P.T. Philben ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
“Breaking Ranks” begins in the middle of the action. Ezra (Taylor Gray) has gone undercover as a Stormtrooper cadet, and viewers don’t even know why until about six minutes into the episode. The team tries to foil an Imperial shipment of Khyber Crystals, which are just vague enough in purpose to be a pretty fun MacGuffin. In order to intercept said shipment, they have to know where the ships are. That is the information that Ezra needs to steal from Imperial Agent Kallus’ (David Oyelowo) office.
Before Ezra gets the chance to do this, however, he has to go through a training exercise with his fellow cadets. The exercise itself does not feel like something that would happen in Star Wars, which takes away from the homage theme of the show. There is also the problem of the challenge of the exercise. The Stormtroopers in the original trilogy were legendary for their incompetence. It seems like if all Stormtroopers were trained in this way, less of them might come off as bumbling buffoons. There’s also the fact that in a more challenging version of the exercise, there is an additional task tacked on that requires sharp aim, a requirement that almost all the cadets seem to meet. The Stormtroopers in the original trilogy never hit anything. It is somewhat of a break in continuity, but also, admittedly, a small complaint that only hardcore fans will notice. It nevertheless is worth mentioning.
When Ezra makes his first attempt to steal the mission’s intelligence, he is stopped by his fellow recruit, Zare Leonis (Bryton James). This is where the episode gets interesting. Zare stops him from taking the information, but only because if he just walked through the door, it would have set off an alarm and ruined the whole plan. Zare is apparently training with the Empire to find out what happened to his sister. He’d been training at the same facility many years before and mysteriously disappeared. The two agree to work together in the interest of sticking it to the Empire.
Later, through a much more elaborate operation, Ezra manages to get the information he needs. While sneaking around the Academy, he discovers that our main antagonist, the Inquisitor, intended to come and take away the most gifted of the recruits for his own purposes. It’s pretty safe to say that he intends to train these young recruits in the dark side of the Force to be agents for the Empire. That would actually justify the Empire recruiting cadets so young. It’s also intriguing when you realize that this is most likely what happened to Zare’s sister. This is all speculation, of course, but it’s hard to see this playing out any other way in broad strokes, and it makes for some exciting prospects for future episodes.
When it is discovered that the Inquisitor is coming, Ezra decides that he cannot leave until he ensures the safety of those who he has come to see as friends and potential allies. Kannan and Hera go to intercept the Imperial transport, which ends up being a pretty awesome space battle. The rest of the team plans an operation to extract Ezra, Zare and Jai Kell before the Inquisitor arrives to take them.
Jai Kell is never established as an important character, but he is voiced by Dante Basco, for some reason. Basco is notable for his work as Prince Zuko on the Nickelodeon series Avatar: The Last Airbender. This is strange, because he is probably expensive, as far voice actors go. He is too valuable and is too talented to use for a throwaway character. It’s hard to say what the writers have in mind for him.
The plan, of course, goes horribly wrong in a number of different ways, but is still ultimately a success. Zare decides he wants to stay behind, which is a little strange. While it’s understandable that he wants to find his sister, it doesn’t makes sense that he would agree to this endeavor in the first place when there was a good chance of him getting caught. This is not to be nitpicky; a nitpick would be pointing out that the Empire should have security cameras that could have proven Zare’s participation. In this case, it is admittedly a very small problem, but it is sloppy writing nonetheless.
This episode appeared to be a straight filler at first, but it turned out to be a sort of hybrid between a filler and an actual plot-advancing episode. The writers came up with an elaborate story that was resolved by the end of the episode. They also put in a detail that will definitely become relevant to the plot later—that Zare stays so that he can find his sister and presumably spy on the Empire as an inside man. Although the episode’s core story was resolved, there are a few cliffhangers that can go in many interesting directions. “Breaking Ranks” was, at the very least, good for providing foundation.
The show still feels like it’s holding back. Since they have so many episodes they need to fill, they want to keep most of their really good stuff for later in the season. That general feeling is the biggest complaint there is to be had with this episode, story-wise. Other than that, it does not feel as much a part of the larger universe than the other episodes did. The episode would have been a waste of time if it wasn’t for one detail. However, that detail is pretty intriguing, and overall it wasn’t a bad piece of entertainment.
Overall Episode Grade: B-