This Star Wars Rebels review contains spoilers.
Star Wars Rebels Season 4 Episode 11
After the emotional beating that was “Jedi Night,” “DUME” shows how the characters of Star Wars Rebels deal with grief — on both the Rebel and Imperial sides. Governor Pryce is still alive, but her decision to destroy the fuel depot to stop the Jedi has brought Thrawn’s wrath down upon Lothal. Hera and Ezra descend into personal journeys to deal with their loss, while Sabine and Zeb take a more active tack and brawl with Thrawn’s enforcer, Rukh.
Ezra and Hera both get room to breathe in this episode, and I’m glad it balanced action scenes with emotion to allow the audience to breathe a bit too. Ezra deals with his emotions like a Jedi — by meditating — but finds himself in a dreamlike version of Lothal populated by fierce and furious loth-wolves. Executive Producer Dave Filoni pulled out all the stops when it came to embracing the imagery of the wolves, which brings with it real-world ideas about folklore and conservation. It’s utterly effective, personifying the wilds of Lothal or the Force. The wolves are angry now. Just when one might expect the show to double down on the wolves as powerful, serene spirits, they become something more animalistic, more viscerally frightening, and more real.
They also add to Ezra’s grief. He’s a child mourning his father figure, and now he is confronted with these terrifying creatures and doesn’t know what he did wrong. The lights in the sky of Lothal are also particularly beautiful in this section, clueing the viewer in on the fact that Ezra isn’t quite in Kansas anymore while also soothing the emotions from “Jedi Night.” The Force goes on, those lights say. The planet goes on. And Ezra still has a mission to follow. I’m very curious to see what Rebels will do next with the Jedi Temple on Lothal.
Overall, one of the things that gives me the most confidence about the end of this season is the way the final few episodes are paralleling the beginning. Kanan and Hera spoke about the first time they met, which was detailed in the novel A New Dawn that came out around the same time Rebels season one premiered. Zeb quips that Imperials don’t get days off, also referencing the productivity specialist featured in the novel and noting how the transformation of Capital City from free democracy to Imperial factory is complete. I wouldn’t be surprised if the season ended at the transmission tower where Ezra’s story started, and as predictable as it might be, I love stories that neatly close around themselves that way. Rebels would feel very complete if it ended as it began.
Speaking of Zeb, he and Sabine turn around and head back for the city almost as soon as they get the news that Kanan is dead. Their portion of the episode brought the action, and the brawl between Zeb and Rukh was neat, especially with the weird little added detail that Zeb thinks Rukh is incredibly creepy. (Are Noghri in the uncanny valley to the Lasat, just similar enough to look wrong?) However, the fight lost me a bit when Sabine announced herself before ganging up on Rukh — I guess she wanted to be honorable, but doesn’t that take away half of her advantage? This scene also featured the classic Star Wars animation habit of characters announcing things obviously seen on screen, as when Zeb notes that Rukh is invisible. Their segment was very effective in making me believe anyone could die in this series — Kanan was expected, but the prospect of Sabine or Zeb dying struck me as legitimately frightening.
Where Sabine’s reaction to Kanan’s death was fury, Hera’s is a catatonic grief. The kalikori is effectively used as a symbol of their relationship — Kanan spotted Hera in Imperial custody because of it, and there was clearly a potential space for Kanan on the Syndulla family tree. Yet again this is a shortcut, as well as a way for Chopper to remind viewers that he too is part of the Syndulla family. There was that mention of Hera having a brother, too, so brief one could almost miss it. She’s lost a lot, and I’m more and more appreciative of the fact that she lives past Return of the Jedi.
Hera’s emotions vary widely in this episode, as well they should after she saw Kanan die and then had to fight the effects of the truth drug. She doubts everything she believes in, citing the very first time she argued that Kanan should fight for the Rebellion instead of hide away. This is another nice connection to season one and A New Dawn, and it makes sense that Hera would be at a crisis point here. In a way, she’s the voice of the fans who feel like they lost a piece of the Ghost family and can’t yet move on. This is a crucible for Hera, a time when she decides whether she can give up now or move forward. I’m glad the episode gave her breathing room here, but also hope that she doesn’t blame herself much more. The last two episodes had Hera first under the influence of a drug and then under the influence of her own grief. Now I want to see her take matters into her own hands like Sabine does in this episode.
So many of my impressions of these last few episodes will be affected by the finale, by understanding what it was all leading up to or how the characters will change in the bit of time we have left with them. It’s difficult to decide whether I liked “Jedi Night” or “DUME” more, because so many things in “DUME” would not be possible without the previous episode.
“DUME” let its characters breathe in the smoky air of Lothal and breathe out new resolve, as well as show the way the Imperials unknowingly dig their own graves. I’m ready to see the fallout for newly prickly Pryce’s mistake. These two episodes left me eager for more, ready for a victory as cathartic as when Zeb punched a stormtrooper in Kanan’s honor. We’ll see whether the finale is more like Return of the Jedi or Rogue One in tone in due time.