In my last review, I wrote that Star Wars Rebels’ weakness was its focus on its Jedi. “Idiot’s Array” fixes that problem, finally making the rest of the crew, especially Hera, feel like warm, living characters. Lando Calrissian takes the stage, voiced by a charming Billy Dee Williams, but the episode isn’t really about him: it’s about the crew, and how Hera knows exactly how to use their strengths to overcome obstacles.
When Zeb loses Chopper to Lando in a game of sabaac (from which the episode title comes), the crew gets roped in to helping Lando cross an Imperial blockade. The suave smuggler is bringing a metal-detecting pufferpig to another part of Lothal, and became involved with a crime lord along the way.
Williams sounds a bit reedy, but his charisma is undiminished. As with previous cameos, he fits into the world of Rebels nicely, partially because Lando isn’t put on a pedestal. He’s the con man making idiots of the rest of the crew, gradually – except for Hera. More on that in a moment.
Luckily, nobody in “Idiot’s Array” has an expressionless poker face. Some of the funniest moments are silent – Ezra slowing down to shrug at Kanan as he chases the pufferpig through the Ghost, Hera barring Lando’s way while Kanan crowds in behind them, Chopper hitting Zeb’s leg. Each character gets a full range of expression, with some kinetic humor for Ezra and Zeb, and subtler expressions from Hera, Kanan, and Lando. Lando’s smooth smirk works, Kanan shows several shades of disapproval, and when Lando plans to sell Hera to the crime lord, he looks at her with narrowed eyes during an innocuous conversation – some nicely implanted foreshadowing.
There’s a lot of body language, and a lot of touching in the episode. In one scene, Hera, Lando, and Chopper are trapped in close quarters. Lando leans close to Hera, leans closer to Chopper and pushes at the obstacles around him. By the end of the sequence, though, it’s Hera who has control of the space. When she leans toward Lando he raises his hands and tries to get as far away from her as possible, while she backs him into a corner. All that movement enhances the dialogue that explains the power dynamic between them.
Before that, Hera shows smarts and resolve when Lando commits the ultimate betrayal: attempting to sell her to a Jabba the Hutt-lite, the crime lord Mazmorigan. The scene unfortunately utilizes the Twi’lek slave trope, although the scenes between Hera and the diminutive, nonthreatening Mazmorigan are relatively chaste, and Hera takes control of the situation. She knows all along that Lando is trying to “divide and conquer” the crew to further his own goals.
“Idiot’s Array” is the closest so far to an episode focused on the Ghost’s leaders. Hera and Kanan’s relationship gets more screen time than ever before. Kanan often takes a back seat, but his expressions show when he is uncomfortable or amused. The quickness of some of his emotions, and his reactions, make the episode and the crew, feel realistic. (One works as a particularly funny callback, too, in response to Ezra’s blaster-lightsaber: “Hey, mine doesn’t do that.”)
Lando’s con is itself a little unclear – if he was worried about the Imperial blockade in space, couldn’t he have gotten a speeder instead of a starship? The lightsaber-blaster is only slightly less silly than Ezra’s energy slingshot, but there is a convincing in-universe explanation for why a young boy can build a weapon we’ve never seen Jedi use before – it’s actually an attempt to make up for his lack of sword-fighting skills with the marksmanship he already possesses.
At the end, “Idiot’s Array” is about Hera refusing to play anyone’s game. It’s a fun, energetic episode that feels natural.