This Star Wars Rebels review contains spoilers.
Star Wars Rebels Season 4 Episode 10
“Jedi Night” is the beginning of the end. Although there are four more episodes left in the last season of Star Wars Rebels, the show is in the swift race to the finale. Disney XD continues to air two episodes back-to-back, making each pair a special event and, possibly, hurrying the show out the door to make room for whatever is coming next. With that feeling of finality comes heightened emotion and drama, as well as reflection on what’s come before.
I don’t think it would be entirely truthful to try to look at episode 10 and 11 independent of the Rebels journey as a whole. When Rebels began, the fandom did not yet have a Sequel Trilogy — early hints at what The Force Awakens might contain could actually be found in Rebels tie-in books. Rebels carries the weight of Star Wars history and personal history — I had just started out with Den of Geek when I began reviewing the show. That said, these two episodes followed predictable beats, while also eliciting the emotions they were supposed to.
“Jedi Night” gets straight to Kanan’s efforts to rescue Hera. Their relationship was vague but strong in the past few episodes, the question of whether they’re romantically involved finally answered. In a way, we had the answer all along — they had feelings for each other, but never really found the time and the place to act on them. That time and place turn out to be a pretty standard rescue mission. Governor Pryce does a turn as a frighteningly passionate bad cop to Thrawn’s attempt at good cop, and Hera is drugged with the same type of mind probe used against Princess Leia in A New Hope.
Hera is usually extremely careful with her words, but the mind probe softens her into someone with less control but the same concerns. She insists on her ownership of her kalikori and becomes even more passionate about flight than usual, but the drug also allows her and Kanan to confess their feelings for one another. This forced confession is a trope as old as time, and I don’t necessarily think it’s a death knell for her character — voice actress Vanessa Marshall does a good job of softening Hera without changing her entirely — but it’s also frustrating that her barriers had to be dropped this way instead of Hera or Kanan earning these conversations more naturally. So much of her motivation in this episode was reduced to “because she was drugged.” The dialogue even goes out of its way to note that her confession of love is the truth — but should it have been handled this way? The mind probe was a shortcut to conversations that could have been had another way.
Speaking of Pryce, the Imperials are given their own storyline with admirable economy. The rivalry between Grand Moff Tarkin and Orson Krennic sets their conversations squarely within Rogue One territory and makes the Star Wars universe feel more connected. All of our villains are getting a bit crowded together here, and their dialogue shows one of my favorite bits of underlying moral logic in Star Wars. Heroes band together during adversity, but villains let their personal ambitions drive them apart.
This episode called to another fundamental Star Wars idea too: low-tech and graceful tends to win out over high-tech and heavy. The beginning of the episode features a light, jaunty montage sure to be contrasted many times with the heavier ending. The Rebels build gliders to fly over the walls of the Imperial shipyard, and while the physics of it made about as much sense as the science of Star Wars generally does in space, it was a beautiful idea. The Rebels themselves are muted, Sabine’s hair only colored at the tips. The planet Lothal, however, provides more and more vibrant beauty. The hang gliders felt like a Disney idea in the best way — inspiring, magical, and visually pleasing.
That leads to the biggest event of the episode. Mind the spoiler warning at the top — this is where it gets spoiler-heavy.
Kanan’s death was telegraphed from a mile away, from his final conversations with Ezra to his last “may the Force be with you” and his kiss with Hera. The episode had my heart in my throat as the two of them battled across the rooftops, never sure whether the death was going to be a surprise or a drawn-out performance. True to the Jedi way it was the latter, with Kanan sacrificing himself and pushing his team away from the explosion of Chekhov’s Fuel Depot. It’s utterly predictable, and I’m honestly torn on how I feel about it.
Is this a glorious homage to Star Wars and all the Hero’s Journeys that came before and after, placing Caleb Dume in the same lineage as Obi-Wan Kenobi? (Executive Producer Dave Filoni compared Kanan’s death to Gandalf’s.) Of course it is. I feel for Ezra, who was not at all in the forefront of this episode. I feel deep sadness at the image of Kanan looking back at Hera with his eyes bright, not glazed over with his blindness. However, I also kept rooting for the show to do better, to do something different. Just because the show is targeted for kids doesn’t mean that it has to do the expected thing — many cartoons break that mold.
The episode is still emotionally affecting, though, and I think it will become only more so as the next four episodes go on. Episode 11 begins to untangle the emotions set down in “Jedi Night,” and I’ll talk about that more in my next review. However, I can’t help but think of the best parts of “Jedi Night” as mechanical, Hera forced to be weakened because she would take control of the story otherwise and Kanan emulating Obi-Wan just a little too closely. “Jedi Night” was good, but not great.