On Rebels, Lothal is Doomed, Hera is Doomed, Ezra is Doomed and Kanan is Dume’d

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Greetings! A reminder that is is not a full review. Instead, we just look at one or two things we here believe in restraint, thank you very much. Now let’s get on with this restrained 1,000 word review, shall we? As always, SPOILERS from here on out.

This week on Rebels, Rebel Assault, our Rebels must … do some assaulting. I’m pretty sure this was a working title and then they went ‘eh, good enough’. Also? Eesh, three rebels in one sentence. Want to say rebel some more? Rebel rebel rebel, wort wort wort.

Old vs. New

This week saw the introduction of perhaps the most iconic Star Wars ship of all time, the X-wing, and it’s about time, too! It was a perfect introduction – and I’m not saying that as an X-wing fan who may or may not have, as a kid, played with my toy X-wing in the bathtub, recreating the Dagobah landing scene. No, I say that because it was a beautifully choreographed battle scene that highlighted the stately nature of the machine. But more than anything it was a symbolic battle.

Over the years, from its very beginning, Rebels has sought to emulate the look, feel and style of the original trilogy films – but not completely, for it’s been happy to add its own flare and flash to the lore. This is the show that has, after all, given Ezra first an energy slingshot and then later a lightsaber/blaster hybrid that … honestly wasn’t a bad idea. I don’t know why no one has thought of that before. But over time that trademark style has transitioned, gracefully, closer towards the core films so that they could almost be mistaken for each other (if not for the difference in visual medium). Yet there is one key difference: the action. Rebels is a modern beast, and as such its battles reflect modern tastes: frenetic, fast-paced and with fancy man … mano … come on, Michael, you can do this … manoeuvres. If you compare the original space and lightsaber battles to their modern counterparts, the originals come off badly in the comparison. They are clunky and slow and lack the showiness of the modern era. And yet watch this space battle again; pay attention to the movement of the X-wings in particular. They move as they do in the original films. They are slow and graceful, bordering on plodding, with no truly flashy man…moves. No flashy moves. The animation team have retained that quirk of technology, when they didn’t need to. It is a striking, almost shocking, juxtaposition – especially as the episode also retains the series’ own originality, mostly in the form of the variety of vehicles on display, but also in subtle gestures. I don’t think I could have seen buildings being demolished in such a way in the early 80s, nor even an Imperial Star Destroyer being destroyed by bisection. (To be fair, I wouldn’t have expected the films to, I merely point out the difference.)

All this adds to a blatant, delicious symbolism to the battle. I believe it is no coincidence that the old fashioned X-wings prove victorious against their more modern counterparts, first against the new TIE Defender, and then against the Imperial Cruiser. Come at us, the X-wings seem to be saying, come at us with whatever toys you have and we’ll turn those very weapons against you. We were here first and we’ll be here after you’ve long gone.

They’re right, too.

Who knew that talking X-wings were so smart?

And of course, it is not those new creatures that do them in in the end but their old nemesis, the TIE Fighters, who were indeed back, and in greater numbers.

I literally just got that as I was typing it. Mind blown, Filoni. Mind. Blown.

From The Ashes Springs Hope

Is that a Wanted poster of Chopper?!

Well this was a grim episode, wasn’t it? This episode really puts the ‘dark’ in dark times, indeed. First, the rebel effort on Lothal is seemingly sunk (and if Rogue One is anything to go by, that won’t charge much – Scarif was the Rebellions’ first major victory, and earlier in the film the higher ranking rebels were unwilling to make an attempt, probably because they feared another failure like Lothal). Hera, Mother of Phoenices, is captured. And Kanan and Ezra, our two Jedi, are so pre-deceased (death-adjacent?) that they’re looking up plots of land in the Force afterlife. To borrow a phrase from Dreadlock Holiday: I don’t like it, oh no. I LOVE IT.

I may be a sadist but I am loving that things are going so, so badly for our Spectres – and I don’t expect it to get much better, either. This is a show that is willing to plunge the depths of the sea of despair (that’s to the left of the sea of tranquillity), to really kick us fans where it hurts (which is, metaphorically speaking, also to the left of the sea of tranquillity), and more than that they’re willing to hurt the characters that they, the creative team, have spent years labouring over, crafting them with such care and affection. They are truly masters of their art – and incredibly sadistic.

Only a sadist would wear that. I mean, seriously, who wears such an unflattering shirt?

 

But here’s the thing: that bleakness, that despair are an absolute necessity – and I’m not talking just about keeping canon straight, cleaning up canonical problems like having two Jedi running about while Luke’s there, trying to look super important and unique. No; it is necessary to show just how hopeless the situation is for the Rebellion, before A New Hope. It is necessary to show just how desperate the rebels are, and how important Luke Skywalker, as perhaps the only Jedi on the horizon, is to the Rebellion. If this were to be a show about a group of ragtag individuals who frequently thumb their nose at the Empire and get away with it, week after week, it would rob A New Hope of its impact. But that is not the show we have, because it’s not what the show needs to be.

It is necessary that the series and these waning moments, in particular, be so bleak because, after all, rebellions are built on hope. But that hope cannot exist without there first being despair.

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