What They Say:
Hera risks her career to help her friends while Ahsoka and Sabine confront enemies.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The halfway mark of the season brings us to an interesting place. With some of the discussions I’m involved with, I completely understand where people are coming from in regard to pacing and the structure of the series. I continue to view this as a sliced-up film that’s setting up multiple projects for the next couple of years that culminate in the Heir of the Empire film that was announced. We’ll see what the reality is like as time goes on but what happens in this is setting up the next part of the New Republic era. And it’s laying out more of its foundations as we see the insurgent level of Imperial loyalists making their mark, former Force wielders resurfacing in unexpected ways – and sometimes with proteges they helped keep alive during the dark decades – and others looking to explore and build on their own. Or wallow in remorse and regret over the actions taken and the losses along the way. It’s a sprawling story and universe and this one is working well for me because even though it plays in familiar territory it’s not leaning on the core characters – for the most part – that made up the original trilogy of films.
This episode is pretty basic so there’s not a lot to say in terms of actual story. With Ahsoka and her group temporarily stranded on the planet, they set out to investigate and try and retrieve the map from Elsbeth before she can utilize it. And that’s kind of it. But it’s the way it’s executed that it succeeds as it gets moving. Watching Huyang trying to get the ship going again and communications running is enjoyable, as is seeing him fend off some of the attack droids sent to slow down Ahsoka and Sabine. Who makes quick work of the droids but it’s again the execution, how the two largely fight in unison and use their abilities in order to deal with the threat. Just getting Sabine in her full Mandalorian gear and two guns going at it while Ahsoka whips around with her lightsabers and using the Force to move her opponents so that it works with what Sabine is doing is great. Honestly, Sabine is presented as a far more competent Mandalorian in this single episode than the entirety of the third season of The Mandalorian.
Naturally, it all comes down to a fight at the map location but there are good hurdles to get there. Sabine and Ahsoka are confronted in this gorgeous fall-like forest by Shin and Marrok and we get the natural split-off fight. Sabine moves between using her guns and her lightsaber with Shin as they get their rematch and so much of it echoes how Luke fought in Return of the Jedi with a dash of anger and a brute-force kind of approach. And Sabine counters a lot of it and holds her own, though she’s naturally overwhelmed by being out of practice. Ahsoka is able to take Marrok down quicker and I’m guessing that he was basically a creation of Elsbeth’s as a night brother, hence it being far more mystical than we usually get from Star Wars lately but very in line with Filoni and channeling of Lucas. What’s enjoyable is that Ahsoka gets to go ahead to confront Baylan but she ends up believing that Sabine was lost and killed along the way when Shin later arrives there.
And Baylan. Oh my goodness is he quite likely the best new addition to this franchise in some time. Shin hopefully has some time to grow in the future of this period by Ray Stevenson gives us the first truly physically intimidating fallen Jedi since Darth Vader first came on screen. I’ve liked a lot of other Sith Lords and other wielders of the Dark Side over the years, but they all tend to trend lean and fit for the most part. Stevenson has Baylan move with purpose, a mixture of old samurai and knight design, where each moment counts. There’s a slight bushido element to it as well and this is something that Ahsoka recognizes and understands that it will make him a harder opponent. Their fight is fantastic amid the glow of the map for much of it, and then getting the absolute heartache from Ahsoka when Shin shows up and she makes the connection that Sabine lost is fantastic. It turns everything harder on top of the things that Baylan said before the fight and his understanding of her – and her teacher.
The show also gives us the thing that a lot of us Rebels fans expected, even though Dave – DAVE – said that it was a one-and-done thing during that era. Having Ahsoka wake up in the World Beyond Worlds is going to be confusing to those not aware of it but getting that moment of Hayden Christensen calling her Snips and her recognition of her master from so many decades ago is fantastic. The facial work for the de-aging isn’t great on first inspection and I suspect that it’ll be updated as time goes on. I’m curious to see where they’ll go with it, what temptations come from it, and what Ahsoka sees there – provided any of it is real. And what a fantastic visual segue way to get there as well, including an upside-down Ahsoka from our point of view.
This episode does spend a bit of time away from this part of the story as we get Hera breaking the rules and taking a small squadron with her to head to Seatos. I can see the complaints by people about her bringing Jacen along, but that’s part and parcel of Rebels history at this point in how things are done. With Chopper coming along and X-Wing pilots like Carson, they’re able to provide a look from orbit at what’s going on – and giving us some time on the Ghost – as Elsbeth gets her way and the hyperspace ring warps them on their journey to the other galaxy. Hera and the others are knocked aside in an absolutely fantastically detailed sequence that demands repeat viewings to see just how much went into it. There’s a lot to like in seeing this come together and it delivers a thoroughly exciting sequence with some good tension and a shake-up of how dangerous events are becoming.
While I do wish this episode had come a bit earlier than this and that things were tightened up in the first three episodes, viewing all of this series as the opening act to what’s going to sprawl out for the next few years has me excited. The connections to the past are here as it binds together the prequels, the in-between era, the original films, and light touches to the sequels as well. Ahsoka is a binding character in a lot of ways but it’s the sprawling cast that does a lot of things. But the new characters are stealing the show for me in a lot of ways, including Elsbeth from her previous appearance in The Mandalorian to becoming something far more of a threat. It definitely has me going back to re-read what I’ve forgotten about the Nightsisters and what they’re like. Baylan and Shin are definitely hitting the right notes for me and seeing all the potential is just delightful.
Streamed By: Disney+