The Empire Needs Roadside Assistance In Rebels!

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Quick note: this is not a full review. Here, we simply take a few things from each episode and then tinker with them until they explode. Because everyone needs a hobby. As always, SPOILERS from here on out.

Welcome! This week on Rebels, An Inside Man, our Spectres must, erm, do something in a factory. Honestly I kinda forgot the plot. But we did learn the identity of Fulcrum and ItoldyousoItoldyousoItoldyousoItoldyousoItoldyousonotthatitwasn’tobviouslinthefirstplacebutthisismyreviewsoneenawneenaw. That was a very long sentence to go without spaces and I regret nothing.

Home Wrecked

This episode, from the very first moment, drives resolutely home how terribly the Empire has ravaged Lothal for their own personal gain. ‘Wow, this place has changed,’ we’re presumably supposed to collectively exclaim. ‘Wow, this place has changed,’ Ezra, ever insightful and witty, drives home the point. I was being snarky there but I only mean it as a point against Ezra for I loved just how severely this once verdant, perhaps quintessentially frontier town of a planet has been turned into mere resource that the Empire taps into and gives no thought beyond that, as if they were playing some sort role playing game.

Just going to leave this here.

The way the show approached this subject was very nearly perfect. In the first series we very rarely go out of the system – and when we do, we always return home at the end of the episode (granted that may have been for budgetary reasons, but accidentally or not it was a smart move). During this time we see the Empire slowly but steadily firming its grip on the planet, but it’s not something we – or maybe just me – notice beyond those moments that the main characters point it out. The takeover of the planet happens incrementally so that we (and the residents) are given enough time to get used to the new reality before the Empire’s grip tightens even further. We’re almost like the proverbial lobster who’s chucked into the pot filled with cold water; slowly the chef turns up the heat so that it doesn’t know it’s being boiled alive.

In later seasons we return to the planet only infrequently (I can only think of two instances personally) and we’re not given much of a look at the planet and how things have changed. Presumably it hasn’t changed so very much because Ezra, as I mocked earlier, was duly shocked here – and so was I (as were you?) specifically because they, the showrunners, refused to go back. ‘We’ve seen enough of this planet already, let’s only go back to drive home the point that the Empire are douche canoes’ they presumably said amongst themselves as they sipped Mai Tais, served by Chopper and BB-8 and went back to playing Empire At War because that’s what I imagine life is like as a Lucasfilm employee.

It does also serve to drive home the point of how callous, uncaring and vampiric the Empire is – which admittedly is not something we need to see more of, but I’m appreciative of the writers doing their due diligence in their crafting and following things to their logical conclusion.

Forced Suicide

Wow. That’s the entirety of  my notes for this point – or rather, all that is repeatable on a family friendly site. Previously I’ve bemoaned how we’ve been given mere glimpses into Thrawn as well as other characters. This episode, this scene in particular, sated my appetite. Also I feel rather dirty that it took such a macabre scene to do it, but beggars can’t be choosers. I mean, they can, that’s their right. They don’t owe you anything just because you’re kind to them. I feel like I’m getting away from the point.

We all know that the Empire is bad. At this point that’s the kind of observation that entirely deserves scorn and mocking. We know this from how they’re happy to blow up planets, kill innocents and civilians, expel or detain the mysterious Other, hoard power for themselves and rule in despotic tyranny. But this instance was different from those others because in a way it felt entirely personal. Imagine yourself as a poor, humble farmer (or a farmer given to braggadocio and other tall tales, whatever floats your boat). You’ve lost your livelihood to a bunch of space Nazis, a government that you thought would serve you and people like you, keep you safe and empower you. Instead they’ve taken your job, your land, your power and have done so only to enrich themselves. The only way to survive and ensure your family’s survival is to then work for the same vague, faceless regime that took all that you have. You do so; you take the job in the hopes of surviving another day. You somehow manage to get by, perhaps carve out a liveable life for yourself – right up until the day when that faceless regime becomes faceless no more – because one is presented to you. Here, it is the face of Thrawn, a cog of the far away government that invades your life once more, invades that little oasis of safety and forces you to commit an action that you know will end your life – and you have no choice but to do it. That one scene was so incredibly powerful, so intriguing and so, well, so sad that I couldn’t help but sink into despond.

Dis pond.
Dis pond.

And perhaps more horrifying than that, but that level of sadistic torture? It worked. Okay, it worked only up to the point that the rebels interfered, but it still seemed to produce results. To be clear, I in no way advocate committing such heinous acts to get your own way, and indeed condemn it. I just couldn’t help but notice the clear parallels between this fictional instance to a real-world one. From fictional space-Nazis to real ones: during the Second World War, the Nazis utilised forced labour in their industrial complex as well as all but forcing younger scientists to work on their weapons research and development. As strange as it was to see it happen on the screen, it’s altogether unnerving to realise that it was only an echo of reality.

It Was So Artistically Done (And I Promise This Is The Last Time I Use That Phrase)

Via StarWars.com

Thrawn, since the very beginning in the Legends canon, has been known for his Holmsian-esque ability to figure out another’s strategy by looking at the art of the person’s culture – and that is a trend that, as we saw in this episode, has thankfully continued in the new Canon. What, if I remember correctly, has never been present (though I believe I noted something that touched upon this in the Ryloth episode) is quite how Thrawn makes his inductions. And to be honest, I never really expected for there to be anything more to it beyond it sounding like a cool, smart thing that a genius of Thrawn’s calibre can and does do. It was probably supposed to be just a gimmick. And yet this episode delivered something that seemed, at least on the face of it, a fairly reasonable line of thought.

It was also rather humorous to watch it, thinking that Thrawn and the writers were talking, if you’ll forgive my coarse language, out of their posterior, only to realise that they could back it up! Now I know how, in Doctor Who, all those assistants felt.

Like dis pond.

Michael Dare

P.S. My apologies for not covering the previous episode. There was a medical crisis in the family.

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