Storms of the Past
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
The return of the Star Wars Rebels’s second season was encased in brilliant form in The Siege of Lothal, buoyed significantly by the presences of Ahsoka and Darth Vader. But outside of those welcome character returns, the episode was the best representation yet of the fight the rebels truly face. There was an thrilling pace to the proceedings, a true energy that harkened towards better times to come. The Lost Commanders unfortunately squandered a significant part of that energy on a useless sequence that takes up half the episode, espousing a truly bemusing tone of comedy amidst proceedings that truly ought to have been significantly more dramatic. The follow-up in Relics of the Old Republic restores it to narrative solvency, righting the ship and ending on what might be the most emotionally resonant moment yet for anyone who has watched The Clone Wars especially. The most significant improvement the show promised at the end of its first season and has succeeded so far in delivering is the expansion of the show’s universe and along with it the aforementioned threat the rebels really face. As long as they were on Lothal, the narrative stakes felt small, no matter to what length the show went to convince its audience otherwise. It wasn’t until Lothal no longer could remain a safe haven that the show truly began to tap into its full potential and the beginning of this season is a good marker in that direction.
The aforementioned comic sequence takes place shortly into Commanders, when the clones use Zeb as bait to draw out a giant, monstrous creature that serves as their primary nutritious source. There is nothing wrong with an explanation as to how the clones salvage their existence on what looks to be a fairly uncompromising desert planet, but to spend such a lengthy amount of screen time on it was extremely disappointing. Zeb could have been eaten alive and that becomes a joke that’s passed over in about a nanosecond, a circumstance that in no way is hilarious despite the music accompaniment. The rebels team putting their lives at risk is nothing new, but for the most part those moments felt dramatically significant. This entire long-winded chase feels like a complete waste of time and drags the entire episode down. On a simple matter of logic, the narrative and animated resources could have been used in a much more efficient, satisfying manner. A talk between Kanan and Rex on the Clone Wars, for example, could have easily been a powerful moment for the two as they reckon with the mutual terror they lived through while so many did not. For an episode that dealt with so much of Kanan’s resentment towards the clones to not spend more time developing that in a nuanced fashion felt more like a cheat than anything else.
The most dramatically satisfying thoroughfare through the two episodes was Kanan’s mistrust of the clones. In a brilliant moment, Hera understands his distrust and fear completely and after so many years with Kanan, how could she not? But she also notes that not all clones are alike and the horror of Order 66 could not be the only thing that their legacy becomes. “They saved billions of lives, including my own,” she stated quietly and Kanan’s eyes dawn with a distressed realization. That Kanan doesn’t immediately start trusting the clones is a testament to how smartly the writers avoided taking the easy route in a situation wrought with emotional complications, a courtesy that was unfortunately not extended to Wolffe’s betrayal of the group. Ezra is quick to point out the wrong in leaving the clones behind to fend for themselves in such dire circumstances, a fight against the Empire that would surely be their last. Kanan’s eyes once again close in realization, but he does recognize the truth in what Ezra notes. In all fairness, Ezra’s trauma is significantly different from what his master experienced, but that perspective in a sense becomes just as valuable, unhindered by Kanan’s biases. Vitally, at no moment does the show represent Kanan’s trauma lightly, but nor does it condone Kanan’s blanket resentment of all clones. Even at the end, he’s struggling but he understands and there’s a honest truth there that often goes unnoticed.
The Imperial threat has increased substantially throughout the series and certainly more so than in its first few episodes, but it fell into an unfortunate pattern in these first two episodes, where their danger level becomes a point of convenience for the plot itself. If the scene requires the TIE fighter to miss to the point of being ludicrous, then that will happen, even if there’s a highly decorative mobile military AT-TE in the middle of the desert. If the scene requires a dramatic burning to the point of annihilation, then that will happen. The occasional plot contrivance doesn’t remove the credibility of a series, but at a certain point it can become overwhelming. Nevertheless, the Imperial attack on the clones was at the very least dramatically satisfying because of the characters involved and their neat moments that raised the episode’s quality far higher. Using the AT-AT’s speed and lack of visibility in the sandstorm against them, the teams work together for that single shot that could either help them survive or snuff them out. Ezra reaches out into the force in a beautiful moment, sensing the right position to ensnare the walker and the team survives just in time to be rescued by Hera and Chopper. Ezra’s decision to go back and save the clones leads to the episode’s greatest payoff: the long-awaited reunion between Captain Rex and Commander Tano. “Commander, you got old,” he whispers quietly. Ahsoka rushes to embrace him and in that moment there’s nothing but a quiet friendship hoping to survive the darkness of the fight around them. It just might.
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above (The Lost Commanders):
+The Battle of Christophsis to the Siege of Mandalore
+“We can’t help others if we can’t help ourselves, Kanan.”
+“There are questions, questions that need answering.”
+The usage of the title card has improved
+“Now that is a work of art.”
+“You weren’t there. You weren’t even born!”
+“We all have a choice.”
+The Empire Strikes Back callbacks with the probe droid
+“That’s not freedom.”
-The entire circumstance with Wolffe was beyond rushed. Here’s another part of the episode that could have used a significant chunk of additional time
-The “To be continued” card was unnecessary
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above (Relics of the Old Republic):
+Are we going to see some of those abandoned Mandalorian bases that have been assumedly abandoned?
+“I hope you brought a better class of soldiers than those stormtroopers.”
“I have a great many of them.”
“You’re going to need all of them.”
+“We’re sitting mynocks on this thing.”
+“Prepare for ground assault.”
+“A general I fought with was amongst the greatest of the Jedi.”
+The sandstorm animation with the glowing headlights of the AT-ATs was gorgeous
+“I always trust my general.”
+“I hate it when he’s right.”
+“Just like the old days.”
+The Return of the Jedi callback with the Imperial shutter
+“I’m glad you’re still alive.”
-Are the TIE fighters as incompetent as the stormtroopers? That was several easy shots missed. I mean, for heaven’s sake.
Episode Title: The Lost Commanders
Written by: Matt Michnovetz
Directed by: Dave Filoni & Sergio Paez
Episode Title: Relics of the Republic
Written by: Steven Melching
Directed by: Bosco Ng
Image Courtesy: Star Wars Rebels Wiki