P.T. Philben ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Following the short TV feature film introduction, “Spark of Rebellion,” Disney and company presents the first standard length episode of Star Wars Rebels, “Droids In Distress.” “Spark of Rebellion” did a good job in forty minutes of setting a tone and premise for the series that is much more reminiscent of the original Star Wars trilogy than any of its sequels or spinoffs, as well as establishing compelling and interesting protagonists and similarly appropriate villains for the story. This episode succeeds in building on that foundation as well as introducing the inevitable fan service done right.
The story begins with our heroes, the crew of the Ghost, stealing a shipment of illegal weapons known as Disruptors, which are to be sold to a crime lord. In an interesting subplot, Zeb’s species, the Lasats, had previously been nearly wiped out in a vicious campaign that employed these weapons. Zeb takes this personally, but continues with the mission despite his clear trauma. In the process, the crew accidentally also steals two service droids who were in the service of an Imperial official. These droids just happen to be the iconic C-3PO and R2-D2, the beloved droids who had been key players in all six of the films. Naturally, nostalgic humor ensues, but they also serve more to the plot of the episode than simply being welcome cameos.
After the crew decides to sell the droids back to a mysterious former owner who has contacted them (no, not Kenobi), they decide to sell the weapons to their buyer first. However, upon being left alone, C-3PO makes a distress call to as-of-now primary antagonist Imperial Agent Kallus, who tells him, “Help is on the way.” The ensuing battle delivers everything you can expect from a Star Wars battle very well, at least as much as you can expect in a few minutes. It’s got imagination and excitement. It has the elaborate action that is just shy of over-the-top that you would expect from the prequels, along with some emotional weight that you would expect from a lightsaber battle in the original trilogy.
The episode successfully continues the story by driving the existing plot forward as well as developing its characters and their relationships. Zeb, in particular, is subject to some very interesting character development that fleshes out his character as well as giving him a lesson to learn. The primary protagonist, young Ezra, also undergoes some development. Most of it has to do with his big brother/little brother relationship with Zeb, but there is also a change of circumstances that is significant to his arc.
The Jedi leader of the group, Kanan Jarrus, didn’t see any real development this episode, but that seems to be something that the writers are simply waiting for the right opportunity to pursue, which makes sense. Kanan did survive the Jedi Purge that began near the end of the Revenge of The Sith; it can be expected that he has a history marked with dark stories. It’s just that as of right now, he is flirting with the generic quiet-type badass protagonist trope. Sabine Wren could use some development as well, but being a female Mandolorian rebel fighter and graffiti artist makes her interesting enough right off the bat. Hera Syndulla, the Twi’lek owner and pilot of the Ghost, really needs more development, as she is deep in the generic “voice of reason/mother of the group” territory, but not Kanan’s intriguing backstory on which she can rely. It is, of course, only the second episode, but these are some ideas that the writers need to accomplish in the future to avoid criticism.
The old Star Wars imagery is a welcome sight for fans of the saga, and the appearance of everyone’s favorite little robot, R2-D2, as well as the well-liked (enough) C-3PO, are most welcome. They are the perfect warm-up for the references to the already existing Star War cannon that viewers will probably see a lot of in this series. There is also an appearance from a prequel character in a cliffhanger ending, and as it is not Jar Jar Binks, it is pleasing to see, especially with its context.
“Droids in Distress” serves both the show’s overall plot and its connection to the rest of the Star Wars saga. We are not even 100 minutes into this series, but so far, the creators are hitting their marks. Let’s just hope they don’t get cocky.
Overall Episode Rating: B+