Filler Episodes?

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I make no secret of the fact that I am biased towards Star Wars.  Movies, books, video games, comics, TV shows, whatever, I love it all.  It takes a lot for me to admit I did not enjoy something Star Wars related.  We are lucky enough to live in a time where we get weekly brand new Star Wars adventures on our TV screen through Star Wars Rebels.  Needless to say, I’m enjoying the show quite a bit.  That’s not to say the show doesn’t have flaws.  As much as we want it to be, nothing is perfect.

What has been bothering me of late is the talk of “filler episodes” in Star Wars Rebels.  This term is usually used when you have a show with a larger on going story arc or mythology (Lost, X-Files, Battlestar Galactica, etc.) and you have a one-off episode that doesn’t contribute anything to the larger story.  It’s usually there to fill the 24 episodes that make up your average TV season.

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Now, Star Wars Rebels doesn’t have a larger story arc at work, at least not in my eyes.  Yes, there are multi-episode stories and there are plot lines that haven’t yet been fulfilled, but the show is about the crew of the Ghost and their adventures as they fight against the Empire.  At least, that’s how I see the show.  The show isn’t centered around Ezra’s Jedi training or the formation of the Rebel Alliance.  These are facets to the show and important parts, but they are not the main thrust of the show.

Since Rebels came back from the winter hiatus we’ve been getting a different kind of episode than we were used to.  The episodes have been smaller in scale and much more character focused.  The Sabine-Mando episode gave us a glimpse into not only her past, but also the state of the Mandalorians during the rise of the Empire.  Zeb’s episode explored his connection to his people and the future of the Lasat race.  The raid on the fuel depot showed not only Ezra’s burgeoning abilities to connect, but also the state of Phoenix Squadron, and by extension, the Rebel Alliance, as they try desperately to keep ahead of the Empire and maintain supply lines.

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From the beginning of the show, I immediately loved these characters and I wanted to know more about them.  Each one of the characters has a very personal reason for being on board the Ghost and for standing up to the Empire.  It hardly seems like “filler” when we get stories that begin to show us what has brought them there.  The stories in Rebels are primarily focused on one particular section of the galaxy and the focus is on a smaller cast of characters.  This in direct contrast to The Clone Wars where we had a large cast of characters who were traveling all over the galaxy.

I’m not sure what people mean when they complain about a “filler episode.”  Do they want more of Ezra and Kanan’s Jedi training?  Or maybe they want more of the fight against the Empire?  Both of these lead to a similar conclusion.  If our heroes win too many times, then it makes the Empire seem weak, and it’s hard to have a bad guy seem threatening when they can easily be dispatched week in and week out.  Clone Wars faced a similar problem with their villains.  Cobra doesn’t seem very threatening when we see GI Joe defeat them every episode.  If Kanan and Ezra can easily defeat the Imperial troops or even the Inquisitors then we no longer have a credible enemy.

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If the crew of the Ghost is fighting the Empire every day the only option for backstory is to have the characters sit around and talk about it, which is less than compelling drama.  Show, don’t tell.  We saw Sabine directly confronted with the Mandalorians, we saw Zeb deal with the Lasat.  We saw Kanan directly deal with the clones.  We saw the Ghost out of fuel and how far they had to go to resupply the fleet.

As I said, I’m biased towards anything Star Wars and I love Star Wars Rebels.  I haven’t felt like any of the episodes of the show so far have been “filler.”  If anything, one of my big complaints is that I want more of these stories and the 22 minute length forces the episodes to end abruptly.

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  • Pandu POLUAN

    Nicely written!

    Yeah, I also can’t think of any episode as a ‘filler episode’. This is a character-driven show, not an action-driven show, and the main focus, first and foremost, is the development of the characters. Which had happened in every single one of the episodes aired so far.

    *sighs*

  • Zarm

    Well said. I think people probably mean, by ‘filler episode,’ one in which nothing significant happens for any character, nor is the plot advanced in any way; an episode that doesn’t have a reason for existing. (Or a very weak one). And I don’t think we’ve had any of those. Certainly some- a couple in season one and a majority in the first half of season 2- that weren’t so good… but they’ve always still advanced *something*, and even those weaker links seem far less prevalent since about the 5th or 6th episode of this season.