Prequel to Rogue One: that is indeed what Star Wars Rebels‘ second double-episode of the final season could be called. First glimpse of the Rebel base on Yavin 4 during the reunion of the Ghost’s crew, the reappearance of Saw Gerrera and unsubtle hints about the Empire’s new project, in the form of kyber crystals and kidnapped reactor engineers. How did In the Name of the Rebellion fare overall?
It starts to seem like the fourth season of Rebels is aiming for presenting us separate, self-contained stories. The first double episode has effectively dealt with the crisis on Mandalore and closed Sabine’s “personal” story arc, putting that off the table. In the Name of the Rebellion closed, or at least nearly closed several more open cases: the rift between Saw Gerrera and the rest of the Rebel Alliance seems to have been addressed openly enough, as well as the reason why Ezra or anybody else should not decide to join him anymore.
The apparent tendency of the creators to “close cases” manifested also in the death of poor Imperial commander Titus, who has been around as a very minor character throughout the entire series. After this episode, I cannot help but to predict that we are going to see more of these “closed cases” also in the future. Clone Wars series fans might very well relate to the feeling of “killing spree” as characters who do not explicitly appear in future movies get removed one by one. I am thinking mostly about minor characters here, I am still quite reluctant to believe that any of the Ghost’s crew are going to be mercilessly slaughtered. But, you know, there are others – any Rebel pilots besides Wedge and Hobbie, governor Arihnda Pryce…
The story of In the Name of the Rebellion needs to be commended for one thing in particular: showing that accomplishing an objective isn’t just a lazy ride for the Rebels. One of the complaints about the Season 1 of Rebels has been that it seemed like whatever they did, they automatically succeeded without much effort. The relatively straightforward (partial) victory in Heroes of Mandalore made me worry whether this mistake isn’t being repeated. But after this episode, I was again reprimanded – perhaps the motto of this season should be: O Ye of Little Faith in the Writers! Not only didn’t the Rebels succeed in their plan, their moral dilemma “we would like to just blow up stuff, but we are better than this” got sorted out for them and for the worse.
Plot-wise, I think this was also an exquisite example of how to handle a plot where you need to make the characters learn something important (in this case, about the Death Star project) but can’t let them too close (in this case, for external reasons – nobody can know about this before Rogue One). Very often (and in Star Wars especially), it seems difficult for the writers to find the right balance between telling too much and making the story pointless by not telling anything at all. (I am thinking for example about all the novels set between Episodes VI and VII.) Second part of In the Name of the Rebellion made it look like the heroes were going to learn something, and they did, while at the same time it didn’t feel orchestrated or didn’t feel like the creators making a “straw man” for them to find.
Familiar Faces… and Voices
I need to talk about the reunion of the Ghost’s crew, as well as about the characterisation. The short moments of their reunion at the beginning of the episode are filled with meaning, and you could literally re-watch the scenes, noting every glance people give to each other. Hera is happy that Sabine is back, Kanan and Hera are obviously happy to be together, Kallus and Ezra are looking at each other when Rebel priorities are being discussed (I wonder what makes them have a special connection?), later in the episode Sabine and Ezra are holding hands two times too many and one time too few (why didn’t they hold hands while jumping out of the ship, where it would make perfect sense?)… I could keep going on and on.
The movie characters are also present in unusually high numbers in this one: aside from Wedge and general Dodonna who have barely a couple of lines (oh, and Gerrera’s friend Edrio Two-Tubes, too), the spotlight is on Mon Mothma and Saw Gerrera, the voice of reason and the voice of bloodthirst, respectively. Speaking of voices, it is perfect that we have all the movie actors reprising their roles here (and the animation, especially in Saw’s case, is really well done too – you can see a live Forest Whitaker behind the cartoon character). And, as a little bonus, the leader of the Death Troopers in this episode is voiced by Jennifer Hale, the voice actress known from… basically any computer game with a female lead since 1998 or somesuch (but in Star Wars, for example as Bastila Shan from Knights of the Old Republic).
Still about Saw and Mon Mothma: I think this episode could be very well watched even without any context by those who would like to know more about either of these two characters, their relationship, or their attitudes towards the fight against the Empire. One thing I must say I love is that Saw is shown to be right in his brutal, but pragmatic approach. Or, mostly – in his zeal, he doesn’t listen to the (perfectly reasonable) argument that the Empire’s great secret isn’t just waiting at the kyber crystal cargo’s destination. But yes, Saw’s way is more effective, more practical, but the question is – as Mon Mothma phrases it plainly in this episode – what will the Rebellion become if it stoops so low to use the same means as the Empire does? Even more than in the previous season, I hear the echoes of Tolkien – “if I took the Ring, I would become another Dark Lord myself”. In other words, who would the “good guys” be then? The answer is: nobody, there won’t be any “good guys” anywhere, and that would be the ultimate victory of the Dark Side.
I can’t help but once again say I am more than happy with this episode. Its narration is better and better-paced than in the case of the Heroes of Mandalore, I think, and it feels like we are more connected to it – perhaps that is because of the characters, though. The visuals are great from character animation to lighting of scenery (the scene with skirmish in the smoke in the kyber crystal room was wonderfully atmospheric). Rogue One references are plenty and good (Saw’s U-Wing ship was a welcome and unexpected addition). The theme of what is right and what is wrong, “how we choose to fight is what matters” is very strong and appears both in major and minor instances in this one. At the same time, I must say this episode does not shy away from some downright drastic scenes – without gore and visual brutality, of course, but by implication, such as poor stormtroopers or commander Titus blowing up with the satellite dish. I think this is the right way to do it – and a way to underline the theme of ruthlessness in fighting the Empire. I perceive it as a way of saying “hey, we are not just shooting bad guys left and right, those are also people your Hero just blew up – what do you think about that? Is it something a Hero should do to another living being, even if they are on the opposing side?”
If this is how Season four is going to continue, I’ll be applauding them over and over.