After a small break the Rebels got back this week with A ship full of Ezras… I mean, Iron Squadron. On a mission to evacuate rebel sympathisers from a planet targeted by the Empire, the Rebels run into an extremely stubborn band of teenage dissidents led by Commander Sato’s nephew, Mart Mattin. When the youngsters, confident about their ability to take the Empire on by themselves, refuse to leave, Ezra, Hera, Sabine and Chopper are forced to rescue them from Thrawn’s pawn, admiral Konstantine.
I am going to say straightaway that this episode was quite a bit of a disappointment. It feels like we finally got a complete filler episode, making Rebels feel like a “show for kids” in the negative sense. It should be said to its defense that the idea of a “teenage team” stemmed from original unused idea of George Lucas to have similar freedom fighters among the young pilots at the end of A New Hope. But maybe this is one more proof that some discarded ideas have been discarded for a reason.
The Iron Squadron, consisting of (as Zeb has put it) three Ezras, is really just a bunch of kids playing pirates. Of course, that’s not to say their interactions with the real Rebels aren’t entertaining, at least at times. I quite enjoyed Sabine’s educational lectures about what a Star Destroyer is. Likewise entertaining were Hera’s attempts at being diplomatic with kids who she should probably have just told to obey or else they won’t get any candy for the rest of the week. In terms of reflecting character development, there was an obvious contrast between Ezra “now-I-am-the-responsible-adult-around-here” and the three versions of what he might have ended up as had he not met the Ghost‘s crew.
There was also something that served the main plot. Grand admiral Thrawn made an appearance through his proxy, admiral Konstantine, whom we have seen already a couple of times. Everything turned out to one more of Thrawn’s strategic experiments, which, I am sure, are going to lead to some gigantic master plan, but the wait is really getting a bit too long. There was one cool moment in this episode which involved Thrawn, but I had expected more, and despite some ominous foreshadowing, it was too little.
This episode also featured one “candy” for fans – the ship the Iron Squadron used was an YT-2400 freighter (basically a ship of a similar design to the Millenium Falcon, but slightly modified). From the moment this appeared in the trailer for season 3, wild speculations started, because that type of freighter has been used in the classic computer game Shadows of the Empire and it became an icon for its devout fans. In the old canon, that ship belonged to a smuggler (the main character of the game) Dash Rendar, and became so iconic that it actually found its way into the special edition of A New Hope (you can see it briefly flying over Mos Eisley). Now, after watching Iron Squadron, I get the feeling that the ship’s apperance was nothing more than a very cheap bait for the old Expanded Universe fans. And that is a great disappointment, because I had thought Rebels did not need to stoop so low to put in references just for appearance’s sake. All right, to be fair, we might get to see the ship being now put into use by the Alliance. But I highly doubt we are going to see Dash Rendar, unless Mr. Sato Jr. decides to change his name, and somehow I am not very much convinced about that either.
This episode was probably the first one in season 3 that has actively disappointed me, or that felt devoid of much entertainment. I did not feel any special attachment to Mr. Sato Jr. and his crew, and the entertaining moments did not make up for the twenty minutes of nothing-much-happening, which says quite a lot, because that isn’t a very long time. But maybe this was the necessary break before big things start happening. We have to bear in mind that for the next couple of weeks, Rebels will rush uninterrupted towards the mid-season point just before the big Christmas break, and based on previous seasons’ experience, we might expect something dramatic to happen before that. Thrawn’s “until we meet again” to Commander Sato at the end of the episode was ominous enough, just as much as the fact that now Commander Sato has a young relative among the Rebels, which from the meta-perspective is one more reason why he could “be retired”, if you know what I mean.