Warning: Spoilers for this episode ahead.
I feel like I’ve been down on Star Wars Rebels lately. As much as I loved “Spark of Rebellion,” “Rise of the Old Masters,” and “Breaking Ranks,” the other three episodes, while certainly not bad, just didn’t click for me. It’s kind of bummed me out because I want everything that comes out with the Star Wars name attached to it to be something that I love (as unrealistic as that is). I’ve been holding out hope for an episode to come along and eliminate the growing worry I’ve had that maybe Star Wars Rebels just wasn’t going to be my thing. Something that could change my opinion on the show as a whole from “It’s all right” to “It is amazing.”
“Empire Day” may well have been that episode.
Taking place on the fifteenth anniversary of the establishment of the Empire, our rebel heroes become aware that the Empire is hunting down a Rodian, one whom Ezra recognizes. Meanwhile, the rebels destroy a new TIE Advance prototype at the big Empire Day parade and find themselves running from the Empire. Ezra takes Kanan and Sabine to his parents’ old home, where Tseebo, the Rodian, is hiding. It turns out he’s being hunted because he downloaded a lot of the Empire’s plans — including their five year plan for the Outer Rim — to a computer device attached to his head (think of Lobot from The Empire Strikes Back). Kanan recognizes the importance of the information Tseebo possesses and it’s a race to get him off planet and to safety, even as Kallus and the Inquisitor are on their tail.
I absolutely loved the “weight” of the episode. The events that transpire feel important and push both the overall narrative and the characters forward. Years of binge watching TV via Netflix has left a bad taste in my mouth for what I’ve perceived as “filler” episodes — one-shot episodes that are entertaining on their own but don’t do much to progress the show itself. “Empire Day” was far from that and felt almost like a turning point in the direction of the show itself.
There are some great character moments with Ezra that develop more of who he is while fleshing out his background. From the fantastic opening scene where he is receiving Jedi training from Kanan to a quiet moment with Sabine discussing his parents, it was really Ezra’s episode.
Also, I really enjoyed the humor. Kanan pretending to be drunk had me laughing out loud, as did the goofy look on his face that he gives the trooper who is exiting the transport.
Really, the episode was firing on all cylinders with the writing, direction, and performances. There’s so much about it that not only worked as great Star Wars but also as great storytelling in general. It’s the first episode since the premiere that I’ve watched three times in a row, and honestly, I’ve watched it a couple of more times since then. It’s raised the bar for what Star Wars Rebels can be, and I hope is indicative of what is to come.
Oh, yeah: Kevin Kiner’s heroic version of the “Imperial March” is brilliant.