Star Wars Rebels: “An Inside Man” Season 3 Episode 9 Review

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Since the emergence of Grand Admiral Thrawn, Star Wars Rebels seems like it hasn’t been sure what to do with him. Here we are nine episodes in season three and he’s still calm and passive in his tactics, letting the rebels escape at every encounter. Lars Mikkelsen is doing a wonderful job voicing him, but the writers aren’t really letting Thrawn do anything. Take “An Inside Man,” for example, the most Thrawn-heavy entry since “Hera’s Heroes.” There were some big revelations in this episode, as predictable as they may have been, but this should have also been a time for audiences to see what Thrawn is capable of. But, Rebels holds back, promising to get to the good stuff another day. This may be the series’ biggest problem. With only the tiniest tidbits of information known of Sabine’s backstory, the sheer lack of Ahsoka in most of season two after making such a big deal about her return, and now Thrawn’s restrained ruthlessness getting in the way of his own victory, Rebels has shown itself as a series incapable of committing to the big promises it makes. Dave Filoni has said in interviews in the past that he doesn’t want characters like Ahsoka, Vader, or Thrawn to overshadow the crew of the Ghost, which makes total sense from a narrative standpoint. But then we’re left with a situation where these enticing characters are just frustratingly teased or completely inactive until the season finale. You can bet that whatever the endgame for Thrawn is in season three will be epic, but it’d be nice to see the villain do something significant before then.

“An Inside Man” is a mostly solid episode that is more frustrating because the episodes surrounding it haven’t been pulling their weight. Are any crew members of the Ghost on signifiant emotional arcs right now? The closest is Ezra, who’s been teetering ever closer to the Dark Side, but this hasn’t been addressed in at least seven episodes. That’s a problem, but it didn’t have to be “An Inside Man’s” problem. The plot here sees Kanan and Ezra returning to Lothal to infiltrate an Imperial factory. Thrawn anticipates this move and pays the factory an unexpected visit. This is the setup for a great episode, one where the heroes finally face their new nemesis. Instead, the episode is focused on a reveal most fans probably saw coming.

Agent Kallus is the new Fulcrum, revealing himself when the Jedi find themselves in a bind and he helps them escape (but not before Ezra hilariously makes it “look good”). If you watched last season’s “The Honorable Ones,” you know Rebels had already placed Kallus on the road to redemption. He later helped Sabine escape in “The Antilles Extraction” and now he’s back at it. What’s most difficult for Kallus is that Thrawn is onto him. What’s most difficult for us is that Rebels hasn’t quite given us a reason to care about Kallus since “The Honorable Ones.” He’s shown up here and there this season, but for barely more than a scene at a time. This show needs to learn that if characters outside the main crew are going to go on emotional arcs, they need to be featured more prominently.

The episode ends with Kallus all but being threatened by Thrawn, while the rebels look over the recovered Imperial plans to manufacture a new TIE fighter that could apparently turn the tide in any space battle. Having not seen these fighters in any of the films, it’s likely the rebels will succeed in shutting down their production, so hopefully this won’t become an overarching conflict for the season. At least at this point last season we knew Ahsoka and Vader had to come to face. Right now, season three of Rebels has us in the dark, with no real sense of direction that seems enticing. Even in an episode with a solid Kallus reveal and Thrawn being all intimidating, it still feels like the writers are holding back. They’re going to need to let loose soon or the show is going to keep suffering for it. Grade: B-

By Matt Dougherty

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