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Star Wars Rebels

The Occupation/Flight of the Defender (Star Wars Rebels - S04E05-E06) - Television

Series: Star Wars Rebels

Title: The Occupation / Flight of the Defender

Season: Four

Episode: 5-6

Original Air Date: October 30, 2017

Runtime: 44 minutes

Credits: Review & Text: Mike Taber; Page layout & Design: Chuck Paskovics

"Everyone is suffering, Ezra." SPOILERS. 

A return to Lothal seemed inevitable heading into the final season, and we didn’t have to wait very long to see Lothal again. The Ghost crew’s confinement to Lothal in the beginning of the series felt restrictive and Lothal might be the blandest planet in the galaxy, but returning to Lothal is honestly a necessary step in the series’ conclusion. I can’t say I was happy to see Lothal again, but the return was needed to bring closure to these characters and refocus the series as it heads towards its conclusion. Although Lothal hindered the series’ forward momentum in the beginning, it is now the key to a refocused and more serialized narrative that will hopefully build to a satisfying conclusion and right the ship with Ezra’s character. After receiving a transmission from Ryder that the Empire was testing an updated version of the TIE Defender on Lothal, Mon Mothma agreed that it was time to send Ezra and the Ghost crew back to Lothal. The increasingly frustrated Ezra immediately accepted the assignment but said he wasn’t coming back. To me, this was the most important moment in the episode. Is this the endgame for Ezra? That line would seem to indicate that his one goal is to free his people and Lothal and is no longer concerned with the larger rebellion. This is a big moment for Ezra because it commits him to specific cause, which is needed because of his wildly inconsistent characterization, and removes him from the larger rebellion. Removing him from the larger rebellion is a necessary step in Ezra’s journey. I stand by my assertion that Ezra should not be in the picture or involved with the rebellion by the time of A New Hope (Kanan either). Localizing Ezra to Lothal and refocusing his character is the first step in both fixing the “Ezra problem” I discussed in the previous review and setting up the endgame for his character.

   

The various connections to Star Wars Rebels’ past were among these episodes’ greatest strengths. From returning to Lothal to featuring characters we haven’t seen in a long time like Vizago, Ryder, and Ezra’s friend from the Imperial Academy, the connections to the past felt rewarding and reinforced the cohesive and interconnected nature of the world Filoni and company have built over the course of four seasons. Vizago was a fairly prominent character in the first season, but saw his role in the series usurped by the far more charismatic Hondo Ohnaka. Vizago returned for the first time since the beginning of season two and agreed to smuggle the Ghost crew through the now heavily blockaded Lothal. While on Lothal, Hera entrusted the Ghost to Rex and Kallus. Rex had a couple nice moments in this episode with his attempt at clone humor and reminding Kallus who was in command. The Ghost crew’s actual return to Lothal was one of the episode’s best moments. Ezra’s realization that the Empire’s rapid industrialization and militarization scarred his home and destroyed the planet’s environment was a powerful moment, and brings to mind Ezra’s assertion in the season premiere that Lothal and Mandalore were very different. In reality, they share similar fates. The return to Lothal didn’t just demonstrate the environmental consequences of Imperial occupation; it also showed how imperial rule can strangle a society and oppress the local population. Star Wars Rebels really hasn’t depicted a direct and brutally oppressive Imperial occupation before, and that depiction’s impact is magnified because we are seeing it unfold on Lothal. The show’s earliest episodes featured incompetent Stormtroopers, sparse Imperial forces, a portion of the Lothal population that welcomed Imperial rule, and a lighter, Robin Hood style approach to the Ghost crew. Now Lothal is an Imperial stronghold whose environment has been gutted and the population has been enslaved and forced to work in the Empire’s factories. This shift is perhaps best represented by Old Jho and his bar. As Ezra pointed out, Old Jho represents the resistance against the Empire and his bar felt like the one place where the Empire wasn’t welcome. Yet, Old Jho had been executed and his bar was now being run by the Empire. The transformation of Lothal has been gradual, and it was smart to play the long game. Just as it was smart to represent that transformation through a familiar character and place.

   

As Ezra was learning of Old Jho’s fate, Kanan and Hera had a moment alone. It’s a brief moment, but it is one of my favorite scenes in the episode. I always appreciate small, character moments and Kanan and Hera’s relationship is one of the show’s strongest ongoing storylines even if it is never the focus. The rebels were forced to retreat into the sewers that Old Jho had used to smuggle members of the resistance before his death when they were discovered by Imperial forces. The Imperial forces that pursued the Ghost crew were more numerous and relentless than the bumbling Stormtroopers they faced in season one, further reflecting Lothal’s evolution. Although, I was once again disappointed by the use of the Death Troopers. This Death Trooper fared better than his predecessors, but it feels like the writers are relying on the Death Troopers to create the perception of a threat when in reality they are about as competent or threatening as a regular Stormtrooper. Ryder saved the rebels just in time, but was frustrated when he learned that the rebellion wasn’t sending further assistance.

   

Ryder, Ezra, Sabine, and Zeb went on a scouting mission to observe the test flight of the new TIE Defender. Deciding that footage wasn’t enough, Sabine and Ezra embarked on a mission to steal the Defender’s flight data recorder. Things didn’t go according to plan when Thrawn arrived. Thrawn simply saying “fascinating” as Ezra stumbled around the base fighting Stormtroopers was delightful, as was his refusal to back down as the hijacked TIE Defender fired at him. This episode fairly successfully incorporated humor into a more serious storyline. From Thrawn’s “fascinating” to the two Stormtroopers chasing the Loth-Cats, the humor felt natural and added to the overall experience without taking over the episode.

   

Sabine and Ezra stole the TIE Defender prototype, but Thrawn saw this as an opportunity to test his latest weapon. Thrawn’s willingness to sacrifice Imperial pilots to test the TIE Defender felt perfectly in character, and his quick analysis of who was flying the ship once again demonstrated his intelligence. Thrawn was used perfectly here and the TIE Defender continues to impress. It’s a great design, fun to watch, and represents both Thrawn’s intelligence and an alternative technological innovation that could have wiped out the rebels. The Empire’s ability to disable the ship from a distance was a nice callback to the episode that introduced Wedge. Ezra and Sabine hid the Defender’s hyperdrive after a Loth-Cat led Ezra to a cave. Ezra kept seeing a Loth-Wolf and when one appeared it put Sabine to sleep and carried them away from the Imperial forces. Ezra asked the Loth-Wolf why it helped them, and it replied by saying “Dume.” This is a reference to Kanan’s real name, Caleb Dume. I’m going to take a wait and see approach with the Loth-Wolves. I have reservations, but I trust Filoni and appreciate it whenever Star Wars explores the mystical and weird aspects of the force. I will say that the Loth-Wolf features the most impressive animation we’ve seen in Star Wars Rebels. Nothing they have done has been as detailed or expressive as the Loth-Wolf. However, I do think the design may be a little too literal. “The Occupation” and “Flight of the Defender” are Star Wars Rebels at its most serialized, which is a breath of fresh air as far as I am concerned. These episodes also helped refocus and develop Ezra as a character, which was sorely needed after three seasons of inconsistent characterization.

   

What Worked

  • The return to Lothal and connections to the past
  • Increased serialization and a refocused narrative
  • Thrawn and the TIE Defender
  • Improvements with Ezra

What Didn’t Work

  • Death Troopers
  • Loth-Wolf design may be too literal (but was beautifully animated)
External Links:
Added: November 19, 2017
Category: Star Wars Rebels
Reviewer: Mike Taber
Score:
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