A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
Rebels has had a certain narrative problem in that the season-long transition between the episodes has more often than not felt a little clunky. But we’re slowly getting more and more characterizations that make our protagonists complex, a welcome development that results in a gem of an episode like this one. Empire Day, which is in reference to a national holiday on Lothal representing the Empire’s fifteenth anniversary, is an episode primarily focused on making Ezra less annoying and a bit more impressionable. Okay, I kid. But the episode is about uncovering Ezra’s past, just as much as it is about our protagonists committing an act of terrorism to disrupt the highly awkward Imperial celebrations. For the first time, the series forays into a multi-episode storyline and this allows for the episode to actually breathe, not worried about wrapping everything up in a couple of minutes. And to top it all off, there wasn’t a single Ezra/Chopper/Zeb comedy moment that made me want to strangle all three characters.
As noted, this episode is a two-parter. The problem with the pacing of this show so far that this episode makes clear is that each story feels rushed by time and then the creators try to take individual plot points and characters into next week to establish a continuity. It’s a good effort, but it feels weak and uninspired. Not this week. There’s a quietness about this hour that works, allowing an organic sense of storytelling to rise. It is intriguing to note that unlike a decent chunk of the expanded Star Wars lore, the Empire isn’t as attuned to misogyny as one would expect in this show. Obviously there’s little effort to make sure that sexism as a whole is rooted out of the system, but both the Minister and Governor of Lothal being women is an intriguing sociopolitical angle for the show to introduce. I hope they get to do more with it later.
Terrorism is always a tricky subject to approach in a delicate and nuanced manner. By its basic definition, terrorism means using fear as a political tactic to advance your goals. Fear itself is a broad enough piece of verbiage that it could range from pure pacifism to the most extreme nature of violence. Within the context of twenty-first century warfare, terrorism has become synonymous with bombings and Islamic jihadists. It’s a narrow frame through which to look at the world yet it is undeniably a pervasive one. For antagonists to commit acts of terror warfare is perfectly acceptable within a fictional narrative. It is easily explainable with as little reasoning as “they are bad people”. For a protagonist to do so is a much, much tricker situation to navigate and I applaud the show for at the very least throwing that out there at the audience. Now, considering this is on Disney XD, I don’t expect them to loudly burst out the word “terrorism” and nor should they have to in order to drive the point home.
The site of their attack is as macabre and ridiculous and one would expect it to be. The minister is so thoroughly Imperial it’s morbidly hilarious but her surroundings are anything but. There is an extremely effective motif of combining the Nazi imagery at parades with the military showcases that have defined and do define autocratic nations. The proud showcasing of the latest super weapon technology, proudly manufactured on Lothal, is evocative of the numerous missiles paraded through the streets of Moscow, Beijing, and Pyongyang just to name a few examples in recent history. The crowd dutifully goes along with the Imperial celebrations, the risk of not doing so simply far too great. It’s a great moment of triumph for the concept of subtlety in a show that needs it. How quickly they’ve grown from fruit farmer harassment to a few nods and hands gestures to instill fear in the local populace. A gorgeous new TIE fighter is proudly put on display, moments before it shatters into smithereens, killing several stormtroopers instantly.
For Ezra, Empire Day is miserable for a primary reason out of the obvious celebration of a tyrannical government. It’s his birthday, a constant reminder of the parents who were taken away from him on account of them actually standing up against the Empire. The sequence where he hears their voices in intense conversation about their beliefs is one of the most harrowing the show’s ever done and it brought me to the verge of tears. Since the age of seven, Ezra has been out in the streets, trying to fend for himself in what was a turbulent, violent, dangerous world. It still doesn’t dissipate the connections to Aladdin, but it does provide Ezra with an additional depth of character and a powerful motivation against the most powerful of enemies. Perhaps even more importantly, it deepens the relationship between the Ghost crew by giving the original gang even more reason to care for their newest recruit. How successful the Ghost crew will be against the Empire remains to be seen, but for now, as they fly off into the night sky in unity albeit being chased by the Inquisitor, I have a feeling that for now at least they’re going to be pretty okay. And that’s a great feeling to have right now.
Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+The sequence with Kanan, Ezra, and the Lothal creature was amazing
+The animation of the landscapes is simply stunning
+The Imperial March being redone as a triumphant score is a nice touch
+Chopper is useless
+The reaction to “did you miss me”?
+The TIE sequence
+The Inquisitor’s entire costume, plus his helmet is rad
+Five-year plan for Lothal and other Outer Rim worlds
+The chilling arc of Seebo lends a promising start to an intriguing character
+The first effective stormtrooper possibly, that whole chase sequence was pretty great
+Ezra in his tattered home really reminded me of Numa, Waxer, and Boil in Innocents of Ryloth (The Clone Wars Season 1). That certainly helped in the emotion department
-To be continued… Really? That wasn’t necessary
Title: Empire Day
Written By: Henry Gilroy
Directed By: Steven G. Lee
Image Courtesy: Coffee With Kenobi