*Spoiler warning: This review contains spoilers for the Star Wars Rebels episode “Droids in Distress.”
Written by Greg Weisman, the second episode of Star Wars Rebels, “Droids in Distress, continues the trend that began in “Spark of Rebellion” of knitting together the sometimes disparate corners of the Star Wars fan base. Apparently not content to simply bridge the Prequel and Trilogy eras, “Droids” manages to also include some clever nods to the Disney Theme Parks’ Star Tours attraction and even goes so far as to have Paul Reubens reprise his role as the pilot droid RX-24. Some have expressed concern over the “Disneyfication” of Star Wars, but Rebels seems to be turning that on its head and acknowledging the premise rather than running from it.
It is this self-awareness and fearlessness to embrace its unique position in the Star Wars universe that really makes Rebels works for me. It also doesn’t hurt to see an episode open with the Ghost being pursued by an Imperial Star Destroyer and a couple of TIE fighters in a clear homage to the beginning of Episode IV. We had heard from the show’s creators that this new group of heroes would be an isolated, desperate, and occasionally impoverished group–unlike the Jedi generals and clones of The Clone Wars who would always have backup–and “Droids” hammers this point home by putting Kanan and company in the unenviable position of having to work for Cikatro Vizago again.
This opening scene also provides us a glimpse of the power dynamic among the crew of the Ghost. Kanan is the clear leader here, and despite the vocal reservations of his shipmates (especially Zeb), he presents the decision to take Vizago’s job to steal and re-sell Imperial weapons as the only rational choice, even going so far as to couch the task in less offensive terms. They should think of themselves as “arms distributors” he says. But it isn’t just the weapons they’ll be selling, for their integrity seems to be in danger of going to the highest bidder as well.
Having decided to take the job, our heroes find themselves on a shuttle bound for Garel (the first planet other than Lothal we’ve seen on the series). It’s not immediately clear what the plan will be, but what is clear is that the Rebels producers (and Greg Weisman in this case) are playing off some of the initial worries about Ezra being another whiny teenager in the Star Wars galaxy and are instead using that trope as an asset in subverting Imperial plans. For this operation, the newest and youngest member of the Ghost teams with Chopper to intentionally become the two most obnoxious passengers on the shuttle flight. Using every annoying trick in their arsenal, the two operatives–with a little help from Kanan–manage to get Chopper banished to the back of the shuttle and invoke an Imperial policy that consequently separates a group of Imperials from their robotic translator and his diminutive counterpart (a very familiar protocol droid and astromech).
As the eponymous droids in distress, C-3PO and R2-D2, hit all the familiar notes here and invoke the spirit of their original appearance in A New Hope. As expected, we hear a recurrence of the droids’ theme, see the bickering between the two, and of course 3PO brags about his fluency in “over 6 million forms of communication.” We also get a direct call-back to R2 having a secret mission and 3PO not knowing about it. This provides one of the episode’s best surprises, but we’ll get to that later.
As far as the mission goes, the lack of Imperial translator provides Sabine Wren an opportunity to “help” an Imperial dignitary communicate with her Aqualish companion and creates a nice character moment for the young Mandalorian. We learn here that among her many talents, Sabine speaks multiple languages and is a gifted flatterer. Maketh Tua, the Imperial who just lost her translator sees no reason not to trust her young travel companion.
From this point, the pace of the episode quickens dramatically as Kanan and his crew race to take possession of a shipment of Imperial T-7 ion disruptors. Much of the action here follows Ezra as the burgeoning Padawan Force-leaps from building to building and crawls through air ducts, all the while complaining to Kanan about his limited opportunities to do “Jedi stuff” and receive the proper training he fiercely desires.
Zeb also moves into the spotlight a bit more here as we learn that much of his reluctance to be involved in arms deals stems from the fact that his species, the Lasats, were all but wiped out by Imperial forces using the same type of weapons that the crew of the Ghost has been tasked with stealing. Even so, Zeb plays his part, and after a brief skirmish with a battalion of Stormtroopers, the rebels make off with the shipment–as well as R2-D2 and C-3PO.
Once back on Lothal, Kanan and crew meet up with Vizago to close the deal for the stolen weapons. Unfortunately, a naïve 3-PO has alerted Imperial command–and Agent Kallus–to the rebels’ whereabouts. Stalking his prey in a coolly efficient manner, Kallus arrives just in time to disrupt the exchange. Chaos ensues as the fighting breaks out, but Vizago escapes quickly and our heroes are left to fight it out on the ground with Kallus’ forces that are bolstered by a pair of Imperial walkers.
Kallus’ true nature as a warrior is revealed during this battle as he openly challenges Zeb to a duel that the Lasat races into despite the pleadings of his friends. Surprisingly, Kallus gains the upper hand quickly and he infuriates Zeb further by using a bo-rifle (a weapon traditionally only used by the Lasan Honor Guard) to defeat his foe. Making matters worse, the Imperial agent reveals that he was responsible for what happened to Zeb’s people as he prepares to make the killing blow.
And that’s when Ezra steps in. Instinctively calling on the Force, the young man uses his mind to throw Agent Kallus away from Zeb and saves the fallen Lasat. Now out of reasons to put Ezra off any longer, Kanan relents and announces that Ezra’s formal Jedi training will begin as soon as possible.
As “Droids in Distress” draws to a close, we find the Ghost docked to a Corellian Corvette used by none other than Bail Organa, Princess Leia’s adoptive father. It seems that it was he who gave R2 the secret mission he was on–something about locating “rebels” against the Empire. Apparently, it’s also something of a secret who he is, for Kanan is unaware of the Alderaanian’s true identity. In any case, Bail Organa’s parting words to Kanan are that “the simplest gesture of kindness can fill a galaxy with hope” which he recognizes as a Jedi saying. It seems that not only is the crew of the Ghost already part of something bigger, but the old traditions that once held the galaxy together have not been forgotten.
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 email@example.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 Rebels Reactions for even more insight, discussion, and analysis of this episode.
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