Steps Into Shadow
Ezra Bridger has taken on more responsibilities within Phoenix Squadron and the Rebellion. The episode opens with him leading a small team to rescue a prisoner from an Imperial prison. Ezra is not only leading the mission but also came up with the plan of attack. They are to sneak in undetected, release the prisoner, and then sneak back out. Unfortunately, only the first half goes according to plan. Things quickly go south, but Ezra keeps everyone together and leads them out. It’s a great action scene and a very good way to introduce all the characters showing us how they have grown and matured.
The prisoner they have risked so much for turns out to be our favorite pirate, Hondo Ohnaka. He and his cellmate have intel on an Imperial station that is destroying obsolete equipment, including Clone Wars era Y-wing bombers. Ships that would be extremely beneficial to the Rebellion. Since Ezra did so well leading the first mission he is given a promotion and command of the follow-up mission to recon Reklam Station and verify Hondo’s claims.
Ezra’s abilities have been growing and he seems to enjoy showing off a bit. I saw a lot of the “Skywalker arrogance” in him. Ezra throughout much of this episode is very similar to Luke in the beginning of Return of the Jedi or Anakin in Revenge of the Sith. He’s very full of himself and doesn’t think he needs Kanan any more. He is taking some very large steps down the dark path, and ignores Kanan’s warnings about the Sith holocron.
While Ezra has pushed himself to the forefront, Kanan has retreated. After the fight on Malachor he has stepped away from almost everything and everyone. Ezra runs out and plays hero, Kanan ends up going down a much more philosophical path after getting messages through the Force of a Force-sensitive being outside Chopper Base. Turns out this being calls himself the Bendu. The Bendu speaks of Jedi and Sith, Ashlan and Bogan, says he is neither dark nor light, he is the one in the middle. It’s all a callback to George Lucas’s original ideas for the Force. The Bendu teaches Kanan new ways to see and how to heal himself and his connection to the Force. It’s a path of self-discovery and enlightenment. It’s not quite on the level of Mortis, but I love seeing these deeper looks into the philosophical side of the Force. Only after everything he’s been through could Kanan be ready for this.
The Empire has also been working on things since Malachor. We finally get to meet Governor Pryce of Lothal. She and Grand Moff Tarkin believe that the while Darth Vader has eliminated the Jedi leadership, the Rebellion is still dangerous. She wants to bring Grand Admiral Thrawn and the Seventh Fleet in to deal with the Rebels. Thrawn’s appearance in this episode is limited, but he is impressive when he’s on screen. Lars Mikkelsen provides the voice, and he gives him a slow, deliberate way of speaking. It’s immediately clear that this is someone who is always looking ahead. He doesn’t waste time or words, everything is important. I would certainly not want to play a game of chess against him. He is everything I imagined when I read Timothy Zahn’s books.
Ezra’s mission on Reklam Station quickly goes from recon to reclaiming when they see that the Y-wings are being destroyed. Ezra has a valid point in that they must act before they lose them, but like most of this episode, he is right but goes about it the wrong way. Again, things don’t go according to plan, except this time it fails even worse and now he may have gotten them all captured or killed. Much like the other Jedi heroes we’ve seen, it’s not until everything has fallen apart and blown up in their faces do they see the errors of their ways. With his failings and loss of command, it looks like Sabine will be the one to step up as she shows much more maturity and greater instincts for command.
This episode packs a lot into 43 minutes. It’s beautifully shot and animated as we’ve come to expect from this show. However, the Imperial prison at the beginning and Reklam Station both were visually similar in construction and coloring. The prison was a landing platform on the side of a mountain with a long drop obscured by clouds, and the station was a long conveyor belt floating over a long drop obscured by clouds. Both had a yellow-greenish coloring as well. It would’ve been nice to see some variation in coloring to expand the palette of the show. Everything else though is a home run and exceeds even the high expectations fans have come to expect from Dave Filoni and crew. A lot of things have been set into motion for this season.