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Star Wars Rebels

Zero Hour (Star Wars Rebels - S03E21-E22) - Animated Series

Series: Star Wars Rebels

Title: Zero Hour

Season: Three

Episode: 21-22

Original Air Date: March 25, 2017

Runtime: 44 minutes

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

“What Jedi devilry is this?” SPOILERS. 

Say what you will about the first two seasons of Star Wars Rebels, but they both ended on a high note by delivering fantastic finales. I highly doubt Rebels will ever top “Twilight of the Apprentice” and “Fire Across the Galaxy” is easily one of the series’ best episodes. “Zero Hour” didn’t quite live up to its predecessors, but it was a fitting end to an inconsistent season. There is a lot to love in “Zero Hour”, but it was held back by a few noticeable shortcomings. I will say that I’m glad that this was an hour long episode. Rebels can often feel rushed when it tries to cram too much story into 22 minutes, and even with the extra time “Zero Hour” was a jam-packed episode. However, I think they found a nice balance with all of the characters involved. Rebels has a bad habit of forcing Ezra into the spotlight and forgetting that characters like Hera exist. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case with “Zero Hour.” Ezra has been insufferable (and unnecessary) for most of the season, but he was fine as a member of the ensemble. The writers had to balance Thrawn, Hera, Ezra, Kanan, Bendu, Sabine, Zeb, Rex, Kallus, Sato, Dodonana, Pryce, and Konstantine in this episode and they somehow pulled it off. Some characters had disappointing roles (Pryce, Konstantine), but overall most of the characters were given their due. Star Wars Rebels often works better when the ensemble is the focus. Character focused episodes may deliver a great Kallus episode or something like “Trial of the Darksaber”, but it often leads to subpar episodes that focus on Ezra or the droids. In addition to properly balancing the characters, I really enjoyed this episode because it felt like classic Star Wars. “Zero Hour” captured the spirit of the Original Trilogy, even if faltered in some areas.


The two-part episode began with Thrawn’s arrival on Lothal. This time, Thrawn was flanked by two Deathtroopers. It was great to see the Deathtroopers show up in Rebels and it makes sense that someone like Thrawn would have his own unit of Deathtroopers. They didn’t really do anything of note in this episode, but it was a nice connection to Rogue One. Thrawn contacted Tarkin and revealed that he had learned of the rebels’ plan to unite and attack Lothal. Tarkin ordered Thrawn to capture the rebel leaders, which handcuffed Thrawn during the battle later in the episode. The meeting with Tarkin was also a trap that Thrawn set for Kallus. He knew that Kallus would be listening and that he would then rush to warn the rebels. Thrawn confronting Kallus was one of the episode’s highlights. The confrontation perfectly demonstrated that Thrawn is both a physical and mental threat. Thrawn made quick work of Kallus and he used Kallus’ transmission to pinpoint the rebel base. Although Atollon was not in the Imperial records, Thrawn had studied the art of the region and discovered its existence. Using the region’s art to learn of Atollon’s existence was a classic Thrawn moment. General Dodonana and his fleet had arrived at Atollon to support Phoenix squadron, but they were soon trapped by the Imperial fleet. Thrawn had deployed two Interdictor cruisers which prevented the rebels from entering hyperspace. The inclusion of the Interdictors was a surprising but welcome callback. The rebels had no choice but to engage Thrawn’s fleet in a desperate attempt to get a single ship past the blockade. This opening space battle was a little clunky in terms of direction, but it managed to convey the scale of this battle. As the rebel fleet was being destroyed around him, Sato sacrificed himself by drawing out an Interdictor and crashing his own ship into it. Sato’s sacrifice allowed Ezra to slip past the blockade. Sato’s sacrifice was well done and surprisingly effective. Sato has been on the show since season two, but he’s virtually a blank slate. We never got to know him as a character so it’s a miracle Sato’s sacrifice worked at all. What didn’t work was Konstantine disobeying Thrawn and engaging Sato. Thrawn was handled really well in this episode. The problem with that was the writers failed to commit to showing the full consequences of the rebels facing a cunning opponent like Thrawn, more on that later. They wrote themselves into a corner. In order for Thrawn to look competent AND have the heroes escape, they had to rely on incredibly stupid and/or unrealistic actions committed by other characters. Konstantine has long been portrayed as an idiot, but this was a step too far even for him. His decision to engage Sato simply didn’t make sense. Konstantine may be incompetent, but we have never seen any indication that he would disobey a direct order. Konstantine should have been executed for incompetence long ago, so his death wasn’t even impactful. At least he’s finally gone. As I mentioned, Thrawn was handled well in this episode and the opening battle allowed us to get to know him even more. As usual, he was patient and calculating. His plan would’ve worked if Konstantine wasn’t an idiot. At one point, Thrawn said “I do not require glory, only results for my Emperor.” I liked that line because it demonstrates that Thrawn is a true believer in the Empire.


Thanks to Sato’s sacrifice, Ezra made it past the blockade and contacted Mon Mothma for help. Mon Mothma refused since that is exactly what Thrawn would want. I was glad that Mon Mothma refused to send help. That decision once again demonstrated her intelligence and leadership. Desperate, Ezra set off to get help from Sabine (at least they finally realized that Sabine had left). With their fleet decimated, the rebels were forced to retreat to Atollon’s surface. While the battle was taking place above the planet, Kanan went on a journey to get help from Bendu. In short, Bendu got angry and disappeared. The rebels activated the base’s shield, and Thrawn began an orbital bombardment. The rebels watching the bombardment from inside the shield was a stunning visual and one of the episode’s best moments. Kanan miraculously survived even though he was outside of the shield. Following the bombardment, Thrawn launched a ground assault. For those wondering why Thrawn didn’t just continue the bombardment, remember that Tarkin had ordered Thrawn to take prisoners. That’s on Tarkin, not Thrawn. Rex and Zeb lead the initial defense, but were forced to retreat when Thrawn sent in the AT-ATs. Rex and Zeb were an entertaining team. I’m surprised that we haven’t seen an episode that paired them up before. Kanan arrived and cut off the legs of an AT-AT while Thrawn and the Deathtroopers moved in. Thrawn and his forces surrounded the rebel leadership. Speaking of leadership, Hera was fantastic in this episode. While most of the Ghost crew is a mix of bland and actively annoying, Hera has really come into her own as a character. Hera’s leadership and Vanessa Marshall’s performance anchored this episode. Hera’s battle of wills and wit with Thrawn has been one of the best ongoing storylines this season.


Victory was within Thrawn’s grasp, but then Bendu the angry Force cloud arrived. Now it’s time to discuss my main issues with this episode. Let’s start with Bendu. Bendu was an intriguing addition to the series at first, but for me that character is a swing and a miss. Having a wise, otherworldly force sensitive creature voiced by Tom Baker show Kanan how to deal with his newfound blindness in the season premiere was very interesting. However, Bendu was all but dropped for the rest of the season. Tom Baker was fantastic in the role, but that’s not enough. A character like Bendu needs to add something of value or a different perspective to the show, but I think they really dropped the ball in that department. Bendu endlessly repeating “I’m the one in the middle” doesn’t really offer a new perspective on the Force. Despite being forgotten for most of the season, Bendu returned so the writers would have an excuse for the rebels to escape Thrawn. Bendu turning into an angry Force cloud, which let the rebels escape Thrawn, might be the most blatant deus ex machina in all of Star Wars storytelling. I did appreciate that Thrawn immediately went into threat assessment mode and shot Bendu out of the sky though. The very idea of Bendu turning into an angry Force cloud doesn’t work for me. I love the Mortis trilogy, so I’m fine with exploring different and weird sides of the Force but this was a step too far. Bendu the angry Force cloud belongs in the same category as space whales, singing AP-5, and helicopter Lightsabers. Meanwhile, Ezra and Sabine lead a Mandalorian task force that disabled the last Interdictor. Kallus escaped his Imperial captors, joined the rebels, and they all escaped the blockade. That brings me to my other main issue with this episode. Although Thrawn was well handled and Lars Mikkelsen continued to give a phenomenal performance, this wasn’t the crushing defeat it needed to be. Thrawn had been building up to this moment all season, and in the end he failed. Of course he wasn’t going to kill everyone, but there needed to a lasting and emotional impact from his first major assault. Yes, he prevented the attack on Lothal and destroyed most of Phoenix Squadron. Sato even lost his life in the battle, but it still didn’t feel like it was worth the slow buildup. As I mentioned a little earlier, the writers had to rely on increasingly unrealistic plot points to ensure that all of the major characters escaped. They simply didn’t follow through on showing the consequences of engaging Thrawn. Konstantine’s idiotic decision cost Thrawn his victory. Bendu turning into a ridiculous Force cloud allowed the rebel leaders to escape Thrawn. Then Pryce’s out of character incompetence allowed both the remaining rebel ships and Kallus to escape. Really? Whether killing off a significant character (Sato wasn’t developed enough to count) or ending the season with some of the rebels in Imperial custody, there needed to be more weight to Thrawn’s victory. Thrawn had no reason to keep Kallus alive for example. They were even telegraphing Kanan’s death in this episode. Kanan told Ezra that he had nothing left to teach him. That moment coupled with Kanan’s speech to Bendu about standing up for what you believe in made it feel like they were building to something. He was even outside of the shield during the orbital bombardment. The writers pretty much forgot Kanan was still alive this season anyway. Not to mention how Zeb has all but been forgotten. It will be interesting to see how they will handle Thrawn moving forward, especially after his final encounter with Bendu. I’m also interested in seeing how they will integrate Kallus into the Rebel Alliance. “Zero Hour” was a fitting end to season three. See you next season, Star Wars Rebels fans!


What Worked

  • Found the right balance with the Ghost crew
  • Hera’s leadership
  • This truly felt like classic Star Wars
  • Thrawn handled well…

What Didn’t Work

  • …but this wasn’t the crushing defeat it needed to be
  • Everything involving Bendu
External Links:
Added: April 9, 2017
Category: Star Wars Rebels
Reviewer: Mike Taber
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