It seems that I keep on writing that this show suffers from bad pacing. Events will get set in motion only to peter out. There are some impressive action sequences, but they don’t do a lot to advance the plot.
I know, this is getting repetitive. Someone let Dave Filoni know.
Well, once again, after setting up Thrawn for his impending return the show kills all the momentum by jumping back to the court martial of General Hera Syndulla. Cranky Senator Xiono takes the opportunity to royally chew her out while Mon Mothma tries to soften his tone. Hera is defiant, insisting she did the right thing because she discovered the hyper-ring and the potential for Thrawn’s return.
There are a lot of reasons this scene annoys me, beyond the way it took us away from Thrawn in a distant galaxy. The show is really hammering home that the cranky Senator is bad and mean for not letting our cool heroes do whatever they want, but he’s not wrong! This is representative democracy! This is literally what Hera and Ezra and Ahsoka—not to mention Luke and Leia and Han—were fighting for! And yes, it is totally way more exciting to go and blow up Death Stars and get into lightsaber fights than it is to debate budget resolutions, but that is what governments need to do! Yes, we’ve established that Xiono is petty AF. They sent three battle cruisers to collect Hera and three X-Wings. But guess what? The military is not allowed free rein to contravene government orders. That’s how coups happen! And the Senator is right to be pissed about a general disobeying direct orders.
Not even a cameo by C-3PO, bearing a Get Out Of Court Martial Free card from Senator Leia Organa, can make this sequence less annoying. Hera gets off with a warning from Mon Mothma, who quietly asks her how real the threat from Thrawn is. Hera tells her to be concerned.
The Space Whales have arrived at the distant planet, only to find themselves in a minefield. Thrawn mined the area so he’d know if anything tried to approach. (See? Planning. Although hurting the nice space whales is a real dick move.) They jump back into hyperspace leaving Ahsoka to navigate her way through the debris field, with several enemy pilots chasing her. Although Thrawn orders them to hold back…
His plan is simple. He fully expected Ahsoka to show up, and since Jedi are notoriously hard to kill, he’ll send his troops to keep her distracted and busy. Until he can head back home with a mysterious cargo that he’s loading into the Star Destroyer. And it’s working so far! The remainder of the episode is almost entirely Ahsoka and Ezra and Sabine fighting off bandits and Troopers.
Ezra and Sabine are floating along on the wagon train of pods that the little blue turtle guys are running, catching up on old times. This is a nice scene that hints at their friendship in a way their reunion last week did not, with Sabine casually filling in Ezra on the events of the last few years he missed. “The Empire was defeated? The Emperor died? There’s a New Republic???” Kind of like Sam filling in Captain America on all the things he missed while frozen in ice.
While they’re chatting, Ahsoka attempts to locate Sabine through her connection to the force. Which might be tricky, given that Sabine has repeatedly said she has no connection and feels nothing. Still, Ahsoka needs to locate her, so she gives it a try and—whadayaknow!—it works! So this is a nice little character beat, tying us back into the training Ahsoka and Sabine did a few episodes ago. Sabine gets a weird feeling, but Ahsoka gets a lock on her and heads off. Unfortunately, Thrawn had the witches “wiretap” the call and they have Ahsoka’s location. He sends his fighters off to harass her.
Meanwhile, Baylan, Shin and the bandits have caught up with Ezra and Sabine. In the other key Force training moment of the week, Baylan tells Shin to go let Thrawn know they found Ezra and Sabine, but he’s not going to help. She’s on her own now. “Your ambition takes you in one direction. My path lies on another.” Before he leaves the rather startled Shin, he drops some more traditional Master-Padawan tidbits for her. “Impatience for victory will guarantee defeat.” Someone paid attention to Master Yoda back at the Temple!
Shin and the bandits charge on the convoy, and the scene is shot like a John Ford western, where the Apaches come out of the hills to attack the conestoga wagon train. Like all of the action scenes in this series, it’s very well done. All of the action this episode is great—Ahsoka flying through the minefield and fleeing from the fighter ships, Ezra and Sabine fighting Shin and the bandits, and Ahsoka leaping out of the ship Huyang is piloting to break out the lightsabers with Baylan again. The action scenes have been a high point of the series. And that would be great, if the action was in service of a story with decent pacing and stakes.
I do love the production design of the Empire ships here. The gunships Thrawn sends out to help Shin appear to have TIE Fighter wings for landing pads. Again, they’re making do by scavenging what they can from wrecks since they can’t exactly go to a starbase for repairs.
Of course, just when it looks bad for Ezra and Sabine, facing off against Shin leading dozens of Night Troopers, that’s of course when Ahsoka shows up. (Ahsoka herself was saved by Huyang firing at Baylan to allow her to escape.) She helps them fight off the Imperial forces until Thrawn withdraws everyone back to base. Baylan’s sudden withdrawal from battle took him by surprise as well. Still, he considers it a victory, since Ahsoka and Ezra were delayed long enough for him to get his cargo transferred without interference.
Shin is, again, angered and bewildered by the sudden retreat of the troopers, leaving her alone against our trio. Ahsoka offers to help her, but Shin instead flees. Ahsoka stops Sabine from pursuing her, and instead shares a hug with Ezra. (Wow! A normal response to seeing a friend you haven’t seen in years and thought you might never see again!)
So this was an improvement from last week. We are seeing glimpses of the tactical genius of Thrawn. Ezra is showing hints of why Sabine cares so much for him, with his easygoing manner and jokes. Still, there’s only one episode to go, and a whole lot of threads to tie up. What’s in that cargo Thrawn is transporting? (And how does the hyper-ring transport a Star Destroyer?) How will Sabine and company get back without the whales? What is Baylan doing now? The episode seems to imply that he’s content to wander this new world, freed from the conflicts of the other galaxy.
That’s a lot to wrap up in 40 minutes. I wonder if they can get to everything. Or if this just means we’re setting up for Ahsoka Season 2/Rebels Season 6.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5