"Star Wars: Rebels" 1.3 – Droids in Distress (7.5 out of 10) – Directed by Steward Lee; Written by Greg Weisman; Based on characters created by George Lucas; Starring: Freddie Prinze, Jr., Vanessa Marshall, Taylor Gray, Steve Blum, Tiya Sirca, David Oyelowo; Guest Starring: Anthony Daniels, Phil LaMarr, Paul Ruebens Rated TV-Y7, Airs on Disney XD 10/13/14.
After the release of the initial movie, "Spark of Rebellion," hopes were raised for what exactly a show like "Star Wars: Rebels" could deliver. The initial episode (of which you can read my first impressions here) gave us a take on the "Star Wars" universe stitched from the best of the old and the new. Could that balance be maintained going forward? And how would time on the show advance in general?
This episode starts in the middle of a getaway, leading me to believe that every episode might well give us the "Indiana Jones" treatment for the last adventure before plopping us into the new one. This episode re-envisions the opening shot of "A New Hope" again, with the Ghost on the run from an Imperial Star Destroyer.
In fact, my single biggest complaint about this episode is that the transition between the old adventure and the one we were embarking on was far too abrupt. I honestly checked to see if I'd missed a piece of the episode because time just shot forward mid-plan.
After that initial jarring, you warm into the episode and are given a number of questions to answer that don't seem to connect in the end. Chief among them, "Why are Artoo and Threepio in this episode and in the employ of the Empire in the first place?" It didn't make sense at first and there was no mystery built into it until the question was answered. The entire conceit of using everyone's favorite droids was a little clunky and felt a bit shoehorned, but when you get down to it, what is "Star Wars" without the droids?
Perhaps the biggest highlight for me in this episode was not the legacy character cameos (including Bail Organa) but Paul Ruebens returning to the galaxy far, far away as RX-24, the pilot on a Star Tours flight. That I was able to get the feeling and vibe from the old Disney ride punched all of the proper nostalgia buttons for me. In fact, even though I love the new version of Star Tours, I still find myself watching old videos like this one.
Through the initial film, we saw the deepest glimpses into Kanan and Ezra's past, this episode gives us that glimpse into the past of the Lasat, Garazeb Orrelios. Zeb, as he's known to the crew, fought in the honor guard of his homeworld before the Empire cleansed it.
This episode was a lot of fun but it certainly suffers from heavy handed exposition and a show that's still trying to fight its footing.
As for visuals, this episode took a step further than "Spark of Rebellion," particularly of note were the purple cityscapes on the planet the crew took a Star Tours flight to. It reminded me of the stunning vistas in John Ford films, or in "Attack of the Clones" when Anakin is on the hunt for his mother. The show, though it looks different than "The Clone Wars" is no less gorgeous in its own ways, much more painterly.
Aside from that, the action is thrilling and I can't wait to see more. I think once we get deep into the season, we'll see what this show truly has in store. In the meantime, we're given a soup of nostalgia that we'll eat gladly on a cold, rainy day.
Overall, I think this episode is a solid 7.5 out of 10. It's a lot of fun and a lot of nostalgia, but the story structure left something to be desired.
This episode airs October 13, 2014 on Disney XD, but is available now on WatchDisneyXD.com and as a free download on iTunes.