Star Wars Rebels 1.09: “Gathering Forces” Review

Fear

A Television Review by Akash Singh

NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!

“Your master will die. Your friends will die. Hope for you will be lost. This is the way the story ends.”

This is my first perfect score for Rebels and I feel perfectly comfortable in doing so. Rebels had a choppy start (no pun intended), but there’s hardly a show that has a perfect beginning, especially shows that have to balance multiple tones while staying consistent to one genre. It doesn’t sound like a difficult task but in execution it is awfully tricky. Rebels more than anything else had to be somewhat like a Disney property without really being a Disney property and exude all of the feelings that are reminiscent of the superior, original Star Wars trilogy. The Disney purchase of Lucasfilm at the onset was a hugely divisive move. Disney, more often than not known for “happy” properties aimed at kids, at the time didn’t seem like the right company to continue the legacy of the Force. And to top it off, the acquisition led to the cancellation of The Clone Wars (which I’m not still completely over). When Rebels premiered amidst all of this, there were several questions of how successful the show could be amidst all of those factors. The opening was solid, if a little rocky. While each episode (with one exception) was entertaining and even revelatory, the first half of this season didn’t truly click as a transition until this episode. We still have a ton of narrative framework to unlock, but I’ve never been more excited for the next chapter in this journey. So naturally we are on hiatus until January.

Long my least favorite character on the show besides Chopper (who continues to be useless), I am now sold on Ezra Bridger even though he still looks too much like Aladdin for my taste. At the beginning of the episode, he’s tormented with the finding of Seebo last week as one would naturally expect. This was the man who potentially has any knowledge of what happened to his parents and also the man who had failed to protect them when the Empire came knocking at his door. Deep down, Ezra knows that Seebo hardly had a choice, nor could he have single handedly stood up against the Galactic Empire. There was nothing Seebo could have done. But his anger, frustration, all that venom from years of isolation as a child – it all needs a conduit and that conduit is conveniently standing there, right in front of him. “You coward,” he snarls at him in vehemence, his anger being confused by a bemusement at Seebo’s calm (something he surely can’t help, with his mind being connected to a giant computer and everything). For the first time in this entire series, I felt sympathy towards Ezra, a poor child left alone in a dangerous world to fend for himself. It’s painfully difficult not to vent your fury at the person who had even the slimmest of chances (no matter how close to impossible they were) of giving you a childhood. More often than not, the importance of childhood in such narratives is glazed over but having your early years be a series of traumatic scars is bound to leave a dent in an individual’s psyche. That dent is slowly patched over by resilience and lack of emotion. But when that patch falls away, all those emotions of isolation and tragedy come flooding back like a tidal wave threatening to engulf its victim within its tumultuous waters.

The episode’s actual open is a straight cut from last week, with the Inquisitor in his awesome helmet and TIE fighter squadron chasing our beloved Ghost crew into space. A clever new tracking signal is shot at the Ghost as it goes into hyperspace and it can follow their every move (Did that die out quickly, then? It seems nifty). Kanan decides to have him and Ezra detach to help out the crew, which seems like a terrifyingly vapid idea considering it would involve them detaching in hyperspace. Somehow Kanan manages to do it, leading to one of the coolest visuals the show’s ever accomplished. They land on the same planet with the asteroid belt around it and the creatures in the dark, which to the show’s credit was a matter of debate amongst the crew before the hyperspace detachment. It was a neat callback nevertheless to just a couple of weeks ago and what a treat it was, to see Ezra calm the creatures and for master and apprentice to quietly take a seat amidst them as the Inquisitor approached. And that’s when the episode becomes great.

“Kanan. I’m afraid.” Ezra spoke those words when they were approaching the planet in the first place and Kanan’s response was an evocative one – admitting that one is afraid is one of the most mature things an individual can do. As it was, his fear was an appropriate one and not just because of the beasts they manage to calm. The Inquisitor’s battle with Kanan was one of the most fluid sequences the show’s ever done, crackling with excitement in every frame. And Kanan quickly loses, the rusty trainee that he was. Ezra steps up to shield Kanan from the Inquisitor’s fatal blow but if Kanan couldn’t beat the Inquisitor outright in a fight, Ezra certainly can’t His anger, his frustration grows as the Inquisitor’s leer becomes sharper and sharper. “Unleash your anger,” he croons right before Ezra does exactly that. It’s a great yet terrifying moment when Ezra feeds into the dark side, unleashing the mother of the beasts at the Inquisitor. He saved Kanan, but perhaps at the risk of condemning himself to a fate that he barely understands.

On the Ghost, Hera begins to tell Ezra the secret of his parents before Kanan interrupts her, noting that the two needed to talk. It’ll be a pivotal moment for the two when we return to them, trying to make Ezra understand what the dark side truly is and how dangerous his slight brush can ultimately become. He’s not the only older, emotional trainee with parental baggage to have a brush with the Dark Side. Ezra, suddenly seeming more mature and resigned, is visited by a nicer Sabine, who cleaned out his holo disk. She pops the disk in, revealing an image of him as a child with his parents. “Happy Birthday, Ezra Bridger,” Sabine says with a smile, leaving him alone with that heartbreaking image. As the camera moves out of the ship and into the realms of space, Ezra perhaps has learnt to be honest with himself, just as Kanan had advised him before. As the episode comes to a close with so many tantalizing story threads left out in the open, one can only wonder how much honesty there truly was in the first place – and how long it can remain unstained. But for now, the Ghost crew is at last well and truly together, ready to face the next challenge the galaxy throws their way. See you in January! May the Force be with you!

Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:

+“I guess you saved our lives.”; “There’s a first time for everything.”

+The secret Fulcrum rendezvous was neatly done

+Great music this week

+“Try and connect.”

+Seebo trying to redeem himself by sabotaging the Empire was one of the most touching things I’ve seen in the entire saga. I doubt we’ve seen the last of him.

+The way Jason Isaacs utters “Pathetically” is one of my favorite things ever.

+The parallels between Ezra here and Ahsoka in Friends & Enemies were fantastic

+Kanan trying to pull an Indiana Jones on the Inquisitor

+The Inquisitor’s boomerang lightsaber trick

+Destorying the Imperial ship on the way out

+“My master will not be pleased.”

Magnificent

10/10

Title: Gathering Forces

Written By: Greg Weisman

Directed By: Steward Lee

Image Courtesy: Nerd Reactor

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