If you haven’t watched the episode yet, come back to this article after you have or you’ll be sorry you didn’t let Dave Filoni tell you the story first, as it was meant to be told. For the rest who already watched, read on…
This episode finds our heroes investigating Chopper Base, the potential new hiding place for the rebels, found by Chopper’s unlikely new ally AP-5. AP-5 is a ‘rescued’ imperial inventory droid, expect him to stay on as Chopper’s ‘C3P-O’. This week’s episode opens on the ghost with a very tense crew about to investigate the unknown base and then split up, possibly for good if things don’t go well. My wife pointed out to me that Kanan and Ezra showed a lot more emotion than Jedi are supposed to. Kanan is wrestling with his fears for his friends (something that almost undid Luke) and his close emotional bond with Hera (something that did unravel Anakin) while Ezra runs around looking for Zeb, presumably to spend a little more time with his reluctant yet obvious best friend. MaryBeth pointed out that these are more the kind of thing you would imagine real soldiers doing before battle, not Jedi. Ezra is more ready than ever to face the challenge head on but has moments reminiscent of a teen being told that the family is moving across the country. Kanan is tense, short with the crew and uncharacteristically humorless throughout the episode. It’s easy to dismiss this as pre-battle jitters but that isn’t very ‘Jedi’ either. Previous Master/Apprentice pairings; Qui-Gon/Obi-Wan, Obi-Wan/Anakin, Anakin/Ahsoka and even Obi-Wan/Luke portray each pair as calm, focused and at times outright jovial before running head first into each challenge. I hadn’t thought about it until discussing the episode with my wife but this could be setting us up for any of 3 Jedi to struggle with the dark side (I still include Ahsoka as a Jedi). We assume from previews showing Ezra with Darth Maul that it would be he to struggle with the dark side but in tonight’s episode Ezra seemed a bit more Jedi than Kanan at times. The argument for Ahsoka is that she was Anakin’s only apprentice and the title of the Finale is Twilight of the Apprentice, though that’s more likely a reference to Ahsoka perishing, not turning.
Upon investigating chopper base our Rebels discover that there’s a good reason that the base is uninhabited. Sabine and Rex fight off one, then two, then three, then more giant spider-like creatures and there’s a tense commercial break where we are worried about Rex. The spider/squid creatures are based on original McQuarrie art. If you don’t know who Ralph McQuarrie is… first, shame on you. Secondly, look him up. I’ll wait…
O.K., so now we’re up to speed on the huge Star Wars influence and the overall artistic genius that is McQuarrie, we can proceed.
After watching Rebels I watched RebelsRecon 2.19 to get the ‘official word’ on the episode. Rebel Recon is a short ‘in-house’ recap of each episode along with extra commentary. It seems to be posted right after Rebels ends on the StarWars YouTube channel. In this video, Art Director, Kilian Plunkett said that the planet Adalon resembled a vaguely under sea coral kind of landscape so they wanted to give the inhabitants an aquatic or crustacean appearance. (To me the creature looks like a hybrid of a spider and a squid.)
Based on an original McQuarrie drawing, these creatures have six legs not eight because, “…honestly it’s just easier to deal with in animation…-Plunkett” And these are no ordinary spider monsters. They take as much damage as a rolling dumball with full shields. Blasters seem to do little unless it’s a direct shot in an eye, which seems oddly difficult for the crew to manage more than a couple times. A lightsaber to the brainpan seems to be as effective as always, like a knife to the soft head of a “walker”. So things should be turning around. They are not yet though. Although Kanan and Ezra can get a few spider-squid ‘Jedi-style’ and the crew bags a couple more, our heroes are quickly overrun and must make it back to the ghost to escape the onslaught and get off world.
Once everyone (Rex included) is ‘safely’ in the ghost we realize that the spider things have trapped the ship with webbing. Even at point blank range the ship’s cannons (which my son pointed out can take out tie fighters in one blast) had little effect, merely knocking the creatures back a bit even when they were cooperative enough to stand right in front of the turret.
Eventually all heroes make it out intact, the base is retaken (presumably by reinforcements) and the episode ends outside a newly protected Chopper Base with Ezra frustrated by another failed attempt to ‘connect’ with the spider creatures outside the protective perimeter. Ezra lays back on the sand and sees a new creature serenely gliding above in stark contrast to the previous welcoming committee. Ashoka steps into view and Ezra greets her warmly and tells her that “no matter what I do I can’t seem to connect with them.” As the creatures scurry away into the dry sea floor like landscape you hear a wicked laugh woven into the background score. Ashoka replies, “My experience, just when you think you understand the force – you find out how little you actually know.” (My daughter said she thought the creepy background laugh sounded like Palpatine/Sideus. I agreed, but I still don’t know what we are to draw from that.) Ezra responds that he doesn’t think he ever understood the force and Ahsoka reminds him they need to get going as they walk off. Pan up to the airborne creature landed atop a branch-like cliff (or cliff-like branch), it rustles with a screech, cue ominous music, fade out…
On its surface, I initially felt that this episode was a kind of bland, “crew finds a base and has to get rid of a not so surprising threat” kind of cliché. I figured it was a calm before the storm kind of episode to really ramp up the action for next week. However, upon reflection while writing this, (and watching it again without distraction) there was quite a lot of development below the surface. It never ceases to amaze me how much can be conveyed through this medium of animation and voice or how little credit is given to the great acting and storytelling. Even the qualifier ‘voice actor’ is a bit of a misnomer. As JAT is oft to say, “ voice actors aren’t just people doing funny voices.” They’re actors who have risen to the top of their profession through hard work and constant training. Those involved really don’t get enough credit.
Watching a second time as a fan, not a writer, I noticed there was a lot of subtle character development in those voices and much more was said in the tone, not just the words. For example, there were a few moments in the show where I got the impression that we might be getting prepared for Rex get his fitting warriors death. It wasn’t any particular scene or line of dialog but on three occasions, I could swear I heard defeat in Rex’s voice (Dee Bradly Baker’s voice). And in the final scenes Kanan seems to give in to his feelings for Hera. Chopper Base seems secure and Kanan & Ezra are ready to join Ahsoka on their fated journey. In the end though, we viewers were left not trails of breadcrumbs but scatterings of them, unsure which to follow. In the end, the episode brought up a host of new clues but few answers and at least as many new questions.