Star Wars Rebels is having a heck of a first outing, with only “Fighter Flight” being the a sore spot in an otherwise exciting first couple of episodes. There are a lot of vague hints, intriguing allusions, and tense secrets that keep the momentum going, even on some of the blander episodes. “Empire Day” continues that momentum, opening up more into Ezra’s past and touching upon one (of probably many) of the Empire’s larger schemes.
It’s tricky to really criticize the episode, since it’s part one of a two-part series; the full grade can only really be determined on the fallout of the events of what happened today (but we know grades are arbitrary, right?). Still, getting more information about Ezra’s parents and their connection to a burgeoning aspect of the Rebel Alliance is provocative enough, even if it’s a little bit convenient—young protagonists whose parents are tied to the heroic side of a battle is too common of a trope these days (see: Harry Potter, Steven Universe, uh, Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures). It’s certainly isn’t a bad trope, and Rebels makes the most of it.
“Empire Day” positions the Ghost crew in place to sabotage a new TIE Fighter prototype that’s on display during the day’s festivities. There’s definitely something uncomfortable about a forced parade among a group of people that aren’t fully on board with it, leaving the imagery and the behavior reminiscent of a certain group of people of out Germany. Particularly since all the greats are here: Minister Maketh Tua! Commandant Aresko and Taskmaster Grint! General Kallus! And none other than the Inquisitor himself! It’s a veritable who’s who of villainy, even if only the latter two are the only ones who manage to be a threat.
Outwardly, the Empire is self-serving with banners, soldiers, and displays of their weaponry. Inwardly, soldiers are searching for a Rodian by the name of Tseebo. Ezra recognizes him from his past; in fact, Empire Day, generally speaking, is a pretty crappy day for him, it being the same day as his birthday and all. But after a terrible session of Jedi training, vague memories of his parents’ voices in his head, and his childhood acquaintance on the lam from the Empire he despises, this Empire Day is particularly crappy. Not to mention that he, Kanan, and Sabine are on the run after they do take out the TIE Fighter.
Holding up in Ezra’s old home, a few more important secrets are revealed. They find Tseebo, holed up in a small, secret basement in the house, with a bizarre device attached to his head. The fact that the Empire is using living beings as walking databases is terrifying enough, but his head-machine also has essentially all the Empire’s plans, including a five-year program concerning Lothal (so everyone complaining about the show mostly taking place on Lothal, there you go). We also learn that Ezra’s parents were a lot more involved with some sort of rebellion against the Empire before they were taken away. While there’s not a lot in terms of character interactions here—mostly its everyone just reacting to these revelations—the stakes are increased and it leaves a good amount of promising storylines, particularly in whatever is left on the data disk Ezra finds in the basement.
But they still have to escape, and the direction is just as tense as it was back in “Spark of Rebellion.” I’m still fascinated by Kanan’s reluctance to use the Force, which suggests (and which many of you mentioned) that he may not have received the full Jedi training as he was supposed to. Ramming full speed into the barricade was a bit anti-climactic, but I think we got the very first instance of a Stormtrooper doing something smart in battle: hiding on top of the stolen transport and kicking Ezra when he moves in close. He even holds his own against Kanan until he Force-throws him off! Make him a commander, stat.
The crew makes it on the Phantom, but TIE Fighters are still on their trail. Tseebo regains more of his memory, and tells Ezra he knows what happened to his parents. It’s not exactly the best time for that information, but that’s essentially the definition of a cliffhanger. Next week’s should give us more answers, and perhaps a more accurate grading.
- For a brief moment, it looked like Chopper was being useful, taking out the enemt transport vehicle, but while “gloating” he and the gunner station are shot by TIE Fighters. I’m still putting my money on that he’s an Empire plant, and just had to save face for a bit. I love how the crew even called him out on his worthlessness.
- THIS WEEK IN EMPIRE EVILNESS: Considering the entire Empire elite is after the crew, evilness abounds. I’ll point to the two lackeys in the bar searching for Tseebo for this week’s winner, who demands the barkeep turn on the TV and forces everyone to toast Empire Day, only to be shot down when Senator-in-Exile Gall Trayvis interrupts the feed. That must’ve been embarrassing.
- Speaking of Trayvis, there’s a chance we’ll be seeing him at some point, which is good. His information about Luminara almost got them captured in “Rise of the Old Masters.” Again, we’re looking at questions of who’s providing secrets and where information comes from. I’m not sure how deep the show will go into the well of intrigue, but I hope the answer is “very.”
- The members of the Ghost crew are definitely the protagonists but let’s be clear, their actions were a legit act of terrorism. There’s probably a script out there with that word in it, crossed out in red.
- I’m pretty sure the voices of his parents are less memories and more Force-triggered sensations. I’m not sure if that’ll translate into anything next week. We’ll see.