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Tonal and narrative shifts harm an otherwise intriguing Rebels

Illustration for article titled Tonal and narrative shifts harm an otherwise intriguing Rebels
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Here’s what we know by the end of “Always Two There Are”: there are two Inquisitors, one is slightly smarter than the other, and that she may know Ahsoka Tano at a more personal level. We also receive some more thematic information about Kanan and his inability to be a proper mentor to Ezra since he’s not a proper Jedi. (I think the significance of that comes towards the end of the episode, when Kanan admits he couldn’t sense the Inquisitors’ presence.) This is good information to know, for sure, but its info that bears no real meaning on the episode itself. “Always” bounces randomly among tonal, thematic and narrative beats: one minute, it’s a broad argument about Kanan’s teaching skills, then it’s a horror-piece that resembles something out of Dead Space, and then it’s a regular action set-piece with forced comedy and some odd, feel-good speeches out of a 80s sitcom.

There’s a lot of plot and idea threads in this episode, but they don’t really come together. I wouldn’t call “Always Two There Are” unfocused; the episode does track logically from one plot point to the next. But they feel uninspired, as if there was a checklist of story beats that needed to be fulfilled, and the writers just went ahead and fulfilled them without making them cohesive. Here’s what that checklist probably looks like:

1) Follow up on Rex’s arrival. We jump back into a rare moment of training between Kanan and Ezra, and it’s always interesting to see this, due to how awful it is (which is a good thing, narratively speaking). We know that Kanan isn’t a good teacher, weirdly excusing people messing with his “teaching plan” on account that the enemy will not be accommodating, either. (Yeah, Kanan’s right per se, but don’t you think Ezra will at least need to know the basics before tossing in chaotic curveballs?) Anyway, this leads into a semi-heated argument between Rex and Kanan about how best to teach Ezra, and the content of the argument is sound but superficial (Ezra rightly walks out of it), but the real purpose is to highlight Kanan’s questionable teaching skills, pressing it right up against his distrust of the clones in general. There’s a pretty sizable amount of time dedicated to this early on, so it feels like this what the episode will be all about. Until it’s not.

2) Tell some story with Ezra, Zeb, and Sabine (and Chopper). The episode shifts gears suddenly when it sends Sabine, Zeb, Ezra, and Chopper out to investigate an old, abandoned, Republic medical base. I won’t get into the bizarre logistics here–this feels like something the Rebel Alliance should be doing–but I’ll buy it because, hey, there’s no real reason to expect it to be nothing more than a scouting mission. The episode treats it like the beginning of a horror film–dark, long hallways; long, distorted depth of field shots; creepy noises with the requisite creepy score. Indeed, it commits to it during a brief scene when Chopper goes to investigate a sound, and he’s taken out by the miniature droid. But that’s really it. It’s disrupted with another tit-for-tat, comic siblings bit, where Ezra and Zeb compete to find the the medical supplies first. It’s followed by an unintentional hilarious bit where Ezra and friends rush to save Chopper through the air vents because “there’s no time” to wait. Yeah, okay. If you wanted to get Zeb stuck in a vent, that’s fine, but let’s not pretend going through air vents was in any way a good idea for that to happen.

3) Introduce the new Inquisitors. And so we get the real point of the episode, the introduction of the two, new, spinning-lightsaber wielding baddies that will haunt our heroes this season. They’re unnamed in the episode but the credits and press releases call them “Fifth Brother“ and “Seventh Sister,” the latter voiced by Sarah Michelle Gellar. The news made a big deal of this but Gellar’s character barely makes an impression, making vague threats and semi-obscure speeches. They’re both outwitted in relatively simple fashion, but at least Fifth Brother made for a hulking, unstoppable figure that added to the horror film atmosphere. The Seventh Sister’s conversation with Ezra was a non-starter; as mentioned before, other than implying a history with Ahsoka, her attempts to woo Ezra to the dark side went nowhere–which is good for Ezra, since he’s clearly stronger and more confident with the Force now, but not so good for dramatic stakes.

“Always Two There Are” indicates that the rebels may be in over their heads, but since Ezra, Sabine, Seb, and Chopper managed to escape the Inquisitors… really, are they in over their heads? Speaking of the escape, I’m not sure what the writers we’re aiming for with Zeb’s “rousing” speech towards the end there. Zeb exposits about saving his friends and not leaving them behind, but… like, were we supposed to expect Zeb was actually thinking about ditching them? The scene plays it like it’s a grand announcement or revelation, but there’s no narrative basis for it, since it wasn’t something Zeb was struggling with. But that’s pretty representative of the episode in general: a whole lot of ideas with little to support them.


  • Where’s Wolf and Gregor? They were one-note but they were also fun!
  • The “keep your chin up” moment was really awkwardly handled. Never mind the fact the Inquisitors didn’t “sense” Zeb’s presence in the ship right above their heads–they didn’t even hear Ezra’s very loud whispers towards Sabine, nor notice them staring up at the ceiling. That’s just a poorly boarded scene; Star Wars Rebels can do better.
  • “Yeah, you helped a little, Chopper.” No. No, he didn’t help at all in that scene.
  • The Seventh Sister is most likely a Nightsister, a creepy, magic-wielding coven from The Clone Wars. I don’t know how much they’ll tie in that particular aspect from the old show, but it’s going to be interesting to see them try.