Welcome! Quick note: this is not a full review. Here we just take a closer look at a couple of things – because my streaming service was playing up and could only watch the episode barely once. As always, SPOILERS from here on out.
This week, on Rebels, Zero Hour, not content with being a Time Lord, Tom Baker takes a turn as Mother Nature (Father Nature?) and, in properly fatherly fashion, yells at everyone to get off his damn lawn.
Oh Thrawn, You Dumb
As much as I enjoyed the episode I must begin this review with a complaint: Thrawn’s plan to wipe out the rebels lacked his trademark ingenuity and elegance. His genius-level intelligence barely got any spotlight (ironically it only really shone through when Storm Bendu blocked out the sun) and his plan ultimately relied on brute forcing the issue. Let’s have a brief run down:
It all began with a partial blockade of the planet, involving five capital ships and two interdictors. This may have been enough to blockade a planet with a single base (real world land and aerial tactics are difficult to translate into fictional space battles) but he didn’t really try – instead the rebels did his job for him by engaging in a straight up firefight in which they tried to run through the ships as opposed to the 99 other directions they could have taken (this isn’t really a note against Thrawn; it just sets up the poor planning by the writers). As for the battle itself, there were no fancy tactics involved; it was a simple slugging match and little more – and one that could have been handled differently, as his inferiors note. But to be fair, I was pleased with his use of the interdictors, which was a staple of Legends era Thrawn.
Then we get to the land battle: here he commanded his AT-AT walkers to approach from a single route and with minimal air support. This not only lacked imagination but the rebels themselves were able to plan ahead by mining the approach*. At no point in the battle were the rebels overwhelmed by superior tactics (I’m discounting the spotting the mines and walking around them bit; it was contrived and Thrawn should have already thought of that beforehand) but rather they succumbed to numbers and firepower. To be sure, they’re staples of warfare, ancient, modern and futuristic – but it’s Thrawn here. We should be seeing destruction as art.
*A case could be made against the rebels’ lack of preparation but I’m trying to end the series on a positive note – or at least not too negative one.
The only time, as I noted earlier, that Thrawn’s superior intellect managed to make any difference was when Bendu attacked. This was a thing that Thrawn seemingly had no knowledge of, and could barely grasp the concept of it to begin with, and yet even as it was devastating his army he managed to determine its weakest spot and successfully corralled his forces and coordinated their fire upon it. That’s the Thrawn I was looking for!
Moving on from the negative, let’s turn our attention to my biggest positive of the episode: Governor Pryce. She was brilliance personified. Unlike Konstantine, who had benefited personally from Thrawn’s tutelage, Pryce has largely been left to her own devices. As such, she hasn’t had much of a growth arc in this series. And, to be honest, she doesn’t really need one because she’s been awesome and fearsome from the beginning – and it was no surprise that Thrawn left her in charge of the space battle when he left to oversee the ground arena.
Throughout the battle she was calm, level-headed and resolute as she maintained Imperial dominance above Atollon. As her underlings around her were frantic – to becoming overwhelmed – she remained collected; as still, as solid and as reliably unmoved as a mountain … Still working from the Empire’s School of Melodrama and Theatrics, admittedly, in her desire to throw Kallus out an airlock rather than just summarily execute him there and then – but that’s a minor flaw and one that Thrawn would hopefully figuratively beat out of her. Wait, no, this is the man who called up the rebels to say ‘just FaceTiming you to tell you your imminent destruction is even more imminent. Toodle-oo!’ Perhaps not the best person to teach her otherwise.
And yet there’s that small matter of not adequately handling the surprise introduction of the Mandalorian threat and losing her last interdictor because of it, as well as letting the rest of the rebels escape. That is a bit of a black mark – and on top of her losing the rebels in an earlier episode, it’s not saying much for her tactical abilities. This is a fair complaint to level against her. But do remember that even if she’s had military experience in the past that she is, primarily, a governor of a civilian and industrial population – as evidenced by her title being civil-administrative in nature, rather than a military rank. She is a villain in the same vein as Grand Moff Tarkin, not Grand Admiral Thrawn or even … Admiral Konstantine? How on earth did that man become and Admiral?! Sweet Lordy Loo.
As an unabashed Sabine and Mandalorian fan I delighted in their coming to save the day. And yet I can’t help but feel that that was a dire mistake on Ezra’s part, and one that may cost them dearly later down the line. I mean, not too dearly. We do know how this ends, after all.
It was a mistake because the Mandalorians were originally intended to be the rebellion’s secret weapon in their fight against the Empire. To introduce them at a time such as this, even one that fits the definition of a proverbial rainy day, negates a lot of potential in their later introduction. Not only that but Clan Wren (and presumably their allies) are in the midst of a civil war and one that, as we’re given to understand from this episode, is not going well for them – owing in large part to their rivals, Clan Saxon (IIRC) having Imperial backing. And while it’s understood that the Empire does know about the Mandalorian political situation, it isn’t currently known if the Empire is aware that the Wren faction is allied to the rebellion, or even that the civil war is to play a large part in the larger rebellion against the Empire. They do now. As such, you can be sure that they’re going to bring a lot more resources, military, war materiel and financial, to bear against Clan Wren and its allies – essentially making theirs an impossibly steep uphill battle – one that they just might not be able to surmount. In doing so Ezra may have just killed off any hope of the Mandos being their secret weapon – and perhaps even killing off Clan Wren.
(I realise this goes against the general thrust of the show and that they’ll no doubt find some way to win that war; but as things stand that future is very much not a sure thing.)
So what could Ezra have done? That’s somewhat difficult to answer – and I must admit that my inability to re-watch the episode hinders that attempt. But could it not have been possible for another, or several other, rebel cells to have been requested? It didn’t have to be a large force because as we saw only a small Mando’ade strike team, even after themselves being reinforced, was needed to destroy the interdictor. We know that there’s a larger force gathered at Yavin, as well as there possibly being a base at Dantooine, as well as other scattered forces mentioned in the book Twilight Company (though that takes place later in the war, it can reasonably be inferred that they existed at this time). If Dodonna was really that important to the rebel cause, as evidenced by his role in the films, wouldn’t it be worth it to risk committing more resources? However as a counterpoint to that, Hera does state that she believes that Thrawn himself thinks the amassed armada before him is the entirety of the rebel forces (it’s not clear whether she meant the whole of the rebellion or just of that sector) and that she wishes to avoid demonstrating that they’re larger than the Empire believes – but the point seems to be moot. They’re getting reinforced anyway, so does it matter who exactly is reinforcing them? And wouldn’t it be better to have ships already declared for the rebellion to act as reinforcements, rather than outing the Mandalorians as a rebel-allied force?Powered by Sidelines