This Star Wars Rebels review contains spoilers.
Star Wars Rebels: Season 2, Episode 12
Like last week’s episode, “Legends of the Lasat” is one of many this season that explores the crew’s backstories. This time, it’s a story about faith and loss featuring Zeb. The episode is a vehicle for a beautiful new vista and some of the first Force magic that actually feels universal and larger than life. This season’s episodes still feel oddly disconnected from one another — “Legends of the Lasat” doesn’t fix all of the technical issues that were exacerbated instead of smoothed out in season two — but it is an uplifting look at how Star Wars touches on spirtuality.
The episode begins with a firefight: Hondo has tipped Ezra off to a shipment of Imperial contraband, which turns out to actually be two Lasat, Chava and Gran. Zeb is shocked to see them alive (he actually looks toward the ‘camera’), but they are looking to the future: a mythical planet where they think the Lasat can start again. The physical threat comes in the form of Agent Kallus, who holds Hondo captive.
There still isn’t a ton of continuity this season, and what there is comes from Ezra’s understandably long-lasting issues with his parents’ deaths and not Sabine’s family, who we met last week. The designs for the new Lasat are all right, with Chava made up of rounded shapes and pure grandmotherlyness while Gran looks more like a sideburned Zeb. The designs don’t divert far from Zeb’s own look, and while that makes them recognizable, I would have liked a little extra detail — some fur out of place here, a less cosmetic scar there.
We never find out how Chava and Gran survived the Imperial massacre on Lasan, and there isn’t much of a sense of a wider culture outside the three of them. Although Gran was in the guard the same as Zeb, the two don’t reminisce.
However, the culture that is present and plot-relevant is certainly enjoyable. We’ve seen plenty of forms of magic in Star Wars outside the well-known Jedi abilities: Nightsister magic can create zombies or supersoldiers, and the Mortis realm exists as a physical manifestation of the balance of the Force. Chava’s Lasat magic works very well at a smaller scale. She lays out a Lasat prophecy that is also a crash course in archetypes, with an alien twist. Her magic feels very Disney, pointing as it does to a (metaphorical) hidden treasure in what might as well be Never Never Land. Zeb follows it straight on ’til morning.
At first, he appears more embarrassed than pleased at the reappearance of his fellow Lasat. I thought this was a strangely low-key reaction for someone who saw their people massacred (and we do get more detail of that event), but I realized later that what looks like embarrassment could also be emotional exhaustion. Ezra helps Zeb open up about his guilt and get a second chance. In the end, there’s a marked difference between the Zeb who believes in and understands the prophecy and the Zeb who doesn’t. This episode is a story of Zeb rescuing himself, and being rescued by his own people. Now we’ll see whether his characterization changes in a meaningful way going forward.
His emotions might have been explored a bit more deeply if the episode had been longer, although I think that, especially for a half-hour animated show, it did portray his guilt and his resistance to his own healing well. The episode was weighed down in the beginning by fight and chase scenes, which seemed like they were included in order to fill quotas — the episode had to start out with a bang, but the fights felt a bit phoned in, especially since Hera escaped the Imperial Star Destroyer so quickly. (On the plus side, Hera is fully recovered from her ordeal last week, and with all her skills intact!)
Putting Zeb, Kanan, and Ezra all at the forefront of the episode allows “Legends of the Lasat” to feel more like an ensemble story than the others have lately. Although Sabine doesn’t have much to do, she’s used well, whether that is her flashy moves in combat or her utterly relaxed posture as she lounges on the Ghost. The ship itself felt more like a home in this episode than it has in a while; despite the show’s initial promise of a found family story, Rebels had been tending away from that until the character interactions in this episode brought it back. The episode also has some of the best music and best visuals of the show, including the first season — the triumphant, mystical music at the end perfectly frames some gorgeous artwork, and also goes quiet at just the right moments.
A few weeks ago I talked about how it was a good thing that Agent Kallus had taken a back seat and let another Imperial drive an episode, since Kallus seems to keep reprising the same role — that of the administrator who shows up just in time for the Rebels to get away — over and over. Unfortunately, he goes right back to form in “Legends of the Lasat.” The potential threat to Hondo hasn’t played out (yet).
However, both voice actor David Oyelowo and the animation team ramp up Kallus’ few important moments; it isn’t hard to imagine that he feels a particular glee about being able to trap the Rebels between the Empire and an even more powerful threat. The fact that he has Hondo essentially at his mercy is frightening, but even moreso is the fact that he has the Star Destroyer at his mercy too. I could almost believe that he would let his own ship be destroyed just so that he could prolong his own anticipation and revenge. He wasn’t an effective commander in this episode, but he did show the dark, almost insane determination living under the Empire’s shining surface.
I can’t help but notice that, yet again, the only guaranteed through-line from this episode to the rest of the season is a character from The Clone Wars, since Hondo is presumably still in the hands of the Empire. The Lasat might play a role in the season going forward, but it’s a bad sign when the divide between old characters and new characters is still so stark that tallying it matters. Rebels has been doing a lot of looking backwards — at Sabine’s family, at Zeb’s people, at Ezra’s parents. In many ways, it feels like it’s trying to catch up with its own promise instead of delivering more and more. Season two needs to really move the Ghost crew forward. If it can do it with the visual inventiveness, insight, and heart that this episode showed, it will be just about perfect.