This Star Wars Rebels review contains spoilers.
Star Wars Rebels Season 3 Episode 10
It’s been a while since we’ve seen Lothal. At night, the world where Ezra grew up is lit up with menacing neon sights proclaiming the Imperial occupation. Starting from this almost Blade Runner-esque upgrade to a familiar landscape, “An Inside Man” has a little bit of everything: humor, action, and a Thrawn who is a bit more hands-on with his work this week, and more frightening for it.
Ezra and Kanan have been sent to Lothal to find the plans for a secret Imperial weapon. We know that the Empire has been industrializing Lothal, so it’s nice to return after a while away from Ezra’s planet and see what has changed. Ryder Azadi, the ex-governor I didn’t trust last season, is back too, as a member of a small resistance group.
Almost immediately, he plunges the Rebels into a speeder chase while the Jedi take precarious rides on the engine pods. Some scenery appears to be reused from earlier Lothal episodes, and while it might be a case of saving money, it also makes perfect sense in the scene. It’s neat to see Ezra and Kanan do some deft lightsaber work on the same highway where we’ve seen the Rebels get into speeder chases before.
We don’t get to know the other members of Ryder’s resistance cell very well, but their quick dialogue and expressions do a fine job of painting them as decent Lothal people who aren’t necessarily essential to the plot. One returnee, Morad Sumar, was from “Fighter Flight,” one of my least favorite episodes in season one, and although he’s bland, he becomes crucial to kicking off the main plot in this episode.
That plot is essentially one long chanse, as the Rebels try to get the weapon plans and get out of the factory. Grand Admiral Thrawn comes to visit the factory personally. We see him work beside Governor Pryce, who requested his help in their sector in the first place. Thrawn is not quite genre-savvy, but definitely keeps up with the Rebels at every turn. This makes for some tricky tension. Ryder and Hera are forced to assume that Thrawn will be able to predict their plans, but they also understand that Kanan and Ezra need to go ahead with those plans anyway.
We also get to see Thrawn encounter some other familiar characters for the first time. At long last he gets to examine Sabine’s art directly, and his analysis is interesting: in a drawing of the Imperial starbird on a wall he sees not just a message of resistance, but one of loyalty. “They will always return.” It would make more sense for Ezra to have this attachment then Sabine, but it’s still an interesting insight. Although I’ve had mixed feelings about the amount of time Rebels spends on Lothal in the past, placing the planet as a spiritual heart of the Rebels’ activities makes sense. Ezra lost his parents there, after all, and discovered the Jedi temple there, and acknowledging the planet’s importance on a more thematic level helps sell all of those things as part of the larger story.
There has been a lot of discussion in the fandom lately about how much each episode should connect to the ones around it. Maybe some characters, like the rather hapless Lieutenant Lyste, were re-used because the character models had already been made, but regardless, it’s fun to spot a familiar face. “An Inside Man” included a lot of returning characters as well as moving the overarching story forward. It’s proof that Rebels can do both, and there’ll be more about that in the spoiler section below.
This episode is just fun, too, and has dark, tense moments. Thrawn embarrassing his own Imperial allies is pretty entertaining, and he keeps the tension going. Although he subjects two characters to essentially the same fate in two different scenes, the second scene doesn’t feel superfluous; instead, it emphasizes Thrawn’s meticulous cruelty and introduces further plot points. This episode is paced nicely, with different obstacles, although Chopper getting the clearance code happens very, very quickly.
“An Inside Man” also had some very funny lines, especially from the otherwise unremarkable Ryder. Both the timing and the dialogue was exceptionally effective. Some rather dark physical humor near the end of the episode both got a laugh from me and showed off Ezra and Kanan’s relationship nicely. It’s always good when humor can add to characterization too.
Rebels is inspired by Ralph McQuarrie’s Star Wars concept art through and through, but I especially appreciated it in this episode, especially in the shot of the entrance to the Imperial factory. A purple dawn sky gives way to a forbiddingly industrial doorway, red light from the banners overshadowing Lothal’s more natural brown color to make purplish shadows that look just eerie enough, but also like they fit the setting perfectly.
A fight between AT-ATs and smaller walkers is also colored beautifully, emphasizing the animal-like movements of the walkers and the way the sun bounces off their metal bodies. The color is symbolic, too: because the mission started before dawn, the episode is brighter when the Rebels leave the factory than when they arrive.
“An Inside Man” may have reused a lot of assets, but it’s also a very well-paced and well-balanced episode, combining darkness and humor, Ezra’s past and Ezra’s future, into one exciting story.
— Major Spoilers —
The reveal of the new Fulcrum didn’t come as much of a surprise. Fans recognized the character’s voice early on in the season, and the season two episode in which Zeb and Agent Kallus became reluctant allies was a good set-up for this. As it turns out, none of those things were red herrings. It might be interesting to see how Kallus’ very Imperial brand of dignity holds up now that he’s a mole. In this episode, he’s cold and quiet, taking a page from Thrawn’s book. He’ll need it.