To be clear, I am all about an Ezra-centric adventure. Taking a step back from the more serious, darker episodes and presenting something younger, lighter, and scrappier is a good way to have some fun with the Star Wars universe, particularly when you add in an old fan favorite. Unfortunately, “Brothers of the Broken Horn” comes at a awkward time–we were just introduced to two new Inquisitors, but no one talks about them–and the episode skirts by via some flat characterization and plot choices, neither of which provides much insight into Ezra or his interactions with the characters he meet. Which is disappointing; Ezra new-found, upbeat spirit seems like it could work for a solo episode, but very little in the episode allows that spirit to shine, or even work. Not even when paired with the return of Hondo.
Yes, Hondo from The Clone Wars is back! Voiced by the veteran great Jim Cummings, Hondo single-handedly brings life to an otherwise throwaway episode. Throwaway episodes are fine, if they’re driven by a rousing, adventurous story or bring out the most dynamic sides of the characters involved, but Hondo is the only one that brings that kind of energy. He’s provided with all the best lines, and Cummings brings those lines to life with slick ad-libs, fluctuations in his tone and cadence, and perfect uses of stammers and stutters that makes the pirate instantly notable. (Or should I call him a former pirate? He used to have a massive crew, but he seems to be slumming it alone now. The Empire apparently scared them all off, because animation budgets aren’t cheap). But not even Hondo can save “Brothers of the Broken Horn” from its narrative shortcomings.
The episode begins with the laziest of lazy inciting incidents that plague practically ninety-nine percent of all kids-based storylines: the “too many responsibilities so he/she runs away” trope. It’s frustrating for a lot of reasons–it’s overused, it’s uninteresting–but here it’s particularly terrible because of how it downplays Ezra’s true dilemma. It’s not like he’s stuck cleaning his room or shoveling snow. He’s being trained to basically kill in two different ways, while also working on a random chore that literally anyone else could do (it’s not like Sabine is doing anything). Excessive responsibilities, particularly of this caliber, are emotional/psychological stresses on a young child’s mind, and the writers treat it as a teenage complain. Considering how serious Jedi-training was handled back in season one’s “Gathering Forces,” when Kanan acknowledged how poorly he was handling Ezra’s teachings once the Dark Side came calling, it makes the whole situation feel even more callous. The episode never gives Ezra’s predicament the kind of weight it deserves (which it did plenty of times in the past), which is yet another strike against the “family dynamic” that just does not work for this show.
So Ezra runs off after hearing a random distress call from Vizago’s ship with Chopper, only to find Hondo on board. What follows is a bunch of low-stakes action that does the minimal amount of work. I kind of like that Ezra lied first (see what I did there?) about him being Lando, although it seems somewhat odd that Hondo wouldn’t know who Lando was–I was expecting the pirate was playing a long game but apparently he had no idea. Hondo did lie about winning the ship in a bet from Vizago; in actuality, Hondo took the Broken Horn by force with some kind of device that turned off Vizago’s droids. This was supposed to thematically link or bond both Ezra and Hondo–hence the title–but it’s a bond that’s superficial at best. The ending really tries to sell it when Ezra mentions how much he sees his former self in Hondo but the actual narrative does very little to make that comparison stick. Hondo thrives in his manipulative aloofness; Ezra was just a confused, moody brat.
There’s also a large action sequence in the middle when Azmorigan has a shootout with Ezra and Hondo, and it was kind of awesome to see the two work together, but all that means really is that they’re both pretty cool-headed in the heat of battle, which we’ve seen before (at least if you’ve seen The Clone Wars). It also feels like the “favor” that Vizago forced upon Ezra back in “Rebels Resolve,” which could have allowed for a morally compromising agreement between the rebels and the profiteer, was straight-up wasted when Ezra saved him from jail. The tenuous Ezra/Hondo pairing brings little to Ezra as a character, forcing Hondo to run the show. Cummings does everything he can, but he can only take things so far.
- Eh, Chopper did stuff too. I’m realizing that unlike R2-D2, who Anakin bonded with back in The Clone Wars, Chopper is liked by no one.
- Hera’s nagging about Ezra not cleaning that whatever part of the ship was seriously the worst.
- A Lando/Hondo/Vizago story seems like it would be amazing. It would just be 22 minutes of sleezy one-liners and double/triple-crosses. (It looks like we’re getting a least a Lando/Hondo story soon, though…)
- You know the inciting incident is a bunch of nonsense when the ending doesn’t even acknowledge the very issue that Ezra was running from. I was actually shocked no one mentioned what exactly made Ezra frustrated in the first place, especially since Kanan/Rex discussed it briefly at the beginning.