Zeb experiences a spiritual awakening…The Ashla Awakens?
We’re finally getting some much needed character development of our supporting leads, first Sabine successfully and now Zeb… perhaps not as successfully but still emotionally satisfying. Despite last week’s success with Sabine, I went into this week’s episode feeling cautious. The characterization of Zeb has been inconsistent to say the least. At best he’s downplayed as a grizzled yet dry-humored warrior, at worst he’s overplayed as a goofy man-child. And I’ve complained in the past that the writer’s portrayed Zeb is too immature and childish for a grizzled veteran with a tragic backstory, so it was interesting to see this episode essentially bridge that gap between his two extremes of his personality, which perhaps wasn’t sloppy writing after all!
This week the Ghost crew comes across surviving members of Zeb’s race who reveal that Zeb was the captain of the Lasat honor guard and may have an important part in an ancient prophesy to lead his people to their promised land.
Before I discuss the good, there are several drawbacks to this episode. For one, given that this is basically a Zeb story he’s largely sidelined for about two thirds of the episode. His expository yet heartfelt speech about his feelings of failure later justify his reluctance, but I still would have liked to see him take a more active role before his big spiritual awakening at the end. That being said, Zeb has badly needed some character development but I wouldn’t have thought he needed a spiritual awakening. I’m just going to say right now I really don’t like prophecy storylines, and considering Star Wars has a bad history of using them poorly even for what they are, seeing one shoved into Rebels didn’t have me too excited.
Sadly Ezra kind of steals the spotlight for a while, though not in a particularly bad way as with Ketsu in “Blood Sisters,” in this case he’s just enthusiastic to learn a new culture’s interpretation of the force and wants to be his usual helpful self. Hondo’s prominent placement in the episode feels like a hinderance to Zeb’s character development, but of course he’s so hammily enjoyable that it’s forgivable. Also, the other Lasats are considerably more jovial than Zeb especially given their circumstances which seems like an odd choice, but that seems to be on purpose given their spiritual connections.
And despite the lazy prophecy tropes, the spiritual elements of this episode are notably strong. Clone Wars season 6 started to touch on other interpretations of the force by other cultures (and I guess the Ewoks did too if you want to go there) and it is nice to see Star Wars continue to explore this. I do appreciate how they demonstrate how many cultural beliefs can coexist, suggesting that multiple religions can have the same universal message. It’s how the spiritualism applies to Zeb’s character that works so well.
As for Zeb himself, the prophecy basically tells of a child, a fool and a warrior, of which Zeb assumes he is the warrior but eventually realizes he is all three. Considering Zeb has been played as a capable warrior and a bit of a man-child on occasion, this makes perfect sense. All this time he has been masking his inner pain and feelings of failure with a gruff act, and he learns to stop rejecting spiritualism after realizing he needs it. After he accepts his destiny and trusts in the force (his people’s version of it) he appears to have found redemption and has forgiven himself, which will make for an interesting shift in his gruff character. I mentioned last week my annoyance with Steve Blum voicing every imperial grunt, so this week I have to give him special props for his moving performance as Zeb, finally making him the layered and interesting character I had hoped for in season 1.
In terms of cinematography there are quite a few fun extended shots in the battle scenes early in the episode which Rebels could use more of to enhance the action sequences, of which there are few in this episode but the ones we have are great fun. There is a noticeable change in the music score in the final third of the episode with rich orchestral strings adding to the strong emotions of the story. And despite the standard hero fulfilling the prophecy story, those strong emotional elements make this an above average episode and very enjoyable.
-Was it racist of me to expect the crew to comment on the smell of the other Lasat? No one did… I guess Zeb just has poor personal hygiene.
-The Exodus references are heavy in this episode but somehow manage to be subtle. An oppressed people look to a hero to lead the way to the promised land who uses his staff to get them through certain death and their oppressor even says to let them go.
-Did Sabine change her hair color again? It looks somehow darker, and it’s kind of an improvement if you ask me.
-Like I said, Hondo kind of gets in the way of this episode, but I say give me more Hondo any old day. Watching him play both sides is just so fittingly wonderful. It appears he’s ultimately more sympathetic to the Rebels, but if Hondo understands one thing it’s self-preservation. You got to respect that…
-Okay, so Agent Kallus is part of the prophecy as the warrior. A synopsis of an upcoming episode tells of Zeb and Kallus being force to work together to survive. It’s a little late to add depth to Kallus to make him in any way redeemable given that he’s taken part in genocide and murder with a sick grin on his face, but still that’s going to be interesting…