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Star Wars Rebels

Breaking Ranks (Star Wars Rebels - S01E04) - Animated Series

Series: Star Wars Rebels

Title: Breaking Ranks

Season: One

Episode: 4

Original Air Date: November 3, 2014

Runtime: 22 minutes

This week on Star Wars Rebels, Ezra went undercover in the Imperial Academy. SPOILERS.

“Breaking Ranks” was another solid episode of Star Wars Rebels that shifted the focus back to Ezra and set up some interesting new plotlines. The episode opened in the Imperial Academy and we quickly learn that one of the Imperial cadets is actually Ezra on an undercover mission. The first test Ezra and the other cadets have to go through is called the Well. The design of the Well seemed to be heavily based on concepts introduced by Star Wars: The Clone Wars, which was a nice touch. The Well seemed like a combination of the clone trooper training grounds on Kamino and The Box from the season four Rako Hardeen story arc. Ezra easily passes the first test. However, Ezra’s actual mission is to steal an Imperial decoder from Agent Kallus’ office. One of the most interesting aspects of this episode is finally getting to see what kind of training Stormtroopers receive, but it is kind of a mixed bag. One aspect that really worked for me was seeing how Stormtrooper training compared to Clone Trooper training. The Star Wars: The Clone Wars episode “Clone Cadets” showed us what Clone Trooper training is like, and it is very different from Stormtrooper training. The clones trained their whole lives and were forced to work together as team to complete a nearly impossible final test. The clones received very intensive training and were taught that loyalty and brotherhood were key to survival. In contrast, Stormtrooper training seems to take place over a few weeks and the cadets are encouraged to sabotage each other because there is no friendship in war. Victory must come at all cost for the Empire. After seeing how they are trained, it makes sense that the Stormtroopers make such incompetent soldiers. What I didn’t like was the small scale of the Imperial Academy. There were only eight total cadets. The sparse environments and small scale of the Imperial Academy seems to demonstrate the limitations of Rebels’ animation style, and its lower budget.


Ezra’s first attempt at stealing the decoder is thwarted when he is discovered by a fellow cadet, Zare Leonis. Zare is actually there to warn Ezra, if he had walked through the door with the decoder alarms would have been set off. Zare tells Ezra he wants to help because his sister went missing under mysterious circumstances. Zare distracts Kallus while Ezra uses the Force to lift the decoder into the ventilation duct. On his way back to his quarters, Ezra overhears an Imperial Commander talking to the Inquisitor. Commander Aresko tells the Inquisitor that he has identified two cadets that met his criteria, Ezra and his friend Jai Kell. The Inquisitor states that he will personally come to Lothal, test them, and take them into custody. This is very interesting concept I hadn’t really thought about before and one that is perfectly set up by the additional scene with Darth Vader in the premiere. The Empire is using Imperial Academies to identify potentially Force sensitive children and taking them into custody, presumably to either turn them to the Dark Side or kill them. When I’ve thought about the Dark Times I always thought about Darth Vader hunting down the remaining Jedi but I never considered what would happen to potentially Force sensitive children born during this time period. It just speaks to evil and foresight of the Emperor that he would institute these kind of policies.


Ezra sends the decoder to the crew of the Ghost via Chopper, who is also undercover, along with a message telling them that he was going to stay behind to help save Jai from the Inquisitor. Ezra tells Zare and Jai what he overheard and Zare know believes it was the Inquisitor who was responsible for his sister’s disappearance. Ezra, Zare, and Jai all agree to escape after the next challenge. Meanwhile, Kanan and Hera launch an assault on an Imperial convoy carrying a Kyber crystal after using the decoder to discover the convoy’s location. The use Kyber crystal was another great tie-in to Star Wars: The Clone Wars. A massive Kyber crystal, much like the one in this episode, was the focus of the four unfinished Clone Wars episodes recently released onstarwars.com. The space battle involving the destruction of the Kyber crystal was a lot of fun and some of the best animation yet on Rebels. With that being said, this side plot and the episode as a whole felt rushed. I would have preferred if this episode had focused on Ezra’s undercover assignment and the next episode dealt with the mission to destroy the Kyber crystal. Star Wars: The Clone Wars was successful at telling one story over the course of multiple episodes and I hope Rebels will follow suit when necessary. Some stories are too big for one episode. After an escape involving a stolen AT-DP, Zare decides to stay behind to find what happened to his sister. Ezra tells him they’ll stay in touch. Ezra and Jai escape with the crew of the Ghost while Zare is taken into custody by the Inquisitor. I liked the character of Zare Leonis. I thought he had an interesting backstory and his position as a possible spy for the rebels is intriguing. “Breaking Ranks” introduced some interesting concepts and characters but the execution left room for improvement.

What Worked

  • Finding out what happens to Force sensitive children discovered by the Empire
  • Introduction to Zare Leonis
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars influences

What Didn’t Work

  • Rushed storytelling
  • The small scale of the Imperial Academy
External Links:
Added: November 8, 2014
Category: Star Wars Rebels
Reviewer: Mike Taber
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