Friday, March 18, 2016

Rebels Review: 'The Forgotten Droid'

By: Dominic Jones

After taking last week off, Star Wars Rebels returned to the air with "The Forgotten Droid".  While the episode is definitely not at the same level that "Shroud of Darkness" was at two weeks ago, "The Forgotten Droid" offers some fun and touching moments.

The episode delved deep into some of the big questions surrounding droids: for example, are they programmed or do they have free will?  The focus is almost entirely on the droid Chopper, who gets separated from the crew of The Ghost after his usual antics gets him left behind during a Rebel raid on an Imperial facility.  This leads him to stowaway on board an Imperial cargo ship, where he meets AP-5, a former republic tactical droid (voiced by Star Wars animation veteran Stephen Stanton),  who has been reduced to a errand boy for his abusive Imperial commander.

In answer to Chopper’s questions, AP-5 explains that he has stayed with the Empire because he has no choice but to follow his programming.  Chopper then mentions the concept of "free will", which AP-5 rejects as an impossibility because of his programming.  However, moments later, when the Imperial Commander calls AP-5 to ask him if he's seen the Rebel infiltrator, AP-5 seemingly overcomes his programming and chooses not report Chopper.

So, did AP-5 achieve free will?  When we look at other droids who appear to have some level of autonomy in the Star Wars galaxy, like R2-D2 and BB-8, their masters (and I hesitate to call characters like Luke, Anakin, and Poe "masters" since their relationship with their droids seems to be more of a friendship) encourage them to behave in a more independent way.  On the other hand, even though Chopper is there to encourage him, AP-5's decision seems to be a direct rejection of his programming.

A case could be made, I suppose, that bonding  with Chopper led AP-5 to uncover some buried aspect of his programming that allowed such behavior.  However, there does not seem to be any indication that this is the case.  AP-5’s change of heart, so to speak, seems to come as a result of his shared history with Chopper (both were survivors of the battle of Ryloth during the Clone Wars) and the differences between the ways Hera and the Imperial Officer treat their droids.

In this episode we also see Chopper ignore Hera when she explains that there isn’t time to buy a new leg piece. Knowing Chopper, he probably found some loophole in his programming: maybe because Hera didn't issue a direct order, he felt free to go and get the leg.  But it seems like a close call and comes across as Chopper disobeying a direct command.  If that’s the case, this scene provides one of the strongest pieces of evidence for droid free will that we’ve yet seen.

AP-5 is a fun character.  His demeanor definitely felt reminiscent of Marvin, the Paranoid Android from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which was nicely contrasted with Chopper's over-the-top antics.  It looks like AP-5 will be sticking around for a while, which is nice to see.  He and Chopper have a relationship that is reminiscent of C-3PO  and R2-D2, which is a fun dynamic to add to Rebels. With both Zeb and Ezra having matured considerably this season, it will be nice to have someone else for Chopper to involve in his antics.

What's always impressive about Star Wars droids like R2-D2 and BB-8 is the way they manage to convey such emotion using just body language and sound effects.  Chopper is no exception, and that was on display  in "The Forgotten Droid", in which Chopper is the emotional core.  The Rebels production crew did a great job at having Chopper convey reverence and love when talking about Hera, sadness when he's told he can't get the new leg (and when he's being teased by Zed and Ezra about it), and, yes, cheekiness as he sneaks around the Imperial transport.  Chopper was called upon to carry the episode, and he did not disappoint.

My one criticism of this episode was that once again we were following the Rebels on a mission to pick up fuel.  Obviously fuel is a major concern for anyone trying to build up a fleet, but this episode came just a little too soon after "The Call", which was also  all about obtaining fuel.  With so many important events on the horizon, having two episodes so close together with fuel finding as a plot device seems like a bit of a wasted opportunity.  I know the fuel raid was not the focus of this episode (and was really more of a set up for Chopper's adventure than a real storyline), but surely there are other escapades the Rebels could have been up to.

I was (pleasantly) surprised to see Ketsu Onyo back this week.  I do feel that we missed a story somewhere about why Ketsu finally decided to join the Rebellion.  The last time we saw her, she said she wasn't ready to join the fight against the Empire, but now she's in meetings with Commander Sato and Captain Rex.  What changed her mind?  It feels like a missed opportunity not to have told that story.  Regardless, it's nice to have Gina Torres as a recurring voice on the show.

A couple of other quick things.  First, I loved seeing Hera go into "full mom mode" (as the episode guide puts it) and call Chopper by his number.  It was a nice callback to when she did the same thing with Zeb in "Spark of Rebellion".  Next, how did the Empire know to send a fleet to the Yost system?  And how did the Inquisitors find Kanan and Ezra on the planet at the start of "Shroud of Darkness"?  Or in "Always Two There Are" for that matter?  Looks like the Rebel fleet might have a mole among their ranks.... And while I'm really looking forward to next week's episode to explore this new potential base for the Rebellion, I'm a little disappointed that it's a new planet and not one of the bases we'd heard about in the films (specifically Dantooine).

Overall, while it wasn't at the same level as "Shroud of Darkness", "The Forgotten Droid" was a solid installment in the Rebels saga.  It was a risky proposition to have Chopper carry the episode, and while I didn’t love all of his antics, but the emotional moments with Ap-5 were a highlight of the episode.  AP-5 is strong addition to the cast and gave us a interesting look into the nature of droids .  I look forward to many more adventures with Chopper and AP-5.

Score: 8/10

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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