Some say you can’t go home again, but don’t tell that to Ezra Bridger. In this week’s episode, “An Inside Man,” the Rebel crew of the Ghost returns to Lothal for the first time since the sixteenth episode of season two, “Shroud of Darkness.”
Written by Nicole Dubuc (“Hera’s Heroes”) and directed by Steward Lee, “An Inside Man” restores the narrative momentum of this season which seemed to be in a holding pattern during the past two episodes.
In this episode Ezra, Kanan and Chopper go undercover at the Imperial production facility on Lothal with the help of former Governor turned Rebel Ryder Azadi and former farmer turned Rebel Morad Sumar. Rumors of a the Empire developing a new weapon brings the Rebels back to Lothal and on a collision course with Grand Admiral Thrawn who is conducting his own investigation into suspected sabotage of Imperial war machines on the production line.
The dueling quests by Thrawn and the Rebels provide great tension and drama throughout the episode and lead to explosive results when they intersect.
There is a lot of smart writing going on in this episode. Sabotaging Imperial equipment when conscripted into the labor force is just the kind of reaction you would expect for those without the ability to actively rebel against the Empire on Lothal. A plan that seems to be having some marginal effect on the Empire, but clearly significant enough to be viewed as a threat to Grand Admiral Thrawn and his new pet project of TIE Defenders in Section A-2.
The humor in this episode was also very well done, Ryder’s comment during the early chase scene actually made me laugh at loud, while Zebs dialogue at the end left me pleasantly amused.
Thrawn steals just about every scene in this episode, he devours the scenery with cool and ruthless efficiency. Killing one worker and ordering the death of another, ordering death for anyone without proper clearance in his special project area, Thrawn is without mercy.
As the episode unfolds what we have long suspected is revealed and that is the identity of the new “Fulcrum.” Agent Kallus is forced to reveal himself to Kanan, Ezra and Chopper to help them succeed in their mission and escape.
The closing scene of the episode reveals two crucial things. First, I think Thrawn’s investigation on Lothal was actually focused on confirming his suspicions that Kallus was a traitor and cutting down on sabotage was only a secondary benefit. The way Kallus describes Sabine’s art is not wrong, but it betrays sympathetic feelings towards the Rebels and I have no doubt this combined with his “report” confirmed to Thrawn all what he suspected since Wedge and Hobbie’s defections.
Secondly, it seems clear that Thrawn is positioning Kallus to force him to be a double agent and set up the Rebels for Thrawn’s big trap of the season. Which leads to the obvious story of Kallus being forced to betray the Rebels and then sacrificing his own life at the last moment to let them (or at least most of them) escape.
So if you have Agent Kallus in the season three death pool, I think your bet is in pretty good shape.
Overall, just a great episode of Rebels this week, but I can’t help but think the Thrawn arc episodes being tighter together would have a greater narrative payoff. More of this please.