"Star Wars: Rebels" 2.15– The Honorable Ones (9 out of 10) – Based on characters and situations created by George Lucas; Directed by Brad Rau; Written by Kevin Hopps; Starring: Freddie Prinze, Jr., Vanessa Marshall, Taylor Gray, Steve Blum, Tiya Sircar, David Oyelowo, Dee Bradley Bake; Rated TV-Y7, Aired on Disney XD 2/24/16.
This review will contain spoilers.
This week's episode of "Star Wars Rebels" is a fascinating story that gives us a small-scale character arc set against impossibly important galactic events.
We're quickly shown Geonosis and told of a weapon that was being built there. Though the Rebels of Phoenix Squadron don't know the larger story, the audience does. This is where the Death Star originated. And since we also know the timeline of the show, we know that the Empire is dangerously close to having their ultimate weapon online. More than that, the Rebels are shocked to learn that there are no life signs aboard the planet. This is another callback to an event that was only referenced in the pages of the Darth Vader comics.
Someone, at some point, has exterminated the population of Geonosis. By who? Most likely the Empire. Why? We don't know, though if it was the Empire, it was probably to keep the Death Star a secret. Perhaps we'll learn more about this in "Rogue One."
But after walking into a trap on the planets construction platform set by Agent Kallus, the team of Rebels are split up, leaving Zeb to fend for himself. He and Kallus end up in an escape pod together, crashed on a moon of Geonosis and left to survive on their own without killing each other.
From this point forward, the episode plays out very much like the film "Hell in the Pacific." With Toshiro Mifune as one of the leads of that film, it's no wonder it might have inspired this episode, as he was the star of most of the Kurosawa films that inspired "Star Wars." It's the story of two stranded servicemen during World War II, one, Mifune, from the Japanese Navy, and the other, an American, played by Lee Marvin. They struggle against each other in an epic tug of war on an isolated island until they realize that neither of them will survive unless they put their differences aside. This episode isn't the first time this motif has been put into science fiction, as some will remember the film "Enemy Mine" or the episode of "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" called "The Ascent."
It's a well-worn motif and works incredibly well here. The reason it works so well here is the characters.
I can think of no better characters completely at odds with each other on both sides of the conflict than Zeb and Agent Kallus, but we learn through the course of the episode (in beautifully written and beautifully performed dialogue) that there is much more to their struggle against each other than we have known. This is what is so fascinating about longer shows like "Rebels," we're able to dig deep into the shades of gray between the Empire and the Rebellion and do it at a measured, deliberate pace.
This episode is beautiful as well. Not just in the visuals, it is stunning in that regard, yes, but in the poignancy of the story. Here are two people who view each other as the embodiment of the evil being forced to work together to survive. It's always a difficult thing to understand your enemy, particularly in a time of war, and the way Zeb and Kallus do it is just awe-inspiring to watch. First they snark and spar, then, as hope dwindles, they get more serious. Earnest. Vulnerable.
It's a side to characters we don't often see on a show like this and works perfectly here.
And the way the end is assembled is nothing short of heartbreaking in all the right ways, but not in ways you'd expect. They actually make us sympathize with Kallus. At the end of the Steven Spielberg film, "Bridge of Spies," the character of Rudolf Abel, played beautifully by Mark Rylance, is being handed back over to the Russians after a lengthy stay in an American prison. When James Donavon, played by Tom Hanks, asks Abel how he'll fare with the Russians after his release, he tells him to watch how he's greeted by the Russians. Will he be welcomed with open arms? Or simply shown the back seat of the car they'll drive him away in. The mood at the end of this episode of "Star Wars Rebels" evokes the same feeling, with Zeb getting the welcoming treatment, watched on by Agent Kallus. When Agent Kallus makes it back to his Star Destroyer, he's essentially shown back seat. "Bridge of Spies" was definitely worth your time as it builds to this ending, but I was amazed at how similarly and efficiently "Rebels" was able to arrive at the same place of poignancy.
Does this mean Kallus will turn to the Rebellion? Or will he begin to question his motives? That's a question I'd love to have answered sooner or later.
This episode is one of my favorites of the year so far. It takes classic situations and tense character relationships and turns them on their ear in a wonderfully crafted episode. I'm giving this a 9 out of 10.
Season 2 Scorecard:
- The Siege of Lothal (10 out of 10)
- The Lost Commanders (7.5 out of 10)
- Relics of the Old Republic (8 out of 10)
- Always Two There Are (8 out of 10)
- Brothers of the Broken Horn (8 out of 10)
- Wings of the Master (8.5 out of 10)
- Blood Sisters (7 out of 10)
- Stealth Strike (8.5 out of 10)
- Future of the Force (8.5 out of 10)
- Legacy (8.5 out of 10)
- A Princess on Lothal (8 out of 10)
- The Protector of Concord Dawn (8 out of 10)
- Legends of the Lasat (8 out of 10)
- The Call (8 out of 10)
- Homecoming (8.5 out of 10)
- The Honorable Ones (9 out of 10)
Season Average 8.8 out of 10