The noose is closing on the necks of the rebels of Star Wars Rebels. The crew members of the Ghost have been putting themselves on the line since we first met them, and their efforts have put them on the radar of the Empire. Before we met them, it seemed like they were a fly the Empire could brush away. But now that they’ve made some bolder moves and the secret about Kanan (Freddie Prinze, Jr.) and Ezra (Taylor Gray) is out, the Empire has stood up and taken notice. In “Call to Action,” the high-ranking Wilhuff Tarkin (Stephen Stanton) has been dispatched to Lothal to handle the insurgents.
Tonight’s episode, written by Simon Kinberg and Greg Weisman, hit a serious note from the first scene – which, by the way, was so beautifully designed and lit I had to go back and give it a second look after the episode was over. The instantly recognizable notes of John Williams “The Imperial March” set an ominous tone and was also a nice callback and contrast to the more jaunty version of tune we heard in “Empire Day.” The next thing we see is what seems like the entirety of the Imperial force on Lothal waiting to greet Tarkin, and the scene was a callback to Return of the Jedi. The original trilogy vibe was very strong.
Stanton reprises his role as the Imperial officer with the most defined cheekbones ever, and he hits a harsher, more commanding tone than when we saw him in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. So much of how they developed Tarkin here was fascinating and adds to what we saw of the character in A New Hope. He was clearly important and moreover, Darth Vader listened to him. We saw Tarkin spend time with Anakin Skywalker and other Jedi in The Clone Wars, and now we see he’s turned his back on the Order and is completely aligned with the Empire.
Tarkin’s presence and attitude illustrates that the Emperor takes the threat of Jedi survivors who put themselves on the radar quite seriously. Though Tarkin vehemently insists every Jedi died, he – and the Emperor – understand rumors of a living Jedi fighting back offer a symbol of hope. The spark of hope can lead to full blown rebellion, and the Empire can’t risk that despite its power. If you needed further proof the Empire is worried about Kanan and his group, it was offered when Tarkin ordered the unceremonious and brutal execution of two Imperial officers for failing to capture the rebels. Serious. Business.
While the audience is made to understand the very formidable threat Tarkin presents, the rebels are hard at work on their next act of insurgency. After Trayvis (Brent Spiner) broadcasted a message revealing the faces of the Ghost team and putting a price on their head, they decide to retaliate by broadcasting a message of their own through the Imperial communications tower on Lothal.
I like seeing the rebels take bigger and bolder movies. They’re raising the stakes. Plus, what they’re doing is one step towards doing just the thing Tarkin mentioned would be a credible threat to the Empire: unifying. The more rebels who speak out about the truth and inspire other citizens to fight back, the greater the chance of increasing their numbers. We know what the Rebel Alliance is capable of. Tarkin’s no fool.
The teamwork of the crew was on full display in “Call to Action.” None of them have to worry about who has their back. They practically move seamlessly and trust each other completely, and each of them is more than capable. Sabine was particularly on her game. I especially enjoyed two moments. Kanan using his lightsaber to disable to the door so the Imperials couldn’t pursue his team and so Ezra couldn’t run out and put himself in danger was brilliant. First of all, it was a very Kanan thing to do. Secondly, it puts him in a similar boat as Luke Skywalker and Anakin Skywalker. Luke nearly got himself killed because he ran to Bespin to protect his friends. And Anakin… well, we all know how his need to protect Padmé turned out. It’s dangerous territory for a Jedi.
I also appreciate how no one except Ezra hesitated to jump into Phantom when Hera arrived. That said, I was really confused when everyone hesitated when the Empire arrived ahead of schedule – Zeb, Ezra, and Hera all took a moment to disagree with Kanan. I’m not certain if those short periods of time would have made a difference for Kanan, but they could have.
Overall, the action of the rebels was inspiring. Even though it ended with the capture of Kanan, it emphasized the message of hope and that’s such a key theme in Star Wars (hence the reason I will go to the mattresses with anyone who gripes about Episode IV being called A New Hope rather than Star Wars). The presence of Tarkin demonstrated our rebels have been noticed and there’s hope in that too.
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