When Star Wars Rebels left off last week, Ghost and her crew were being chased by the Inquisitor (Jason Isaacs) and Tseebo (Peter MacNicol) had told Ezra (Taylor Gray) that he knows what happened to Ezra’s parents. It was a dramatic ending to what was the best episode of the season so far (read my review). “Gathering Forces” picks up in the middle of the action, and things are not looking optimistic for Ghost. Luckily, there’s not just any pilot at the helm. Hera (Vanessa Marshall) navigates them through a barrage of incoming shots from multiple TIE fighters and keeps calm while doing so. I continue to be impressed by her skills and am convinced she could earn some cash on the side by teaching anger management courses.
While they avoid being blown to pieces – and that’s very important – they’re not able to dodge a fancy tracker placed on the ship by the Inquisitor. Hera plans an escape and while she and the rest of the crew scramble to deal with the intense situation, Ezra asks Tseebo what he knows about his parents. The Rodian’s brain is addled by the implant, and he can barely stutter out an apology for not saving Ezra’s parents and failing to look after him. Ezra gets angry, and though it’s hard to watch, he’s just a teenager. And he’s not a terribly mature teenager at that – not emotionally. His knee jerk reaction made total sense.
As Tseebo helps repair the navigation system that lets Hera put Ghost into hyperspace, we see that he has flashes of lucidness and intelligence. He’s able to detect the tracker and let the rebels know they’re being pursued through hyperspace. Though it was convenient that Chopper got repaired in just enough time to help them detect the precise location of the tracker, it wasn’t completely unbelievable. When they realize the tracker is on the hull of Phantom, the crew quickly figures out other options.
I appreciate that Kanan (Freddie Prinze, Jr.) is smart enough to realize that he and Ezra are also being tracked with the Force. He comes up with a plan (well, most of one) to take the Phantom to the asteroid where Sabine and Hera were recently stranded. That’s right, our old pals the fyrnocks make a come back already. I don’t have a particular attachment to the creatures that are scared of sunlight, but Rebels consistently references previous encounters and stories and it makes the show and galaxy feel so much more cohesive. Star Wars: The Clone Wars didn’t do enough of that, and it’s clear they’ve learned how to tell stories differently in Rebels.
Anyway, once on the asteroid, Kanan is forced to use the situation to train Ezra with experience rather than teaching him in a safe environment. Ezra does seem to learn better through practical application and while there are a tense few moments before he connects with the fyrnocks through the Force, he gets himself and them under control. The whole scene was nerve-racking but tempered with a beautiful moment where Ezra realizes he’s being held back by being afraid of the truth about his parents and his misplaced anger with Tseebo. Being aware of that and forgiving Tseebo open the door to the light side of the Force.
And back on Ghost, Tseebo confirms that he did indeed volunteer for the Imperial implant as a way to make up for not protecting Ezra’s parents. He was actually just trying to get information on what happened to them and ended up with the additional data by accident. Hera hands him off to Fulcrum. We have no idea who Fulcrum is just yet, and it’s possible Hera’s contact could be someone as notable as Ahsoka Tano. Wouldn’t that be something?
Tseebo gets off Ghost safely, but Kanan and Ezra have some work to do before they can escape the asteroid in one piece. The Inquisitor continues to intrigue me because he’s obviously so determined to take down Kanan and Ezra, but at the same time, he’s understated. He doesn’t have a big personality or a booming voice. He takes his job seriously but goes about it with a matter of fact and confident approach. Isaacs contributes so much to the character with his even and haughty tone. It’s such an effective approach.
The Inquisitor is also more than capable of handling himself in a fight. His battles with Kanan are dynamic, and yes, I’m still hung up on the beauty of the lightsabers in this series. The animation and lighting are so spot on. Ezra jumped right into the middle of things, and you’ve got to admire his moxie. The beat where the Inquisitor took the lightsaber back within a second of Ezra brandishing it was a nice moment of levity to add in, and I can’t pinpoint why, but I really dug that he dragged the two lightsabers behind him on the ground while he taunted Ezra. It just had an air of nonchalance that fit with the character.
The events brought about Ezra’s first experience with the dark side of the Force, and I was surprised by what happened to Ezra physically as well as the fact that Kanan instantly recognized the symptoms. It does make me think back to the last time they saw the Inquisitor and that maybe Kanan should have taken a minute to explain the dark side to Ezra – it seems like Force 101 – but the misstep emphasizes the fact that Kanan isn’t a fully trained Jedi and has never been a teacher. He’s human. He’s going to screw up.
Things end on a heartwarming note as Sabine (Tiya Sircar) digs up an image of Ezra’s parents from a holodisc. It was a satisfying way to cap the episode even if we didn’t the chance to learn what Tseebo told Hera about Ezra’s parents.
A couple of technical and story things I want to call out: the Inquisitor throwing his lightsaber? It nearly made me fist pump, and I’m clearly not on Team Empire. That was a cool move. And how about the Phantom dropping out of hyperspace? Not only was that a neat first for us to see in the Star Wars universe, it was visually stunning.
What did you think of “Gathering Forces?” Share your thoughts in the comments or talk to me at Twitter.