Thursday, March 24, 2016

Rebels Review: 'The Mystery of Chopper Base'

By: Dominic Jones

Penultimate episodes in a TV season are a challenge.  Everything has been building up through season, and second to last shows have to tread carefully to continue to build momentum without overshadowing the following week's finale.  This, however, often results in episodes that feel slow and out of place, and  too much like a detour from the main storyline without offering much of anything new or significant.  Unfortunately, this is exactly what happened this week on Star Wars Rebels with "The Mystery of Chopper Base".

One of this season's main storylines reached its close last week when the Rebellion finally found a new location for their secret base, something they had been searching for all season.  This season's other major storylines--Ahsoka's showdown with Darth Vader and Ezra being tempted by the Dark Sider--will be dealt with next week, and  "The Mystery of Chopper Base" needed to be the bridge between those two arcs, making the final weeks of the season feel connected.  But this week's installment came up short in most regards.

Not unlike the Season Two premiere, "The Lost Commanders", there is a lot of good in this episode in the form of character interaction.  But the good gets shoved aside in favour of action scenes involving a new creature.  The opening of this episode had a real calm before the storm vibe to it, with most of the Rebels focused on setting up the base.  There were also great scenes involving Kanan and Ezra training for their impending mission to hunt down Darth Vader and his Inquisitors, as well as a nice moment between Zeb and Ezra.  That scene in particular was reminiscent of Luke and Dak on Hoth--I wouldn't be surprised if these two characters never meet again, or if they do it will be under very different circumstances.

There was also a subplot involving Hera and Kanan and Hera not wanting to see the team split up.  Much of the episode seems to hinge on this, however we never really get a satisfying resolution.  This is where the episode really falls apart for me.  The conversation between Hera and Kanan at the end wound up feeling rushed because way too much time was spent fighting Aragog and his giant spiders the krykna spiders.  It felt like more was needed between these two characters, who are putting aside their love for their duty, than just a hug.  It doesn't make things better that earlier on in the episode there was an extended shot of Chopper piloting the Phantom to reattach to the Ghost while the Rebels went to enter the cavern.  This was a shot that could easily have been cut in favour of a few more seconds of conversation between Kanan and Hera later.  Couldn't we just have assumed that Chopper moved the Phantom back into position, so that Kanan and Hera could have had a more fitting final moment together?

This brings me to one of my issues with creature episodes in Star Wars animated series.  While they often serve as a vehicle for interesting character interactions, those same interactions are frequently cut short to deal with the creatures who, at the end of the day, just don’t have that much impact on the overall story.  Creature attacks are an integral part of Star Wars films because they feature into the main story (the Rancor reinforces the high level of danger in Jabba’s Palace in Return of the Jedi; the Acklay, Reek and Nexu demonstrate the savagery of the Geonosians and the Separatists in Attack of the Clones; and the Rathtars inform the audience of how low Han Solo has sunk in The Force Awakens).  But it's difficult to work creatures into the 22 minute time frame of the animated series, resulting in episodes that center on creature attacks instead of working them into the larger story.  (To be fair, the series did an excellent job finding the right balance a few weeks ago in "The Honorable Ones").

Ezra's inability to connect with the space spiders through the Force was one of the stronger points in the episode.  A few weeks ago we were reminded of Ezra's strong Force connection to animals in "The Call", but in "The Mystery of Chopper Base", we see Ezra try and fail to bond with the spiders--with the sinister notes of "The Imperial March" playing underneath his final attempt.  Rebels has been hinting at a dark future for Ezra for a while now and this definitely seems to be a piece of the puzzle.  Next week is bound to be a game changer in a lot of ways, and Ezra turning to the Dark Side seems to be becoming more and more a real possibility.

I found the space spiders...perplexing.  They definitely felt like a stop gap “villain of the week” to tide us over until Darth Vader, the Inquisitors, and Darth Maul show up next week.  The fact that the spiders were afraid of the scanners was very convenient and more than a little random.  This does seem to be a pattern for the Rebellion: they set up a base that seems safe, only to learn of a dangerous creature also living on the planet.  It happens again on Hoth in The Empire Strike Back.

A couple of other quick observations about this episode: Kanan’s remark that he now understood the need for a bigger rebellion underscored a missed opportunity this season.  "The Siege of Lothal" introduced the idea that Kanan wasn't ready to join a military organization again after the way the Clone Wars ended, but this was never really followed up on.  Most of Kanan's reservations this season had more to do with fighting alongside Rex, given his history with the Clone Troopers.  Also, while it was nice to see Ahsoka this week, however briefly, the wisdom she passes on to Ezra seemed strange.  It felt less like Jedi insight and more like meta-commentary about how fans feel about the Force.  Granted, Ahsoka never reached the same level as Yoda, Obi-Wan or Qui-Gon, but I just think she could have come up with something a little more profound (with a hint of foreshadowing).

Overall, "The Mystery of Chopper Base" was a let down.  There were some great moments, such as Ezra and Kanan training, Ezra and Zeb watching the sunset, and Ezra failing to connect with the space spiders through the Force (Ezra really was the best part of this episode), but unfortunately, the good ideas weren't fully fleshed out (Kanan and Hera, Ahsoka's wisdom) and the throwaway nature of the space spiders overshadowed the other good stuff.  With so much anticipation for next week's finale, this episode felt like an unnecessary detour.

Score: 5.5/10

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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