Rebels Reconnaissance: “Visions and Voices” Review

*Spoiler warning: This review contains spoilers for the Star Wars Rebels episode “Visions and Voices.”

Although Star Wars Rebels stands on its own, the power of its storytelling is greatly augmented when seen through the light of The Clone Wars and other offshoots of the burgeoning Star Wars mythos. “Visions and Voices,” this week’s episode, proves this maxim by employing elements from not just Rebels’ sister show but also from sources like the novel Dark Disciple and the comic series Darth Maul- Son of Dathomir to help create what might be the show’s most mature episode yet. There is a tangible history bearing down on the events in “Visions and Voices,” and there is a sense that history will have a great impact on the future of Rebels.

In many ways, “Visions and Voices” is the most unnerving Star Wars Rebels to date as it presents a deeply troubled Ezra who literally can’t get Maul out his head. The erstwhile Sith has forged a powerful connection with his potential apprentice–made all the stronger by their experience with opening the Jedi and Sith holocrons in “The Holocrons of Fate.” Since that occurrence, Maul has gained the ability to speak to Ezra through the Force and appear to him at will. What could first be attributed to exhaustion or stress is soon revealed to be something more akin to Harry Potter’s experience in The Order of the Phoenix as Ezra and Maul are still sharing aspects of their minds. For his part, Ezra has been unaware of the link. But Maul has forged it into a weapon to torment the boy and to force his hand to reacquire the knowledge contained in the holocrons.

To counteract Maul’s influence, Kanan and Ezra seek out Bendu’s advice, but the mysterious Force-wielder is less than helpful as he simply expresses disappointment regarding the holocrons’ destruction and his advice to Ezra to stop seeing Maul is to not turn around. Truly living up to his reputation as the “one in the middle,” Bendu is the very essence of ambivalence toward Ezra’s plight and those who sought him as a mentor should be forewarned that he is not particularly interested in taking a side as evidenced by his disappearance just as Maul reveals himself.

Maul has come to Attolon with a simple enough offer: since he and Ezra have received part of the other’s vision from the holocrons, the two of them should trade the knowledge they do have for what the other needs (or in Maul’s case, what he feels he deserves). Despite Kanan’s warnings, Ezra accepts the offer as the Padawan feels compelled by Maul’s threats to reveal the Rebel base to the Empire and–more importantly–by the opportunity to finally learn how to defeat the Sith. As an outsider with knowledge of how the Sith finally are defeated, I found this last sentiment particularly to be particularly tragic. Ezra truly feels that it is his destiny to bring down the Sith, but he is completely unaware that it is the fate of another–a certain farm boy from a planet with twin suns–to carry out this task. What will happen to Ezra has not revealed, but I can’t help but feel that he’s headed toward disillusionment.

In any case, “Visions and Voices” progresses from Attolon to Dathomir so that Maul can seek out the power of the its extinct former denizens, the Nightsisters. Last seen being wiped out in The Clone Wars episode “Massacre,” the Nightsisters have nonetheless left behind remnants of their “magick” that can help reestablish the link between Ezra and Maul that the two shared by opening the holocrons. But there are other remnants here as well. In fact, Maul has built something of a shrine to his past on Dathomir as a way of restoring his memories. But though the relics (including the Darksaber and a likeness of Duchess Satine Kryze) are meant to inspire a return to the power he once held on Mandalore, instead they simply elicit a sense of how much Maul has lost and how far he has fallen.

But Maul does retain his skill of deception, and after Ezra reconnect their minds and their memories, his true intentions are revealed. The arcane ceremony used to forge the bond does achieve its intended result and confirms a popular theory about the visions from “The Holocrons of Fate” in that Obi-Wan Kenobi and the planet Tatooine feature prominently in them. Unfortunately, the ritual also unleashes the vengeful spirits of two Nightsisters and Ezra soon must battle not only these phantoms but the possessed bodies of Kanan and Sabine.

Taking full advantage of the distraction,Maul makes his way back to his starship, the Nightbrother and makes yet another offer to Ezra to join him. Rebuffed again, Maul scoffs at Ezra, calling him a disappointment and leaves him to deal with the Nightsisters. After narrowly defeating his spectral enemies while somehow still sparing his friends from further harm, Ezra reveals to them his belief that Obi-Wan Kenobi is the key to defeating the Sith and that he is located on a planet with twin suns (which is apparently a feature common to many planets in the Star Wars universe).

In something of a coda, Sabine notices the Darksaber and takes the ancient weapon for her own. As a descendant of House Vizsla that now possesses an ancient symbol of Mandalorian tradition and leadership, Sabine Wren might very well play an even more integral role in how Phoenix Squadron contributes to the overall Rebel Alliance.

And now that our heroes know that Obi-Wan Kenobi is alive, will they engage in a full-fledged manhunt for the Jedi Master? And will we finally get that last showdown between Kenobi and Maul? The second half of this season’s Star Wars Rebels looks to be epic and will surely be worth the wait.

Thank you for reading! If you have feedback or just want to say hello, you can leave a comment on this page or email me at cdickinson@coffeewithkenobi.com. You can also contact me on Twitter @influxman or check out my Rogue page on “Star Wars in the Classroom.”

And don’t forget to check out the latest Rebels Reactions for even more insight, discussion, and analysis on this episode.

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Rebels Reconnaissance: “An Inside Man” Review

*Spoiler warning: This review contains spoilers for the Star Wars Rebels episode “An Inside Man”

When the title for this week’s episode of Star Wars Rebels was announced as “An Inside Man” a little over a month ago, I made a bet with myself that Agent Kallus would be heavily featured and immediately added his name to the tags for this blog. And sure enough, the paradigm shift that has been building since last season’s “The Honorable Ones” (and was hinted at in this season’s “The Antilles Extraction”) happened and Kallus was revealed as an undercover agent for the burgeoning Rebellion and the latest incarnation of Fulcrum. Because the origins of Kallus’ change-of-heart began almost a year ago, the development of his character and his switch of allegiances feels like a natural one. As one of the Empire’s most fearsome operatives (and a warrior capable of defeating Zeb in hand-to-hand combat), Kallus would surely make for a valuable ally.

But before “An Inside Man” gets to its reveal, we are treated to a thrilling action sequence as Kanan, Ezra, and Ryder Azadi race through the streets of Lothal’s Capital City. It’s been a while since we’ve been to Lothal or seen Azadi and a great deal has happened in the interim. The Empire has dropped all pretense regarding its intentions to turn the planet into a weapons manufacturing center and its former governor has gone from a reluctant rebel to a full-blown cell leader whose organization has taken it upon themselves to subvert that very manufacturing through sabotage.

Both developments speak to just how much Rebels has grown since its premiere. Consistent and logical character growth over time has become something of a hallmark for the show as each member of its main cast and several supporting players have undergone changes throughout the show’s run, and Azadi is just the latest individual to receive this treatment. Additionally, Rebels’ shift from the first season’s use of Lothal as the location for the vast majority of its stories to one that allows for a galaxy-wide exploration of how a rebellion against the Empire would actually function speaks to the confidence of both its characters and the writers who give them life. This makes the return to Lothal that much more striking as Ezra finds that his home has irrevocably changed as much as he has. And the fact that other characters like the Sumars acknowledge these changes infuses Rebels with a palpable sense of verisimilitude.

Speaking of realism, Grand Admiral Thrawn’s ability to make Sherlockian deductions about the rebels’ methodology and his aptitude for anticipating their next move arguably makes him Star Wars Rebels’ most formidable opponent to date. In “An Inside Man,” we are witness to his examination of various artifacts connected to the Ghost crew ranging from Sabine’s graffiti to the helmet of a Jedi Temple guard and the effect is chilling as one realizes how intimately aware Thrawn is of his opponent. And though we haven’t yet seen the full extent of his ruthlessness yet, his calculated exposure and disposal of Morad Sumar exemplifies the Chiss strategist’s threat level. He is definitely not your average “Saturday morning cartoon” villain who is easily foiled on a weekly basis. There are actual consequences in dealing with Thrawn, and he is much more likely to write the final chapter in the life of any one of our heroes’ lives.

Still, “An Inside Man” provides plenty of levity, be it Chopper creating a diversion by crashing a speeder bike or Kanan and Ezra securing trooper uniforms by punching the Imperial soldiers and having one of the helmets pop back up à la the Nazi cap in Raiders of the Lost Ark. But the humorous quotient of both of those instances pale when compared to the moment Ezra Force-pushes Kallus through a glass monitor board and then reassures Kanan that there will be plenty of chances for him in the future.

To add to that, “An Inside Man” features a sort of preview of what’s surely to come in Rogue One as we are presented with an AT-AT sequence that expands our perceptions both of what the walkers can do–and their limitations. For many fans, their favorite part of this episode will the reactions of Kanan and Ezra as an AT-AT attempts to crush them in their stolen AT-DP.

In the final analysis, “An Inside Man” raises more questions than it answers. What role will Kallus play moving forward? Is his turn legitimate, and if so, how much does Thrawn already know? The rebels do succeed in gaining intelligence regarding the new TIE Defender, but is this victory another hollow one allowed by Thrawn as part of his larger strategy? Regardless of the answers, Star Wars Rebels continues to push the mythology forward and deepen our understanding of the events leading up to the Battle of Yavin. What comes next is just the proverbial icing on the cake.

Thank you for reading! If you have feedback or just want to say hello, you can leave a comment on this page or email me at cdickinson@coffeewithkenobi.com. You can also contact me on Twitter @influxman or check out my Rogue page on “Star Wars in the Classroom.”

And don’t forget to check out the latest Rebels Reactions for even more insight, discussion, and analysis on this episode.

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Rebels Reconnaissance: “The Wynkahthu Job” Review

*Spoiler warning: This review contains spoilers for the Star Wars Rebels episode “The Wynkahthu Job.”

One of the things that has always contributed to the mass appeal of Star Wars is its ability to be malleable. If one looks hard enough, one can find stories that fit virtually any template be it samurai film, Hitchcockian thriller, or even zombie apocalypse. This week’s episode of Rebels, “The Wynkahthu Job” employs yet another familiar motif–the heist movie.

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Rebels Reconnaissance: “Iron Squadron” Review

*Spoiler warning: This review contains spoilers for the Star Wars Rebels episode “Iron Squadron.”

Although Star Wars Rebels has consistently produced powerful episodes that dive deep into the mythology, the series has also occasionally turned out installments that at first glance seem to be little more than “filler” stories. “Iron Squadron,” this week’s episode, falls into the latter category with a seemingly simple story of three young rebels who’ve taken it upon themselves to continue a family tradition of fighting against the Empire. But what’s often forgotten is the Rebels–like the movies that spawned it–is targeted at kids but also works on multiple levels so discerning adults can find deeper meaning. And since Grand Admiral Thrawn features prominently in “Iron Squadron,” this particular “filler” story is most likely the proverbial calm before the storm and the harbinger of greater (and darker) things to come.

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Rebels Reconnaissance: “Imperial Super Commandos” Review

*Spoiler warning: This review contains spoilers for the Star Wars Rebels episode “Imperial Super Commandos.”

For many Star Wars fans, the inclusion of Mandalorians in a story automatically makes it more interesting due to the enduring fascination with Boba Fett. The Mandalorian culture has been expanded upon and redefined over the years–thanks in large part to several stories in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and that trend has continued in Star Wars Rebels with episodes like “Blood Sisters” and “The Protector of Concord Dawn.” This week’s episode, “Imperial Super Commandos” dives back into that particular mythology and gives Rebels’ resident Mandalorian, Sabine Wren, an opportunity to take center stage.

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Rebels Reconnaissance: “The Last Battle” Review

*Spoiler warning: This review contains spoilers for the Star Wars Rebels episode “The Last Battle.”

When it was first announced that Dave Filoni and company would be producing Star Wars Rebels, the logical question was how much this new venture would share with its predecessor, Star Wars: The Clone Wars. As it turns out, the two shows share quite a bit in common both behind the scenes and on-screen–whether it be composer Kevin Kiner or characters (and their respective voice actors) such as Hondo Ohnaka, Captain Rex and Ahsoka Tano. All the same, the creators of Rebels have always strived to give the new show its own identity so that it could emerge from the shadow of The Clone Wars instead of serving as a simple sequel.

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Rebels Reconnaissance: “Hera’s Heroes” Review

*Spoiler warning: This review contains spoilers for the Star Wars Rebels episode “Hera’s Heroes.”

“Hera’s Heroes,” this week’s episode of Star Wars Rebels might just as easily been called “The Reasons We Fight” for that concept lies at the heart of this story. For Hera and the rest of the Ghost crew, family and preserving their way of life is shown to be a principal motivating factor, and when Grand Admiral Thrawn threatens those things, our heroes band together to help one of their own.

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Rebels Reconnaissance: “The Antilles Extraction” Review

*Spoiler warning: This review contains spoilers for the Star Wars Rebels episode “The Antilles Extraction.

“The Antilles Extraction,” this week’s episode of Star Wars Rebels tells the story of how Wedge Antilles, one of Star Wars fans’ favorite secondary characters, defected from the Empire and joined the ranks of the Rebel Alliance. As he is often portrayed as one of best pilots in the galaxy (borne out by the fact that he survived the attack runs on two separate Death Stars and took down an AT-AT during the Battle of Hoth), Wedge would seem to be an individual worth exploring deeper. Unfortunately, “The Antilles Extraction” doesn’t spend much of its runtime on character study. We find out that Wedge is a former cargo pilot who’s become disillusioned with serving the Empire, but other than that, there’s nothing unique about him.

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Rebels Reconnaissance: “The Holocrons of Fate” Review

*Spoiler warning: This review contains spoilers for the Star Wars Rebels episode “The Holocrons of Fate.”

While l enjoyed last week’s episode of Star Wars Rebels, “Steps into Shadow,” with its far-reaching implications concerning the greater Star Wars universe, somehow this week’s entry, “The Holocrons of Fate” managed to surpass it by potentially delving into the destinies of legacy characters.

In the interest of full disclosure, Maul is one of my favorite characters, and his inclusion in last season’s two-part finale was one of the reasons I would rank those episodes as some of the series’ best. The sheer magnificence of having Darth Vader on the show cannot be overstated, but the fate of that particular Dark Lord of the Sith has already been well chronicled. But that’s not the case for Maul. He remains a wildcard in the universe as his destiny and lasting impact have yet to be revealed.

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Rebels Reconnaissance: “Steps into Shadow” Review

*Spoiler warning: This review contains spoilers for the Star Wars Rebels episode “Steps into Shadow.

One of the great things about a successful series entering its 3rd season is that much of the groundwork has already been laid. Since the main characters have all been introduced and set on their respective evolutionary paths, and the various intermingling plot lines have been established and are progressing toward logical ends, the stories are able to flourish free of the bounds of extraneous exposition. “Steps into Shadow,” the season three premiere of Star Wars Rebels, embodies that axiom and thrills the viewer from start to finish with high-stakes drama, excitement, character development–and not a few surprises.

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