According to the ABC/Disney Press site, “The Lost Commanders” and the beginning of season two (after the “Siege of Lothal”) was supposed to start in September, but it was delayed a month, probably to coincide with the increase in Star Wars marketing towards the end of this year. In relation to the show itself, this episode might’ve been better situated closer to the two-part premiere. “The Lost Commanders” is a palette-cleaning, table-setting episode, primarily meant to slow things down from the intensity of the premiere and what’s soon to come. Low-key episodes can work just fine, but the episode gets too caught up in a frivolous adventure, the logistics of which are a bit too awkward and uncomfortable to make much sense.
Which is disappointing, because this episode marks the return of Rex! The clone commander, who was an integral character in the Star Wars: The Clone Wars series, has been phased out, which leaves him and two other clones–Wolf and Gregor– wandering the desert landscape in an old Republic tank. I’m going to leave the comments to expound upon the details of phasing out clones (I was under the impression that clones at some level were still used as Stormtroopers, along side new recruits), but this does create a bit of tension between Kanan and the new clones. After all, Kanan was alive when Order 66 was declared, and he witnessed his master killed and barely escaped with his life. Kanan’s internal struggles with whether to trust the clones or not is the strength of the episode; in particular, the scene of his brief talk with Hera is a bit of needed warmth and drama between two level-headed, emotionally-rich characters. It’s a bit disappointing then that we don’t hear more about their current situation from Sabine, Zeb, or Ezra.
That being said, I kind of like this new take on Ezra. He started as a pseudo-Chosen-One, smart alec kid, but now he comes across as a more sure-footed Steven Universe, a positive, go-for-broke apprentice that makes for a great little foil to the Kanan’s and Hera’s world-weariness. This could possibly get annoying, or have dire consequences, in the long run, but for now, Ezra’s enthusiasm is measured. He’s trusting , helpful, and he’s willing to give people a shot; as the beginning of the episode noted, the rebels are in desperate need of recruits, so they don’t really have the luxury of being particularly picky. Ezra’s jolt of characterization is a welcome change; too bad neither Zeb or Sabine received the same treatment. In fact their treatment here is a bit questionable, particularly for Zeb.
Like, I’m not sure how no one realized how Zeb was supposed be bait for the chuba (zuba? It was hard to tell what Gregor called it). They tied the guy to a giant electric fishing line, for Christ sake. The whole scene is played for a lark, but coupled with the trust issues established early in the episode, it’s pretty disingenuous for Zeb (and apparently everyone else, except Kanan) to suddenly be okay with nearly being killed, regardless of their success. Later in the episode, Sabine finds out that Wolf sold them out, potentially adding to the tension, but that sort of fizzles out with an half-hearted apology. I was also weirdly thrown off by the battle scene with the probe droid. Every single person there has a weapon but no one pulls it out until the end (Kanan fires some poorly aimed blaster shots despite having a lightsaber). The scene is essentially there so that Rex can snipe the machine from a distance, and therefore redeem himself and the clones in Kanan’s eyes, but the clunky, disjointed set up comes off haphazard. It sort of feels like a direction faux pas, a tossed-off action sequence primarily to get to that final exchange of looks between the clone and the Jedi.
Since this is part one of two-parter, I can’t be too hard on it, as the next episode could provide its characters some much need direction and/or stakes. Seeing the clones again in “The Lost Commanders” is awesome, but until we really get see them in action it comes across more like fan service than story service. The episode ends with the Empire on its way and everyone pretty much stranded, which will hopefully give this second season an early, much-needed jolt.
- I kind of wish there was a little more discussion over the arrival of Darth Vader and what that might mean to the overall rebellion, specifically Ahsoka and Kanan. It looks like we’ll be getting more of that later though.
- It’s hard to get a bead on the reappearance of the clones. I mean, it’s nice to see them again, but they don’t really see much action, nor do we get a good sense of what things were like for them after retirement (Rex says a few things, but it comes off more expository than resonant).
- Also, somehow the clones managed to remove the chip from their heads. This feels like a story in and of itself. Was this before or after Order 66 was declared? How did they manage to do that? The Clone Wars did an arc about this, placing a clone named Fives in a conspiracy thriller-type couple of episodes, but it ended tragically, nor did it expose Order 66 to the rest of the Republic.
- Apparently Hera was saved by Jedi/clones at some point. This sounds like another great story and may go to explain Hera’s belief in the importance of the good fight.