This week on Star Wars Rebels, veteran of The Clone Wars (the show, not the many, many battles – though that too), Hondo Ohnaka, turns up and I literally cannot remember anything else except Hondo. Seriously, that man crops up and takes over everything, the show, your brain; it’s like a disease.
This episode was an odd one, and I don’t mean Hondo. Okay, yes, him too. But after the stellar TV movie, and the last few episodes – particularly with the introduction of the new Inquisitors – it was odd to have the momentum of the show all but shudder to a halt. It’s odd, too, to have this influx of old faces enter the show, especially in one large wave.
At first I thought it weird that it’s happening in the second season. Surely it would make more sense for it to happen in the first? Use the old to usher in the new, and perhaps to lend their own credibility to the new setting and characters? But then I thought that the way they did it was better: to establish the new characters in their own right. And then add these older elements – but later, to not bog down new viewers with other aspects from the galaxy far far away, for fear of scaring them away. Certainly that was a hindrance to the old expanded universe of, what, hundreds of books, comics, games? So going in with a clean slate, in my opinion, was best.
Yet the fact remains that these first few episodes have been laden with old characters and it is, moreover, quite interesting to see how the old and the new worlds interact – and so with that in mind, I thought it right for this review to compare and contrast (sorry for the high school exam flashbacks) the old and the new.
Rex makes only a brief appearance in the beginning, which, by itself, was a surprise to me. I had fully expected him to have left by now, off galavanting across the galaxy with Ahsoka (please make that a show, Filoni), so I’m wondering if he’ll be a mainstay in the show? I’d be okay with this, especially if his role is much like that in this episode: a very minor part that is more of an accompaniment to the main crew, or put more plainly, where Rex et al take a backseat to Ezra and other Spectres. Unlike the first two episodes, the plot was not about him, but – ostensibly – Ezra. Indeed, if anything, here he acts much like a launching pad for Ezra’s ennui.
I hesitate to say this, because I hate characters that exist solely as a foil for – not to – other characters, as a means of exploring the latter’s mind, thoughts or emotional issues – but in this one instance, where Rex behaves as exactly that for Ezra, I actually liked it. I don’t write off more Rex-centric stories, but I don’t want the focus to be mostly on he and the rest of the Old Guard, especially since the majority of the season thus far has been exactly that.
Moreover, I liked the overwhelming inclusion of Hondo in this episode, just as I liked the re-introduction of Ahsoka and the clones, and Vader and Tarkin, but for very different reasons. With Tarkin, Vader, Ahsoka and Rex in this episode, it advances the story and adds to the character arcs of all involved (though admittedly not so much for Rex, this time around. With Hondo, however, though I liked his inclusion, it has more to do with personal magnetism and force of will on his part.
Speaking of which …
Okay I have to pause briefly here. this is where I become a bit of a hypocrite. You know with Rex I was saying how ‘less is more, this is how I’d like it’? Well, Hondo was the exact opposite of that, yet I loved it and would happily have more of more of his light-hearted buffoonery on the show, even as a semi regular.
So let’s make a deal: I’ll critique Hondo’s inclusion, because, yes, there were some minor problems which I should pay attention to. And in return you’ll pretend that I’m not sitting here, doodling hearts and writing ‘Michael+Hondo 4ever’. Deal?
Hondo, really, is the only reason I give this episode a pass. His roguish charm, humour and overwhelming personality make any scene with him memorable – though, ironically, there were too many for me to remember – in this episode. But at the same time, it’s that overwhelming personality that casts a shadow over certain parts of the show and highlights where the show falters. As an aside: for a shadow to highlight anything deserves a round of applause.
For it isn’t just Hondo representing the shadier side of the galaxy in this episode: Azmorigan, the sleazy slave owner, and Cikatro Vizago, the – well, he does something, I’m sure – turn up, too. Only to be thoroughly outclassed by Hondo. I can’t honestly lament this too much (Hondo makes all fears and distastes melt away), for outside of this episode, they haven’t made much of an impression on me, even though Vizago’s turned up on roughly a third of all episodes. Yet these characters, despite being major players who advance the story here, are sidelined by Hondo’s powerful personality. I would have much prefered for them to have had more impact on the episode. But don’t mistake me: I don’t mean that these new ruffians should essentially be Hondo 2.0s, or that they should simply have a similar bombastic personality. Merely that they could have done with being stronger in the characterisation department.
Further, I must again note my discomfort at the inclusion of previously established characters. For all that I love Hondo, and Rex, and Ahsoka, it’s more than time to have a Hera or Sabine-centred story or three. What’s more, I firmly believe that each new installment set in the Star Wars galaxy should focus on increasing the size of said galaxy. To me, Hondo’s inclusion makes the galaxy seem smaller, that events of consequence really only happens to a small number of characters. Though I’m a big fan of Hondo, I do want there to be new loveable pirates, new smirking scoundrels, a diverse new cast going forward.
This doesn’t mean that previously established characters can’t pop up every now and again, indeed they can, but, well, I honestly have no idea how to finish that sentence. There is no easy answer, I suppose. Life’s big questions never have easy answers.
Oh, And Ezra Was In It, Too
I’ve spoken at length about Hondo (and spoilers, but that’s not going to end anytime soon), but this episode was very much about Ezra. It was he that suffered an existential crisis. He that ran off with Chopper, he that answered the distress beacon, he that killed the rat that ate the malt that lay in the house that Hera built.
Or it should have been. For while it was his story, the focus was very much on Hondo still, and that’s the problem with over the top characters. They’re lovable, and wonderful to write (and presumably perform and animate), but they can overwhelm parts of a story that ought to receive more airtime. Because, to summarise Ezra’s emotional plight: he doesn’t want to be a soldier or a Jedi, he just wants to go back to the way things were. Yet, at the end, he tells Kanan how he no longer wants that, and wants to be a part of something bigger, part of a family. But as I watched, I didn’t really get anything that connects A to B, here.
To be fair, it may have been there and I simply didn’t notice. It’s certainly possible that it was done with mute subtlety – and if so, the team should be praised. But the trouble with mute subtlety is that if someone comes along, blaring a trumpet, AKA The Hondo Ohnaka Special, it’s difficult to notice that subtle, yet important, emotional growth.
Having said all that, I do want to highlight something else. I was particularly impressed with how Ezra aqcuitted himself. He may have landed himself in a dangerous and unknown situation, but he did manage to see himself through each entanglement and arrived at the end more or less unscathed. And all without back-up, too.
Sorry, Chopper, but you don’t rate high enough to count as back-up.Powered by Sidelines