Thursday, November 26, 2015

Rebels Review: "Stealth Strike"

By: Dominic Jones

Star Wars Rebels continued its string of solid episodes this week with "Stealth Strike".  "Stealth Strike" picked up on the relationship between Kanan and Captain Rex, something that had been put to the back burner for the past few weeks.  The episode saw Kanan and Rex going undercover to rescue Ezra, Sato and other members of Phoenix Squadron and, in doing so, helping them move on in their relationship.

In a season that has been largely devoid of an overarching plot line, the Kanan and Rex relationship is one of the few aspects that can be traced over multiple episodes.  When this week’s episode begins, the initial tension we saw between them in the season opening two-parter has not subsided and Kanan still has difficulty trusting Rex.  Rex, for his part, works to gain the trust of Kanan and his self sacrifice in this episode seems to do just that.

Rex's decision to surrender himself to the Empire was a good way to reinforce his commitment to the Rebellion.  Though fans of The Clone Wars may trust Rex implicitly, it's important to remember that the characters in the show (and new fans to Star Wars animation) may not.  The line between Clone Trooper and Stormtrooper became very blurred when the Republic fell and the Empire rose, and the average person in the galaxy likely doesn't know the difference.  By having Rex reject an offer to return to a life in the white armor, the show is sending a strong message to the characters, and the audience, that he can be trusted.

The scene at the end of the episode where Kanan and Rex salute each other seems to indicate a mutual trust established and a turning point in their relationship.  Kanan going back for Rex and seeing him flatly reject the Imperial Officer's deal, offered enough proof to Kanan that he could finally count on Rex.  But now the question is what will their relationship become?  While the distrust is gone, I wouldn't expect (or want) the banter between them to go away any time soon.  Kanan and Rex still disagree fundamentally on major issues surrounding military procedure and the Rebellion as a whole, even if the animosity that had existed early this season has dissipated.

Ezra was also given a chance to shine this week, though he was definitely secondary to Rex and Kanan.  "Stealth Strike" gave us a chance to see just how far Ezra has come in his Jedi training, both from a purely technical standpoint, in the way he takes down stormtroopers, and from an ethical standpoint, avoiding killing troopers when he doesn't have to.  Gone are the days of Ezra accidentally tapping into the Dark Side of the Force as we saw early in Season One.  We now see a young Jedi who is a significant asset to the Rebellion.

It was a fun move having Ezra call himself "Jabba the Hutt" any time he was captured be the giveaway of his true identity, and it's interesting to see how much notoriety our Rebels have within the Empire.  The episode also did a much better job at handling Ezra’s need to get away from Rex and Kanan than "Brothers of the Broken Horn" did a few weeks back, by having him go on a mission with Commander Sato rather than just taking off.

"Stealth Strike" was also the best use of Chopper in recent weeks.  Chopper was still his usual, funny self--showing the recording of Ezra stunning them to Rex and Kanan after they woke up was a laugh out loud moment, in addition to making a key contribution to the story.  What worked so well about Chopper is that his antics never overshadowed the drama of the episode and only broke the tension of the story when necessary.

By introducing Brom Titus, a new Imperial Officer, the series is able to take some pressure off Agent Kallus.  Kallus has been a challenge for the show this season, as the creators seem to be unsure what to do with him.  But introducing characters like Brom Titus, although he was a pretty bland character, the show no longer needs to have Kallus facing off against the Rebels every week.  When Kallus was losing to our heroes on a weekly basis it was hard to take him seriously.  By having other Imperial Officers face off against the Rebels, the show can work to re-establish Kallus as a credible threat.  Space between Kallus encounters ensures that when he does meet the Rebels he will be better prepared and allows him to appear as an intimidating outsider who is above other Imperials.

Overall "Stealth Strike" was a strong instalment of Star Wars Rebels.  It concluded the Kanan/Rex mistrust arc in a satisfactory way and gave us a good look at how far Ezra has come over the course of the series. The action was solid, the banter worked well, and for the first time in a while the episode felt like it was building on something that had been set up earlier in the season.

Score: 9/10

You can follow me on Twitter: @DominicJ25

This article is an opinion piece and represents the views of the writer, and not the entire Star Wars Underworld organization.

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