*Spoiler warning: This review contains spoilers for the Star Wars Rebels episode “Gathering Forces.”
Following directly on the heels of last week’s “Empire Day,” this week’s episode “Gathering Forces” jumps right back into the action as the Ghost continues to be pursued by an Inquisitor-led squadron of TIE fighters. The chase has now left the Lothal atmosphere and as it reaches the vacuum of space, additional Imperial forces join the fight and our heroes are left to contend with not only a multitude of the smaller craft but Star Destroyers as well.
In the midst of this tense environment, an even more volatile situation is brewing within the bowels of the Ghost, for it is here that young Ezra Bridger vents his frustration and anger at Tseebo, former friend of his parents and Imperial data technician. At the end of “Empire Day,” the Rodian fugitive revealed that he knew the fate of Ezra’s parents, and though Ezra pleads with Tseebo to reveal whether or not the boy’s parents have died, neither he nor the audience is given that answer. Understandably frustrated by Tseebo’s inability (or refusal) to bring closure to this matter, Ezra vows never to forgive Tseebo for his lack of loyalty to his parents.
But with more pressing matters at hand, Ezra is called by Hera to report to the Ghost’s cockpit to assist with the navacomputer which has been damaged (along with Chopper) by several precise blasts from the Inquisitor’s TIE fighter. And although Ezra is underqualified to perform the required task, Tseebo has tagged along with the boy and instinctively beams coordinates from his cybernetic headset directly into the navacomputer which allows the Ghost to quickly go into hyperspace and flee their Imperial pursuers.
As Rebels is wont to do, “Gathering Forces” borrows from classic Star Wars tropes here, as the Inquisitor continues to stalk his prey through the use of an Imperial XX-23 S-Thread tracker which monitors the Ghost’s trajectory even as the rebel starship maneuvers through hyperspace. Fortunately for our heroes, the tracker landed on the Phantom and this affords most of the Ghost crew–along with Tseebo–an opportunity to disappear from the Imperials. As part of a daring gambit, Kanan and Ezra take command of the Phantom, detach the landing craft from the Ghost while traveling through hyperspace, and attempt to lead the Inquisitor and his forces into an ambush.
Returning to Fort Anaxes, the abandoned Republic base located on a large asteroid and featured prominently in “Out of Darkness,” Kanan pilots the Phantom directly into the abandoned hangar that is home to the nightmarish fyrnocks, the creatures who just recently terrorized Hera and Sabine. And though Ezra admits his fear of the place of and of Kanan’s plan to connect with the creatures, the boy’s master assures him that everyone feels fear and that by admitting that fear, Ezra has proven himself to be braver than most.
But what Ezra is most afraid of is not the fyrnocks. Rather it is knowing what actually happened to his parents. As he admitted to Sabine at an earlier point in the episode, his abandonment of any hope of seeing them again has fueled his own will to survive. But now in order to survive the fyrnocks and to have any chance against the Imperial forces soon to be arriving, Ezra must open himself up to those fears and accept them. Finally doing this very thing, Ezra forgives Tseebo for whatever part he played in his parents’ fate and firmly connects with the surrounding fyrocks through the Force in a powerful way. He and Kanan are now in control of the fyrnocks, and as they gather their forces, stand a fighting chance against the Inquisitor.
In another part of the galaxy, Ezra’s forgiveness has another effect as Tseebo returns to a state of lucidity just in time to depart the Ghost and meet up with Hera’s contact, Fulcrum. There has been a lot of speculation online about the true identity of Fulcrum, and one such report seems to have a lot of merit.
But “Gathering Forces” does not reveal that bit of information just yet. All we do get as far as confirmation goes is that Fulcrum apparently travels with Bail Organa (if he’s not Bail Organa) because the Tantive IV is the other starship at the rendezvous with the Ghost. In any case, Tseebo joins with Fulcrum and the Rodian’s stolen Imperial files will be put to good use.
Back at Fort Anaxes, the Inquisitor arrives and his shuttle disembarks from a Star Destroyer in a sequence that beautifully evokes Darth Vader’s arrival at Death Star II in Return of the Jedi. And like the aforementioned Dark Lord of the Sith, the Pau’an Dark Side adept has been able to sense his quarry from across the galaxy. Finally on the asteroid, the Inquisitor leads his battalion of Stormtroopers into the fyrnock-infested hangar where Kanan and Ezra have kept the creatures calm until the proper time. As the Stormtroopers draw close, the fyrnocks are unleashed and several of the Imperials are instantly dispatched.
But the Inquisitor is neither endangered nor impressed by Kanan’s plan. Rather, he easily advances through the attacking fyrnocks, killing several on his way to engage Kanan in a fierce lightsaber duel. This battle, like their previous encounter, finds Kanan at a severe disadvantage and his desperation even results in the Jedi attempting to introduce his blaster into the skirmish. But the Inquisitor quickly relieves Kanan of both his weapons, and when Ezra attempts to intervene by picking up Kanan’s fallen lightsaber, the Dark Side user quickly takes it for his own use.
Triumphant, the Inquisitor begins to both mock and entice Ezra. “Your meager training is nothing in the face of true power,” he tells the boy in an homage Palpatine’s words to Luke in Return of the Jedi. And like both Palpatine in Jedi and Vader in The Empire Strikes Back, the Inquisitor directs Ezra to unleash his anger and access the Dark Side in order to face him properly.
Much to the surprise of the Inquisitor (and I’m sure many viewers), Ezra does tap into the Dark Side and calls upon the Force to take control of a gargantuan fyrnock and unleash it upon his enemy. The Inquisitor is visibly alarmed by Ezra’s power, as is Kanan who cries out in horror in response to his Padawan’s choice. but the Dark Side quickly overwhelms the boy and he soon collapses.
With the giant fyrnock on the loose, the chaos allows our heroes to regroup just long enough to make their way back to the Phantom. The Inquisitor eventually defeats the enormous beast and nearly prevents their escape, but Kanan and Ezra do manage to fly out of the hangar relatively unscathed and destroy the Imperial shuttle on their way out. As the Inquisitor quips, his master “will not be pleased.”
Back on the Ghost, Ezra is both confused and despondent about his foray into the Dark Side. His powers are growing quickly, and Kanan’s concerns about his ability to properly train the boy resurface in a quick exchange with Hera. It remains to be seen how this Dark Side aptitude will play out as Rebels continues, but one has to at least wonder if it will play a part in the Ghost crew’s lack of presence in the Original Trilogy.
“Gathering Forces” concludes with a touching scene that features Sabine comforting Ezra with a gift. It seems that the young Mandalorian salvaged a bit of family history during their time in Ezra’s old house and presents him with a holodisk containing a picture of the boy and his parents. It’s a bit like Leia comforting Luke after the loss of Obi-Wan Kenobi, and as Sabine wishes Ezra happy birthday, we’re all left wondering what the next year will bring for the crew of the Ghost.
“Gathering Forces” is a powerful end to the first half of Rebels‘ first season, and if the burgeoning drama of the last few episodes is any indication of what’s to come moving forward, Star Wars Rebels is very much on its way to becoming one of the most fascinating parts of Star Wars lore.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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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