This Episode of Rebels Was Brought To You By Snarky Droids’R’Us

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Welcome! Please note, this review is filed under ‘Lists Of Things I Liked’, which is separate from the review section of this base and next to the Big Honking Gun section. As always, SPOILERS  from here on out!

This week on Rebels, Warhead, AP-5 brings us some sweet inventory action, drops puns like he’s been drinking from the K2-S0 well of snark, and I completely forget how to do a basic review intro. This is a Supergirl review, right?

Kallus: Master Spy, Master Hair Haver

How many sides of Kallus are there? Because he is quickly turning out to be one of the more compelling characters of the series – certainly one of my favourites. He’s also a bit of a mystery, in that what we’ve seen of him thus far is altogether rather shallow. At first, he was a simple attack dog of the Empire – and a particularly brutal one at that. Then, we learn that he had some honour after all when he and Zeb were stuck on Geonosis (the first time round). And then, finally, he becomes a turncoat and acts as an agent* for the Rebellion. When put like that, it all feels somewhat flat and by the numbers. And while true it’s not what I would have preferred (having wanted an honourable Imperial not allied to the Rebellion), you really need to look at specific scenes to gain a true appreciation of the depth of his character. Let’s take a closer look at what this episode offered.

*In the British sense of the word. Over here, an actual spy is an officer, owing to the military background of our intelligence agencies, while information sources are ‘agents’. No, this notice was not borne out of the countless number of newspapers mixing up the terms in the last week. Why do you ask?

Cast your minds and your TV remotes back to one scene in particular: where he is informed of the probe droid having missed its scheduled check in. Here, there are three facets of the Agent Kallus: the first he presents is the face of the bully, the arrogant Imperial officer to his fellow Imperials on the bridge, as well as us the audience (and whoever, as I suspect, is snooping on the bridge crew via security cameras on the orders of Grand Admiral Thrawn. Although not yet referenced, I feel certain that that is something he would likely do). This is a deft touch on his part (okay, on Gary Whitta’s part) because this display of superiority is to be expected in an officer – it’s something as natural as breathing to them. But it provides a double purpose: to cower the rank and file so that they don’t question too hard why he’s not looking into the missing probe droid, and also maintains his status as an Imperial officer, through and through.

I may have said ‘Imperial’ far too many times in that paragraph. Imperial. Imperial. Imperi-I’ll stop.

And yet, he’s not a typical officer, is he? Not in the sense that he’s a spy, but in the sense that he’s quicker-witted and more skilled than the average person. His subordinates know this and importantly Thrawn knows this too. He can’t simply leave it at that, so we see an easy, almost graceful transition into his more thoughtful persona as he muses on why he shouldn’t investigate further. Furthermore, he does this out loud and in a, to me, patronising tone of voice so that he can appear to be, ahem, ‘benevolently’ displaying his superior intelligence to inferior beings as well as handily providing his excuse, before a potentially fateful meeting with Thrawn, as a matter of record. This also placates the rank and file so that they’re not going to do something so dangerous as to think for themselves – to such a degree that they may suspect that his actions aren’t on the level. He then completes the scene with the necessary due diligence in saying that they will follow up if this continues to be a problem. This, too, is on the face of it to further the cause of the Empire and as such no one can really fault him should things go wrong – but of course it gives the rebels time handle the situation in whichever way they see fit.

It’s all so simple, really, but remember this is all taking place in a matter of seconds. Presumably he didn’t even know beforehand that they, the Empire, were even in the Rebels’ neck of the galactic woods, so to speak, so that he would have had to come up with all this on the spot, as it was happening. It is, to quote the dark lord himself, most impressive.

Lax Security

Anyone want to play a game of Operation?

I’ll level with you: I didn’t think this was a good episode. The plot was contrived, convoluted and several others C-words that I’m not really allowed to say. One such part that was rather painful to watch was how the once-royal guard and experienced rebel, Zeb, found a strange droid on an almost entirely deserted planet and thought it would be a good idea to bring it back to their secret base.

And yet, in a way, it actually, kinda, makes sense? If you squint real hard. Maybe change the angle of your head as you look. I’ll explain.

Humans are lazy – presumanly lasat are, too. I don’t mean in the ‘stay on the sofa and never ever leave’ kind of lazy; I’m speaking in terms of habits. We’re lazy in basically everything we do. Even when we’re doing new and exciting things that require new ways of thinking and doing new, proactive things, we still tend towards laziness. Even if we’re the sort of person to be incredibly active in our daily lives, this is still true – because we naturally look for the easy way to do something.

This, in itself, isn’t a bad thing because it helps us function normally and effectively utilise our own resources to get things done. But it does have down sides: say you’re a soldier currently out on campaign. As part of your daily routine it’s your job to patrol the perimeter for a four hour watch, each night. Every night. For a month or six. While hopping on one leg. Okay that last bit was a slight exaggeration but you get the gist. Now, you’ll be very vigilant and keep an eye out for any suspicious activity, of course. You always will. But it’s simply human nature that you’ll become accustomed to the danger and activity and your brain will begin to accept this extraordinary, dangerous circumstance as normal. Day by day you’ll stop thinking of this patrol as a thing for which you have to be hyper-aware and will merely accept it as routine. Oh, don’t get me wrong, your brain will still pick up the signs for clear and present dangers, such as a group of armed soldiers coming your way* but once your brain figures out that whatever it’s seeing isn’t an immediate or impending threat it’ll put that thing into a list of things it can safely ignore. Which is generally useful and is something we all do in our daily lives. Imagine if we really did notice every single thing around us! We’d go mad! But our brains don’t and we, by and large, remain sane.

*I’m being a tad facetious here; real soldiers will of course pick up much more subtle signs of dangerous activity. I mean this only as a narrative ploy. See what I mean about laziness?

Enter Zeb. As I said, this trait  is useful – right up to the point where we come across a harmless-looking droid but is actually a murder-bot in disguise. Even though Zeb is a veteran of countless battles and many a patrol of countless bases, his brain will naturally tend to discount things that seem harmless. As such it made him feel much more relatable and human.

Or it was just plain old bad writing. Either/or – but I choose to believe it was an example of good writing. I’m an optimist.

Stop sniggering.

Scale

While it is fair to say that the episode was damaged by how convoluted it was, it is only fair, and equally so, to note that I loved how small was the story that played out. There was no grand battle, no rank upon rank of faceless (literally) soldiers to back up Zeb in his attempt to save the day. Similarly, there were no battalions of probe droids or stormtroopers coming to destroy the base, no armada of Star Destroyers to bomb them into submission (that’ll come later). It was just Zeb, Chopper and AP-5 against a lone probe droid. And that one droid could have derailed an entire segment of the Rebellion, and quite possibly endanger the rest of it, too. It’s a great reminder that even the best laid plans can be undone by the tiniest of details.

Michael Dare

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