"Star Wars: Rebels" 1.13 – Call to Action (9 out of 10)  – Directed by Steward Lee; Written by Greg Weisman and Simon Kinberg; Based on characters and situations created by George Lucas; Starring: Freddie Prinze, Jr., Vanessa Marshall, Taylor Gray, Steve Blum, Tiya Sircar, David Oyelowo; Special Guests: Brent Spiner, Jason Issacs, and Stephen Stanton as Grand Moff Tarkin; Rated TV-Y7, Airs on Disney XD 2/9/15. 

This review contains spoilers.

A question my son and I had talked about before this episode aired was, "How long is the Empire going to let Kallus and the Inquisitor fail before someone shows up to to straighten them out?" 

This episode is clearly the first step in addressing such a question. From the opening notes of music, the beginning of this episode hearkens back to the opening of "Return of the Jedi," but instead of Lord Vader arriving to chastise the Imperials, we have Governor Tarkin to do the job. The next step in escalation has to be Vader, right?

And Tarkin's characterization is true to form, following a natural progression from his appearances on "The Clone Wars," through the novel "Tarkin" and here on "Rebels" leading up toward "A New Hope." It's proof positive that the story group has a handle on the finer details of every aspect of the "Star Wars" universe. Stephen Stanton also returns, reprising the role he made very much his own on "The Clone Wars" and knocks this older and less patient Tarkin out of the park. 

This episode has two plots running through it, and both are thrilling to me as a viewer, and the creative team does an excellent job blending the two stories so it feels very much like a miniaturized version of a "Star Wars" movie, at least in structure and tone. On one hand, the Empire is working its hardest to capture the rebels after many failures, and the big guns are coming out to make up for the failures of their subordinates. On the other hand, you have the crew of the Ghost, still stinging from the betrayal of Gall Trayvis, looking to have their side of the conflict known.

For the crew of the Ghost, the episode is a fairly standard operation, but where this episode differs is with the handling of the Imperials. Tarkin is very much in control here, whether it's taking Vader's lead and murdering subordinates, or controlling everyone through calculated logic and intimidation, he's clearly the biggest fish the Empire thought was worth sending to such a backwater planet. And Tarkin's disdain for the assignment shows. He's this close to his ultimate weapon and the specter of a Jedi's return seems beneath his dignity.

This episode highlighted for me the depraved lengths the Empire was willing to go in order to stay in power and one is easily reminded of the greed inherent in the Sith, by way of the "tragedy" of Darth Plagueis "the wise." 

The thing I loved most about this episode, though, is how well its cliffhanger ending is foreshadowed. Kanan talks about sacrifices needing to be made in the quest for peace and justice in the galaxy, and reminds Ezra that his Master had done that for him and he didn't quite understand it. Remembering these words and letting them echo through your head as the rest of the episode plays out makes for emotional viewing. When Kanan sends the crew up the communications tower and covers them single-handedly, you're left to think he might still find a way out of it. Then, when he pulls a Luke Skywalker and destroys the controls that operate the door, you're left wondering what plan he must obviously have up his sleeve.

When he surrenders to the Imperials, it's obvious that he had no plan. He was simply willing to sacrifice himself completely to save his friends, which is not exactly the best thing for a Jedi. This is the same impulse that led Anakin Skywalker to the dark side and came dangerously close to leading Luke there, too.

The layers of complexity on this show are adding up and I think this episode is a perfect example of how it works in a longer format. Though it's hard to judge how well this story will turn out, letting it end on the impossible cliffhanger is an excellent choice.

And I can't wait to see what happens next.

As for the visuals of this episode, this might have been the most McQuarrie like yet, with the opening shots copied right out of McQuarrie paintings, but instead of ships docking up against the Death Star, they're landing in facilities on Lothal. The matte painting from "Return of the Jedi" from Vader's arrival on the Death Star is also directly referenced.

The animation is getting better and more expressive and the lighting effects-turning the sky from night through morning-were nothing short of impressive. This is the best the show has looked and as we get further into the production schedule, I can't see that trend reversing.

More than anything, this episode was emotional, entertaining, and suspenseful. In my book, it's a 9 out of 10.

Season Scorecard:

Season average: 8.53 out of 10

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Tags: Rebels , Star Wars