Recap: ‘Star Wars Rebels’ “Stealth Strike” & “The Future of the Force”
Moving forward from the expository episodes necessary for the building of character, Star Wars Rebels has blown into the wider universe in “Stealth Strike” and “The Future of the Force” as our rebels are put in danger and must use each other and their skills to survive. With Imperials, Inquisitors, and the future of the Jedi in peril, the rebels come together despite their differences to fight for a galaxy without the cruelty of the Empire.
Since the first episode of Season 2 this fall, Kanan (Freddie Prinze Jr.) has held strong reservations about the latest addition to their team, with Rex (Dee Bradley Baker) not warming to the haunted Jedi either. “Stealth Strike” puts these two rebels in the thick of it together when Ezra (Taylor Gray) and Commander Sato (Keone Young) are captured by the Empire and face delivery to Agent Kallus (David Oyelowo) and Vader’s Inquisitors. Though working together doesn’t come easy to the former clone and Jedi padawan, Kanan and Rex put aside their differences for a mission bigger than they ever expected when they discover the Empire’s latest toy.
Filled with amusing moments complimented by heroics and sentiment brought about in the heat of battle, “Stealth Strike” is the perfect episode to bring Rex and Kanan together – well, at least a bit closer. While deep down this episode is about letting go of pride and realizing that intuitions can be wrong, it was brilliant to watch Rex struggling with his too-tight armor, moaning about the inferior quality of it and still showing his strength as an asset to the Rebellion as his time in the clone army pays off and gains them access to their captured associates. While Rex and Kanan’s interactions certainly stole the show, the humor balanced perfectly with the emotional moments and fit will into the exciting battles held in the halls of the Imperial ship.
Of course, the moment we were all waiting for throughout this episode came as Kanan finally accepts that perhaps Rex isn’t a Stormtrooper, but rather his own person and a great ally for the Rebellion. Baker and Prinze Jr. have done a brilliant job building the tension between these two, tension that has always had a reason behind it, and to finally see it begin fizzle out as they each have a hand in helping the other was well done. It’s a strong way to close the gap between the Clone War era and this one, bulked out with a bit of original music, as Jedi and clone fight alongside each other once again, working together, and putting aside their prejudices and fears.
As much as “Stealth Strike” was meant for Kanan and Rex to solidify a trust brokered through a rescue mission, this episode was also a massive moment for Ezra to shine. It seems as though his rigorous training regime with his two mentors has paid off, as Ezra has become a very powerful, clever fighter, leading the escape with a flare that reminds us of the Jedi of old. He and Chopper have some brilliant moments as they work to disable the Empire’s new gravity weapon, but what “Stealth Strike” demonstrates is how resourceful and competent Ezra has become, letting go of his petulance, and it makes us very excited for his future as the Season carries on.
There is also a darker side to “Stealth Strike”, putting our rebels in the precarious position of realizing that even though they have the will and the creativity to win little victories, the Empire and its vast military resources is gaining technological ingenuity in the form of new weapons. Though the Death Star still looms in the recesses of our memory from where we last saw it as a metal skeleton at the end of Revenge of the Sith, the Empire is clearly not resting on its laurels awaiting the presence of the ultimate weapon, and it’s becoming harder for the rebels to escape both Inquisitors and a dangerous Empire. Even with Ezra’s confidence in his skills as a Jedi rebel, and Kanan and Rex’s newfound tolerance of each other, it seems as though the gravity weapon is not the only surprise the Empire will have in store for the Rebellion.
Ahsoka (Ashley Eckstein) returns in a flurry of brilliant white lightsabers in “The Future of the Force” as she helps Kanan, Ezra, and Zeb (Steve Blum) investigate the Inquisitor’s latest activities. As Ahsoka searches for clues on a civilian transport torn apart by the red-bladed team, the trio find trouble on the neighboring planet of Takobo when they discover that Fifth Brother (Philip Anthony-Rodriguez) and Seventh Sister (Sarah Michelle Gellar) are hunting Force sensitive children to prevent more Jedi from being trained. As they race to save a young Ithorian from a less than preferable fate, Kanan and Ahsoka realize that the fate of the Jedi is now in their hands.
“The Future of the Force” and episodes like it are what make Rebels a great addition to the Star Wars universe as we delve into not only how the rise of the Empire has affected the citizens of the galaxy, but also the remaining Jedi left to protect it. It is an exciting, strong episode, laced with nostalgic callings back to The Clone Wars and the underlying danger that every nearly extinct body faces. Plus, there’s nothing like Zeb trying to calm a baby.
“Wings of the Master” introduced into Season 2 the tyranny of the Empire and the effect of the Empire’s rule on its citizens, but “The Future of the Force” brings into play exactly what the title suggests. Imperial propaganda has made it very clear to the galaxy that Lord Vader purged the galaxy of Jedi and all like them, and having a bunch of good-hearted Force sensitives suddenly becoming Jedi doesn’t do well for the Imperial’s image of strength and dominance. Things become more complicated, however, when we realize that the Inquisitors are not killing the children they find, but rather appear to be collecting them for a purpose unknown. Could they be bringing them to the Emperor to be made into Hands, more Inquisitors, the ultimate weapons to be used against the struggling Jedi? It will be interesting to see if and how this plot point is used further along the line, or if, like in The Clone Wars, the storyline will simply disappear.
Ezra once again shines in this episode, his confidence as a protector and a rebel growing with each week. He still retains his boyish attitude, but maturity is quickly seeping into everything he does, especially when under pressure to avoid being stabbed by a red blade. Since his encounter with Hondo Ohnaka, Ezra has truly begun to embrace his role as an integral part of the Rebellion, taking on the responsibility with everything he has and growing into the Jedi and soldier his mentors believe he can be. Unfortunately for the rebels, Ezra’s overconfidence could be their undoing as he carelessly reveals their secret location to Seventh Sister, something that will surely come in handy for the Inquisitors later in the season.
The Inquisitors themselves really get to showcase just how deadly they can be to the Jedi they seek, even if Fifth Brother is easily misled by rebel tricks. However, they are no match for Ahsoka Tano, who receives an entrance of white reminiscent of Vader’s in “Siege of Lothal” and Darth Maul’s in The Phantom Menace. With a blade color incredibly rare and unseen on screen in the cinematic and televised Star Wars canon, Ahsoka shows how far she’s come since voluntarily leaving the Jedi Order to find herself. Her skills with a lightsaber and with the Force are brilliant, and she has become a force to be reckoned with, especially since it seems she can now use the Force to retract lightsabers at will, beating the team of Jedi hunters all too easily.
What a fantastic, exciting, and fitting way to bring Ahsoka back into the fight, as a true protector of the galaxy capable of dealing with the dark evils as a beacon of hope for the Jedi that are left and the Rebellion. The connections between her dramatic entrance and Vader’s in the first episode of the season are well drawn and very clear, allowing former master and padawan to mirror one another as representatives of the Light and Dark Sides of the Force. The correlations don’t stop there, however, as not only does Ahsoka carry pure, white lightsabers – indicative of her entrenchment in the Light – but as she stands over the defeated Seventh Sister and proclaims, “You are beaten,” another voice springs to the forefront of our memories from The Empire Strikes Back as Vader said the same words to his son, Luke moments before he maimed him.
Once again, Rebels’ brilliant use of moments, music, and language from the original films, the prequels, and The Clone Wars creates a fantastic atmosphere for connections to be drawn that make strong moments even stronger.
“Stealth Strike”: (4.5 / 5)
“The Future of the Force”: (4.5 / 5)
(Photos copyright: Disney, Lucasfilm)