"Star Wars: Rebels" Episode 4 – The Antilles Extraction (8 out of 10) – Based on characters and situations created by George Lucas; Directed by Saul Ruiz; Written by Gary Whitta; Starring: Freddie Prinze, Jr., Vanessa Marshall, Taylor Gray, Steve Blum, Tiya Sircar, David Oyelowo. Rated TV-Y7, Airs on Disney XD 10/8/16.
This review will contain mild spoilers.
This episode brought us our first taste of Gary Whitta's writing. You'll recognize his name as the original screenwriter brought on board to bring "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" to life. The episode begins in media res with the rest of the A-Wings under Commander Sato's command destroyed, leaving them with a critical lack of ships and pilots, especially since they gave the Y-Wings they stole before to General Dodonna.
But all hope is not lost. A new contact inside the Imperial infrastructure has tipped off Phoenix Squadron about a group of Imperial pilots at an elite Imperial facility who want to defect to the Rebellion. Since Ezra is too well known in Imperial circles and since Sabine has had cadet training, they insert her deep undercover as an Imperial cadet to find the would-be defectors and get them out.
The episode plays out largely how you'd expect from there. Governor Price and Agent Kallus have heard of the pending extraction and arrive aboard the station to investigate. Complications ensue, Sabine makes contact, and works to get Antilles, Hobbie "Two Fighters Against a Star Destroyer" Kilivian, and a new pilot named Rake off planet and into the Rebellion.
The story and its complications here aren't necessarily as interesting as the character moments we get. For a Sabine episode, we get a lot of great interaction between Ezra and Kanan in a master/padawan relationship. They've mended their fences over the Sith holocron and Ezra is an eager student again. But he's still learning to repress his urges.
The other interactions we're going to hear much ado about are between Sabine and Wedge. They play up the classic Luke/Leia relationship, at least in the Death Star Escape sequences. Wedge is a bit hapless, but a great pilot. Sabine is easily the more experienced, daring, and hilarious of the two. There is a certain amount of arrogance Wedge had when flying, though, that makes him charming. We all know what happens to Wedge and where he ends up, so this could very well be bad news for Sabine in the long run.
The thing I loved about this episode was that it added to the characterization, but still paid attention to the overall plot and let some seeds from last season sprout. First, Governor Price on the scene is great news in advancing the Thrawn situation in the overall arc of the season. Secondly, the new Fulcrum seems pretty obvious and that creates a lot of interesting possibilities.
Although there is no certainty behind who Fulcrum is, I believe at this point that it's Agent Kallus. Someone with audio editing software will be able to re-engineer Fulcrum's voice in this episode and I'm almost positive it will turn out to be David Oyelowo, the voice of Kallus. This was definitely my vague suspicion through the first half of the episode, but events in the second half made me up my confidence level in this prediction exponentially.
Whitta's writing seems deft with the characterization, but that could also be that he's framing a story with already established characters. The dialogue was sharp though, and the best line might have been, "That's cute." It really was just a perfect moment. The characterization of Wedge set it up beautifully, though. He's really a kid here, not the double-Death Star destroying badass we remembered from later. He's not that great under interrogation and he just wants to fly.
It's also interesting that they chose Whitta to write an episode about a character that will inevitably be on Yavin IV close to the timeframe of "Rogue One." Does this mean a Wedge cameo? Obviously we have no idea, but Whitta certainly worked well in this context. It also makes me wonder if any of the other Imperials, particularly the training ace Skerris, might find their way into "Rogue One." Or maybe it's all a feint. We'll all spend our time scouring this episode for clues and there really are none. And that would be fine with me, too.
Technically, this episode is probably one of the most beautiful we've seen. The shots of the base in the sunset are gorgeous and they will certainly draw the attention, but I was more taken with the low lighting situation in the exterior of the flight simulators. It had a very cool look to it and a complicated lighting scheme that reminded me of some of the work they were doing in the last episodes of Season 5 on "The Clone Wars."
This was a visually stunning episode that further advanced the overall plot of the season, while at the same time giving traditionally underserved characters time to shine. It also introduced Wedge Antilles into this part of the timeline, which can only be a great thing. The stakes weren't quite as high as last week, though. I did like it, though. The more I watched it over the last week, the more fun I had with it. This episode is going to age well. This is a comfortable 8 out of 10.
Season 3 Scorecard:
Season Average: 8.33 out of 10