Star Wars Rebels Season 2 Episode 17
Like Zeb an episode before, Chopper learns an important lesson about the Empire in “The Forgotten Droid.” It’s a straightforward adventure with some hints at underlying lore and bigger ideas, but toward the end I found it dragging, the Imperials too cartoonish and the sets too well-trodden to make something truly inventive. It’s a solid story that accelerates the Rebels’ efforts to find a new base, but it doesn’t have any sense of place. Chopper himself shows a softer side, but, as with Zeb and his encounter with the other Lasat, it remains to be seen whether that change matters to his personality in the long run. While Kallus might have learned something last week about the Empire within which he operates, this week Chopper discovers a mistreated droid who is already not having a good time with his Imperial supervisors.
Showing this episode from Chopper’s point of view offers the show two opportunities, one, to build the episode around the droid’s unique view of the world, and the other to comment on the questionable status of droids in the Star Wars universe as a whole. (Rest in peace, droid captain of that commercial starliner in “Blood Sisters.”)
On the first count, I don’t think it succeeds. With Zeb and Ezra acting as immature as they ever have and a shopkeeper dangling a droid leg in front of Chopper, I thought at first that the episode might be very intentionally putting a Chopper-vision lens in front of the camera, making other characters look as foolish and inefficient as Chopper probably thinks that they are. That wasn’t the case, though – Ezra and Zeb are just being unusually boyish.
The second opportunity was embraced more fully. “Droid rights” are never really an issue in Star Wars, with the movies treating the droids as characters and avoiding some of the thornier questions about their status as property brought up, intentionally or accidentally, in Rebels or The Clone Wars. One of my favorite things in The Clone Wars is when, in the odd episode “A Sunny Day in the Void,” droids are shown as generally superior to organic beings due to their imperviousness to weather and hunger. In Rebels, though, droids (and stormtroopers) seem pretty disposable.
What does seem to happen in the Star Wars universe, though, is that droids gain more personality as they get older. R2-D2’s personality can in part be attributed to his lack of mind wipes. This isn’t necessarily canon any more, but it fits with what we see happen to the Imperial droid here. He’s an old model – he fought on the Republic side at the siege of Ryloth the same as Chopper did – and he seems to make a conscious decision to disobey his Imperial master. Gaining free will is a matter of “fortitude,” while a shopkeeper considers an independently operating droid “broken.” Chopper encouraged the Imperial droid, but the moment in which he did was presented with a gravitas that suggested this wasn’t the first time the Imperial droid had felt the flickering of self-motivation, even if he loudly proclaimed himself loyal to the Empire.
The friendship between the two droids was convincing, and, sometimes, funny, although I found myself thinking that it would have worked better if Chopper himself had been a more likable character. Chopper’s expressiveness is impressive, but he’s still basically amoral. Even Hera doesn’t necessarily feel the need to bring him back to the Ghost. If you’ve already latched on to Chopper, this episode might be a good one for you. It expands Chopper’s on-screen emotional range as well as giving a very brief glimpse into his backstory and explaining how he met Hera.
His search for the leg and the connection between Hera rescuing Chopper and Chopper rescuing the Imperial droid never quite came together, though. What significance did the leg actually have to him? His current, replacement leg seems to be working fine. He was obviously passionate about it, and that might just be because he is a covetous creature. With the hints at Chopper’s backstory I was expecting it to be revealed that the leg used to belong to him, but it seems that the leg is simply a replacement part. And maybe there’s something to that – an episode focused around Chopper would have an essentially spontaneous act of greed at its core.
Meanwhile, the Imperial captain has a distinct voice but is a basic cartoon villain through and through. Does his cruelty to his droid indicate Imperials’ attitude toward droids in general? I don’t know, and it doesn’t really matter – the captain is a plot point in place to give the Imperial droid’s story some pathos and to provide an obstacle to success, and he serves that purpose well enough.
The space station on which Chopper gets separated from the Rebel crew is a mix of beautiful and oddly toy box -ish. With silver petals of floating buildings, it’s a unique-looking structure, almost too modern-looking for Star Wars. The bright blue sky gives it a strangely fake appearance, which could be used to good effect if the spaceport looked like it existed in the same place as the sky. The shadows are still the same gray they are on Lothal, and I couldn’t help thinking that tinting the shadows blue would serve to sell this planet much better than was already done.
This episode does a few more interesting things: Imperial antipathy is shown when stormtroopers agree to help a shopkeeper only because there was recently a Rebel heist in the area, and there’s a suggestion that someone in the Rebel crew – which this week includes Sabine’s old friend Ketsu – might have sold them out to the Empire. Finding fuel doesn’t come across as critical as it could be, though. “The Forgotten Droid” certainly wasn’t filler – Ketsu’s involvement and the Imperial blockade around a planet the Rebels had thought might finally be a good base of operations provide a little tension needed in the lead-up to the season finale. This doesn’t feel like season two’s “Fighter Flight,” the stand-alone episode that turned out to be a key to the finale. Instead, it’s a decent episode with weight that Chopper’s charm (such as it is) can’t quite carry, even with a new leg.