Rebels Returns With Royal Resplendence

Nope. Still want to punch him.

Reminder: This is not a full review. If you want that, that’s totally cool, no hard feelings. I’ll just be over here, crying. Anyhoo, here we take a few points of the show for discussion. And, as always, soilers from here on out. Spoilers, too, I suppose.

You would not believe how long it took to find that last R word.

Star Wars Rebels has returned! And it has a much beloved film character! And in this episode, entitled ‘A Princess on Lothal’, we see – oh never mind that. We both know: Leia’s back! Did you see the bit where she went pew-pew-pew! And things went boom, and clearly I should not have had that energy drink before writing this.

Pictured: her resting face for much of the episode.

First, something that jarred me. For some reason I had expected to see Leia as being new to the whole ‘being an amazing spy’ bit, and that she would be unsure of herself, and yet the Leia we got was a fully formed hero. Don’t get me wrong, she was great – but as great as she was, there wasn’t much depth on display, not much personal growth (though that’s somewhat unforgiving, it’s only one episode). So instead, I want to take another angle to this.

Plonk any rock into a pool of water, and you’ll see and feel the ripples emanate from the contact point. If you’re smart enough, or have fancy gadgets, you don’t even have to see the rock to know its size. This is true, too, for characters and their impact on the story. Leia, as you well know, is one hell of a … rock? This feels insulting, but I’m stuck with this metaphor. My point is, you can often judge a person, or an action, by how others react. At the hands of a good writer, the enormity (or the lilliputian) of their actions match the reaction. This sounds simple, but it’s often a very difficuly concept to enact. I don’t wish to be catty and name names, but I’m sure you can think of one or two instances in a TV show or movie where an action and its reaction didn’t quite fit. So thinking along those lines, how did Leia fare here?

(By the way, I do want to apologise beforehand. Though I like the idea of exploring a characters’ impact, I’m accutely aware that I’m taking an amazing female character, and essentially discussing how she affects Teh Menz.)

The Imperials

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By far and away the most obvious of reactions – and not just because of the big honking AT-ATs. Okay kinda because of that. To briefly paint the scene: Leia and her three cruisers, bound for Lothal, are met by one Yogar Lyste, Imperial officer middlingaire, en route to their destination (meaning juuust above where they were going to land anyway). Upon grounding, he and Leia share a brief witty reparte*, and then he unveils his arsenal: two AT-ATs, stormtroopers and gravity locks that prevent escape (aww, they think it’ll work. How cute).

*witty by Imperial standards. In metric it’s merely workaday.

In just one scene: as previously mentioned, we learn how they measure Leia – though it wasn’t clear to me if they believed Leia was the ultimate culprit, or merely had a hand. If the latter, it’s interesting how they go through all this show of force to the person they don’t even think is the mastermind. If the former, it’s still a great subtle threat – but then it becomes weird how they merely let her go. No matter what her diplomatic credentials entitle her to do, I’m sure they could have leant on her to stay as their ‘guest’. We learn, too, just how much they value putting an end to the theft of these relief shipments. Note, I said the end of the theft, because it’s all too clear that they value the end of anything illegal and value order over continuation of aid.

It also sets up this episode’s plot, as well as neatly delivers the backstory to a single line from A New Hope (Vader’s ‘mercy missions’). In the show, that line was great, because it demonstrates, not just the backstory of a related film, but sets up the backstory of her as a Rebels-only character, one where she’s already force to be reckoned with, without relying on us the viewers assuming this to be fact. They could have easily relied on this shorthand, because very few Rebels fans haven’t seen the original films – but they don’t. They treat us, the show, and the character with respect by putting that much thought into the dialogue. And remember, all this was done in just one small set up scene.

As an aside, I was briefly confused about the identity of the lead Imperial. Had we seen him before? That’s complicated. Yes, he has appeared in several episodes – Wookieepedia lists him in several series 1 episodes. However, I had mistaken him for several other Imperials who had turned up in series 2. It sure would be great, just to avoid any later confusion, by having Imperial characters who don’t all look the same.

Kanan

You thought I was joking about that resting face thing, didn’t you?

Second in command to one of the rebellion’s most formidable cells and Jedi-ish, Kanan (AKA Kanan the Barbarian) immediately knows her worth – admittedly somewhat unreasonably* – and accepts her being in charge, and has a great working relationship with her. It really was as simple as that.

*We’re not told if Kanan was briefed on her skills and abilities beforehand. It’s tempting to think this, because as a fan I want a misstep to have a reasonable explanation, but as a piece of narrative it’s not reasonable to expect the fans to fill in the blanks.

Okay I should stop basking in the warm feeling I got from seeing taking a full grown man accepting a young, yet fully capable, woman as a worthy ally and giving her the respect she deserves. The fact that she’s a princess, and thus is entitled to respect, doesn’t even come into it.

And again with ripples: our Spectres may be the heroes of the show, but with Leia’s debut, we are again reminded of just how low on the totem pole they are. These are not film heroes, they’re not leaders of the Rebellion. They’re the grunts. But they’re our grunts. And they can show that the littler little guys can still pack a punch.

Ezra

Nope. Still want to punch him.
Nope. Still want to punch him.

And then there’s Ezra. In contrast to Kanan, he takes an immediate dislike to her, and I’m not really sure why. It could be because she’s an outsider, not a part of their family, and so he’s not comfortable with her immediately taking over their mission. It could be that he’s a little prickly because he’s finally lost his parents. It could be both, but it just didn’t come across this way to me.

For just one example, he’s had absolutely no problem before, with other men taking control of their group. But here I gained the impression that he was looking forward to being the knight in shining armour (literally) coming to rescue the damsel in distress, and got in a huff when it didn’t turn out exactly as planned. Contrast this to Han and Luke in A New Hope, who quickly, if not instantly, accept and like her taking control. And later, when he finally does come around to accepting her, you’ll notice that it’s only after she shows an interest in him. This, from a psychological perspective, does make sense. But it does also fit with his being kind of a jerk.

Which is a shame, because I don’t really want to end a review on a whinge (or start it, for that matter), especially on an episode I did otherwise enjoy. But I do wish Kanan could teach him a few other lessons, ones that have nothing to do with a lightsaber.

But let’s look at it a different way: going back to the ripples. Each character should make their own unique mark on the show – create their own unique ripples, as it were. When two characters interact, there ought to be something unique to the experience, something that, if you switched one character out for another, you simply wouldn’t get in that scene. So how does Leia’s role affect Ezra?

Michael Dare

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