In the galactic wake of “The Siege of Lothal,” our rebels, the crew of the Ghost are still a part of the nascent Rebel Alliance and we find them ready, eager to assist or not, to further the cause of the rebellion. At the moment however, they’re homeless but for the expanses of space which offer little in the way of refuge, only a continual opportunity to run. In a council composed of various rebel leaders, including the returning Clone Wars Jedi, Ahsoka Tano, a decision is made to try and find a permanent base from which the rebellion can be run from. The question where lingers without an answer until Ahsoka suggests old friends of hers from the wars of the past. With little to identify who these individuals are and just barely more knowledge as to where they might be, Tano sends the Ghost’s crew on a mission to find them and recruit their assistance.
Using the severed head of a tactical droid from the Clone Wars, slightly modified to match the different art aesthetic of Rebels, the group find their way directed to an out of the way planet where much of the surface appears to be covered in the alien equivalent of salt flats. There they find a relic, or perhaps better stated, relics of the past, initially in the form of an old Clone Wars Republic tank, heavily modified into something resembling a shack or shanty on four creaking and rusty legs. It’s reminiscent of Howl’s moving castle in the Miyazaki film of the same name, always seeming to be in a purgatory between function and utter failure. Aboard this contraption are none other than three surviving clones that Clone Wars viewers are well familiar with, Captain Rex, Wolffe, and Gregor.
All three are old men and all sport similar scars on the sides of their head, evidence of the removal of chips designed to turn all clones into instant Jedi killers (brutally depicted in the second half of Revenge of the Sith). Perhaps the best aspect of the reveal of the clones is not the clones, but Kanan’s reaction to them. As a survivor of the Dark Times, when the Jedi found their soldiers turning on them and they, turned into prey hunted for extinction, he unsurprisingly has strong feelings about them. After all, he tells Ezra, they killed his master. Unusual for Kanan, he immediately turns to his lightsaber for protection (or attack), indicating how strong his feelings are. For all that Kanan disagrees with the troopers in theory, the rest of his team have little qualms seeking their assistance, particularly Ezra who finds them fascinating – innocent of the atrocities of their brothers. At the same time, Wolffe is instantly suspicious of the Jedi, fearing retaliation for things he didn’t perpetuate, and of bringing the wrath of the Empire down upon them in their apparent happy retirement in nowhere.
While Rex and the others dismiss the idea of returning to the fight, they do offer to help the group locate some old bases and locations they discovered during the Clone Wars that the Empire may not be aware of, but in exchange for help hunting a local creature that will feed them for a year. What follows is an homage to Spielberg’s Jaws, as the beast they hunt is larger than their walking tank and includes using Zeb as living bait. The latter element is a bit over the top for the show, but handled well enough not to ruin the fun of the experience.
The hunt is successful and when it appears that all will end well, we are given the courtesy of a cut away to Major Kallus aboard a star destroyer being informed of a signal from a nearby planet. He orders a probe droid deployed and this gangly armed creature eventually floats its way to the discovery of the tank and its occupants. A short fight ensues and the droid is destroyed, but most likely, not before revealing their location. The question of why and how is answered by Wolffe admitting to notifying the Empire out of fear. Our episode concludes with this cliffhanger, what happens next?
The art and direction of “The Lost Commanders” is at times exceptionally beautiful with iconic shots of the ramshackled tank slowly clanking its way across the flatness of the terrain against a bright sky. The design of the tank, not to mention over the hill clone soldiers, are fascinating and continue the trend of finding small ways to help identify the individuals that they are, over their shared origin. The sound and music continue to be significant contributors to the success of the show. Notably, the clanking and metal shuffling sound of the tank as it makes its tired way across the flat lands. Kanan is the emotional heart beat of the episode, limited for sure, but his reaction exists as a reminder that the good guys don’t always win, and even the most heroic warriors are not immortal.