Sunday, September 4, 2016

Rebels Review: "Steps Into Shadow" (Spoiler Free!)


Even though it doesn't hit Disney XD until September 24th, the North American premiere of Season Three of Star Wars Rebels took place this weekend at Fan Expo Canada in Toronto.  This was actually the second time I had the privilege of seeing the two-part premiere episode, "Steps Into Shadow", having also seen the world premiere at Star Wars Celebration Europe back in July. Though considerably smaller than the Celebration screening, the Fan Expo screening was still a very fun event.  Hosted by YouTuber Corey Vidal, it featured Star Wars Rebels trivia with prizes (one of which--an Interactive C-3PO action figure--was won by yours truly) as well as a free mini Season Three poster for everyone in attendance.

"Steps Into Shadow" is a strong return to form for Rebels.  I'll be honest, I did not care for last season's finale and had issues with the way the story arcs were presented throughout Season Two.  So I was looking for the show to get back on track with Season Three and I'm pleased to say the premiere does exactly that.  It establishes a clear objective for our heroes and introduces menacing new villains to challenge them.

Speaking of which, we might as well talk about the big blue elephant in the room: Grand Admiral Thrawn.  Thrawn makes his first appearance in the new canon and establishes himself as a different sort of villain than we're used to on the series.  The show does an excellent job of juxtaposing Thrawn's methods with the traditional thinking of other Imperials we're used to on the series.  Even though his entrance in the series is not as epic as his introduction in the Season Three trailer, it still elicited a massive cheer from the Fan Expo audience.  Lars Mikkelsen does a stellar job voicing Thrawn, establishing him as a bold new presence on the series, despite limited screen time in the episode.

Another new character we saw in the trailer is introduced in this episode: The Bendu.  Portrayed by Tom Baker, aka the fourth Doctor on Doctor Who, The Bendu is an ancient Force wielder who lives on the planet Atollon (where the Rebel base is located).  Though the character is intriguing, Baker's performance is a bit hit or miss.  I remember thinking this during the screening at Celebration, and today's viewing only reinforced that feeling.  Baker's voice, at times, seems perfect for The Bendu’s sort of dialogue,  yet on occasion he seems to struggle.  Which is unfortunate, as this character has such great potential.

Moving back to the positives, one thing I was really pleased to see is that the shadow of the events of last season's finale still hangs over the characters.  As I mentioned earlier, I wasn't a huge fan of how things played out in "Twilight of the Apprentice"; nevertheless, it was still a momentous development for the characters and we needed to feel its impact.  "Steps Into Shadow", shows just how affected Kanan and Ezra were by their showdown with Vader, Maul, and the Inquisitors, as well as the loss of Ahsoka.  Both begin the season in a dark place, with Kanan secluding himself from the rest of the crew, and Ezra turning to the Sith holocron for guidance.

On another intriguing note, at the end of last season we were promised by the creatives behind the scenes that we would begin to see more connections between the Rebels of the series and the Rebellion we see in the films.  Already in the premiere, we are given a taste of this.  It seems that the show might be setting up a subplot this Season about the bringing together of several Rebel cells to complete a larger objective.  Given that we know not all cells are the same, and some--like Saw Gerrera's--can be very extreme, it will be interesting to see how well (or not so well) our heroes mesh with the larger Rebellion.

Overall, "Steps Into Shadow" is a strong beginning to Season Three, illustrating the effects of last season's events, while also introducing an exciting new villain who is sure to shake things up even more in coming episodes. Even though it doesn't hit the heights of previous season openers "Spark of Rebellion" and "Siege of Lothal", this year’s premiere is still a fun ride filled with intensity, humor and emotion, and lays a solid foundation for the rest of the season.

Score: 8.5/10

A photo posted by Dominic Jones (@dominicj25) on
You can follow me on Twitter: @DominicJ25

Check out my reviews of
Star Wars Rebels 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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