“Through Imperial Eyes” is not a character-defining episode. It’s not emotionally significant, nor is it a narrative game-changer (not in a major shocking twist kind of way). “Through Imperial Eyes” is a well-told, well-written suspense thriller of sorts, in which Fulcrum, AKA Agent Kallus, tries to out-maneuver Thrawn and his fellow Empire commanders as they attempt to expose the mole. It’s a fully tight, thrilling episode, the rare Star Wars Rebels episode that has you on the edge of your seat throughout most of it. Writers Nicole Dubac and Henry Gilroy team up to spin a good yarn from the Empire’s perspective, and director Saul Ruiz emphasizes that “perspective” visually, with shots of walking guards and Thrawn’s mock-battle with the assassin droids viewed from Kallus’ point of view. The first shot of the episode is directly through Kallus’ eyes, although that feels a bit more superfluous than necessary–especially since the episode never go back to it. But it’s slightly disorienting, which preps us for the episode as a whole.
The only real disappointment comes from the tossed-off inciting incident. Kallus’ crew catches a stolen ship, taking the perpetrator in. It’s Ezra, who was sent to bring Kallus back to base since the rebels believe a communication between them and Fulcrum was intercepted by the Empire. This feels like a weak intro to the story, blurted out by Ezra to Kallus without the proper level of concern between the two. In addition, the lack of trust between the them sounds like it could create an extra layer of paranoia, but the episode never quite explores it: the rebellion plans to extract Kallus and Ezra’s fears that he may be playing the long game never come into play. (I mean, sure, we know he isn’t, but if it isn’t going to affect the narrative, why bring it up?) There’s a “trust” theme here somewhere, but it never comes into fruition. Thankfully, Thrawn’s ship appears and demands to see everyone on board, including the prisoner, and right then and there the episode is off.
We know that Thrawn is a shrewd, brilliant officer, so the question comes down to if and when Thrawn will discover Kallus as the mole, and if Kanan, Rex, and Ezra will be able to extract him in time. It’s a cat-and-mouse game in miniature, but since we’re focused on Kallus’ perspective, we mostly see his side of things. And that man is clever. Even with Thrawn’s seemingly overseeing eye, Kallus keeps his cool, switching out the code cylinders, placing suspicion on Governor Pryce, and generally working all the Imperial officers against each other. Even when things get hairy, like when he and Ezra and Chopper are trapped in Kallus’ office, he unleashes some assassin droids so they can escape. The most interesting part? Kallus, imperceptibly, subtly, kind of enjoys it. There’s definitely a hubris there, with Kallus’ eyes sparking with satisfaction every time he escapes a scrape. He even smirks at the end, when Lieutenant Lyste is ultimately blamed for being the mole.
Which gives the final scene that delicious tinge of irony. Given that Kallus gave up his opportunity to escape because he felt he could do more good remaining the mole (and in his defense, he is a damn good mole), it’s devastating to learn that Thrawn discovered his identity and will indeed use him as the mole–in his own way. The way Thrawn discovered Kallus is stupid as all hell (Ezra wore a helmet covered in Sabine’s graffiti art, which adds to the myriad of ways Ezra continues to fuck up), but it’s a reveal that not only puts Kallus in danger, but the entire rebel base. I hesitate to say that something as broad as “Star Wars Rebels is finally good!” but the last few episodes have been strong, suggesting a narrative momentum that feels significant and worthwhile. Anything can happen now, which always makes for a better viewing experience–a better perspective, if you will.
- I almost thought that Thrawn would have figured out something was amiss by noticing Chopper changed the planetary map–like he had the whole thing memorized in his head. That would have been cool.
- I don’t understand the point of Colonel Yularen, Kallus’ former training officer. He was brought aboard to help sniff out the mole, but it’s more likely that he’s going to be victim fodder to guilt or manipulate Kallus somehow.
- I get the whole thing about the Empire not recognizing Ezra yet but… I feel like they should know him by now, the boy has been fairly notorious in a number of rebel-related attacks.