Warning! Spoilers ahead!
This recap obviously contains major plot details for Star Wars: Rebels episode 1.05 Breaking Ranks. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!
I’m happy to report that those of us who were looking for a strong follow-up to this season’s strongest episode yet were, for the most part, not let down by “Breaking Ranks”. It brought the action, intrigue, dialogue and more importantly connectivity that fans have been craving. I do have my nitpicks of course, but it was a solid showing and it proves that the series is headed in the right direction.
This week’s episode was penned by season one executive producer Greg Weisman (Gargoyles, Young Justice). I’ve always had the feeling that Weisman is one of those guys who knows he’s doing what is essentially a kids’ show but takes the manual on writing television for kids and throws it out the window. While “Breaking Ranks” obviously was not as dark as “Rise of the Old Masters”, there were several times where I took note at the thematic depth Weisman put to work here.
Mostly I’m referring to the end of the second act, where Ezra eavesdrops on a holo communication between the Academy trainers and the Inquisitor. It’s revealed that, per a mysterious “mandate”, the trainers have identified cadets who display certain Force-like abilities and then turn them over to the Inquisitor to be imprisoned, killed or worse. It’s a great twist in the episode for sure. What’s more is that this scene, combined with the Darth Vader scene at the beginning of last week’s ABC re-broadcast, really opens up a whole realm of possibilities for this show and beyond. It’s encouraging to see such forward-thinking plot lines being laid out early in the first season.
Also of note was the reason for Ezra going after the data card in the first place. We finally figured out why those unfinished Clone Wars story reels were released a few weeks ago! Apparently the data card Ezra steals contains the location of an Imperial shipment of a large kyber crystal (the kind used to power the Death Star superlaser. Very clever, Mr. Filoni, very clever indeed.
I think we can all agree that the real star of this episode was Zare Leonis, voiced by Bryton James. James has previously worked with Weisman on Young Justice as the voice of Virgil Hawkins (anyone remember Static Shock?) and he did a fantastic job as the voice of Zare. The improved facial animation of Star Wars: Rebels’ character models lends so much more power to the delivery of talented voice actors like James. I’m confident we’ll see Zare Leonis again and is it just me or does anyone else feel like we’ll be seeing this long-lost sister of his, Dhara? Perhaps as a pupil of the Inquisitor? As with all speculation, only time will tell…
And now, a few nitpicks. I absolutely detested the chalk line texture of the design on the floors and walls of training area. I kept finding myself wondering why it wouldn’t have wiped off instead of focusing on the actual episode. Also, are we supposed to believe that the same guys beating on fruit sellers and responding to distress calls in the marketplace are the same guys in charge of teaching cadets in the Academy? As an aside, I’ll be referring to the skinny guy as Commander Slackjaw Greyface and the fat one as Taskmaster Fake Cockney-Accent from now on. Kallus: please fire these idiots!
My griping aside, there are some beautiful shots in “Breaking Ranks”. Namely, the opening shot of Lothal that makes great use of light-dark symbolism, and the colorful kyber explosion toward the end. The sound design was immaculate. I pretty much love every shot of the Ghost in space because the bass rumbles my entire living room.
Of course, fans will draw immediate comparisons between this episode and some previous Clone Wars episodes so I’ll point out a few myself to get ahead of the curve. A similar episode I know will come up is “The Box”, in which a group of bounty hunters are put to the test and must escape a 4-sided room by climbing up columns that extend randomly from the walls. There’s even a portion of the challenge that involves having to shoot moving targets on the walls to progress. It’s a fair comparison to make.
However, more concerning to me is that fans will point out that this episode is just a carbon copy of “Clone Cadets”, where a group of clone soldiers undergoes training on the planet Kamino. Granted, the visuals are similar (grid-like pattern) but thematically, these episodes couldn’t be any more different.
Which brings me to my last point. I want to be done with Clone Wars comparisons. I’ve seen enough episodes of Rebels to know that this show can and will stand on its own. I feel it should be judged that way instead of constantly being stacked up against a series which served a very different purpose from Rebels. From now on, I’ll make a point to focus on the merits of Rebels on its own. Sure there will be the occasional callback to TCW (c’mon y’all, we know Ashoka is coming back) but I’ll try keep my nostalgia to a minimum.
Come join me back here each and every week as I recap weekly episodes. Also, leave a comment or tweet at me @dtippetts or @rotoscopers to get in on the discussion in between episodes and possibly have your input featured in an upcoming recap! Here’s some feedback on last week’s episode “Rise of the Old Masters”:
benjamin boekelaar says:
“I guess the whole keeping her bones explains why Jedi are always cremated when they die.
I loved this episode, if the show keep[s] this quality of story telling I’ll certainly be sticking around.”
“Spot on Dallin. This episode was fantastic and really sets the mood for future episodes and seasons. Sure there will be playful moments sprinkled in, but in the end, the focus will be The Inquisitor.”