Star Wars: Rebels – “The Occupation” and “Flight of the Defender”

Ezra finally gets his wish.  After a truncated communique from Ryder Azadi reveals the existence of the updated TIE Defender Elite, it’s determined that Rebel High Command needs intel on that fighter if they’re going to beat it in combat.  But they cannot send backup should things go wrong.  And so, the Ghost crew returns to Lothal aboard the Broken Horn, leaving their own ship in the care of Rex and Kallus.  Under Imperial occupation, Lothal has taken turns for the worse, indicative of such rule across the galaxy.

There are a lot of quality character moments as Ezra and company try to locate Ryder.  It was good to have some lighter touches such as the puffer pigs because the episode takes a darker turn real fast.  Lothal is a dying world, and most of the episode is dedicated to giving us the details at the character level of just how far the planet has suffered under fascist rule.  And Kanan and Hera still need to get a room.  Those crazy kids…

After a rather loud and flashy set of narrow escapes, Ezra feels good about being back, noting that rebellions always start small.  They built it once here, they can do it again.  Ryder, however, is less than optimistic because he’s seen the new fighter.

And that leads us to the next episode.  Our intel gathering stakeout is aided by Loth-cats.  I love Loth-cats.

When the new TIE Defender Elite arrives, they have the intel they came for, but Sabine and Ezra decide they can do better.  Sabine’s plan: grab the flight recorder, which will give the Rebellion complete schematics and capabilities.  They still have no means to get it off-world, but as Sabine points out, that’s a good problem to have if they can get that information.

Things naturally go sideways as Thrawn shows up while Sabine is inside the TIE and Ezra is discovered while he’s distracted by a Loth-wolf.  The two steal the fighter, make all kinds of destruction on the flight deck, and take off.  The fighter has a kill switch, so Thrawn orders a combat test to see how the new fighter will fare in the hands of the Rebels vs. trained Imperial pilots in TIE Interceptors.  After the test, the kill switch is used, forcing the fighter to crash.

The Loth-wolf takes center stage at this point, rescuing Ezra and Sabine from the crash site.  It’s not lost on me that its markings are suggestive of Ahsoka (not identical by any stretch), whom we presumably lost in the season 2 finale.  We have confirmation we’re supposed to get some closure on that entire situation this season.  At any rate, the Loth-wolf hasn’t been seen in about 100 years, and it seems to have some abilities as it commands Sabine to sleep, knocking her out for the entire ride back to Ryder’s camp, and none of the other crew see it upon arrival.

Kanan doesn’t doubt Ezra.  He says that paths are converging, but he doesn’t know what that means yet.  They’ll know when they get there.

So as of now, the Rebels have the TIE flight recorder, a stashed hyperdrive at the crash site (which Sabine will use on Ryder’s U-Wing so they can escape Lothal), and the data in question will make its way to the Rebellion so they can acquire a fighter capable of standing up to this new threat.  Can you say “X-Wing”?  Sure, I knew you could.  We saw it in the trailer, so we know it’s coming, and it makes sense.  But still… geekbumps.  I cannot wait to see X-Wings take out the Defender Elites.  It brings back so many memories from the early 90s when I played the PC games X-Wing, TIE Fighter (which debuted the TIE Defender), and X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter.  Windows 3.1, before it was its own operating system.  Ah, those were the days.

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