"Star Wars: Rebels" Episode 20 and 21 – Zero Hour (parts 1 and 2) (9 out of 10) – Based on characters and situations created by George Lucas; Starring: Freddie Prinze, Jr., Vanessa Marshall, Taylor Gray, Steve Blum, Tiya Sircar, David Oyelowo; Special Guest stars: Lars Mikkelson, Tom Baker; Rated TV-Y7, Aired on Disney XD 3/25/17. It is currently available on the Disney XD app.
This review may contain mild spoilers.
And so passes another season of Star Wars Rebels and this episode has much less definitive closure than the previous seasons, and there's no solid line to where we might be heading next. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Since the very first episode of season three, we've been shown the ground work being laid to make Grand Admiral Thrawn one of the most formidable foes our Rebels have ever faced off against.
We've seen him poke and prod, examining weaknesses, and we've seen him study their art, learning how they think. We've seen him out-think Fulcrum, we've seen him out-maneuver everyone else who might have gotten in his way.
As the episode comes together, we realize that if left to his own devices, there is nothing in this conflict that can stop Thrawn. His thinking is flawless. It's human elements (and the Force) he can't account for.
These episodes feel desperate. We know that the Rebellion cannot win because we know their first real victory won't be until Scarif. So how do the creators of this episode build any sort of tension? Well, they do it by bringing pieces into play that are wildcards. Namely: Admiral Konstantine's blundering and Bendu's wrath. These are things that Thrawn couldn't have predicted and so his complete smashing of the rebel fleet only becomes a "mostly" smashing.
The Imperial victory here feels very much like the victory on Hoth, though, too. The Empire certainly succeeds in disadvantaging the rebels and forcing them to relocate. And yes, they've certainly wiped out huge swaths of their fleet. But this is not the decisive blow that will forever destroy the Rebel Alliance that Thrawn hopes it to be.
For a finale that winds around a space battle, I'm surprised that all of my favorite parts of it had to do with Raiders of the Lost Ark. At one point, Kanan asks Bendu to get involved in the conflict and Bendu doesn't take kindly to that idea. Bendu himself is very much like the Ark of the Covenant, himself an angry god capable of smiting whoever he chooses. This casts Kanan in the role of Indiana Jones, hoping that he can somehow bend this power to his advantage and Thrawn is left in the role of Belloq. Bendu himself transforms into a weather event much like the depictions we see of the Ark's power in Raiders.
It's an unusual touchstone, but one that works beautifully for me. Especially the visuals. I wouldn't be surprised to find Joel Aron and his team studying the swirling clouds from Raiders to bring similar effects here.
Even the final resolution with Bendu felt like a blend between the mystical disappearance of Obi-Wan Kenobi and the stage effects that allowed Mola Ram to escape in Temple of Doom.
This episode also made me wonder if the story group keeps a chronological list of ships that are in the rebel fleet at any given time and they know exactly when they have to junk a ship on the show in order to keep the timeline consistent.
In the finale, most of the threads that came from so-called "filler" episodes paid off here, from the politics of Mandalore and Thrawn's probing to Bendu's station in the universe and the Y-Wings. Just about everything came back around as a piece on the board here. Even Maul's ship from last episode played an important part.
With so many moving pieces and characters being put on and taken off the field, never once does the action leave you feeling like you're missing something. There's a clear narrative thread that is easy to follow and keeps you guessing.
Ultimately, this pair of episodes is good, but suffers from coming off the heels of one of the best episodes the show has ever had. Although there were emotional character moments here, none of them quite reached the heights that Twin Suns did. It was still a powerful cap to the season and worth all the time we've invested into it. Overall, I still think I prefer season two to three, though. But that's like asking which flavor of ice cream is best: they're both still ice cream. This episode comes in at a 9 out of 10 for me.
I'm excited for season four and feel like we might finally meet General Syndulla and get to Yavin. And Maybe we will see Scarif.
Season 3 Scorecard:
- Steps Into Shadow (8 of 10)
- Holocrons of Fate (9 of 10)
- The Antilles Extraction (8 of 10)
- Hera's Heroes (8 of 10)
- The Last Battle (9 of 10)
- Imperial Super Commandos (7.5 of 10)
- Iron Squadron (7.5 of 10)
- The Wynkahthu Job (7.5 of 10)
- An Inside Man (8.5 of 10)
- Visions and Voices (9.5 of 10)
- Ghosts of Geonosis (8 of 10)
- Warhead (8 of 10)
- Trials of the Darksaber (10 of 10)
- Legacy of Mandalore (8 of 10)
- Through Imperial Eyes (9 of 10)
- Secret Cargo (8 of 10)
- Double Agent Droid (8 of 10)
- Twin Suns (10 of 10)
- Zero Hour (9 of 10)
Season Average: 8.5 out of 10
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