This Star Wars Rebels review contains spoilers.
Star Wars Rebels Season 3 Episode 17
I’ve wanted to see an episode like this since season one. The Clone Wars veteran writer Henry Gilroy and relative newcomer Nicole Dubuc collaborated on a well-written episode that finally established some of the dynamics between the Imperial characters. I tensely wondered who was going to die, then laughed harder than I have in a while. With its personal stakes and some clever connections to the rest of the Star Wars saga, “Through Imperial Eyes” is exactly what Rebels should be.
As the title suggests, Agent Kallus serves as the point of view character for a large portion of the episode. When Ezra is captured by the Empire as part of a plan to extract Kallus, the two have to work together to frame another Imperial and escape. Part of what I think works about this episode is that it isn’t a vehicle for a lesson about trust: Kallus and Ezra outright say that they’re going to have to trust one another, but that’s shown and not told. Instead of a neat lesson, we get a really solid story of intrigue within the Imperial ranks.
In the course of Kallus’ plan, the characters themselves don’t always know what’s going on. Misdirection and incorrect assumptions are used very well to explain why characters do what they do, even as the audience might shout at them to stop. After all, Kallus is an agent, a spy, for a reason. This is his job. The Imperials are often wrong in this episode, but they aren’t entirely inept. Instead, they’re just understandably confused by the chess game between Kallus and Thrawn. (Lyste in particular has never been able to catch a break. His ambition as both supply master and crewman have been far from pleasant, but I can’t help but be a bit disarmed by his uselessness.)
An episode that takes place almost entirely inside Imperial command ships has plenty of intimidating visuals at its disposal, and the beginning of the episode uses them to great advantage. An artistic first-person point of view shot introduces us to Kallus’ austere surroundings just before we’re thrown into the rush of an Imperial crew. The Imperial bridge looks like a black vice over a green planet. And then things really start. Ezra, with his stained uniform and his voice gone gravelly, is every inch the grungy space pirate when the Imperials pick him up.
Thus begins the exploration of Imperial relationships that I’ve wanted for ages. The Inquisitors are gone, and instead we see the eager Lieutenant Lyste and severe Governor Pryce. Pryce doesn’t have her motivations as neatly explained in this episode as Lyste did, but she does get a chance to shine, and some of the conversations early in the episode indicate that her role as governor of Lothal is still of immense importance. (The Imperials don’t care whether Ezra is a bounty hunter or a Rebel – what matters is that he was an unsanctioned pilot from Lothal.)
As Kallus, David Oyelowo does some excellent work in terms of showing how the double agent feels toward each of the characters. He’s dismissive toward Lyste, and too distracted by his own increasingly precarious situation to listen to the younger man’s worries. Oyelowo also elevates serviceable lines of dialogue into something very funny. His tired “please stop that” and other full-body sighs in Ezra’s direction just exude character. “We all make sacrifices” could have been a very dry line, but the sarcasm Oyelowo puts into it works wonders.
At the end of the episode, that wryness becomes a triumph of misunderstandings, plans, and counter-plans. Kanan and Rex are used sparingly but well, with Rex getting an exciting fight scene. By the time it wrapped up, Kallus’ stress and impatience were practically palpable, which made the resolution especially cathartic. To say much more would be a spoiler, but suffice it to say that this episode made me want to watch reruns just to see how certain characters had developed over the course of the season and what their fates might be next.
Meanwhile, Thrawn shows his prowess. The training scene that has been shown in previews was decently choreographed, but Thrawn is really threatening when he’s thinking, and his ability to identify art and strategies certainly came in handy here.
In terms of a conversation surely had many times in Sherlock Holmes tradition, I think it’s possible for Thrawn to be too good. The audience should be able to follow what he’s doing. In “Through Imperial Eyes” we can, and we can also see exactly why the other Imperials can’t. Thrawn is also patient, a trait that I imagine might clash with other Imperials later on in the season. We’ve seen him behave this way before, such as when he let the Rebels escape in “Hera’s Heroes,” and he seems to have a bigger plan in the works.
Colonel Yularen, now the head of the Imperial Security Bureau, is a less frightening presence. His inclusion in the episode is a neat connection to the Aftermath series, since he worked with Gallius Rax in Naval Intelligence, but he’s still also the voice of that goofy Republic officer from The Clone Wars. Rebels doesn’t do anything particularly new with him in “Through Imperial Eyes,” and he helps Thrawn mostly by being someone to whom Thrawn can explain his own deductions.
Along with bringing the ISB leader in, this episode also neatly references some other parts of the Star Wars saga. The code cylinders on Imperial uniforms are shown to be used to open secure doors. The assertion that “accessing information is easier than transmitting it without an officer’s knowledge” may not be a direct Rogue One reference, but it certainly rings true to what we saw in the film.
It’s somewhat ironic that one of the most enjoyable Rebels episodes in a while didn’t actually feature the Ghost crew very much. Between the atmospheric, threatening setting and the tension between the officers, “Through Imperial Eyes” made the villains feel more like people. Of course, it also showed Kallus’ prowess and the tense nature of his role. Between “Through Imperial Eyes” and “Hera’s Heroes,” Dubuc is establishing herself as a writer to watch when it comes to Rebels.