(Warning: contains full spoilers. Read at your own discretion)
The Star Wars Rebels season one finale, “Fire Across the Galaxy,” was the conclusion to a three episode arc that saw the crew of the Ghost formulate and enact a plan to rescue their captured comrade, Kanan Jarrus, from the clutches of Grand Moff Tarkin and the Inquisitor. More than that, it was the culmination of the entire first season, tying almost everything from the season together in one nice, tidy package while setting the stage for grander things in season two.
This episode had everything that makes Star Wars great: there were blaster fights between our heroes and stormtroopers, exciting space battles, and the best lightsaber duel in the series to date. With so much action, “Fire Across the Galaxy” moves at a breakneck pace, yet still manages to pack in a fair amount of drama.
Kanan in particular is given plenty of room to shine. Early on in the episode, the Inquisitor taunts him about Order 66 and the death of his master, Depa Billaba, revealing the heart of Kanan’s insecurities as a Jedi and explaining his wariness in training Ezra early on in the season. However, by the time Kanan, Ezra, and the Inquisitor are dueling in the engine core of Tarkin’s Star Destroyer, Kanan is able to move beyond that, stepping up and seeming like a true Jedi of old.
Ezra isn’t given as much development in the episode itself, but it is striking how far he’s come since the premiere, “Spark of Rebellion.” He’s developed from a street rat who wouldn’t stick his neck out for anybody into a team player who is the first to volunteer to rescue Kanan. By the time Ezra uses the Force to pull Kanan’s lightsaber off of the Inquisitor’s belt, he had become a true hero, and I found myself rooting for him more than at any point in the series.
The duel itself was also stunning. Staged amidst rail-less catwalks between a master, his apprentice, and a Dark Side Force user, it was easy to draw parallels between it and the final duel of The Phantom Menace. Composer Kevin Kiner even uses a chorus to give the music a more epic feel, but instead of going for an obvious riff on “Duel of the Fates,” he wrote something more akin to a mash-up of “Battle of the Heroes,” “Zam the Assassin and the Chase,” and “The Clash of Lightsabers.” It was a perfect send up of John Williams’ Star Wars music without being a direct lift and was also fantastic.
Another interesting parallel to The Phantom Menace duel was how Kanan believed Ezra was gone much in the same way that Obi-Wan thought Qui-Gon was dead (though, both by different methods, and Kanan was actually wrong). Whereas young Kenobi took the moment to get more charged up and attack Darth Maul with all of his might, Kanan took a quite moment to look inward before continuing the battle against the Inquisitor. The different approach seemed to work too, as by the end of the fight, Kanan wasn’t the one hanging from a ledge but rather it was the Inquisitor.
The Inquisitor’s apparent demise was also a nice callback (foreshadowing?) of Luke’s sacrifice at Bespin. Both would rather hurl themselves off of ledges than face Darth Vader, and I’m hoping we get a chance to see exactly why that is at some point on this show.
While Kanan and Ezra were tasked with carrying the emotional weight, Hera, Sabine, and Zeb still got to do what they do best. Hera’s leadership was front and center, Zeb got to be the muscle, and Sabine showed off her artistic prowess in the form of the paint job she gave the TIE that Ezra and Zeb had stolen in the earlier episode, “Fighter Flight” (that paint job also led to a laugh out loud moment for me as two stormtroopers see the TIE, with one saying, “That’s not regulation,” and the other replying, “I kind of like it”). The trio also got to shoot a lot of stormtroopers and have a thrilling escape aboard the painted TIE, so even if there wasn’t as much dramatic heft, they weren’t on the sideline.
And Hera did have one great dramatic moment: when she reunited with Kanan. Come on, there’s something going on with those two, right? Call me a shipper, but I expected them to kiss at that moment and am now rooting for them to just come out and say, “Yeah. We’re together.”
And then, there were the last three minutes of the episode.
I’d read the spoilers. I knew who Fulcrum was rumored to be going into the episode. Still, when the crew stepped back onto the Ghost and received a transmission from Senator Organa, my anticipation was at a fevered pitch, and I started to wonder if they were going to pull the rug out from under me. That’s one of the reasons I love reading spoilers: you can “know” a detail, but it’s not the same as experiencing its execution. Months of believing that Ahsoka Tano would be revealed as Fulcrum received validation as the hologram of Bail Organa faded away, and she stepped down the ladder, introducing herself to the Rebels. As Ahsoka is one of, it not my favorite character in Star Wars, it was one of the greatest Star Wars moments I’ve experienced as a fan, right up there with seeing every film in the theaters (and the hours of discussion I’ve had with fellow fans on Twitter since the Ahsoka reveal has only deepened the experience).
And then Tarkin returned to Lothal, announced to Agent Kallus that the Emperor had provided them with an alternative plan to dealing with the Rebels, and Darth Vader exited the shuttle, ending the episode.
Well played, Star Wars Rebels creative team. Well played.
All in all, this episode felt like a game changer for the series. The stakes have been raised, there are new allies, new threats lie on the horizon, and our heroes find themselves but one part of a growing Rebel movement. Nearly everything from the first season was paid off or wrapped up (except for the Empire’s desire to secure farmer’s land for mining… I imagine we’ll be seeing you soon, Lando and puffer pig), and the future for the show feels limitless, just as the best stories in the Star Wars galaxy do.