A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
The Mystery of Chopper Base is an odd episode in a sense but a significant improvement over whatever the hell aired last week. In no way does that mean that the episode isn’t good, it’s brilliant with what it is able to accomplish but it’s not a traditional episode one expects of the show and perhaps that’s why it feels so thrilling and well-executed. Parts of it play the horror trope the show has played at several junctures, recalling one of the best Clone Wars episodes in season two’s Legacy of Terror. The camerawork from Bosco Ng transforms the caverns of the spidery creatures into a legitimate travesty of terror where it feels perfectly logical and palpable that at any moment one of our heroes may find themselves to be dinner for a ridiculously large arachnid. Knowing full well that our core team is more than likely safe until the end of the series, the acquisition of that tension is a great achievement (I was convinced that Rex would bite it at any moment to drive some real stakes for the season to wrap up). Balancing that ratcheting tension nicely is more of a quiet scene, where Zeb is simply lying against a stack of crates, watching the sunset go quietly by and inviting Ezra to do the same. It’s a scene that in many ways can be treated as being insignificant but it’s a quiet scene that is important. Yes, our protagonists are rebel fighters operating against a massive Empire, but they are nevertheless people. They can’t spend every waking minute fighting or gathering fuel or saving every waking being from the clutches of inept stormtroopers. They’re being who need to survive and a part of that is simply living, breathing, watching the sunset and not allowing the adversities ahead to crush you.
The greatest achievement of the episode lies within that thematic construction, crafted from the literal to the most basic instinct of humanity within each character. The Ghost crew have all become quite familiar by this juncture of the narrative and while certain characterization flaws remain, the series has grown significantly to the point where it no longer feels the incessant need to draw out its characterizations by coloring all of them in the broadest of structures and or the bluntest of dialogue. Mystery is notable for being an episode where it gets its characters in ways that the audience doesn’t need to understand. The show gets them and if the show gets them, then that complexity of storytelling can transcend down towards the audience in an organic fashion. There’s an ability here to interpret the past and pave the way for the future, a future that must always include a reclusive desert planet because that is a fundamental rule of Star Wars lore. The plot mechanics are fairly simple here and to the episode’s credit, it doesn’t make the mystery of Chopper Base so much as into what is actually happening (which is apparent within about three seconds of screen time) but within the emotional complexities of the characters and the mysteries they are grappling with. “What might happen?” is a question on everyone’s mind, but to transcend that into a minimalistic storytelling ability is impressive, especially when a myriad of relations to that question can be displayed simultaneously.
For Kanan and Ezra, the questions lie around the emotional complexities of battle. Ezra finds that the way to win a battle is by defeating the enemy, in this case killing the Inquisitors but Kanan shuts him down. Kanan, brimming with some wisdom, notes that the only way to win a battle is by surviving. I noted that Ezra’s burgeoning dark tendencies haven’t been explored well enough to potentially become a real threat but here they grow organically from two individuals who share the same goals and believe in the same things. They simply, from having led for so long vastly different lives, come to see the paths and reasons to and for achieving those goals from varied perspectives that clash. Ezra tries in the same vein to connect with the spiders like the Purgills, but he is unable to do so twice. Kanan chastises him for not using common sense, but Ezra doesn’t know where to draw the line between common sense and the Force. Ahsoka seems to understand his disconnect, coming from the perspective of someone who had a vastly different experience with the Jedi Order than Kanan, but then again her experience began in a Jedi Temple before branching off. Ezra’s never began there in the first place. The camera pivots upwards from their departure towards an innocent creature, the billowing clouds of ominous music reaching a disquieting crescendo. The anger, the frustration, the disconnect is all layered throughout beautifully here and if this is a jumping off point for a story about the Dark Side, it’s a well-constructed one.
The most touching character work in the episode, however, comes from Hera and Kanan. Knowing that the latter is going to leave with Ezra, Hera has to come to grips with two of the crew members departing to face their enemies. Throughout the episode she distances herself off from the Jedi, knowing that she has to be able to survive without relying on their presence to be there with and for her. Rebels never made it quite clear if Hera and Kanan were a couple but it never seemed necessary to do so. Everything between them was built upon this relationship of trust and equivalency, a sort of relationship and equity one almost never gets to see between male and female characters in any type of story but especially on screen. There is something there, some love, and the strength of that emotional connection cannot be denied, as Sabine essentially points out to Kanan in the episode’s climactic moments. Hera wonders what might happen. She wonders what would happen to the rest of the group without Kanan and Ezra. She wonders what would happen to them without the crew there to protect them. She wonders what would happen to the bond between them but especially the bond between her and Kanan that begins at all. When she sees the two training, she notes their prowess and a realization dawns upon her of the significance of that moment and what it meant for the future. The embrace between Hera and Kanan was a beautiful moment, arguably the most beautiful moment yet on the series because it represented more than a simple embrace. It represented two people, whom in spite of the battles looming to be fought on the horizon, are standing fastidiously together, holding onto the love and the future they know is slipping quietly away.
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+“Since when are you my enemy?”
+“We have to get used to not having them around”
+Ezra snapping at Zeb
+Sabine teaching Kanan about reading individuals
+“I don’t think I understood the Force to begin with.”
+/-The Sabine overshot was neat, but that could have easily been an accidental marker for her death
Episode Title: The Mystery of Chopper Base
Written by: Steven Melching
Directed by: Bosco Ng
Image Courtesy: EW Community