Warning! Spoilers ahead! This recap contains major plot details for Star Wars: Rebels episode 1.03 “Fighter Flight”. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!
The episode opens with a scene that is sure to be replicated in kitchens the world over: Ezra, trying to use the Force on his bowl of galactic Corn Pops. This is core Star Wars right here. I instantly thought of Luke Skywalker, albeit in a more dangerous situation, trying to summon his lightsaber while hanging upside down in the wampa cave.
There are some hilarious Chopper hijinks in the beginning of this episode. However I’m still a little on the fence when it comes to this little droid. With R2-D2, one gets a pretty good sense of what the character is all about within the first 10 minutes of seeing him on screen. With Chopper, I get that he’s supposed to be a trickster and kind of grumpy but there’s just something…missing. I think it’s because R2 had a foil in C3-PO. Even though we couldn’t understand what R2 was saying, we had 3PO to interpret for us (and be his complete opposite, resulting in some classic comedy). I’m not saying Chopper doesn’t work, I just think it will take some getting used to a droid without a direct counterpart.
The crux of this episode lies in the dynamic between Ezra and Zeb. The bickering between these two characters is really entertaining. I love how the writers have been able to create a sibling rivalry without Zeb coming off as a bully or Ezra being the annoying kid brother. It just works. The prospect of this episode seemed boring at first. We’ve seen what happens in The Clone Wars when you base an episode around two characters going to the market to find a rare fruit (spoilers: it involves a droid day spa). But once again, I was proven dead wrong and the playfulness of this duo is what made this episode click for me.
In the market, we meet another background character, Morad Sumar. It’s explained that Ezra has known Sumar for some time and it’s later clarified that he was a friend of Ezra’s parents. It seems a little strange to me that this guy doesn’t appear to have any qualms with his deceased friends’ kid living on the streets but who am I to judge? Anyway, I hope this character is used again. I liked his seventies look, which matches up closely with a lot of the people we see in the background on this show as well as the extras in the original films. I’m not quite sure how much more they could do with Sumar but you have to imagine he’s going to have a rough life now as a fugitive from the Empire.
Speaking of the Empire, I was glad to see their cruelty from a more personal level in this episode. The officer’s interaction with Sumar at the marketplace shows how the Empire at this time operates with a front of legitimacy, but then quickly abandons that for shows of force as we see later in the raid on Sumar’s farm. Individual property rights clearly don’t rank high on Palpatine’s list of freedoms to preserve. And the stormtroopers, at least in this scene, managed to regain some of their scariness.
They then have that same scariness promptly stolen away from them in the scene atop the Imperial troop transports. Knocked out by a space pineapple? C’mon man. I was watching this episode with some friends and one of them remarked that Ezra really needs to get a better weapon than that lousy laser slingshot. I have to agree, and I should add that the thing reminds me of the Deku seed slingshot from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time; it’s not entirely useless, but pretty ridiculous when compared to the Master Sword. Luckily, we know from promotional materials and book covers that Ezra will indeed get his very own staple-gun lightsaber in a future episode.
The consequences of Rebels‘ relatively low budget (compared to The Clone Wars) are very apparent in this episode. Don’t get me wrong, all of the animated, moving components are beautifully done, no question there. But the set pieces are decidedly less elaborate than they probably could be. Lothal is about as plain-Jane a planet as you’re like to find in the Star Wars universe. Aside from the Dr. Suess hill things, there’s not much to look at. Even the streets of Lothal, seemingly one continuous marketplace, don’t appear all that busy. The Ghost will surely be a set we see in every episode. Heck, it even looks like we’ll be seeing the red-floored interiors of Imperial holding cells more than a few times.
Fans should understand that this will most likely often be the case, at least with this first season. It is more cost effective for the show’s creators to build fewer set pieces and character models and use them repeatedly over the course of the season than to spend time and money building elaborate environments that may only be used for a couple of episodes. Does this take away from the show? In my opinion, no. Actually, I think the opposite is true. Less money put into set pieces and backgrounds means more money spent to hire a fantastic team of writers, animators to work on facial movements and that superb Kevin Kiner musical score. You don’t need me to tell you that these financial constraints only seem to make the show more effective in helping viewers connect on a more personal level.
I’ll leave you with a few of my final thoughts. “Fighter Flight”, much like the previous episode, “Droids in Distress”, was massively entertaining despite my initial apprehension. Sure, it was classic season-filler (Clone Wars had these too) but this show’s tighter focus and format make episodes like this worth it. All of the TIE fighter scenes were great. It was nice to see the inside of the cockpit with more detail than ever before shown in canonical Star Wars media. I loved the scene where Hera and Kanan sit around the dejarik table and have an almost parental talk about the ship being quieter with “the kids” out and about. I think many parents will enjoy connecting with these two while their own kids are laughing at Ezra’s and Zeb’s antics.
Finally, can we please get some Inquisitor-double-bladed-lightsaber action up in here?