This week on Star Wars Rebels we got a Sabine-centric episode, we got to see some old friends and play with some Imperial toys. The debut episode written by screenwriter Gary Whitta (Rogue One, The Book of Eli, After Earth) delivered a healthy mix of action, new characters, world building and a splash of character development.
Some of the most viscerally thrilling scenes in all of Star Wars are space battles, such as the opening to Revenge of the Sith. This episode begins with a brief battle and continues as we see multiple training missions during the episode. I love the time we get in the cockpit and the banter between Wedge and Sabine is particularly enjoyable.
The episode introduces a few new characters the flight instructor at Skystrike Academy Goran, TIE/IN Captain Vult Skerris, and Lieutenants Wedge Antilles, Hobbie and Rake. Goran is a cut from the mold of the generic semi-competent Imperial military or bureaucrat. Skerris is far more interesting because he is the second Imperial ace we have met in the show (S1’s Valen Rudor). The threat that Skerris and his squadrons of TIE Interceptors provide will likely be an on going challenge for the Rebels. I will give Rake about as much discussion as the show did. The introduction of Wedge was something that we expected given the mention of Chuck Wendig’s novel series as having been recruited by “Fulcrum.” The inclusion of Hobbie was a nice surprise as we see the effects of this series begin to impact the original trilogy by bringing film characters into the Rebellion.
The world building in this episode tells us some important things.
- TIE/IN are deadly. Just 3 of these ships took out 6 A-Wings and a transport.
- The Rebels are extremely short on pilots.
- Rebels are spending much of their thin resources on humanitarian work.
- There is more than one “Fulcrum”
- Skystrike Academy is within the Governor of Lothal’s territory of responsibility.
- The Rebels are reckless about double-agents.
One thing that struck me as I was writing this review is that the Rebels are so desperate for pilots that they don’t seem to question the defectors at all and immediately embrace them. Given the betrayal of Senator Gall Trayvis, I would think they would be a little more reticent about embracing potential double-agents.
The big reveal from this episode is that Ahsoka may have been the first “Fulcrum” there are other agents with the code name operating across the galaxy for the Rebellion. The Fulcrum that appears in this episode is clearly male and given the vocal qualities and events of the episode it is clear to me that it is Kallus. Kallus’ turn began last season with the great episode, “The Honorable Ones.” While Kallus frames his actions in this episode as making even with Zeb, I think this reeks of rationalization. In this episode he 1) contacted the Rebellion about possible defectors, 2) didn’t try to find them during his “investigation” and 3) helped Sabine, Wedge and Hobbie escape. Three overt acts of sedition against the Empire which would almost certainly cost him his career if not more if discovered. Once he has begun down this path there is no turning back. The only question is when, not if Kallus fully joins the Rebellion and if he will be truly accepted.
Ezra was only a supporting player in this episode, but we did get to see more of the personality traits of Anakin in him. The over confidence in his own capabilities leads Ezra to doubt others are capable without his help. This surfaces in his presumption that he should be the one to go undercover and again when Kanan has to talk him into allowing Sabine to take care of herself after the failed defection attempt. These moments serve to prove that last week’s resolution didn’t fix the underlying character fissures that have developed within Ezra and signal that there may be more to come later in the season.
Hobbie really doesn’t get much development as his own character in this episode. He exists and is buddies with Wedge and given his place at the Skystrike Academy we know he is an elite pilot but other than that we don’t know much.
Wedge’s introduction on the other hand is very well handled. Wedge comes off as a confident pilot, skilled, and self-assured but not cocky or arrogant. He also displays a sense of right and wrong and strong leadership qualities both in the cockpit and out. Knowing where Wedge’s story in the Expanded Universe it is easy to see how this Wedge could have become that Wedge. Where he goes in the new canon is still up for grabs but so far so good.
The star of the episode is Sabine. Getting to go undercover we get to see a different side of Sabine than we normally get. Sabine is almost always portrayed as capable for whatever her task is. Usually he role is technical, demolitions or as a gun fighter. In this episode we get to see her more in control in her undercover identity. There is a calmness and determination that is sometimes lost in her zeal that we often see. Yet try as she might her passions run deep and in her dressing down following the simulator run she cannot suppress her true feelings. This mild act of insubordination could have risked blowing her cover, but she was able to regain composure before it got out of hand. Her interactions with Wedge showed both empathy and leadership qualities that I have to think are traits imparted to her by Hera. Given the previous interpersonal conflicts between Hera and Sabine, this version of Sabine feels earned and is emotionally rewarding as a longtime viewer of the series.
Sabine gets her own “Leia moment” as she gets to rescue the boys from the detention block. Her display of hand to hand combat skills was a nice reminder once again of her past and potentially her future as a Mandalorian. We know we are getting more of Sabine this season and presumably a return to Mandalore. This coupled with the leadership qualities that she displayed in this episode has me wondering just what role she may be able to lead a group or faction of Mandalorians into having as part of the Rebellion.
I really enjoyed The Antilles Extraction, perhaps the one critique I would have is that it very much felt like the first half of an hour long episode, the second half being Wedge and Hobbie’s first mission with the Rebellion. Alas with 22 minutes you can only do so much.
Come back next week as we return to Ryloth and visit with some more old friends.