As good as “Spark of Rebellion” the pilot movie for Star Wars Rebels was, it was still mainly all set up. Yes, there’s a lot of heart in it, but after watching it six or seven times in the first couple of days, I was more than ready to dig into some meatier Star Wars Rebels stories. And while I think that the second episode, “Droids in Distress,” fails somewhat in that regard, the episode itself was still quite enjoyable.
In this second episode, the rebels find themselves short on supplies and in need of money, so they take a job from Vizago stealing something that Minister Tua of Lothal is supposed to receive from the Aqualish Amda Wabo for the Imperials. During the job, the crew of the Ghost not only grabs the cargo — which turn out to be disrupters of the type that nearly wiped out Zeb’s people — but also acquire the droids that were accompanying the minister: See-Threepio and Artoo Detoo.
Initially, I had a hard time getting into this episode because of some of the details in the early scene where the rebels pulled a con job on Minister Tua. With the appearance of Artoo and Threepio, I kept waiting for an explanation for why they were there with the minister but nothing was said about it in the scene, which made their sudden appearance feel like it came out of nowhere. Having watched the prequels and Clone Wars chronologically in the weeks leading up to Rebels, it felt abrupt, but it likely won’t be an issue with younger viewers who aren’t as familiar with the saga.
After I got past the droids’ disorientating introduction, my second issue with the sequence was, “Why is this high ranking official taking public transit for what is clearly a classified mission?” Is Lothal really in such bad shape that the minister can’t afford private transportation? Is the Empire really so cheap as to not spring for a shuttle to ensure the safety of their project? It came across as a shortcut to put the Ghost crew in contact with Tua and Wabo and even several views later, I still don’t buy it.
Luckily, I bought just about everything else from the episode. Despite my issues with the scene, I really did like the scam the rebels pulled. It was great seeing them interacting as a team so seamlessly, particularly watching how well Ezra fit into their dynamic. I loved his scuffle with Chopper, in addition to his flight across the rooftops of the city.
However, the heart of the episode was Zeb. We learned a bit about his past and not only did the Empire nearly wipe out his people, but it was Agent Kallus who gave the order. I love the personal connection between the two characters, and it adds more depth to Kallus’ antagonism. With the Inquisitor being the evil counterpart to Kanan and Ezra, I’m hoping we get villains that mirror Hera and Sabine a bit as well.
Kevin Kiner does a fantastic job with the score in this episode, and I think I preferred his music here more than I did in “Spark of Rebellion.” From the second the AT-DPs deploy to the moment that Zeb is saved, Kiner does an outstanding job of weaving in familiar John Williams’ Star Wars cues with original compositions. In “Spark of Rebellion,” I felt the use of Williams was a little heavy handed, but in this sequence especially, the balance was great and felt very Star Wars-y.
Following this climactic battle — which, in itself is a highlight of the episode — we reached my favorite scene in the series thus far: a final scene of Kanan returning Artoo and Threepio to their rightful owner, Bail Organa. Bail’s last couple of lines to Artoo pumped me up for everything that is to come in this series and gave me goosebumps.
All in all, despite a rough start, the episode delivered. It’s story wasn’t as substantial as “Spark of Rebellion,” but showed a good group dynamic for the heroes, added depth to some of the characters, provided some good action, and ended with a final scene hinting at the future. I’m already aching to see next week’s “Fighter Flight.”