When I got wind that the next episode of Star Wars Rebels was going to be about Chopper, I was immediately filled with dread. Chopper’s weird hostility and casual dismissals of mission parameters makes him more distinctly unlikeable than comically rebellious (the attitude I think the show is going for). Plus, after such a strong set of episodes furthering the characters in unique ways, focusing on Chopper seemed like a serious step down. I mean, sure–a Chopper episode could give a bit more insight into how and why the droid functions the way he does, or at the very least be a fun lark, a goofy, easy-going episode to relax with, after a string of high-intensity ones. “The Forgotten Droid” is neither. It’s pretty much a hot mess from start to finish.
Here’s the thing: to a certain extent, I enjoyed the R2-D2 episodes of The Clone Wars. They were scrappy, cute affairs in which the bulky, slow-moving robot managed to smartly bumble his way through some pretty hairy situations. The Clone Wars also emphasized that, in the end, R2-D2 and Anakin were very close–best friends and comrades that meant more to each other than the people around them realized. Star Wars Rebels has not even once suggested that Chopper had that kind of relationship with anyone in the crew. He’s just mean and self-centered; Hera literally mentions this in the episode. Any redeeming factors or good deeds that emerge form the droid feel so flippant, superficial, or circumstantial. He’s not even good at broad comic relief. If you permit me this one time to utilize a bit of vulgarity: Chopper fucking sucks.
If the Ghost crew was exploring a port or a market on their downtime when Chopper ran off to acquire a new leg, that would be one thing. Doing it on a critical mission where lives hang in the balance is a pure-jerk move. So of course that’s what he does. But even beyond that, there are some really terrible creative decisions in Matt Michnovetz’s script and Mel Zwyer’s direction. Having every single character basically translate Chopper’s beep-boops before responding is an exercise in tedium, especially since it’s pretty clear what he’s saying simply by the responses alone. And some of the framing choices are absolutely inexcusable. When Chopper steals the leg, the seller turns around and doesn’t see the leg on his display. He asks, “Where’s the leg?” He then literally turns his head two feet to the right to see Chopper standing there with the leg. It’s just a complete visual misfire, but rest assured, there’s a lot more of directing missteps to come.
That’s the worst part of the episode–it’s bad enough for it to focus on such an annoying character, but the episode can’t even bothered with competent scripting or direction. Like, I know Stormtroopers are generally morons, but the way they lose Chopper during the first chase scene was too stupid to comprehend. Later, when the Stormtroopers are chasing Chopper aboard the Imperial freighter, I spent a lot of time wondering why no one was trying to shoot him. Eventually, they did–but way too late, and only for a nonsense bit of tension when they shoot his rocket booster. (Afterwards, they completely miss him and his slow-moving droid companion, which is typical, but put together, the whole scene is just ugly.) Over on the rebels side, Ketsu, Sabine’s “friend” from “Blood Sisters” is there for absolutely no reason but to save the Ghost crew when they’re trying to re-board their ship. That seriously could have been done by anyone. It’s a waste of a cameo–the rare time that bringing back a potentially rich character only adds to the laziness all around.
Anyway the episode is about Chopper befriending a decommissioned military droid called AP-5 who does nothing but translate Chopper and seemingly sacrifices himself in the end in order to send information to the Ghost crew about an Empire trap. The episode couldn’t even commit to the sacrifice, as the leg Chopper was carrying around is used to repair said droid, so we’re even denied that bit of cathartic emotion. Instead, ”The Forgotten Droid” tried to mine its drama from a conversation between Chopper and the droid about their similar backstories, but it’s a dud, because 1) robots can’t show or express emotion, and Zwyer fails to portray it with any conviction to compensate, 2) the previously mentioned sacrifice, which denies AP-5 a real sense of purpose (since he literally does nothing else in the episode), and 3) Hera still hates Chopper, even if she does appreciate his (really, AP-5’s) intel. It’s a bafflingly, misguided, poorly-executed episode; like the title suggest, it’s probably best left forgotten.
- During the chase scene on the Imperial freighter, they were playing what sounds more like a variation on the Indiana Jones chase scene theme music than anything particularly Star Wars-y. I guess that was them trying to play the scene sillier, but it was more distracting than anything.
- Chopper was saved by Hera on Ryloth. Fine. And? Obviously this didn’t lead to any lasting bond between them. The droid conversation was informative but expositional and emotionless. (I get they’re droids, but the point is to build sympathy for them despite being droids, as contrasted by the cargo ship officer.)
- Speaking of which, that cargo ship officer was the most useless and inept character that Star Wars has ever produced, and lord knows the franchise has produced a lot of them.
- I sort of liked the part where the rebels were battling in the background of the scene where Chopper was chatting with the seller. It was cute, but it could have been played with a bit more.