This Star Wars Rebels review contains spoilers.
Star Wars Rebels Season 3 Episode 12 and 13
Saw Gerrera returns to Star Wars Rebels in a two-part episode that doesn’t quite nail its horror movie atmosphere. “Ghosts of Geonosis” is an ensemble episode that does a better job than usual of using the entire team, but the action scenes are less exciting to watch than they might have been on paper. Setting Saw’s ruthlessness against Kanan’s nobility and Ezra’s naiveté is interesting, but by the end, both episodes fizzle instead of soaring.
From the beginning Hera’s secrecy is framed as a military strategy, not a personal preference, which is especially key in an episode that finally brings some of the heavy-hitters of the rebellion together in a way that feels more historical than spectacular. Bail Organa and Saw Gerrera join the cause (and provide familiar faces for people who might have just seen Rogue One). The excellent trailer for the second half of the season makes it clear that the rebellion is growing, and at the beginning of “Ghosts of Geonosis” I had high hopes that we would start to see the Alliance sooner rather than later. In this case, showing where the Ghost crew and Phoenix Squadron fits in the hierarchy of the Rebellion feels less like an excuse for cameos and more like a chance to make Rebels cohere with the timeline of the movies a bit more.
Of course, “Ghosts of Geonosis” refers to The Clone Wars rather than the Original Trilogy in more ways than one. The construction of the Death Star over Geonosis has become a major plot point in the space between the Original Trilogy and the Prequels. That’s where the horror part of the episode comes in, with the team exploring the tunnels to find out what happened to the Geonosian wrkers. The weird organic architecture was appropriately stifling, and Kanan got to display some cool Force powers. Unfortunately, what could have been the scariest scenes toward the beginning, when the characters had no idea who had killed Saw’s squad, lost some of their tension because they contained so much dialogue. The music, which was used for false scares and dramatic introductions, also felt unsubtle, and not in a fun classic Star Wars way like the scene transitions.
The Geonosian character is also underserved. Ezra pantomiming and deciding to name the alien “Klik-Klak” after the sounds he made didn’t sit right with me; the character is played more as a pet or a plot device than as an actual person. Sure, we could discuss the Geonosian drones as an alien hive mind, but it’s never suggested that the show thinks of him that way. It’s Ezra, the character who is good with animals, who manages to communicate, not either of the soldiers who have dealt with his species before. There was only one real bit of miscommunication. That one was a gem, though, with the characters offering several incorrect interpretations of a symbol that the audience is likely to recognize.
The second part of “Ghosts of Geonosis” becomes more of a straightforward action sequence, as the Imperials seek to trap the Rebels in the caves. It was cool to see a very different type of strategy from the Imperial captain, as well as to see more diversity in the Imperial ranks. However, it’s becoming awfully convenient and cartoonish for the Empire to consistently show up just when the stakes need to be raised, and the appearance of a Star Destroyer didn’t strike as much fear as it could have because the timing was so predictable.
Speaking of Ezra, he’s back in full exposition mode. After “Voices and Visions,” I worried that Ezra’s arc from the first half of the season would be forgotten, his anger just … gone once Darth Maul appeared to take on the role of unpredictable dark sider. Unfortunately, that seems to be the case, and Ezra’s purpose in this section is mostly to fill in the role of naive Padawan so that he and Kanan can discuss where to go. If they had been quieter and less certain, the scene would have been scarier – but also would have made less sense in terms of characterization, since Kanan and Ezra have developed a good rapport. Ezra continues to teeter on a line between audience mouthpiece and growing character.
On the other hand, Sabine continues to grow, at least in terms of her physical prowess. Her fight against the stormtroopers used the verticality of the jet pack well to create a scene that seemed always teetering on the edge of a long fall, and it was cool to see her becoming increasingly impressive.
Some of the structuring in part one was particularly impressive too, with Sabine and Zeb moving tensely through a mine field of droids while Kanan, Saw, and Ezra fought over the Geonosian underground. The script did a good job of putting both groups in danger at the same time and making it clear that the two scenes were working in parallel.
I’ve said before that Dave Filoni’s best ideas don’t always translate to the screen. In the Rebels Recon video, both the executive producer and actor Freddie Prinze Jr. said that Saw slowly degrades over the course of the war, both morally and physically. We see that very clearly by the time he turns the Bor Gullet on allies while breathing through a machine in Rogue One. However, “Ghosts of Geonosis” isn’t that story. Saw’s moral decision is wrapped up quickly, and, if Rogue One is any indication, was mostly forgotten. It was cool to hear Forest Whittaker’s voice, which in Rebels is a soft mutter that sometimes sounds appropriately younger and less raspy than he did in Rogue One. There’s also a brief hologram of Saw’s sister, Steela. It was nice to see that she wasn’t forgotten, but she’s used only as motivation for Saw here.
Lastly, something seemed off about the lighting. Some of the scenes were meant to take place in a dust storm, and the lack of a horizon made Geonosis look appropriately difficult to navigate. However, the interior lighting didn’t make as much sense. I’m hesitant to put too much stock in this, because the color may have been affected by my television, but the red light shining into the Ghost on Geonosis didn’t look particularly atmospheric. Instead, it simply washed out shadows and made the characters look less like they were actually standing in the same place as the background. I found myself looking forward to the underground scenes simply because the colors were clearer. For an episode filled with so many interesting concepts, I spent a lot of time just waiting for something cool to happen.