to say that can’t be done but this is a bad example. Rebels has consistently proven that it handles drama and action better than comedy, so it is frustrating to see the show reverting back to early season 1 style antics in this episode. Beginning with Ezra and Zeb going back to their immature rivalry, they once again endanger the mission with their, a plot contrivance that dragged down some of season 1 as well. Dry humor tends to work better in Star Wars than the zany antics of the main characters, especially when their antics are what drive the plot forward.

The strongest moments of the show come from what it appears to be setting in motion for the rest of the season. The development of Kanan and Rex’s relationship as they butt heads over who is going to be a stronger positive influence on Ezra is enjoyable, as Rex is subtly becoming a mentor to Kanan rather than just a foil. The exact nature of the inquisitors as an organization is also hinted at which is very intriguing, as these two new inquisitor are clearly in fierce competition with one another to please the boss.

The Fifth Brother hasn’t really distinguished himself as being any different from the previous inquisitor, apart from clearly being a bit slower. It’s the Seventh Sister who stands out in this episode as a far more interesting foil to the heroes. She comes across as threatening and very entertaining to watch, and what little she hints about her backstory just raises some very interesting questions about her history with Ahsoka.

It’s Zeb and Chopper who rise to the occasion in this episode and have to save Sabine and Ezra, though the results are less than stellar. I was a little confused at first by Zeb’s big speech about his resolve not to leave them behind. He left Ezra behind in season 1 but we’ve come a long way since then and he clearly views them as teammates now who he wouldn’t abandon anyway, but I figure he was more concerned that he was no match for the Inquisitors without backup and was choosing to go up against high stakes to save his friends. His method for saving them however is a little bit crazy and made these new inquisitors look quite inept. Then again, since they’re now establishing (retconing?) the last inquisitor as the “grand inquisitor,” maybe they’re trying to give the heroes dark siders that they can hold their own against.

The episode has an appropriate downbeat ending with the rebels horrified to learn there are more inquisitors, setting the bleak tone for the rest of the season. I’ll admit the very end and beginning of this episode are very strong, it’s just a shame that the detours in the middle ruin what could have been a great episode.

7.5/10

Great kid, don’t get cocky!

Observations

-Rex is still spouting the “fortune cookie” sayings from the Clone Wars. I approve.

-While the Fifth Brother may not have much to his character, he is damn intimidating. He even gave Kallus a start at one point!

-Zeb, Zeb, Zeb, you’re killing me… he started off as one of the more interesting characters, that of a grizzled veteran and refugee with a tragic past, and then somehow got relegated to the goofy comic relief. He never really came back from that. I’m still holding out hope but it’s getting harder every week.

-The seventh sister dropped that she would be a better teacher to Ezra than Kanan because he never achieved the rank of Jedi Knight. So… she did at some point, shall we assume? Barriss? Is that you?

-So um, I was wondering this at the end of the last episode… what happened to Wolf and Gregor?

-Geek note: The Inquisitors always reminded me of the Reborn from the Jedi Knight games, who would always say things like “The force betrays you…” The Fifth Brother can’t see the rebels and says “Your fear betrays you…” That made me happy.

Brothers of the Broken Horn

Considering that I knew going in this was going to be a throw away episode, I really shouldn’t complain, but there just isn’t much to this one. Rebels tends to make good use of its episodes that diverge from the main plot, but in this case the consequences were pretty minimal. The episode deals with Ezra’s resulting self-doubt from the pressure put on him by Kanan and Rex, leading him to question what he really wants out of life. Sadly, like last week’s episode there are a few sloppy drawbacks to this one.

Ezra finds himself conflicted between his desire to return to a simple life and his duty to the Rebel cause and his friends, being torn in two directions and having too much pressure put on him by his mentors. He and Chopper take a little side trip where they make a shady new friend, and antics inevitably ensue.

The main theme of this story is Ezra’s struggle with his identity, that being will he continue to act selflessly or return to being a self-serving loner. Ezra seems genuine in his self-doubt I will admit, but the only real problem is that Ezra’s big revelation at the end isn’t anything new; he realizes he doesn’t want to be out for himself, when we’re already far past that stage of his character development. Also the stakes in this episode are far too low. I don’t mind having a more lighthearted episode now and then, but this one felt a little out of place after last week’s encounter with the new inquisitors, which are now barely an afterthought here. The adventure itself is a little too tame and Azmorigan somehow manages to be even less threatening than his last appearance (still entertaining nonetheless!). And for all the dark foreshadowing of Ezra’s deal with Vizago, that could have yielded some interesting developments and we all assumed the Ghost crew would be forced to do something morally questionable… but instead that’s thrown out the window and Vizago just cashes in his favor here by getting Ezra to help him out of a jam. Wasted opportunities, confused messages, and a less than stellar adventure bog this episode down.

And yet, little of that seems to matter because the strong points make up for it, not enough to make this a stellar episode but enough to make it fun. Of course that is 100% due to the return of beloved Clone Wars character Hondo Ohnaka making a triumphant return, with Jim Cummings bringing so much passion and charisma to the character that the lackluster plot is forgivable (ish). Far from being shoehorned in as a Clone Wars fan favorite, Hondo lends himself to this era nicely and is still just as funny, devious and lovable as before. He is used in this episode as a contrast to what Ezra could have become, which perhaps in season 1 or even earlier in this season could have been very effective. The problem is Ezra has been so passionately devoted to being a do-gooder lately that this whole episode really felt like an unnecessary diversion.

Considering last week’s episode had a lot of similar problems I hope this isn’t going to become a pattern. We can only assume Hondo is going to become a semi-regular presence on this show, so hopefully future developments will make better use of such an engaging character.

7/10

Great kid, don’t get cocky!

Sidenotes

-I used to have major gripes with Chopper in season 1, apart from proving useless he more often made himself a liability or outright threat to the crew. In this episode he proved not only to be a stalwart ally and very useful, but had one very awesome moment.

-Anyone else notice Azmorigan’s ship? A certain piece of EU lore. How long until Lando gets his hands on it…

-I’m not in love with Hondo’s redesign, but I like it more than I did when I first saw it in the trailers. Perhaps it’s due to how awesome his old outfit was, but now I think it’s fitting since he’s clearly fallen on hard times.

-As for Hondo’s character, I get the sense he’s ultimately going to end up joining the Rebellion, and I would be 100% unopposed to him joining the Ghost crew. With his nostalgia for the Jedi and clearly being more of a “good” guy than before, I’m hoping he ends up a hero.

-For all the problems I have with Ezra’s struggle in this episode, I do like how sure of himself he is now. He seems to be channeling Hera when he puts Vizago in his place.

Wings of the Master

After the last two hit-or miss episodes, this one feels like a small step back to form for Rebels. Is it a very big step? No, I will say that this is a strong episode with some good character moments and great action sequences but every good element of this episode feels a little rushed or undercooked.

Hera is sent on a mission to test a prototype fighter to aid the fleet in a relief mission. She returns and wins the day for our heroes. And that’s about it plot wise. Honestly there isn’t much for me to say about this one, it’s just sort of solid but not overly impressive. Which is kind of a shame since this is a Hera episode, so naturally it should be strong given how strong a character she is and how seldom she gets the spotlight. The good news is, yes this is a strong episode, and the bad news is everything good about it just barely scratches the surface of its potential. We get a little glimpse of Hera’s backstory, but sadly it doesn’t uncover anything very deep or specific about her character. That was fine in season 1, just giving us hints about our characters, but now that we’re well into season 2 we should be getting more depth to Hera than “she likes to fly,” which really is sort of her big reveal. It’s handled eloquently with a monologue from Hera, but we need more at this point.

Quarrie, clearly a nod to Ralph McQuarrie, is a fun and likable character, but his development too felt a little rushed (noticing a theme?). He is at first resistant to allowing Hera to test his ship, then after one brief monologue from her about her love for flight, he deems her worthy. It’s a good monologue and gives us some good insight into Hera’s psyche, but it was all too brief and really shouldn’t mean as much to Quarrie who is a stranger to her.

The episode does boast some strong and fun action sequences, and didn’t shy away from the heroes taking heavy casualties for a change. The final sequence is a lot of fun and Hera’s promotion feel well-earned, hopefully meaning she’ll be rising through the ranks of this new rebellion. All this gives us a good episode, it just feels like it could have been more and not so rushed, much like this review.

8.5/10

The force is strong with this one.

Sidenotes

-I know I know I KNOW that Imperial blockades always work in the logic of Star Wars whereas they wouldn’t in real life… but this one is comprised of only a few ships, and not even capital ships at that. Why is it always necessary to fly straight into the blockade instead of maneuvering around it… perhaps on a different side of the planet?? Well, it happened in Empire Strikes Back I guess, so we can’t question it…

-My theory on Kallus was that he would keep rising through the ranks from season to season, and it appeared I was right but wow, his failures are really stacking up this season. Grint and Aresko were killed for less in season one. In all honesty I don’t get why he’s even in this episode. Surely commanding a small blockade is beneath an ISB agent?

-That’s Corey Burton as Quarrie, and that Australian imperial officer. It’s nice to see all the Clone Wars regulars slowly creeping into this show. Where’s Tom Kane??

Blood Sisters

Of all the characters on Rebels, Sabine has been the true cypher. All through season one we barely got a sense of who she was and what motivated her, and for a while downplaying her surprisingly worked somewhat well, and just added to the mystery and intrigue of her character. Finally we get an episode that centers on her and her backstory and the results… are every bit as disappointing as I’m sadly coming to expect from this season.

Sabine and Ezra are sent on a very sensitive secret mission, which they go about in the most conspicuous way possible only to be thwarted by Sabine’s former Academy pal and accomplice, Ketsu Onyo. The two of them then duke it out for the rest of the episode until they randomly decide to be friends again. Nothing of note happens…

This isn’t a bad episode, albeit not very good either. As I’ve said in recent reviews the elements that work are good, but I hold Rebels to a higher standard because I know the creators are capable of better. This episode feels like a product of the writers coming to the sudden realization that the audience knows nothing about Sabine as a character, and just arbitrarily deciding we need to have a Sabine episode. They’re right in giving us one, as Sabine is so underdeveloped at this point its a wonder she’s part of the main cast. Here’s what we knew about Sabine at the beginning of the episode: she was an imperial cadet and something bad happened so she left and joined the rebels. By the end of the episode we know that she was an imperial cadet and something bad happened so she left and joined the rebels BUT she was also a bounty hunter in between those events. The details of her bounty hunter life are just as vague and never revealed in detail, and once more we get no clear details of her past other than she had a friend who betrayed her in some way by leaving her for dead. Supposedly this is what made her a “loner”, this episode asserts… which is another problem. Sabine has always seemed right at home socializing with the others and this episode treats her as if she’s the emo kid of the crew. Did I miss something?

The closest we got to a character moment for Sabine was her discussion of once wanting to be a feared heavily armed bounty hunter, which actually kind of fits given how callous she can be (she shot a stormtrooper in the face at point blank range once…) but we got no details of what changed her mind and brought her around to wanting to be a rebel. We also get the impression Sabine may have done some things she’s not proud of to survive before growing a conscience and was given a second chance. Last season we were told the same thing about her academy days in the form of something vague and morally compromising. Sabine deserves something more solid at this point.

I will say that Ketsu has a fun action sequence in which she gets to showcase her battle skills, single-handedly besting a squad of stormtroopers (although from what we’ve seen on this show, is that really such an accomplishment?). They’re clearly trying to establish her as a future ally which is fine, but the episode focused too much on her and gave her more of a character arc than Sabine, which was infuriating.

This episode may have been only slightly disappointing that we didn’t learn anything earth-shattering or at least interesting about Sabine, but the reconciliation between the “blood sisters” is so quick and contrived, it does some serious damage to the episode as a whole. For no apparent reason Ketsu suddenly softens and Sabine instantly forgives her for “leaving her to die” and gives her her implicit trust. Yes, the Empire was attacking but nothing in the episode warranted this reunion in such a tender sentimental fashion. In fact, Ketsu tried to kill Sabine minutes earlier so if anything this episode made Sabine look kinda dumb. It would have been one thing if the two were begrudgingly forced to work together, but they’re both ecstatic to be “friends” again and it’s in no way credible.

Sabine’s biggest strength in season 1 was the mystery surrounding her, with the show slowly giving us details of her character through her actions, but it’s really time we started getting to know her character beyond her technical know-how and questionable taste in art. This episode was a chance to finally bring Sabine to the forefront and make her interesting, and I don’t think they could have done less with her character. Apart from a few fun sequences and a nice little R2-D2 cameo, this episode was a very bitter missed opportunity.

6.9/10

I call it luck.

Sidenotes

-Ezra is really, really, really annoying in this episode. I guess that may have been what they were going for, trying to put us in sabine’s shoes and how she sees him, but his whole monologue about Sabine being a loner is completely unfounded.

-I realize it’s a droid… but that droid pilot was a civilian that the heroes just casually blow up to make their escape. Not cool, rebels. Contrast that with how oddly non-evil acting imperials just acting like a peacekeeping police force and it just made Sabine look bad.

-Anyone else getting the sense that there may be more to Sabine and Ketsu’s relationship than they’re saying? Or is that just me? It would explain why she’s shrugging off Ezra… apart from him being an annoying kid. Hey, Legend of Korra went there, why not Rebels?

-Ketsu tried to kill Sabine. Then she gets forgiven. This really bothers me. It wasn’t even a matter of her realizing she couldn’t do it, she just physically couldn’t thanks to Chopper sabotaging the guns on her ship, she had her finger on the trigger and repeatedly tried to fire on her.

-I heard Dave Filoni claim that Sabine will elevate to become as important and prominent as Ezra this season. This episode may not have helped in that regard, and Sabine has a long way to go, but it does make a fan hopeful.

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