Whereas The Lost Commanders was straight setup, Relics of the Old Republic is strictly nostalgic payoff. While not as invigoratingly peppy as the first half, it’s a satisfying close to the arc.
I swore last week I’d assiduously avoid spoiler territory, but no promises this week. The happy thing to report is, even if I give a blow-by-blow of the episode, it’s solidly constructed to withstand it. After all, the “surprise” of the clones’ appearance is the major splash in this two-part arc, and that happened last week.
The episode picks up where last week’s left off: with the characters in the Empire’s cross-hairs. We move quickly to posturing and conflict, with the clones ready to fight to their last. Through the episode it’s clear the clones would rather go out in a blaze of glory than settle for decrepit obsolescence.
It introduces something that’s been missing from Rebels, and it made the show “click” for me this time. Namely, the risk and belief that these new characters can die. They may never meet a fiery end, or even an ironically quiet death in their sleep, but the chance that might happen is there. It adds so much more to scenes of mayhem and battle to have that doubt tickle your mind.
The best character moment belongs to Kanan, and his decision to go back and save the clones. They’ve done such a good job of establishing why he wouldn’t trust these old war dogs, it gives his choice weight, even though you know it’s coming. While a hero may be expected to do the noble thing, to have him do it for the principle of life’s intrinsic value, as opposed to emotional attachment, is a terrific moral moment for kids.
Old Men and Walkers
The clones’ stand is made against AT-ATs in what we can (maybe?) now consider the “new entry point” for them in-universe. While these are definitely more reminiscent of the original production sketches, and not the final version seen in Empire Strikes Back, they’re fun to see.
Enhancing this introduction point is that the clones are based in an outdated and modified AT-TE, first seen in Attack of the Clones. This visual bit adds another highlight to the idea that the clones belong to a bygone, and arguably nobler, era.
Nicely done, as well, is the strategy scene for the battle. It reinforces how genuine the clones’ trust and faith was (and is) for Jedi as a whole. Wittingly or not, it adds a subtextual complexity to ponder what it meant to see their brothers turn on the Jedi.
And of course, Rex musing again about Anakin sounds a haunting echo in your mind. You find yourself wondering if he’ll ever find out what happened to “his general,” and understanding he probably will. I’m in no rush to get there, though.
Star Wars: In the Land of Homage
Any doubts about the Fury Road allusions at first are removed as the chase goes into a big blinding sandstorm that’s one part Rockatansky and one part Mutara Nebula. It’s great fun to see a tip of the hat to such a transformational action film.
And, of course, self-reference is perfectly valid. Though it’s not snow, seeing seeing AT-ATs tread across a hard-packed snow-white surface is a bit of a thrill you can’t ignore.
Some Minor Problems
Naturally, the only real way out of a tough situation for Star Wars heroes is for the villains to be overconfident and sloppy. That gets delivered in spades.
You can reason away the choice not to bombard from orbit; the villains are always obsessed with breaking spirits personally. I suppose there’s some sort of lesson about inferiority complexes and bullying, if you want to dig at it.
However, they obviously wrote themselves into a corner with the Star Destroyer in orbit. While they use the believable capriciousness of Vader’s orders to remove it as a factor, I think a little forethought could have avoided their own trap in the first place and tied things into a neater storyline.
And while the music gets back into slightly derivative territory during the confrontation with the AT-ATs, it seems I’m the only one irked when it happens. However, the cue appropriation is done more cleverly than last season, so I’ll forgive it here.
In short, it’s not an episode that’s going to win any awards, but it serves its purpose and moves the characters in place for their next challenges. You look forward to seeing how they handle it as the “family” keeps growing.
Nothing, of course, can top the fan glee at seeing two favorite Clone Wars characters reunite at the end of the episode. From the standpoint of someone who was a loyal fan of the old show, it hits you right in the heart.
These are two characters that you grew to love and appreciate over time, and to see them together again is yet another beautiful step toward tying this show into the larger narrative.
Well done, Star Wars Rebels. Well done.