What They Say:
Hera must answer to the New Republic while a reunion takes place far, far away.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As we hit the penultimate installment of the series, it’s another exercise in frustration overall. As much as I’ve enjoyed a lot of elements of the show, so much of it reminds of the problems that the Kenobi series had and the inability to, well, to tell a story. To let characters act and talk like actual characters. There are a lot of legitimate complaints about the way Sabine is being handled in talking to Ezra about what’s going on and part of it does fit in-character to how she’d put off the whole conversation about, from her point of view, she’s not here as part of a rescue because it’s a one-way trip. At the same time, there are a whole lot of options sitting just a few klicks back with a Star Destroyer and possibilities there. The main problem with this situation comes down to dialogue and execution and Filoni’s spreading it out too thin and the director for this installment has nowhere to go with any of it, making it feel like it’s as empty as the landscape.
The other area of frustration is that while Baylan Skoll has had some intriguing dialogue across the entirety of the series and has his own plan in motion here, it’s amounted to the level of dialogue that should have been included in the first episode and set the stage for everything to come. Unfortunately, it’s all so decompressed and drawn out so as to make it – again – feel empty. When we see him basically give Shin a final piece of advice before she goes on the attack as ordered, it’s like it’s out of the blue and even she’s shocked by it. But there’s no build-up for the viewer that would have them anticipating this seeming betrayal of sorts and we’re left just as confused as Shin. And to make matters worse, there’s one episode left and no matter the length of it, the pacing and style of the season means we’re not going to get a lot of depth to the answers. And that’s compounded by the reality of Stevenson’s death and that Baylan Skoll is a one-and-done character. I expect that the character’s death was always planned, but if so, his story is empty here and I can only expect (and hope) for some novelization elsewhere to give fans what they wanted from the show. He and Shin have been some of the best new additions to the franchise and I’m hopeful that Shin has a future ahead of her.
So what’s this episode about? A lot of action, a lot of stretching things out, and some good moments to highlight Thrawn in lightly subtle ways as to what he’s doing. Thrawn coming in so late to the series is frustrating but at least in terms of execution we see it work well, such as his learning that Ahsoka was Anakin’s padawan and that gives him a lot of insight since he and Anakin crossed paths for some intense adventures – and he knew that Vader was Anakin as well at a time when almost nobody else knew that fact. So there’s going to be a level of both respect and understanding when it comes to Ahsoka and we see that in how he addresses her arrival here and the way things operate on-planet when she gets down there. He knows better than to throw a lot of forces at her and instead operates in the best way possible by depriving her of time to interfere in his operations, which is getting on board their ship everything that the Great Mothers have been storing and holding for him. I hope there’s payoff to this in the finale with what’s been brought on board and that it ties to something in the novels in some form. But at least a reveal and that it’s actually important.
Ezra and Sabine’s time together when they deal with the arrival of Shin and the Night Troopers is solid as we get some fun blaster fight material and then some lightsaber time with Shin getting into things. What’s amusing, and makes sense in a good way, is that Ezra refuses the lightsaber as he’s spent the past decade learning to master the Force in a different way. And we get the follow-through on his teaching from Kanan from years ago about how he can’t rely on the tool and has to learn to be one with the Force. The action element of it works better in some sequences than others as he essentially uses Force-pushes with the enemies, but he’s also not against grabbing a blaster when the opportunity arises. And there’s a good moment where he tries to get things calmed down when Shin first arrives by trying to get them to talk about things, which leans into classic Ezra in a big way – especially since he’s trying to protect the Noti.
The time with Ahsoka here is pretty decent overall and her playing off Huyang helps a lot since he’s got a fun personality to work with in contrast. Their arrival in the system comes after she works through some training recordings that Anakin had made and we get some great namedrops out of it, including Ventriss, that will please Clone Wars era fans a lot. It’s also a good character moment for Ahsoka that she still values these, and likely even more so after her recent experience. The whole mining of the space around the planet is a frustrating event and doesn’t work well – stop hurting the Purgill! – and the sequence of them hiding out only provides a distorted mirror of Empire Strikes Back. It does serve well in showing Thrawn working out how Ahsoka operates and it sets up for what comes later with the layered battle on the surface. It’s just another instance of good ideas but awkward if not outright problematic execution.
I have to save the worst for last and that’s the time on either Honsian Prime or Coruscant where we get to deal with New Republic material. The potential for all of it is grand but, like past instances, it all comes across looking so incredibly fake. They need to stop filming these on sets in the Volume and go into real locations because it does not serve it well. The whole thing feels like a forced farce when it should feel more like Tarkin’s first meeting in the Death Star as Xiono calls for Hera’s head after disobeying orders. Mon Mothma tries to tamp down the temperature but it again shows such an incredible difference in execution of vision in how she comes across in both Rogue One and especially Andor compared to here. I’m thrilled to have the character in the show but we know that she, and the material, is capable of oh so much more. Yes, there are fun bits such as Chopper’s reactions, getting to see Threepio as a stand-in for Senator Organa, and the mild name-drop material here as well. But it’s just so terrible looking visually and executed so poorly that it leaves me very frustrated.
There are times when I feel like Filoni, whose work I largely enjoy, is falling into the trap as Lucas did in the prequel filming time in that there aren’t enough voices going “no” around him or showing him better. This is his first big project as a showrunner/director so there’s some give there, but we’re seeing so many basics just not being done well that it’s frustrating. There are huge differences between animation and live-action work but the crossover is just as immense and it feels like those areas are where it’s failing the most. This episode may grade higher than how I’m describing it but the action sequences a great, the Thrawn material delivers for me as does much of what happens on Peridea, and getting that taste of classic Ezra really hits a sweet spot. It’s like each storyline gets 75% of it right but missing that 25% in each storyline keeps it from working as it should. Excluding the New Republic material as that’s like 25% right and just terrible for the rest.
Streamed By: Disney+