Star Wars Rebels is back! Hot off the heels of the titanic release of Rogue One, and its mid-season premiere kicked off with a story that finally felt like progress after so many filler episodes over the past season. Each week after the first three episodes of season 3 felt like a sneak-and-escape of the week, with some character development, but progressing the main Rebel Alliance and Ezra/Kanan arc at a snail’s pace. Though we did not get any of the Obi-Wan/Darth Maul or Thrawn action that the trailer for the rest of this season displayed this week, we definitely got some interesting plot developments and character insight. In the most recent episode, “Ghosts of Geonosis, we revisit an old Episode II locale, plot line, and alien species, plus a Rogue One connection: the illustrious and intimidating Saw Gerrera returns!
In “Ghosts of Geonosis” , written by Saul Ruiz and Mel Zwyer, directed by Dave Filoni, Steven Melching, and Matthew Michnovetz – the Rebels return to that once insect filled planet, now a isolated and exterminated world. Last time they were there, they discovered the Empire’s massive construction plans and that the Geonosians had mysteriously disappeared. Saw Gerrera led the follow up mission, but was never heard from again. And guess who has to find him? That’s right! The Ghost crew.
After a rough landing, they begin to explore the creepy underground caverns of the insectoid race, thus creating a very tense atmosphere for the episode. Ezra keeps noticing that they are being watched and followed, eventually discovering a lone, scared Geonosian, who uses Clone War battle droids to defend himself from the intruders. Pinned down by these droids, the crew gets a save from the very man they were looking for, Saw! After he bails them out, they exchange information and begin searching for a way out, only to inadvertently find further proof of Imperial special weapons development. They suspected the Empire had been busy on something big, and knew that they had wiped out the population to protect its secret, but now they have actual hard evidence. This becomes important because if they can get physical proof to the Senate, it can really help out the Rebellion. But the Empire knows this too, as overhead the a Star Destroyer has already found them and is seeking them out! They agree to bring back the Geonosian for interrogation, as all they can get out of him (He doesn’t speak Basic) is a drawing in the sand of the Death Star, which the crew does not understand. (But we do!) As the crew races to evacuate, they have a change of heart and decide to let Clik-Clak, their Geonisan captive, stay behind to protect the last queen egg, which can preserve and save his race. They lose the physical evidence of Imperial munitions development unfortunately, and only have their testimony to it to bring to the Senate, which of course is not as helpful. But they do escape with Saw in tow, presumably so he can bail on them, meet up with Bor Gullet, go even crazier, and become the man we see in Rogue One.
What’s even more important than finally having an episode that moves the Rebellion vs. the Empire plot arc forward is that this one has great character moments that bring us closer to who these characters will be, while showcasing the best of who they already are. For example, when we first saw Gerrera in Clone Wars we saw the seeds of the fanatic he would eventually one day become after his sister Steela’s death by Separatist gunship. Now, having lost his entire battle group on Geonosis, we see him further driven to extremism and paranoia in how he treats Clik Clak, forgetting that his unfair treatment of the Geonosian only shows him how similar he is becoming to the evil Separatist/Imperials he has spent his life fighting. At the same time we see Ezra’s strongest characteristic reasserting itself after a season of inner turmoil and confusion: empathy. Though Clik Clak did control the droids that attacked them, he was only doing it to defend himself, as the Ghost crew are actually the invaders of his home. Ezra sees this, and after a long episode of convincing, he gets Saw to finally see it too, and they agree to let Clik Clak go. The theme of avoiding the danger of becoming just like the thing you are fighting against (something that characters like Saw and Cassian Andor in Rogue One have to face) is tied into how seductive the dark side of the Force, the easy path, is for all of us to take if we keep letting the ends justify the means. Though Saw, hurt by the loss of his sister, presumably the loss of Jyn by this point, and now the loss of his crew doom him to his darker, extremist fate apart from the Rebels (and I’m sure his run in with Bor Gullet does not help keep his cool), Ezra especially, and the others as well, still maintain their empathy, for now, and keep true to the good of the rebellion, despite all the temptations otherwise.
Another important moment in this episode involves Kanan and Rex. After Kanan’s impressive use of Force powers around everyone (something we don’t often see him do in the show) by making a bridge out of rock and making an incredible Force jump (and Force push for Ezra) Rex recalls how awesome it is to have a Jedi handy, and Saw agrees. He then recounts that though despite this awesome power, Kanan “is no Skywalker”. This is a heavy name to be throwing around, and perhaps hints at more appearances and displays of power by Vader later in the season. It also casts a dark tone, perhaps foreshadowing that either Kanan or Ezra may have a similar fate, or worse. By the time Rogue One happens, we know that Hera and Chopper are still around, but the rest of the Rebels crew are MIA. Perhaps the show is trying now to fill that gap.
“Ghosts of Geonosis” is another of season 3’s best, after a long string of cute but definitely filler episodes. The first 3 episodes of the season were strong, then it became escape of the week with cutesy character moments. But it feels solid again for winter and spring. We get an eerie atmosphere, helped along by our understanding that terrible things happened on Geonosis, and caps off with excellent action reminiscent of The Clone Wars. We get a bit of nostalgia via battle droids, droidekas, and rocket troopers (Sabine gets to use her awesome new jetpack) and Hera uses the Ghost to frickin’ split an Star Destroyer in twain! It’s a remarkable episode that ties up plot and character development over this season, but also from Clone Wars up through Rogue One. Disney is doing well keeping its Lucas’ big Star Wars universe consistent and in order. Can’t wait to see what’s in store for the rest of the season!