Two more episodes down. We’re officially halfway into the final season. Eight more to go.
The episode “Kindred” tied up some loose threads and sort-of answered some questions. I’m going to jump ahead a bit. After quite the chase and some piloting that would impress Han Solo himself, Hera made her way back to Rebel Command at the end of “Crawler Commanders” with the TIE Defender Elite’s black box schematics. We learn at the end of the episode that, based largely on her urging (because Command tends to run a little fearful), the decision has been made to assemble the fleet and attack Lothal. The intent, of course, is to disrupt and end production of the TIE Defender program. Simply put, the Rebellion has nothing that can oppose it if it’s mass produced. Hera’s forces will take up the air while the rest of the Ghost crew and their allies will lead up the ground assault. Looking forward to that.
To get to that, our heroes have to beat a retreat from the crash site of the TIE (where they stashed the hyperdrive), and escape the Empire. Thrawn isn’t impressed with progress thus far, so he sends in his personal agent, Rukh. Rukh is carried over from the same source material as Thrawn, the Heir to the Empire trilogy by Timothy Zahn that kickstarted Expanded Universe 2.0 back during the Dark Times. I’m already on record as being one of the few fans in the galaxy that actually does not like this story. As much as I enjoy the idea of Thrawn, I found these novels to be quite terrible and derivative. Ultimately it doesn’t really matter. The characters made the impact that they were worthy of jumping to the big leagues, and that’s what’s important. That’s what two seasons of Thrawn is all about. Well, that and keeping Vader from looking incompetent each week because he can’t capture our Rebels. If they want to make Thrawn look like Snidely Whiplash, who am I to argue with the choice? “Yes, it’s all part of the plan…” BS, but hey, you look cool making such proclamations. Fact is, General Grievous was more effective. I’m just sayin’.
The question on my mind, and probably on the mind of anyone who read those books, is Rukh. Does his inclusion mean that we’ll ultimately get the same ending for these characters? As a reminder (the book’s nearly 25 years old, so “spoilers” be damned at this point), Rukh betrays and murders Thrawn before being killed himself. It certainly wouldn’t hurt my feelings if that happened here, though I suspect it won’t be quite so brutal.
Anyway… Rukh is brought in here to track the Rebels, and he can apparently distinguish the scent of Zeb, so he knows what Lasat is supposed to smell like? Lasats are rare, or so we’re told. So Rukh makes the oldest play in the book, tags the speeder bike with a tracker, and leads the Empire right to the Rebel camp. Hera busts through the Imperial line, and our other heroes are left behind, seemingly cut off from any hope of escape.
And then the white Loth-Wolf shows up again. Gotta say, for friendlies, this wolf and his buddies are all snarly. Seems a little over the top. But they get the job done. They lead Ezra and company through the rocks, and just as the Empire starts a bombing run, they open some kind of mystical tunnel to the far side of the planet.
The tunnel itself… we’ve seen this imagery before, but not on Rebels. Specifically, we’ve seen it in the drawings Dave Filoni gave us following the now-infamous season two finale duel between Vader and Ahsoka, offering clues of Ahsoka’s fate. I submit at this point that Ahsoka was able to escape death through a similar such tunnel, putting her out of reach of the Dark Lord, which explains also why he’d leave that temple with a job unfinished. He doesn’t know it’s unfinished, and/or he doesn’t know about the tunnel. He only knows her presence is no longer there.
Where this tunnel on Lothal concerns our Rebels is that there’s a safe encampment on the far side of the planet where they can assemble and prepare for the aforementioned upcoming ground assault. More than that, as was pointed out in the episode, the chamber on that side of the tunnel resembles the Jedi Temple Kanan and Ezra previously found on Lothal. The Loth-Wolf is highly attuned to the Force in some way. Also, it did call out “Dume” again, and Kanan confirmed it to reference his real name, Caleb Dume. Yay for getting that one right last week. So now we have all these connections, but we don’t yet know where they lead. I’m hoping (maybe?) back to Ahsoka at some point?
The next episode, “Crawler Commanders,” was more of a romp. Our Rebels hijack a Mining Guild crawler. Star Wars alumni Warwick Davis and Seth Green return to the GFFA — always nice to have them back. It turns out the Mining Guild takes slaves (like everywhere else in the galaxy), and among the population is our old pirate friend Vizago who helped the Rebels get back to the Lothal in the first place. The highlights of the episode for me was Zeb fighting the Trandoshan slave master in single combat. Made for an interesting fight, and somewhat geeky since Lasats are based on the original prototype art for Wookiees, and we all know now that Wookiees and Trandoshans have an antagonistic history.
I’m aware this is a kid’s cartoon. I’m aware that Disney has made this more of one, and there is less of an edge to it than George and Dave ever put on The Clone Wars. For contrast here, in TCW, Ahsoka beheaded four Mandalorians in a single shot. Here, we get Ezra fighting the crawler’s captain, who is particularly Gollum-like in his movements and mannerisms. It should be noted that Filoni is a Tolkien fan, and he’s said for the record that Ahsoka’s fate somehow ties to references of Gandalf (leading me once more to surmise that she’s the living avatar of the Light Side). Back on point. Ezra flirted with the Dark Side previously, and that thread has pretty much been dropped in the wake of Maul’s death. Here it potentially came up again for a hot second. He could have pushed the crawler’s captain into the reactor with the Force, he could have called his lightsaber back to this hand and cut him down. Instead… the captain slipped on Ezra’s lightsaber, fell backwards into the reactor, and Ezra picked up his saber and acknowledged an “oops.” That’s pretty cheesy, even for a show that won’t shoot stormtroopers. (Don’t think I haven’t noticed.) It’s a classic comic book move to pull. The hero can’t kill, so the villain slips on a banana peel, off a rooftop to his death. Lame.
So bringing it back to where I jumped ahead at the beginning of this blog, the final scene confirms the upcoming attack on Lothal. The next episode is cleverly titled “Rebel Assault.” X-Wings? Please give us the X-Wings. I note that, according to my Next-TV app, this episode is the only one in the hopper for next week, with the next two marked as “unknown date,” meaning they’ll air sometime after the break (and after The Last Jedi).