"Star Wars: Rebels" 1.6 – Breaking Ranks (8.5 out of 10)  – Directed by Steven Lee; Written by Greg Weisman; Based on characters and situations created by George Lucas; Starring: Freddie Prinze, Jr., Vanessa Marshall, Taylor Gray, Steve Blum, Tiya Sirca, David Oyelowo, Jason Issacs; Rated TV-Y7, Airs on Disney XD 11/2/14. 

Taking the lead from many World War II espionage films, "Breaking Ranks" revolves around an elaborate espionage plot to capture an enemy decoder that would lead the crew of the Ghost to an important victory in their struggle against the Empire. In fact, there are more than a few James Bond movies with a similar Macguffin. To accomplish the task, Ezra and Chopper go undercover in an Imperial recruitment center. Chopper is painted black (presumably by Sabine) to blend in with other Imperial droids, and he lends support to Ezra who has gone under an assumed name and joined the Empire. 

Zeb and Sabine lurk outside the base, offering support for extraction, and Kanan and Hera orbit in the Ghost, waiting for the coordinates to intercept a vital Imperial shipment.

The episode plays out in a generally straightforward manner, with Ezra making the connections he needs inside the other cadets his age to accomplish his mission. In fact, one of them is interested in harming the Empire on their own.

Of the three episodes I've seen so far written by Greg Weisman, this is by far my favorite. It's well assembled and builds very well. It balanced the laughs and the tension quite capably and left me thoroughly entertained.

A few small things I quite loved about this episode. First: The Well. The test they send the cadets to do, that gray graph-paper box they must escape from, feels like an element left over from the Clone training facilities on Kamino, or even Moralo Eval's "The Box." The aesthetic of this training facility builds on things that were done on "The Clone Wars" and that makes me happy. 

Secondly, the next major driving force in the episode is the idea that since Ezra is performing so well (as is another cadet), the Imperials are obligated to contact the Inquisitor and inform him that these students might meet a certain criteria. This builds beautifully upon the added scene we were given of Darth Vader on ABCs re-airing of "Spark of Rebellion," where Darth Vader commands him to convert or murder the children of the galaxy who show latent force abilities. This is a story thread I hope they continue to weave throughout the series. This is the element of the show I'm almost most interested in. 

The last thing that actually got me quite excited was a line the Inquisitor spoke. He mentioned that he would be coming to Lothal to meet with the cadets and "test" them. It made me wonder if that meant he'd be testing their midi-chlorians. That technology wasn't specifically lost with the Jedi. Sidious and Vader would clearly know how those tests were administered, why not pass that on to their own sinister agents?

If nothing else, it put a smile on my face that one other great concept for the prequels was getting its due in this new era of Star Wars.

For me, this episode felt like a great session of a "Star Wars" roleplaying game. The stakes were high and we kept up with each set of characters just enough that they all had something cool to do and a fight to win, even though Ezra clearly has the spotlight here. 

Another thing to ponder: the Kyber crystal. Was it destroyed? If it magnifies energy, would the blast have just destroyed the ship and the Empire could simply come back out and pick it up? I'm not sure. If nothing else, this will certainly set back the construction of a certain giant super-laser. And, after reading James Luceno's "Tarkin," I wonder if Tarkin might get involved in tracking down the crew of the Ghost.

It would make a lot of sense.

As for the technical aspects of the episode, the effects team spared no expense in giving us some truly spectacular explosions. From the crumbling legs of the walkers to the explosion of the ship bearing the Kyber crystal, the work here was tremendous, truly rivaling the work they were doing on "The Clone Wars." In fact, the disintegration of the TIE fighter in the green blast was probably one of the coolest things I've seen on this show, definitely evoking the ships escaping the second Death Star, licked by the flames of the exploding main reactor.

They take every moment they can to remind us that this is "Star Wars" and each week I'm incredibly grateful for it. Another solid episode.

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Tags: rebels , star wars