Star Wars Rebels Season 2 Episode 3
The partnerships between the clones and the Jedi were an integral part of The Clone Wars. Rex and Anakin showed loyalty to one another countless times, as did Rex and Ahsoka. With most of those partnerships broken in Order 66, Kanan and Rex have an entirely different, shaky relationship to work with. “Relics of the Old Republic” digs into it a bit more than “The Lost Commanders” did, although the episode still feels a little bit like a side story. When it’s at its finest, though, “Relics of the Old Republic” shows how the clones and the Jedi were a deadly combination even more effectively than The Clone Wars did.
It does so by putting them in a very specific situation. After the probe droid spotted them and the Imperials attack, the clones move their walker into a sandstorm to hide. The enthusiastic Agent Kallus, still as determined to wipe out the Jedi as he always was, sends three AT-ATs to hunt them down. The clones have the big guns, but only the Jedi can see. It’s when Kanan and Ezra work together using the Force to draw the AT-AT’s around them, and Rex acknowledges that the plan is just crazy enough to work, that we see the two groups click. The clones’ military might and the psychic Jedi complement each other perfectly. I imagine that even if a viewer hadn’t watched The Clone Wars, they could now imagine how Jedi and clones could make a devastating team.
Of course, the union of those powers is also part of a lesson about friendship, although it’s an understated one. Kanan’s understandable anger against the clones who, as a group, hunted him down during Order 66 is compounded by his misgivings in season one about being a teacher. We’ve seen how far he’s come since Season One, though, since he doesn’t dwell on Rex giving Ezra some pointers. Kanan’s pain is still present, every time the clones call him “sir” or salute him (and they still do, and maybe there’s something to be said for their successfully winning him over through subservience. It isn’t really subservience, though – it’s service. As Rex says, they were born to be soldiers.)
This is where this episode, like last week’s, still has some weakness. It treads a careful line between teaching an oft-repeated lesson about friendship and teamwork, and not resolving anything at all. One painfully understated conversation has Rex reflecting on his time with Anakin, and Kanan doesn’t comment. Kanan has mellowed out in his attitude toward these particular clones, but his deeper attitude toward Order 66 – and toward the Rebellion – seems to be the same. Kanan’s conflicts with those two entirely different armies don’t necessarily have to cohere — not all stories are emotionally tidy — but even a few more lines of dialogue might have left Kanan in a more defined place emotionally at the end of the arc.
Perhaps this is because the ending doesn’t focus on Kanan’s conflict, or Ezra’s accomplishments in using the Force, or even the Rebels fighting the Imperials: instead, it’s a reunion between Ahsoka and Rex. The weight of this reunion leans heavily on The Clone Wars, but it’s affecting: Rex’s blunt “You’ve gotten old,” and a hug more lingering than anything we’ve seen between Kanan and Hera so far. It looks like Rex will be sticking around, and I’m curious to see where he and the other clones will fit into an already large cast.
The clones work even better as a group in this episode than they did last week. Perhaps this is because they are in opposition to something: Rex tosses Gregor a rocket launcher while the rebels go about their separate tasks, showing how much better the clones cohere after having lived on the walker for years together. Another favorite moment? The clones on their six-legged walker laughing at the idea of AT-ATs standing on only four legs.
Shortly after this Imperial attack comes the sandstorm. Executive producer Dave Filoni described the fight between the AT-ATs and the clones’ walker as a “kaiju battle,” and it is that. By nature it is also slow, making the Imperials’ AT-ATs — production models actually slightly larger than the ones used in The Empire Strikes Back — look frightening and ponderous. It’s a slow, blind dance of giant machines in the desert, with eerie music and blowing sand and hissing hydraulics. The AT-ATs are often viewed from the bottom, or from the knees, so that they’re enormous. The image of the AT-ATs on Hoth is so iconic, but putting them in a completely different setting and obscuring parts of their bodies, focusing on clanking legs and searchlights, makes them new again.
After this beautiful scene and the kaiju fight, the fates of Agent Kallus and his troopers were particularly cartoonish: Rebels has made a point of noting when stormtroopers come out of attacks alive before, but the one waving his arms as he runs seemed inappropriate to the rest of the scene’s grand tone.
It’s worth noting that the animation in this episode is top notch even in other scenes: the insignias on the inside of the clones’ walker are artistic and interesting, and the view from the Star Destroyer was a vertiginous view of feathery, painted clouds.
The victim of this episode? Hera. I loved the little details of her movements, how she touches the seat of the pilot’s chair or does that familiar directionless pat to find an object out of view. However, she literally spends the episode hiding, until she picks up the Ghost. There is no epilogue about her return to the fleet. Sabine was treated like part of the group in this episode, even though the focus was, and probably will remain, on Kanan and Ezra. Hera remained backup, though, as she has been before. She’s the getaway pilot, but her plot could have been more exciting.
As for him, Ezra’s naiveté does seem to have decreased a bit: at the end of the episode he fights for a decision he believes in. He does so in part by talking about the bond between Rex and Ahsoka, and acknowledging that “even though he’s a clone,” Rex is a friend.
“Relics of the Old Republic” featured some of the most beautiful visuals ever seen in Rebels. Kanan’s emotional beats could have come together better, but, well, as Dave Filoni said on Rebels Recon, “What’s the plot? Why are we worried about the plot? Just look at it.”