Here we are at the fifth episode in the second Season of Star Wars Rebels, Wings of the Master. After a fairly strong foray through the first four, I’m happy to say that the upward momentum isn’t just maintained but increased.
This episode has everything you could want. There was character development, adventure, clever nods to source material, and one legitimately jaw-dropping moment of fun. It’s not a spoiler, either, to say that it features the “timeline introduction” of a vehicle that’s loved by fans and hardly noticed on-screen in the original three films.
The episode opens with our titular heroes attempting a delivery of relief supplies to a blockaded world. Agent Kallus has set a “trap” for the rebels all too familiar in movies and television: harass the people the heroes want to help and the heroes come running.
But this mission is the kind that I would expect the Rebellion running in its relative infancy. Running blockades to people desperate for relief from the Imperial yoke is exactly right. They can’t engage the Empire directly at this point, but they can win the hearts and minds of those being oppressed.
It’s also a clever callout to Princess Leia’s cover missions which were alluded to in the original script when Vader says, “You weren’t on any mercy mission this time…” Placing a ship of the same design as Leia’s at the center of this relief squadron solidifies that tie. It’s pretty amazing that decades later the creators behind a cartoon have found a way not only to resonate with the original film but have the echo of that resonance come back the next time I watch it.
The ship movements are gloriously choreographed and the lighting is just perfect for the flight sequences. In-cockpit camera angles match the locked positioning seen in A New Hope. It just feels like you’re watching Star Wars on a fundamental visual level; harsh external space lighting. The light sourcing is as bold and definite as it was in 1977. It’s a very clever way to make even the pre-Special Edition effects feel like they fit in the tapestry of the modern effects era.
Blade Wings and Burn Marks
The mission is a failure and Hera, our star pilot (double meaning!), takes it very hard. Rex has an answer, and it sends Hera off on a quest.
Hera’s journey in this episode leads her to a newer, more lethal ship the Rebellion can use against the sturdy capital ships of the Empire. She finds it in the Blade Wing, which we all have come to know as the B-Wing.
The ship’s builder, Quarrie, won’t let anyone but the right pilot fly it, and so forth. Leaving aside that his name’s a cute nod to Ralph McQuarrie, whose paintings helped Star Wars find its look decades ago and whose work is reflected directly in this series, Hera of course proves herself by sharing her life story. She talks of seeing Republic ships while she was a child on Ryloth.
Of course, we’ve always known from her last name that her father…you know what? If you really want to hear it all, go catch Clone Wars on Netflix. You’ll thank me.
The show demonstrates great restraint by not going into flashbacks for the whole episode to show the Clone Wars era in which Hera grew up. It’s because the references are enough for those fans who carried over from that series. Extensive flashbacks would serve no real purpose. It’s still worth an honorable mention because not every series has the wisdom to practice restraint like this.
The B-plot of Kanan and Ezra going off to run the supplies is cute as well. It serves its purpose of providing levity and building the time lock for Hera to get her own tasks done.
One nice bit of business I’ve noticed is that Kanan’s shoulder armor still carries the scorch mark from where Vader tagged him in Siege of Lothal. That’s the type of attention to detail that keeps a fan happy.
That Jaw-Dropping Moment
One thing about the B-Wing is that I’ve always loved the design. I had the original toy, and when I was a kid I obsessed over the pictures of them. I just fell in love with the look of it.
It’s the type of ship I’d picture Jules Winnfield flying. Its design seems to shout, “Don’t EFF with me, Imperials!”
So naturally, when we get to see the B-Wing rolled out against those unsuspecting Imperial slugs and do something truly unexpected, I giggled. I know I’m not the only one. You’re left saying, “Holy cow, it can do that?”
It’s a special moment.
The only thing that I’ll knock this episode for is, it felt too big for the format. To be honest, this is a sly compliment more than a real criticism. When a story is this compelling, it can get frustrating to have to settle for a half-hour format. It feels like there’s too much left off the final cut.
Of course, the catch is that I don’t know how much more, then, is too much. So I’ll just be happy that they more than entertained me for a half hour and left me wanting more. I suppose the old adage of always leaving ’em wanting more must be true, because my first reaction at the end of this episode was that I couldn’t wait to see the next installment.
The only other question I have is whether the title of the episode is a nod to the Howard Hughes 1927 classic Wings, or some other film that I should know as a cinephile. Perhaps a lifetime of sifting through space sagas looking for clever homages has left me chasing shadows. Maybe.
Either way, this season very much has convinced me that they’ve kicked off the training wheels. The show has found its identity as a compelling homage to the serials of the past that inspired Star Wars in the first place. The characters are taking shape and I’m caring about them more each week.
Can they keep it up?
Tune in next week.