"Star Wars: Rebels" 1.7 – Out of Darkness (6.5 out of 10)  – Directed by Steward Lee; Written by Kevin Hopps; Based on characters and situations created by George Lucas; Starring: Freddie Prinze, Jr., Vanessa Marshall, Taylor Gray, Steve Blum, Tiya Sircar; Rated TV-Y7, Airs on Disney XD 11/10/14. 

This episode follows Hera and Sabine as they become trapped on a long abandoned asteroid outpost with a damaged ship on what should have been a routine supply run. They have to fight from their lives against strange creatures that hide in the darkness there as they wait to be rescued by the rest of the crew.

I'm of two minds of this episode. The story doesn't work for me as written, but the visuals bring it to heights we haven't yet seen on this show.

For one, the major driving force of action for the episode has been done before, namely in the D-Squad episodes of "The Clone Wars." Hera and Sabine decide the only way they'll be able to kill the creatures trying to eat them is to set up barrels of rhydonium to shoot so they can destroy them in waves. Granted, it's a conceit used in many video games, but I think it's done to much greater effect and emotional impact when Gregor the clone is doing it and sacrificing himself for Col. Gascon and his men. 

As far as the creatures themselves, they're a wonderful homage to the 2000 film "Pitch Black," starring Vin Diesel and directed by David Twohy. It's probably the best part of the episode. The creatures are well designed and the tension is a lot of fun. But that's about the only thing that works as far as this episode's story is concerned. 

My biggest complaint in this episode is the dialogue. Vanessa Marshall and Tiya Sircar (as Hera and Sabine, respectively) do everything they can with the material, but it's just thin. There's a lot of telling rather than showing (in fact, they practically narrate their entire final action sequence.) In other episodes when they sprinkle in exposition about the pasts of other characters, it's done quite elegantly. Here, Sabine's reminiscing of her days in the Imperial Academy on Mandalore is a tad ham-fisted. I love the picture they paint, but they used the wrong brush. 

That situation alone has a lot of room to be explored.I liked the idea Sabine gives me, of Mandalore subjugated by the Empire in the time after the rule of Darth Maul and Deathwatch. But will purists for the Expanded Universe scream about it? We'll see.

As for the rest of the episode concerning the story: the driving force of the story seems at odds with the given backstory for Sabine. If she's from Mandalore and came through the Imperial Academy and has been working with the crew of the Ghost, it seems like she'd grasp the need for compartmentalizing information quite easily. Instead, she's kind of a brat. And maybe that's the point, to show her age, but it didn't come off as reasonable. I wanted to see how she felt that Kanan and Hera didn't trust her, rather than just be told that was the case. The dialogue between Hera and Sabine is very much in that same vein through the entire episode.

I feel like the intrigue could have been built a lot better in the dialogue if it told us more than what was said. Kinberg did a great job of this in the pilot, and the "Rise of the Inquisitors" episode probably did it second best. 

As far as a technical and artistic achievement, I feel like that's where there's the most to love about this episode. The atmosphere and color palette of the outpost was fantastic. It was moody in the right places and unique, something that gets harder and harder to do as "Star Wars" gets bigger. And the lighting of the sun with the asteroids passing by was nothing short of stunning. It aided the story significantly and made the monsters all that much cooler. And the sophistication on display of the animation here is something that we should definitely be grateful for. Go back to the first season of "The Clone Wars" and tell me if you got anything even close to as good as this. It's just not there until much later in the show, which bodes well for where "Rebels" can take us.

So, for a great conceit wrapped up in some dialogue that didn't do a whole lot for me, I'm going to give this episode my lowest rating of the season: a 6.5. That's not to say I didn't enjoy it, it just hasn't been as good as any of the other episodes to date.

Season Scorecard:

Season average: 8 out of 10

 

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