“Droids in Distress” is an enjoyable adventure that shows more of the relationships between the cast, including the father-daughter type relationship Zeb and Sabine use to their advantage in their con. Its greatest weakness is Agent Kallus, who abandons any calculating distance to instead become a brawler.
In a way, this episode feels as though it could take place much later in the season. The focus is not on Ezra learning to be part of the crew, but rather on Zeb’s reticence to sell disruptor blasters, and the arrival of C-3PO and R2-D2 accompanying an Imperial official. The droids’ behavior is so spot-on to the movies that there isn’t much to add about them, and R2’s arguments with Chopper are entertaining in a slapstick sort of way. More intriguing is a brief appearance by Bail Organa, who may have something up his sleeve.
The Rebels crew show their more profiteering side in this episode. They aren’t stealing food to give to poor people; they’re trying to make a profit and keep their own operation going. Kanan has no qualms about giving the blasters to Zhivago the arms dealer and not worrying about them again; this is more similar to his attitude in the prequel novel “A New Dawn,” than we’ve seen from him before.
Disneyland and Disney World’s Star Tours fans will get a thrill from seeing a transport like one used in the ride, complete with Paul Reubens voicing the RX droid at the helm. I like that Rebels is continuing to show how the average galactic citizen lives, as well as following around its risk-prone crew.
In regards to that crew, Sabine was one of the highlights of this episode. Tyra Sircar enunciates alien words with aplomb, and Sabine knows the language well enough to both translate and make an amateur mistake on purpose. The filter put on her voice while she’s wearing her helmet was also a nice touch. This episode also shows a Kanan who has pretty much mellowed into accepting Ezra as his Padawan, and reveals, in a particularly funny moment, that Zeb and Ezra share a room.
Kallus’ confrontation with Zeb in the final part of the episode results in a fun, intense hand-to-hand battle, but his dialogue is over-the-top and simple. There was never any question about where the emotional hook in this episode would lead, and while the tidbit about Zeb’s backstory was interesting, his confrontation with Kallus felt accelerated to a degree that hurt it.
Perhaps Kallus’ hyper-focused determination to explain his motives was a product of the episode’s 22-minute length, or intentional evidence of his sadism. It’s too early in the show to say that Kallus isn’t prone to fits of rage, isn’t as dramatic verbally as he is with his hairstyle. Right now, knowing that the Inquisitor is coming, Kallus feels like a temporary, first season villain like Avatar: The Last Airbender’s Admiral Zhao.
“Droids in Distress” tries to really nail Zeb’s emotional story, and only partially succeeds. C-3PO and R2-D2 feel like a natural part of the episode. If this is typical Rebels fair, the show will be solid but not extraordinary.