Thoughts on the most recent Star Wars: Rebels episode, “Rebel Resolve.”
I was telling a friend this morning that while Clone Wars took a season or two to start going dark, Rebels was already sauntering down that path in its rookie debut. Yes, kids, let’s gather around and watch our hero be tortured!
We open up with Hera talking with the mysterious Fulcrum, where we learn that Ezra is becoming the Katniss Everdeen of the galaxy for his brave rebellious broadcast from the last episode. He is becoming a symbol of hope, and it may be expected, when one becomes a symbol, one starts to lose one’s control over their life. This happens when Hera tries to stomp out any plans to find and rescue Kanan entirely out of the risk it poises to Ezra.
Ezra rejects this and plans his own strategy with the help of everyone else, absconding with the Spectre to meet with the nefarious Vizago, a less than trustworthy smuggler. In exchange for help on finding Kanan, Ezra makes a deal with Vizago to help him in the future. Did we mention Vizago has horns? Kind of like a devil? Well, don’t worry, deals with the devil never go south. Ahem. Notably, we continue to see an Ezra who’s more and more competent of his Jedi powers, but is he using them wisely? He exposed his powers, and Kanan’s, out of an emotional need to rescue the captured Jedi “knight.” Emotions and the Force will continue to be a dangerous intersection for Ezra as the moves on.
Thankfully for Hera’s own character, she’s smart enough to realize what’s happened and tracks down the rest of the crew. Reluctantly, she falls in with the plan, which ends up being replacing an Imperial astromech unit with Chopper, who can then infiltrate an Imperial light cruiser, steal information as to Kanan’s whereabouts.
Meanwhile, we cut to the interrogation of Kanan. Tarkin still reluctantly accepts that Kanan was trained as a Jedi, but allows the Inquisitor to apply his own methods. One nifty point is that the cell that Kanan is in AND the interrogation droid appear to be pretty much the same design of those from Star Wars when Leia was the prisoner of Vader. A third fascinating touch was the table that Kanan was strapped to, it seemed similar to the device that Han was tied to in Empire, and both men were tortured using electricity. And yes, a fourth for giggles moment concerned Tarkin’s quote, “The Jedi is no good to me dead.” This mirrors a quote from Boba Fett in Empire, when Han was being tortured, “He’s no good to me dead.” (At which point Vader responded, “He will not be permanently damaged,” or something like that). So the torture scenes had a number of callbacks to the original trilogy.
One very fascinating, if potentially dark, matter is how much weight the writers are giving Tarkin’s comment to Vader in Star Wars, when he tells Vader that the “Jedi are extinct,” and that Vader is the last of their kind. If that remains Tarkin’s god’s honest belief, then he will either never consider Kanan a Jedi or…he will sincerely believe him dead within a few years.
Kanan, however, provides nothing that we are aware of to either the Inquisitor or Tarkin and Tarkin suggests sending him to Mustafar. If it sounded familiar, then you’re right. That’s the planet where Obi-wan and Anakin had their dramatic duel at the end of Revenge of the Sith, and it’s also where Anakin massacred the Separatists. The Clone Wars, apparently, also took a visit there during that show, too. On Rebels, we are told, it’s the place Jedi go to die. This is definitely kind of weighty, because this was the place where Anakin Skywalker symbolically died and was reborn as Darth Vader. It wouldn’t be surprising if Vader viewed the planet as a place where Jedi should die, it was where he believed himself ultimately betrayed by his closest friend and mentor, after all.
Back at the farm, the gang successfully replaces the Imperial astromech droid with Chopper, courtesy of a paint job from Sabine. Chopper makes his way up to the Imperial cruiser aboard and proceeds to snatch intelligence before the secret is blown that he’s not the droid the Imperials were looking for. At which point he starts his killing spree, jettisoning a handful of storm troopers to their deaths out an airlock and then later, coldly pushing the otherwise very promising Imperial droid out the open airlock of the Ghost to what probably should have been its death on the planet’s surface below. The writers of the show have to had decided that Chopper has the personality of a psychopath and run with it for good humor.
The intelligence that Chopper gathered, however, points everyone to the aforementioned planet, Mustafar and a rather glum conclusion of the episode.
The direction and animation of the episode was good, notably with the opening sequence when the rebels attack one of the predecessors to the Imperial AT-STs in an attempt to gather information early on. What made the sequence work was the coherent spatial awareness that the director and animators managed to telegraph to the viewer, so we knew exactly where all the players were in the fight and kept it tightly organized. Likewise, there was a certain beauty to watching Chopper blast away from the cruiser to the Ghost which caused flashbacks to the “dance” sequence from Wall-E. Kanan’s submissive position in the interrogation flickered back and forth, offering us views upward to him when he successfully resisted and placing him below his captors when they discussed what to do with him.
I also think, gradually, the animators are getting better at animating the body movements of their characters. This comes across as kind of disingenuous because the animators of Rebels are actually quite veteran based off their previous work on Clone Wars but what they really have tried to do in this show is animate the entire body at all times, especially when talking. They aren’t content to have the character stand generally still and animate merely the head and face. They want to involve the shoulders and neck and upper body and hands and arms and so on and so on. I admire them, but for a lot of this season it’s come across kind of clunky and awkward, most notably when we had Lando appear a couple episodes back. It seems as if everyone has a horrible slouching problem when they talk. I felt, though, it was slightly improving this episode. I also loved Hera’s twi’lek tentacles bouncing and moving in reaction to her own head turns and gestures They could easily have just had them fall behind her back, but the movement provided more weight and presence to them they would have not otherwise had, incorporating them even more into Hera’s character. They even are managing to animate the scruffy beard/goatee thing on Zeb.
I think the show is on the right path and continue to look forward to future episodes.