Star Wars Rebels Season 3 Premiere Review
“I will start my operations here, and pull the rebels apart piece by piece. They’ll be the architects of their own destruction.”
Season 2 of Rebels certainly came to an exciting end, and the trailer for season 3 has had Star Wars enthusiasts salivating over the return of a fan-favorite character from the now non-canonical novels. So does the premiere live up to expectations? Well, it sort of does. Steps into Shadow serves as a fine season premiere as it reintroduces the characters and provides a nice overview on where everyone currently stands. Conversely, the narrative it provides is a standard one for Rebels. When one sets aside the elements occurring in the background, such as Kanan’s attempts to understand himself and his fear or the shifts in the Empire’s approach to the handling the rebels, what the viewer is left with is a straightforward narrative about our main characters trying to steal some ships. This might be by design, since it allows for more focus on those aforementioned background elements, but I’m not entirely sure it works. The episode lacks a defining moment, like when Ezra and Kanan first fought Darth Vader in The Siege of Lothal. Even so, Steps into Shadow is the most polished and exciting premiere that Rebels has had, and it has me eager to see where the season will take us.
The episode starts off with Ezra leading an operation to extract Hando from an Imperial prison facility. The mission is ultimately successful, but Ezra’s expanded powers and aggression are apparent and there are hiccups along the way. When Kanan confronts Ezra about his use of the Sith holocron, Ezra argues that it can help him ensure no one else he cares about will die. His temptation is handled subtly. It is a factor that, handled poorly, could have become a weak point for the narrative, like in Episodes II & III, but instead it feels earned and natural. He is teetering on the edge, and, at least for a moment, it is unclear whether Kanan will be there to catch him when he falls. Aside from the Ezra and Kanan, the rest of the Ghost crew is largely relegated to the sidelines for this episode. We are, however, introduced to a few new faces, specifically the Bendu and Grand Admiral Thrawn. The Bendu, voiced wonderfully by Tom Baker, is arguably the more mysterious of the two characters. He provides guidance to Kanan, and describes himself as a Force-wielder who lies in between the light and the dark. It is interesting to see Rebels use the freedom that animation provides when designing a character like this. He towers over Kanan, which gives him an odd sense of intimidation that stands in direct contrast to his demeanor.
Grand Admiral Thrawn, alternatively, exudes a deliberate and cold intimidation. Lars Mikkelsen provides him with a calm calculating voice, and, though he only appears in two scenes, he certainly leaves an impact. Steps into Shadow does a superb job of presenting him as a more tactically minded leader who is disinterested in short term victories, and instead keeps his eyes on the bigger picture. I do hope the series doesn’t focus solely on the tactical side of Thrawn, though, as he was also a character who valued and evoked loyalty, and wasn’t one of those villains who simply relied on fear to keep his subordinates in line. Governor Pryce, who was seen in the trailer for this season and was mentioned in season 1, appears to be acting more as Thrawn’s follower rather than his commander, even though she was given command of his fleet. I’d be interested in seeing what type of relationship Thrawn has with his men. I doubt it’ll happen, but I’d love to see a nod or reference to his second-in-command Gilad Pellaeon.
Before I wrap up, a few Notes and Nitpicks:
- I’ve made note of it before in podcasts, but Grand Admiral Thrawn is my favorite Star Wars character, so there is the risk of me getting nitpicky or overly obsessive. As mentioned before, he is voiced by Lars Mikkelsen, older brother of Rogue One star Mads Mikkelsen and best know for his work on House of Cards, Sherlock, and the original Danish version of The Killing.
- Oddly enough, it seems almost half of the season 3 trailer consisted of clips from this episode. I may be overestimating, but it is definitely a significant amount.
- The Y-wing was always one of my least favorite fighters from Star Wars. It’s difficult for me to put my finger on why that is, but I think it may be due to it having a bulkier look to it than the X-wing, A-wing, or TIEs.
- The Phantom shuttle was destroyed in this episode. I wonder if they will introduce some form of replacement.
- I went back and took another look at the season 3 trailer, and inadvertently confirmed for myself that the Bendu will be reappearing, since there is a clip of him that wasn’t from this episode. I certainly won’t say no to more of Tom Baker. For those who are unaware, Tom Baker is an actor best known for his iconic role as the 4th Doctor on Doctor Who.
- Thank goodness we don’t need to wait three months for the next episode, the way we did after The Siege of Lothal.
Steps into Shadow is a polished return for Rebels that reintroduces a fan-favorite villain, and provides a tantalizing glimpse at the threats that the rebels will face in season 3.