This review contains spoilers.
2.4 Brothers Of The Broken Horn
There are two very different types of people in Star Wars: the spiritually inclined Force users following their particular light or dark calling, and the smugglers, out for themselves. Smugglers live in a grungier, thornier world, experiencing Han Solo’s sudden encounters with bounty hunters and stormtroopers instead of Luke Skywalker’s neatly mapped hero’s journey.
Brothers Of The Broken Horn brings the young Jedi Ezra into the smuggler side of things, as he encounters a rogue’s gallery including The Clone Wars’ Hondo Ohnaka. Although I’ve been wary of Rebels leaning too much on The Clone Wars before, Hondo earns his keep with his trademark clever dialogue. The episode doesn’t quite put a finger on Ezra’s emotional story, but the madcap plot is almost — almost — enough to make up for that.
From the very first shot, Brothers Of The Broken Horn places itself within the dingier side of Star Wars. Ezra is shooting a gun under Rex’s watch as the camera pans over a blaster shot-scarred Ghost. Rex is determined to make the young Rebel a soldier, while Kanan demands he attend “Jedi practice” instead, and in a moment of simple frustration Ezra suggests he might not want to do either.
It’s worth noting that Rex has definitely settled in as part of the crew. This episode does a good job of showing his continued rivalry with Kanan in only a few lines. Hera, Sabine, and Zeb are left almost completely out of this one though, leaving the story to little brother figures Ezra and Chopper.
In her only big moment in the episode, Hera calls a mandatory meeting. Afterward, Ezra skips out on chores to help Vizago, the smuggler who had been operating on Lothal in season one, and meets an older, just-as-canny Hondo Ohnaka on Vizago’s ship.
This kicks off the real body of the episode, a showcase of scum and villainy that includes Hondo as well as Hera’s one-time foe Azmorigan and a down-on-his-luck Vizago. Ezra is the voice of morality here, even though his departure from the Ghost was as much about avoiding responsibilities and the weight of his Jedi role as it was about doing good.
Hondo is presented, briefly, as an alternative to Ezra’s regimented life aboard the Ghost. Hondo could have been drawn as a drifting adult figure without responsibilities, but he clearly has his share of life-and-death fights and critical decisions: some of the moments aboard Azmorigan’s ship were harrowing. Ezra can hold his own against Hondo in a battle of wits, but Hondo also sees that Ezra is adrift, and tries to take advantage of that by asking Ezra to join his crew.
Hondo’s presence lead to some pretty amusing antics, too. Honda has gone grey with age, and, like Captain Rex, we don’t know exactly what happened to him in the years between The Clone Wars and Rebels. However, his personality is mostly the same, and his dialogue is some of the funniest in the show: “the stories I could tell, so many of them true”; “That is a fair deal … and it disgusts me.” Voice actor Jim Cummings can make even an average line, such as “I was just talking about you,” amusing and warm.
Azmorigan is perhaps even more grotesque than before, with spit dripping from his chin, and Vizago is grumpy and raring to fight after Hondo cheated him out of his ship. Azmorigan also has some of the weaker lines in the show, being even more of a cackling villain than before. The actual crux of the episode, power cells that could help colonists survive cold weather, are just a MacGuffin throughout the sequence on Azmorigan’s ship, and we never see the people who the Rebels were tasked with helping.
Although Ezra’s motive is a bit muddy in the beginning — does he truly want to ditch his responsibilities, or is he craving adventure in exactly the way Yoda advised against? — one revealing line at the end gives the answer. After Hondo invites Ezra to join his team, Ezra says “Inquisitors don’t hunt [pirates], do they?”
Maybe this is what was bothering him all along. Ezra was trying to run from his fears of the Inquisitors, and just ran into more trouble. (To his credit, Ezra is aware of this: ”No, I’m not running away from my problems. I’m simply helping someone with their problems. There’s a difference.”)
Ezra has never experienced this much frustration before, and it has probably increased now because of his stressful, disempowering experience with the Seventh Sister and Fifth Brother. However, without his Jedi training in mind, Ezra goes back to being a street-smart boy, and his fears or even his feelings about the people he’s supposed to help aren’t expressed in between the madcap antics. This is one of the first episodes since the season one premiere that focuses on Ezra alone, without even Kanan to bounce ideas off, and naturally he becomes more directionless. He’s actually in his element in this state, since he’s clever and quick-thinking; that’s part of what leads Hondo to want Ezra as part of his crew.
In the end, Ezra speaks the moral of the story out loud, saying “I used to be like Hondo … but that’s not who I am any more.” However, it was thinking like a pirate and utilizing Chopper’s familiarity with the Phantom that got Ezra what he needed. Ezra didn’t have to choose between his street smarts and his Jedi training, because they complement one another. He chose not to completely abandon the people he has lived with for the entirety of the show, but of course he didn’t — they were presented as a functional family that had annoyed him once or twice, not a group he hated enough to truly leave. The possibility of leaving the ship seemed like nothing more than a pleasant fantasy for Ezra, since I did not believe the show would split him up from the other core characters for any length of time.
The ending of the episode was neatly wrapped up, with Hondo declaring that he does see some of the Jedi in Ezra, and both of them acknowledging that the pirate life isn’t for him. (It isn’t clear what the rest of the crew was doing while Ezra was gone, or whether they had gone to look for him.) Ezra is, for now, leaning more toward the Luke Skywalker archetype than the Han Solo one. Star Wars needs its Han Solos, though, and Hondo and Vizago provided enough laughs and one-liners for this episode to stand as an example of how much fun Rebels can be.