This Week On Star Wars Rebels, The Empire Isn’t Just Evil, It’s Inept, Too

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Review: Star Wars Rebels: Relics of the Old Republic

The latest episode of Star Wars Rebels, entitled Relics of the Old Republic, continues from where we left off in The Lost Commanders: Our Spectres and our relics, Captain Rex, Commander Wolffe and Commando Gregor, are on the run from Imperial forces after someone tips them off. Not saying who.

Just that someone will be in the dog house, tonight.
Just that someone will be in the dog house, tonight.

That’s pretty much it for plot, so let’s move on to the aspects that stood out to me. This week, I’d like to focus on some of the technical aspects, but seeing as how this is a very emotional, nostalgic heavy episode, I would like to discuss at least part of that.

Adoration of the Jedi

After our rebels have fought off an aerial assault, Agent Kallus, who has arrived to follow up on the tip, personally directs a ground assault against them, utilising a number of AT-ATs. To escape, Rex leads them into a storm, effectively making everyone visually and technologically blind (more on that later).

Well, almost everyone. Rex believes, correctly it turns out, that the Jedi can use their powers to see what their sensors cannot, and thus deal a fatal blow to the Imperial forces. I find this interesting because, in the last episode, Rex was reticent to join the rebellion because he felt his days of fighting were behind them. While this is true, in the physical sense (don’t forget, clones age twice as fast as regular humans), their tactical minds and martial experience is still quite invaluable. Rex, having fought with Ahsoka and Anakin during the Clone Wars, knows first hand of just what the Jedi are capable. He knows this far better than Kanan, who, though he was raised as a Jedi, was still just a young padawan during the Clone Wars, and was not given intense military training from a young age (lightsaber training notwithstanding).

But it wasn’t just that that intrigued me. Over and over again Rex and the other clones showed a great trust in the abilities of the Jedi. I don’t say ‘Kanan and Ezra’ there for a reason: it is the Jedi they trust, not any specific person. Time and again they reminisce gleefully of the old days, and proclaim such statements like ‘it’s great to fight alongside Jedi again!’ Indeed, it was a message delivered rather heavy-handedly.  That may be an instance of poor writing, but I began to wonder: was it more than just them being happy to relive the glory days, was it more than Rex trying to give the Jedi a confidence boost, was it hinting at something more, something sinister? Because there’s no other word for it. It wasn’t just any of those things: the clones were fawning over the Jedi.

To be clear, this is purely just speculation on my part. But here goes: The Clone Wars TV series gave us one demonstration of how the proto-Empire (for this, I refuse to call it the Republic) controlled the actions of their clone army, and this was again examined in the last episode of Rebels: the chips in their heads, that made sure the clones enacted Order 66, ensured that they turned their guns on their comrades-in-arms, the Jedi. But what if they also employed psychology? Specfiically, what if the Kaminoans employed mental conditioning to make the clones more obediant, more adulent, of their Jedi commanders? This would, I hypothesise, make them more willing and eager to follow the Jedi into certain-death situations. Brain altering chips aside, what better way to ensure loyalty in your soldiers than to have them believe that their commanders are akin to gods?

We don’t know, of course, with any certainty, since we have very little in the way of stories set in that era – but this is a concept that certainly wasn’t alien to the Legends novels.

The Worst of All Superweapons

How do you catch a Jedi? That is the question that was thrust upon Agent Kallus in this episode. As I’ve said, Rex leads the Imperial forces into a storm, which both visually and electronically blinds all participants. The actions that Agent Kallus then takes to ensure victory were, admittedly, not entirely clear – at least to me. However, the glimpses we got lead me to suspect that he employed something as heinous as the dark side itself: maths.

The scoundrel!
The scoundrel!

We don’t, of course, see fully what Kallus does, just a couple of commands, really – though the first one leads me to suspects Maths. I won’t go into the full details – mainly because I’m allergic to maths. Pi gives me terrible indigestion – but the answer is to head to the last known position, and set a course that is based on what is known as a logarithmic spiral. Basically, head out in an ever expanding spiral. Assuming your quarry heads in a straight line, and you can outpace them, you’ll find them eventually. Now you know in case you ever need to hunt down some Jedi, yourself.

Not that you’d do that, of course. But … just in case.

Anyway, I was astonished to see Kallus utilise this solution. Of course, ultimately it fails – because of storytelling and Jedi hand-wavy magic, but still. This intelligence is definitely not something your standard Imperial would demonstrate (not least because it could cost you your life). Did he teach himself? Was he trained, did he learn these tactics at Rebel-hunting school?

we learn it in between Proper Imperial Dining Etiquette and How To Blow Up Planets class
We learn it in between Proper Imperial Dining Etiquette and How To Blow Up Planets classes

But it impressed me, nonetheless. It was only coincidence I knew this, and I began to wonder what other little touches I’d missed. I don’t mean how he gained his bo staff – that’s too obvious. But rather, little background touches that add depth to his character – and that of others, of course – that hint towards the intelligence of this long-running foe. Not for nothing has he outlasted all other Imperials.To me, he appears all the more dangerous, now. This is a mind that should not be underestimated.

The Empire Isn’t Just Evil, It’s Inept, Too

Kallus fails not simply because he’s up against our heroes, but because he is abandoned right when help is needed most. As his Star Destroyer looms above the planet, it receives a message and departs to parts unknown, to pick up its passenger: another inquisitor, the Fifth Son. Odd thing to name your child, I suppose, but it’s still better than Elan Sleazebaggano. Or Wilhulf.

It was nice to see one of our new baddies, but I did not like this part of the episode. It was all too convenient a plot device to facilitate success on the part of our heroes. But more than that, it’s an incredibly stupid thing for the Empire to do. ‘We have the rebels in our crosshairs. Victory is ours! Ah, I see we need to play chauffeur. Well, maybe next time. Such a shame.’ Failure is guarunteed, thanks to the selfishness of the inquisitor. All because the inquisitor desires the glory of the kill and has no problem undercutting fellow Imperials to attain it. Yet if the Star Destroyer captain hadn’t been so scared of these Force-wielding … cultists, is the only word I can find to accurately describe them, he may have felt secure in disobeying direct orders, all for the greater good (you know, the good of the Empire). Like a hero would.

Any organisation that is so cruel and unfeeling to its own officers is not one that will last very long. I give it about ten more years, at most.

Michael Dare

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  • Zarm

    An element I see under-discussed pretty much everywhere online is that this is a heavily nostalgic episode *only for people that watched the &%*(#&% Clone Wars.* If, on the other hand, you’re one of those fans that couldn’t stand the blasted show, and was so relieved when Rebels took ongoing Star Wars back into the realm that you cared about, then this two-parter is an extremely obnoxious way to start out the season, with screen time taken from the people you’re here to see and given over to some legacy characters that, like Ahsoka before them, have already HAD their day in the sun and don’t need a seventh season at the expense of rebels’ second.

    Likewise, from that perspective,everyone fawning over how great the Clone Wars era was, and how the Jedi then were THE BEST gets rapidly irritating. When Kanan and Ezra hijack an AT-AT and Rex says ‘just like the old days,’ it comes off as unparalleled arrogance; ‘anything with Jedi doing something cool is clearly reminiscent of our old show, which was so cool.’ Was that the intent? No. Could it just be irritation coloring my interpretation? Maybe. But for me, these two episodes represented a glowing tribute to a show that I saw Rebels as a long-overdue, welcome ESCAPE from; and based on rumors, spoilers, episode titles, and trailer cameos, it looks like the whole season is going to be saturated with run-ins with old CW characters beyond the point of statistical absurdity.

    Like, even if you love seeing them back, at some point it has to feel a little ridiculous saying “this week, we ran into Embo, and last week we ran into the ghost of Satine, and the week before that Hondo Onaka, and the week before that, elderly Gascon… this is starting to get a little silly.” Such ‘tributes’ should at least be spaced-out and occasional, and everything I’m seeing suggests that instead, they’ll be all rammed-together and in-your-face. It feels like Season 2 of Rebels is being hijacked, and as a Rebels-only fan, I resent that. (Now, I could be wrong, and this weeks’ episode and the next might not be who I think it is… but assuming it is, I’d expect even fans who are happy to see him to say “Really? After you just gave two weeks in a row to the Clones, you’re not even doing a spacer episode before launching into this guy?”)

    Other than that, this WAS a good episode. The sandstorm battle was very cool, the ‘premiere’ of the walkers was very well done and gave them a proper sense of menace; there was some definite good stuff here. (Though, for the second week in a row, sidelined Hera: boooo!) Overall, I really did like it- but I’d like to see a little more focus on our protagonists, and a little less on Clone Wars’ Greatest Hits. When the show left at the end of last season, it was the most amazing Star Wars I’d seen since 1983. Suddenly, this season, it’s a pretty damp squib; and I don’t think that the lack of stellar episodes like we had last season, and the choice to focus on a throwback to, what, three years ago? instead of focusing on the ongoing stories and development of the characters is coincidental. Let’s see how Kanan, Ezra, Hera, Sabine, and Zeb have changed in the interim; where they’re at and what their stakes and hopes and story arcs are, THEN launch into the filler stuff once that’s established.

    Don’t mean to be a hater- but, yeah. ‘Clone Wars, get off my lawn!’ If I wanted to see Clone Wars characters, I’d watch Clone Wars. This is Rebels; let’s start seeing episodes that remember that.

    • MikeDare

      Hi Zarm,

      Though I personally liked The Clone Wars, I do agree with your point, and even mentioned it in the previous review. I do worry that the inclusion of previously established characters would be a hindrance to the show, but at the same time I’m hopeful they’ll be handled well, and will be firmly established in their own right on Rebels.

      M

      • Zarm

        I think it is definitely proving a hindrance; as I said in another review, the fact that the next episode’s big interrogation question, which a protagonist’s life in peril, was not “Where is the Jedi known as ‘Kanan?'” as it themeatically ought to have been after season one, but instead “Where is Ahsoka Tano” shows just how completely (and undeservedly, based on the internal structure of Rebels) the main characters’ own roles (including ‘known Jedi that the Empire is hunting’) have been usurped. I also see fans grumbling about the lack of development for Sabine, and the *absurd* sidelining of Hera for three episodes- and I think the problem is that we’ve spent too much time focusing on guests (and having scenes about the Clones, int he first four episodes at least) instead of re-establishing our characters and building a foundation with them, or giving them ongoing moments of development.

        So, yes, I hope the CW characters can find their own place on Rebels- but for the good of the show, I think that place needs to be ‘out of the scripts for a few episodes while the main cast gets their feet under them again.’

        • MikeDare

          Hi Zarm, these are very interesting – and valid – points that you bring up, and I actually discuss some of them in the next review, so I hope you’ll like it :) .

          • Zarm

            Looking forward to it!