Last week’s Star Wars Rebels revealed a little about Sabine’s (Tiya Sircar) background, and in “Empire Day,” we learn more about Ezra Bridger’s (Taylor Gray) past and parents. It unfolds against the background of a holiday. Empire Day commemorates the day Emperor Palpatine ended the Clone Wars and created the Empire; it’s also Ezra’s birthday. The occasion gives the rebels a prime opportunity to make a splash.
Before we get to the events of the exciting Empire Day parade on Lothal, we stop by a cantina where the crew of Ghost is chilling. Everyone deserves a day off, right? Right. Stormtroopers bust into the establishment looking for a Rodian who Ezra happens to recognize as family friend Tseebo (Peter MacNicol). The scene is brief, but it reveals much about the current state of the Empire. The stormtroopers yell at the bartender about not having the Imperial HoloNet on; it’s illegal not to air the broadcasts in a public establishment. They of course change their tune when Trayvis (Brent Spiner) breaks through the feed to spread anti-Empire sentiments.
Upon realizing the Empire is searching for someone he knows, Ezra runs off to his home on Lothal to grab a key. Meanwhile, the rest of the gang proceeds with their plan to cause some trouble. The Prime Minister of Lothal (Kath Soucie) takes advantage of the crowds gathered for the parade to showcase one of the latest constructions from the Lothal shipyards: an advanced TIE fighter. Just as it’s about to go out on its first flight, Sabine and Zeb (Steve Blum) distract the crowd with stunning fireworks – seriously, Disney theme parks should be jealous of these fireworks – while Kanan (Freddie Prinze, Jr.) plants an explosive on the ship.
Then comes my favorite part of the episode: when a stormtrooper questions what Kanan is doing so close to the ship, he pretends to be an enthusiastic and patriotic citizen admiring the Empire’s fine work. It’s hilarious, and Prinze completely nails the fake tone of adulation. It’s nice to see another facet of his personality. Ezra pops back up and helps solidify Kanan’s story before a whole different kind of fireworks begin.
Chaos ensues when the TIE fighter blows so the rebels have to put their joy aside to get away. And they are joyful – as happy as kids on Christmas morning. Beyond the risk of making sure they didn’t harm any innocent citizens, this operation didn’t have other high risk stakes. The rebels did it as a demonstration, to make a statement and show the residents of Lothal that there are people fighting back.
Interestingly enough, Kallus (David Oyelowo) is present and while he wants the arbitrators of the explosion caught, he’s more concerned with finding the Rodian. As stormtroopers fan the area and the rebels’ initial escape plan falls through, Ezra leads him to what used to be his home so they can hide. It also happens to be where Tseebo is holed up.
The poor Rodian is in bad shape. He’s wearing an Empire implant on his head that looks like the headband we saw Lobot wear in The Empire Strikes Back. Sabine continues to show off her smarts by recognizing that the implant must be full of valuable data and starting to extract it. We see a preview of what Tseebo has in his head: plans for Imperial ships, details on the Empire’s next steps, and a preview of a five year plan for all of the Outer Rim planets – including Lothal.
It’s yet another eerie reminder of what the Empire is doing behind their shiny parades and propaganda. Tseebo walks and talks like someone with a scrambled brain. He’s clearly been wrecked by whatever the Empire’s done to him. I’ve talked about the similarities between Firefly and Rebels before, and I’m bringing it up again because Empire Day reminded me of Alliance Day and Tseebo made me think of River.
Tseebo’s ramblings uncover more about Ezra. Empire Day is his birthday; he’s 15 now. We also see that like Tseebo, Ezra’s parents, Ephraim and Mira (voiced by Dee Bradley Baker and Soucie), were striking back against the Empire with underground broadcasts. The Empire took them away eight years ago, and Ezra has been on his own since then. I would imagine keeping eyes and ears open for word about them will become part of the rebels’ mission. Ephraim and Mira could still be alive, and before the episode cut to the “to be continued,” Tseebo said he knows what happened to Ezra’s parents. That’s likely all the kid will be focused on.
The rebels realize it’s important to get Tseebo out of the city and off the planet as soon as possible. They manage to steal a transport and plow through the Empire’s barricade. I was disappointed here with both the Empire’s inability to create an effective stopping point and with the rebels having such an obvious and not foolproof plan. It’s lucky that Sabine was able to punch through.
An exciting, well designed, and well animated action scene follows. Agent Kallus grabs some stormtroopers and chases after the rebels. Ghost flies in so they can evacuate from the roof of the transport to the ship. Chopper assists the mission by firing upon Kallus’ transport, and he flexed his arms in triumph after he successfully took the transport out of action. Such a little movement but oh so wonderful.
Kallus and Kanan engage in a brief battle before everyone boards Ghost and gets away – please note that Hera managed to evade three TIE fighters, one piloted by the Inquisitor (Jason Isaacs) – and Kanan used some wicked Jedi moves. They were almost too fancy, but they were so visually impressive that I don’t mind. Yes, I can be distracted by shiny things.
I have big hopes for Tseebo’s knowledge. The information he has could lead to the first huge win for the rebels and be one of the milestones in the formation of the Rebel Alliance. The Empire is so desperate to catch him that it’s a sure sign they’re worried about the Rodian’s intel ending up in the wrong hands. The fact that such an important turning point is tied to Ezra’s past is clever and enriches the plot.
“Empire Day” is our first two-parter of the series, and the format works especially well for Star Wars Rebels since the next episode is available on Watch Disney XD immediately. You don’t need to have the patience of a Jedi to find out what happens next.
What did you think of “Empire Day?” Let me know in the comments.