In “Brothers of the Broken Horn,” Ezra receives the opportunity to wonder about what-ifs and in the process, fans of The Clone Wars, receive yet another gift of a familiar face from the past. The episode does little to advance the overall storyline, but instead dedicates time to developing the character of Ezra Bridger. It does continue a growing trend in Rebels as it draws upon the past in a meta sense, in-universe it finds characters from the Clone Wars, like Ahsoka and the Clones; and at the same time, for viewers of the Clone Wars, returns those characters for our own enjoyment. This isn’t a surprising development for a couple reasons. First, Rebels is the production and creation of essentially the same crew as the Clone Wars. It’s not surprising that they want to continue the stories of the characters they created. Second, those characters are the history of the Rebels’ universe, and their existence and participation does not come as too surprising. How a name from the past returns in “Brothers of the Broken Horn,” all begins with an overworked padewan.
The episode begins with Ezra in the middle of blaster firing practice under the tutelage of Rex, which is interrupted by a slightly irate Kanan hunting for his padewan over missing his Jedi training. In the course of the Jedi Knight and the Clone Commander clashing over whose training is more important for Ezra, a meeting is called by Hera. A hologram message informs everyone that power generators are needed on an ice planet. Everyone stands up to depart to search the local market for leads on the generators, but Ezra is chastised by Hera for not having performed maintenance on the Ghost and told to remain behind. His misfortune is the amusement of our favorite homicidal astromech, at least until he’s ordered by Hera to assist Ezra in his chores. The two are promptly left alone when the Ghost picks up a distress call from the Broken Horn, the smuggling ship of a devilish smuggler known as Vizago.
Vizago was a reoccurring character from Season One who assisted our heroes from time to time, including providing Ezra with information that lead to Kanan’s rescue at the conclusion of the season. Under the excuse that they had a duty to respond, Ezra loads Chopper up in the Phantom and takes off to rendezvous with the Broken Horn just above the planet. Ezra ably docks the Ghost’s shuttle with the smuggling vessel and boards the ship, calling for Vizago. The ship in which he expected to find someone, anyone, is initially empty and no one responds to his shouts of hello or inquiry. In a way, these few scenes are much more suspenseful than those of the previous episode, “Always Two There Are,” which involved searching an abandoned space station. In the latter, one would not expect anyone to be on the station, but here, our expectations are not met when Ezra boards Vizago’s ship. Instead, he finally discovers a number of deactivated humanoid droids lining the walls ominously.
His quest to find anyone or anything leads the young padewan to the bridge of the Broken Horn, where someone decidedly not Vizago pops out from under the controls. It’s none other than Hondo Ohnaka, a space pirate who starred in a number of episodes of the Clone Wars. Understandably, those episodes and adventures took place approximately two decades ago, and Hondo isn’t the spring chicken he once was. While he may appear a bit infirmed, his head and confidence is just as large. We quickly learn that the old pirate has lost his crew and everything else he had to the Empire, which incidentally implies that the evil entity has established a certain level of rule of law in the Outer Rim. As a note, Grand Moff Tarkin’s rise to fame came on the heels of crushing space piracy that plagued his native Outer Rim planet.
When queried by Ezra why he’s in command of Vizago’s ship, Hondo offers a less than believable story of winning the ship and its droids in a game of sabaac. Hondo has his own question for Ezra, his name. Ezra, perhaps in a desire to keep his identity secret to someone he doesn’t know, and perhaps lured by the idea of simply living someone else’s life for a brief moment, tells the pirate his name is Lando Calrissian. It’s a name Hondo has heard, but a man he has never seen. Hondo quickly enlists Ezra’s help, which comes just as an Imperial cruiser arrives and begins asking uncomfortable questions. The duo leap into hyperspace for a destination that takes them to a space station of sorts where Ezra learns that Hondo intends to sell some power generators. In exchange for his assistance, Ezra demands to a third of the generators with a mind to get them back to the rebels. Things appear to be moving smoothly until the pair, along with Chopper, arrive at the planned destination to sell the generators.
Of all the buyers on all the planets, naturally Ezra would find that Hondo’s expected customer is Azmorigan. Introduced in Season One of Rebels and voiced by the wonderful James Hong, Azmorigan is based on an early Jabba the Hutt concept and managed to retain quite a bit of the slimy nature of the Hutt. Ezra is able to hide his identity with his helmet to avoid detection, but unfortunately, Azmorigan’s threat comes not from recognizing our hero, but double crossing Hondo and simply stealing the power generators. A fight ensues and between Ezra blasting away with his lightsaber gun and Chopper grabbing two rifles and shooting at everything like a mad man (this probably achieves a dream of his, if droids dream); they manage to escape from Azmorigan and return to their ship where Ezra’s share of the generators still remain and with the pay Hondo managed to grab before things went south.
Suspicious of Hondo’s story about Vizago, Ezra explores the rest of the Broken Horn and discovers the smuggler jailed in his own brig. Due to the debt he owes the horned smuggler from last season, Ezra frees him and this leads us to our second fight, this time between Ezra, Hondo (who generally just runs away to the Phantom) and Vizago’s droids. The episode had opened with Ezra training to be a soldier, and we know that he’s been training to be a Jedi, and in some fine fight choreography, he reveals he’s been an attentive student. For the first time, Ezra is starting to look like a true Jedi in his fighting, be it the physical aspects or his use of the Force in combat. As a result, he wins the fight, but watches Hondo disappear into hyperspace in the Phantom.
Ezra returns home, no better or worse, in terms of power generators to discover Hondo speaking with the rest of the crew of the Ghost, courtesy of Chopper having programmed the small shuttle to autopilot back to their original location. Hondo, more mouth than anything else, makes a grand gesture to the amusement of everyone of leaving Ezra the power generators and makes his departure. Ultimately the hero of the episode, Ezra explains to Kanan that due to his experience with Hondo, he realizes he might have turned out alone like the space pirate, but is now grateful for being part of the crew. It’s probably a sentiment that could have been expressed less directly, but sometimes we have to remember that some viewers may still be relegated to car seats. It is what it is.
“Brothers of the Broken Horn,” as a solo adventure for Ezra was enjoyable and an improvement on the previous episode. Hondo’s appearance served a number of deeds for the episode, for good or bad. He’s an enjoyable callback for fans of the Clone Wars, but also an example of how the galaxy has changed under the Empire’s rule. He’s been reduced to a lone pirate and like the clones, something of a relic of a past which no longer exists. In a way, it’s the presence of these aged and weathered figures which help connect the continuity of the Star Wars universe, bridging that gap from the Prequel Trilogy and the Clone Wars, and reminding us of the history that came before (for good or bad) before Luke Skywalker found himself looking over two new droids on the family farm.