REVIEW: Star Wars Rebels S1.E01 – Droids in Distress

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This review assumes you have watched the episode for yourself or you don’t mind spoilers.

The rebels intercept a shipment of weapons intended for the Empire and accidentally end up hosting a pair of droids.

Star Wars Rebels‘ third episode just aired on my TV via a ROKU with the Disney XD app. It was a welcome surprise for me.  After seeing “Spark of Rebellion” several times and the 4th episode a few times as well, I had been dying to see the 1st episode to know what an average episode felt like after Spark of Rebellion. The opening movie is a one off opportunity, written by Simon Kinberg no less. The 4th episode was clearly something executive producer Dave Filoni was extremely pleased with and wanting to show to the media because it was exceptional. So the third episode was going to be the “average” for the show, and I felt it was therefore important.

First, the welcome surprise. Seeing See-Threepio voiced by Anthony Daniels and Artoo-Detoo as himself, made me ecstatic. They’re superstars and seeing how they fit into the series as cameo appearances was great. Their reason for being in the story made sense. Chopper and Artoo’s confrontations are some of my favorite things I’ve seen on screen between droids since Artoo whooped Goldie’s tin can in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. I love astromech on astromech violence.

Now, for the HUGE DEAL. Paul Reubens aka Pee-wee Herman voices an RX droid again (RX-24)! The original Captain Rex from Star Tours was voiced by Reubens when the attraction originally opened. Reubens means a lot to me. Star Tours was a huge part of my childhood and Pee-wee was and still is something I adore (Amanda and I caught his stage show when it was in Los Angeles before it went to Broadway). So hearing Reubens as an RX droid again was so awesome and a dream come true. Interestingly, he subdued the voice a bit and it wasn’t the same as Captain Rex from Star Tours which was pretty much identical to Pee-wee’s voice. All I can say is thanks for thinking of and doing that, Lucasfilm.

Where’s the heart? I think that’s always going to be a question asked from Star Wars Rebels, not because it lacks it, but because the series wears it on its sleeve. You know its coming. In this episode, it was through Zeb. He had big issues with transporting weapons that wiped out a lot of his Lasats, his species which are now almost extinct (like Kanan and Ezra’s Jedi Order). Showing consequences for violence and weapons makes good sense and I thought it was a smart way to give the episode emotion. Ezra and Hera’s talk about giving Zeb a break was good too. If  Rebels excels at anything, it is the writing and plot.

Cikatro Vizago. I’m mixed on him right now. When the ship landed at his location, I was happy to see the guy again. Familiarity made me want to see what was up with him. But I found not a lot really is up with him. At this point, I hope something happens to make him cooler to me. Right now, I hate to say it, but I don’t get why Hondo Ohnaka isn’t in Vizago’s role in this series. He is seemingly a diluted Hondo at this point. I suppose it is kind of good they’re not making Hondo less cool by putting him in this role. But there’s still time for me take that back, right? I should say, I like Vizago as a player that brings our heroes into harm’s way with a purpose or a job like we’re seeing here. I just want to see Vizago work as well as Hondo or differentiate himself better as a character.

The reusing of sets made some of the episode feel a little cheap and familiar quickly. The Star Tours sequence was visually dull during the hyperspace sequences. We’re also kind of back to square one with digital extras. Star Wars: The Clone Wars eventually had a lot digital extras and the backgrounds became interesting. We’re three episodes in and I’m already seeing people reused. While Star Wars Rebels is well written, it does feel cheap at times and lacking visually after the stunning work we saw in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Maybe it isn’t fair to compare the shows? But I can’t help but attribute feelings of deficiency to a place where I once saw it done better, which was on The Clone Wars.

All that aside, when they land on Gurrel (not sure how its spelled yet) the city’s look a McQuarrie styled civilization brought to life, even evoking some architectural patterns on the walls which will be seen in Star Wars: Episode VII via the leaked TMZ photos. I wonder if the pattern denotes transport and shipping stations? Hmmm. Anyways, the city looked great. It clearly wasn’t expensive but the style was something one doesn’t get tired of looking at.

I loved the fight between Zeb and the Stormtroopers. Steve Blum really brought the performance out and his little quips at Stormtroopers while he just beats them down was hilarious. That coupled with Kevin Kiner using classic Artoo and Threepio leitmotifs made the sequence really come together.

The walker sequence was awesome. The fight between Zeb and Kallus was neat as well. The series does action well. It was also cool that Kallus dropped some bombs about his Lasat killing days. Ezra’s surprise use of the Force was an emotionally impactful moment mixed with action (especially with the knowledge of what follows in the next episode).

How about that Bail Organa sequence? That was so awesome. So Bail Organa is not only a philanthropist willing to destroy weapons, he was really using it all as an excuse to investigate these rebels he may one day ally with for his Rebel Alliance. Yeah, the guys that blow Death Stars and say “its a trap!” Those guys!

Having seen the episodes that come before Droids in Distress and the episode that comes after it (my personal favorite so far), I feel it is the weakest of the episodes. That said, it was far from bad. It was still pretty freakin’ good. If this is as bad as the show gets, the show is great and after seeing four episodes, I’m liking it. I’m liking it a lot.

 

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