This Star Wars Rebels review contains spoilers.
Star Wars Rebels: Season 4 Episode 5
Ezra’s return to Lothal is a chance to see just how much the young Jedi has changed. As it turns out, it’s also a glimpse at what Rebels might be doing more now that the series is drawing to a close. “The Occupation” wraps up a lot of loose ends from season one, showing an environmentally devastated Lothal and the oppressive rule of the Empire. It’s also mostly a set-up episode, getting our characters to where they need to be for the next one.
Disney XD continues to air two episodes in one night even if they aren’t technically two-parters, and I can see why they did it for “The Occupation” and “Flight of the Defender” even if the two aren’t numbered. Both deal with Lothal and with infiltrating the TIE Defender base, quietly mulling over the ways in which both Ezra and his planet have changed. As a reviewer, the back-to-back episodes incited a slight writer-panic about whether I should write one review or two; as a fan, showing two in a row gives me a lot more to ruminate on. With the show usually taking a holiday hiatus and some big questions still to answer, I don’t think that even showing two per Monday for the rest of the season would make the season feel light on content, so, my critique of this results to just a bit of television jet lag.
Speaking of time, Ezra’s preoccupation with his home planet offers a lot to unpack here. The Ghost crew (sans Ghost) are dropped on Lothal by Rex and Kallus — and more on that later. They split up, and Ezra finds out that the places he thought would be the safest have been the most dramatically changed.
There’s a lot going on with him here, from the environmental devastation of the planet, to his own process of growing up, to the more overt cruelties of the Empire such as the killing of the Ithorian bartender Jho. Ezra has clearly grown a lot, and lashes out a lot less than he would have done in the first season. He notes that he looks younger in his own wanted poster, and still sees Jho’s car as a refuge from the Empire — even though a place that didn’t make the Empire feel welcome was clearly a place that would soon take a beating.
The cameos here were pleasant callbacks to season one. Seeing the Baron working a bar after he gave the Rebels so much trouble as a flying ace last season is an interesting way to show how much has changed and how much Ezra and Sabine have grown. Jai Kell was also worked smoothly into the script, tying off one loose end that makes season four feel a little more connected to what came before.
Speaking of Sabine, I feel like in every episode not actually focused on the Mandalorians I’m saying that I want her to take charge more. Yet again I expected her to bring up her own experience — she also saw her planet changed dramatically by a new regime, and that conversation could be a chance to bring her and Ezra closer together. It also might not sound natural, though, and I don’t expect the script to have to constantly remind fans of a history we saw just a few weeks ago. It still galled a bit that her own paintings were used by Ryder, though, instead of Sabine finding her own way out of the pipes. (Remember how I never trusted Ryder? I still … see no evidence to support my continued mistrust. It’s something in the eyes.)
Between this week and last there was a lot of conversation around Star Wars Twitter on what Kallus’ seemingly seamless defection meant for both the Rebellion and the moral underpinning of the show. Was it setting a bad precedent for an Imperial murderer to be so easily accepted into the fold? This episode addresses that briefly but quickly, with Kallus assuming that he was left in command of the Ghost even though Rex was actually next in the chain of command. I liked Kallus’ over-eager awkwardness, as well as the idea that Hera is so far from considering the idea of leaving Kallus in charge that she talks right over him. The dialogue did intentionally make it sound like Kallus was going to get the captain’s chair, but the episode must have been written well before the fan chatter began. As someone who doesn’t expect the show to linger on Kallus very much, this short conversation was enough of an indication to me that he isn’t quite in the Ghost crew’s good graces yet. Rex’s mistrust is clearly still raw.
The other big conversation in the fandom was about Kanan and Hera, particularly that scene that was very clearly angling for a kiss even though the state of their relationship is technically still a big question mark. I loved the way the atmosphere of this scene seemed to call back to their earlier life in A New Dawn, and I’m pretty agnostic about whether we actually need to see that kiss in canon. They’re the parents of the space family and we probably won’t see much of their private lives. But it is sort of nice to quietly add another bit of proof to the idea that their relationship is canon.
“The Occupation” was essentially one long tracking shot across Lothal, showing how Ezra himself has changed as well as the environmental destruction on Lothal. There’s some universal truths about coming home here, about feeling tugged between the place where one grew up and a new life full of its own adventures. But this isn’t just a case of Ezra feeling different; things have changed dramatically on Lothal. “The Occupation” felt a bit like a grand tour because it reaches forward and back through the entire series, and that’s a good thing.
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