Last night’s episode of Star Wars Rebels, “Breaking Ranks,” finds Ezra infiltrating the Imperial Academy on Lothal in order to steal an Imperial decoder needed to unscramble hyperspace coordinates for a mission that the crew of the Ghost is on. While there, he is assisted by Zare Leonis, a cadet on his own mission to find out what happened to his missing sister. Together, they uncover a plot that involves handing over cadets with certain talents to the Inquisitor, and they must figure a way to escape before Ezra and a third recruit, Jai Kell, are taken captive.
This show is finally coming together for me. I’ve complained in previous reviews that following the premiere, the first couple of episodes felt like steps down, and that last week’s “Rise of the Old Masters” felt like it was finally taking a step forward. This episode continued that momentum and made me feel like this show actually is going somewhere — they’re still just putting the pieces on the board.
A large part of the feeling that this show has a direction that’s only been hinted at came in the form of Kanan and Hera’s mission: stopping an Imperial shipment of a large Kyber crystal. StarWars.com recently released the Clone Wars story reels “Crystal Crisis on Utapau” which found Anakin and Obi-Wan trying to stop the Separatists from obtaining a Kyber crystal and the recently released novel Star Wars: Tarkin by James Luceno has references for a need of Kyber crystals for the deep space orbital weapons platform’s construction that Tarkin is overseeing. Clearly this is all leading to the Death Star, and whether or not this series goes there (I’m suspecting they will), having the need for a large Kyber crystal now show up in three different stories made the overall Star Wars narrative feel somewhat more cohesive (also, it made me want to see “Crystal Crisis on Utapau” get finished and released direct-to-video).
The rest of the story was really well done too. I liked Ezra’s alliance with Zare and Jai (voiced by Dante Basco, Rufio from Hook to some, Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender to others), though I felt like the battle training was a little too sci-fi and not grounded enough — to be fair, that’s a criticism I have of Clone Wars too with clone training and the bounty hunters going through the Box. But the cadets themselves, I really enjoyed, and I’m looking forward to seeing if anything develops from Zare Leonis’ story.
The action in the episode is handled well in every sequence, and I’m torn whether I liked the space battle or the walker battle more. They’re both great moments and give the episode a solid third act. Another great moment that I loved: Chopper painted black and undercover. He doesn’t do much other than deliver messages, but I still laughed when I saw him in disguise.
I still think that I prefer “Rise of the Old Masters” to “Breaking Ranks,” but that’s due to my personal preference of stories where the Force plays a larger part. This episode is equally as good and really strong. In fact, I think I’m ready to watch it for a third time.