Friday, February 26, 2016

Rebels Review: "The Honorable Ones"


It was big week for two principal players on Star Wars Rebels, as Zeb and Agent Kallus were forced to work together to survive after crash landing on a moon of Geonosis.  "The Honorable Ones" not only changed their dynamic for good but also seems to have set Agent Kallus on a new path, one which may lead him away from the Empire.

This was an episode I was really looking forward to going in.  Zeb and Kallus' first showdown in the Season One episode "Droids in Distress" was a highlight of the series, and it was something Rebels had not addressed much since then.  Watching the two interact over the episode, we got to see their relationship change from one of mortal enemies to reluctant allies to one of mutual respect.  It was a bold path for the show to go down, given Kallus' role in the genocide of Zeb's people, but "The Honorable Ones" does an excellent job at conveying their changing relationship.

We see a respect between two warriors emerge in this episode that previously hadn’t existed.  This was forged partially out of necessity, but the writers took it deeper than that.  The first noticeable change occurs when Kallus explains how he came into possession of the bo rifle.  Upon learning that it wasn't simply a trophy from his victory at the fall of Lasan and that it was passed on to him by the Guardsman he defeated in battle, fulfilling Lasat tradition, Zeb seems to gain a new respect for Kallus.  It's not that Zeb looks at Kallus in a positive light in that moment, but he also realizes Kallus may have more honor that he gave him credit for.  “The Honorable Ones” also forced Kallus to come face to face with all the pain he had caused.  Being stuck alone with Zeb, he is forced to confront his role in the massacre on Lasan as he sees first hand the scars Zeb was left with.

This was the first episode of the series to really flesh out Kallus as a character.  Kallus has served mostly as a foil for the Rebels, though he hasn't been very effective since mid Season One.  This episode changes his character completely, ending with the hint that Kallus might be on his way out of the Empire.  Just a week ago this would have seemed impossible but the Rebels team did an excellent job of fleshing out Kallus by giving him a tragic backstory (though his encounter with the Lasat warrior on Onderon seemed a bit on the nose).  His backstory also gave us our first instance on the show of hearing of a battle from the Imperial perspective.  Kallus' trauma at seeing his unit killed in cold blood, especially since it's clear he actually believed in their mission to bring peace and security to Onderon, adds new depth to his cold demeanor and obvious hatred of Rebels.

The final scene with Kallus returning to his quarters aboard an Imperial Star Destroyer was very telling about how the Empire treats their own, especially when juxtaposed with Zeb's reunion with his friends.  The fact that he keeps the warming rock Zeb gave him shows that these two have formed a deep bond.  The stone now represents a potential other path for Kallus.  Rebels definitely seems to be setting him up for some sort of redemption story, possibly with him leaving the Empire for good and perhaps joining the Rebellion.   The question is, how would the Rebels respond to someone like Kallus, who was responsible for some much pain in the galaxy, wanting to join their side?

I was pleased to see the series address the "I was just following orders" argument that is so often brought up by those who commit atrocities in our own history.  Kallus explains to Zeb that the invasion of Lasan was not suppose to be a massacre and that he was simply doing as he was told.  It was good to see Zeb challenge Kallus on not asking questions about the Empire's actions, implying that Kallus knows he is on the wrong side but can't admit it.  But it was also interesting to see Kallus turn things around on Zeb and challenge him on his stance that all Imperials are evil, despite him telling Kallus that he can't judge all Lasats based on the action of the one who killed his unit.  I thought it was a smart move by the series to address some of these issues and continue greying the lines between good and evil.  This is a dark period in the galaxy, and it's nice to see the show reflecting that.

It's fitting that in an episode that deals with the aftermath of the Empire massacre on Lasan, that we learn of another atrocity committed by the Empire. The episode begins with The Ghost approaching the planet Geonosis to investigate the Imperial construction facilities that orbit the planet.  A scan of the planet reveals that there are no life forms on Geonosis.  This sets up a mystery that could have far reaching implications for the Star Wars story.  We know from the novel Star Wars: Tarkin, with the Story Group's Pablo Hidalgo reiterating this on Rebels Recon, that construction on the first Death Star began above Geonosis.  The Geonosians, as we saw in Attack of the Clones, were responsible for the design of the Death Star and, as we have since learned, the labor that constructed the space station.  It's clear in the episode that at one point something massive was being built above Geonosis, though nobody says Death Star for obvious reasons, but it has since been moved.  This seems to indicate that when Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which tells the story of the Rebel group who stole the plans, opens in theatres in December the Death Star will not be in orbit around Geonosis.

(Side note: It’s always nice to see continuity across the various mediums of storytelling.  This episode ties in nicely with Marvel’s Darth Vader comic book series, where the “sterilization” of Geonosis was first addressed).

I'm very excited to see the Death Star mystery brought back into the show.  It was hinted at a few times in Season One and in "The Siege of Lothal", with early speculation about the series being that our heroes would be the ones who Death Star steal plans and get them to Princess Leia.  Obviously, this changed when Rogue One was announced and we learned it was a different Rebel cell who pulled off that mission.  Prior to this episode the Death Star mystery had not been dealt with at all since the show came back in October, so it's nice to see Rebels coming back around to it.  Star Wars Rebels head writer Henry Gilroy confirmed on Rebels Recon that the series would return to the mystery of what happened on Geonosis.  It seems like a safe assumption to make that this means investigating the Death Star further.  And who knows, maybe this could set up some kind of small tie in between Rogue One and Rebels (a battle or mission we saw on the show being referenced in the film, a Rogue One character appearing on Rebels, etc.).  It seems like a big missed opportunity to not do some sort of tie-in between the show and the film, no matter how small, given that they are both major Star Wars projects set in the same era being released around the same time.

My one criticism of this episode is the action, specifically the showdown between Zeb and Kallus at the start of the episode.  When these two faced off in Season One we were treated to a dynamic and intense fight between two great warriors.  By comparison, their fight in "The Honorable Ones" looked more like a shoving match.  It's clear that the focus this week was on the interactions between characters, not the action itself.  That being said, the show did an excellent job at balancing the action on the moon with the interactions between Zeb and Kallus.  Their fight at the beginning just left something to be desired.

It was fun to see a few more nods to The Clone Wars this week.  Having Rex back with the crew of The Ghost on a mission for the first time in 2016 was nice, even if he didn't have all that much to do.  It was also cool to hear Kallus name check Saw Gererra, who we met in the Season Five "Onderon Arc".  After Cham Syndulla's appearance last week, Saw seems like the next logical character from The Clone Wars to be brought into Rebels.  Based on what Kallus said this week though, it seems his Rebels cell may have embraced some more aggressive tactics than what we're used to seeing on the show.  Having a good character take things too far in terms of brutality could make for some interesting dynamics as the series progresses.

Overall, "The Honorable Ones" is a great episode, as it shakes up some of the long standing dynamics of the series.  Having Zeb and Kallus move past their feud and develop a mutual respect sets up some interesting potential for stories down the line (like Kallus possibly deserting the Empire and joining the Rebellion?)  The weight of the episode is carried by their interactions, and stellar performances by Steve Blum and David Oyelowo give this episode the significance it deserves.

Score: 9/10

You can follow me on Twitter: @DominicJ25

Check out my reviews of the rest Season Two here.

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

Follow The Star Wars Underworld on Twitter @TheSWU for more updates about this story and other breaking Star Wars news.


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