This review contains spoilers.
2.7 Stealth Strike
The last few episodes of Star Wars: Rebels have focused on individual characters, giving a little more backstory to Hera and Sabine. Zeb is still relatively unknown, but Stealth Strike brings us back to Kanan and Ezra in an episode that shows how repetitive the series has been lately.
Kanan and Ezra have already starred in several good stories, although one of the best is still Rise Of The Old Masters, from early in season one. Last week, Sabine learned a lesson about friendship, and this week’s episode combines the two ideas — Jedi and friendship — for a decent episode with some fan-pleasing visuals.
Pleasing fans is in no way a bad thing here. Familiar Rebels characters dressing up in stormtrooper armour is both a fun new look at them and a call back to the Original Trilogy. The Interdictor Star Destroyer brings a new weapon into the Star Wars universe too. Its gravity wells can tug ships out of hyperspace, which was formerly used in the Expanded Universe. However, the episode is otherwise a pretty straightforward rescue story that exacerbates some of the creeping concerns I’ve had about this season.
Ezra, Commander Sato, and some nondescript Rebels are captured when the Interdictor pulls them out of hyperspace, and Kanan, Rex, and Chopper are sent to get them back. Rex’s military experience bothers Kanan, who feels both unfairly restricted and out of his depth.
Their arguments are both the heart of the episode and one of its big weaknesses. I felt that Kanan didn’t always make the best decisions in previous episodes — he valued his own (justified) grudge against the military higher than the good of his crew, and essentially forced Hera to fly the B-Wing when she didn’t want to. Now, he and Rex bicker like children, muttering as they mock one another.
There is a deeper story behind this — just the idea of a Jedi and a clone fighting beside one another has baggage at this stage. Kanan mentions again that his Jedi Master was killed by clones, bringing to the surface the grief that has been behind his actions all along. Rex’s relatively laid-back, calm nature keeps him from being quite as vindictive as Kanan, but he gloats a little, and is certainly thinking of Anakin Skywalker. Rex and Kanan bicker over the small things though, like teenagers instead of a veteran and a Jedi Master. I could practically hear “No, you are,” when Kanan said “No, you follow my lead.”
Chopper also continues to seem seriously dangerous to the people on his own team, not to mention the Imperials. Both Rebels and The Clone Wars have some dramatic tonal shifts, but this episode takes the cake on a couple counts, making sugary victories for the heroes out of pretty violent Imperial deaths. It’s not like this is out of place in Star Wars — Luke blew up the Death Star, after all — but the Imperial plot in Stealth Strike existed basically to facilitate yet another lesson about friendship, and a lot of characters died because of it.
This episode is very smart at other moments, picking up on its own potential plot holes. The Imperials seem to have Ezra’s false “Jabba the Hutt” identity on record, and Kanan and Rex have a conversation that blatantly asks a question fans might ask too. At its best, the episode is a lot of fun, with Rex angrily tossing his helmet at a group of stormtroopers out of frustration with the new armour.
Ezra has clearly grown as a Jedi and as a person. He’s agile and confident in this episode, and while he never had any trouble getting the courage to fight stormtroopers before, he’s added Jedi sensibilities to his arsenal now. Before starting a fight, he tells stormtroopers that he won’t hurt them — and doesn’t, dispatching them with non-lethal sweeps of his lightsaber. It’s a small fight scene, but it shows the way peacefulness is built into the entire structure of the Jedi Order. The lightsaber can be used as a weapon for confusion and intimidation as much as it can be used for decapitating people, and Ezra uses it for the former very well.
However, this is another episode where Ezra feels tacked on. The same thing happened when Ezra served as an awkward framework for Sabine’s story in Blood Sisters. Ezra has a reason for going off on his own, and it’s one that he explicitly states in Stealth Strike. He doesn’t like being the object of Rex and Kanan’s fighting. However, Kanan and Rex could have rescued Sato and his team without Ezra accompanying them at all.
Ezra does some acrobatics worthy of a Jedi. The battle inside the interdictor is very much a product of the Empire of the Original Trilogy, but the catwalks and Ezra’s flips and jumps give it a distinctly Prequel feel. Ezra is particularly cool when the gravity goes off inside the ship, and he spins around with convincing momentum and jerky motions.
The animation is top-notch elsewhere in the episode as well, with details of mechanical parts and explosions.
The Interdictor itself introduces an important element back into Star Wars. Hera explains that ships can’t be tracked in hyperspace. With an interdictor, though, the Imperials don’t have to track them. They just have to park somewhere they think a ship is likely to go and pull in anything flying around it. Sabine points out that the interdictor they encounter is experimental, but the Empire is sure to bring more of them into production.
Kanan and Rex’s relationship has changed, so maybe the show can move on a bit from the repeated lessons about friendship. Next week’s episode looks like either a cute babysitting episode or a dark story about the Inquisitors depending on which trailer you watch, and I hope it can either push the show a bit further or really deliver on the promise of finding out more about the characters’ histories. Stealth Strike introduced some fun ideas, but devolved Kanan and Rex’s characterisations as much as it progressed their relationship.
Read Megan’s review of the previous episode, Blood Sisters, here.