Star Wars Rebels: “Steps Into Shadow” Season 3 Premiere Review

Photo Credit:https://thewookieegunner.com/2016/08/09/star-wars-rebels-season-three-premiere-date/

Perhaps Dave Filoni’s greatest accomplishment back on Star Wars: The Clone Wars was filling in the narrative gaps in Anakin Skywalker’s turn to the Dark Side. He portrayed the young Lord Vader as an arrogant leader in a doomed relationship that just faced too much temptation outside the misguided, more morally grey than we realized Jedi Order. If you watch Clone Wars in tandem with the prequels, it does the entire saga a lot of work. Never before had the Dark Side seemed like a legitimately tempting path, and now he’s doing it again with Ezra Bridger.  

Unlike between the first two seasons, there’s a significant time jump going into season three. Ezra’s power has significantly grown, not unlike Luke’s did between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back. But it’s also immediately apparent that Ezra’s soul is in danger. The premiere is aptly titled, as Ezra is no doubt taking steps into shadow. The rollicking opening mission (featuring Hondo no less!) perfectly puts us back in the classic Star Wars tone Rebels achieved early on, but ends with Ezra displaying some serious Jedi mind trick skills when he has the pilot of an Imperial walker gun down his own men. It’s ruthless, the kind of content that might leave parents who think their kids are watching a harmless Star Wars cartoon a little miffed. But it’s fascinating to behold in the most chilling way.

The show also finds a way to justify how quickly Ezra’s power has grown and how much he’s being pulled to the Dark Side. It’s established that Kanan’s blindness has sent him on a personal quest of self pity. In his absence, Ezra turned to the Sith holocron he got on Malachor for training. Connecting the dots from there is easy, but the fact that all this was established so well and so quickly is a remarkable feat for the series. For all the fuss about Thrawn, “Steps Into Shadow” is now doubt Ezra’s episode, with the Grand Admiral only making two appearances. And that’s fine, Rebels had a lot of catching up to do with the core characters for this premiere.

From there, Ezra is promoted to a Lieutenant and assigned a mission to recover some Y-Wings from an Imperial facility to add to the larger Rebel fleet. The mission, which takes up most of the second half of the premiere, is mostly a showcase for how Ezra still has a lot of room to grow. The young leader barks orders at Sabine, Zeb, and Rex for a plan that isn’t all that well thought out. Things keep going wrong, but not in that sort of fun hanging by the seat of your pants kind of way. “Steps Into Shadow” establishes real stakes incredibly well, putting the team in serious danger by the end.

Meanwhile, in Kanan’s forced solitude, he encounters a creature known as Bendu (Doctor Who‘s Tom Baker) who claims to rest inbetween the Light and Dark Sides of the Force. Was it too convenient that Bendu happened to reside on the very same planet the new Rebel base is on? Yes, but it did allow for some excellent character work on Kanan. Justifiably frustrated from being blind, Bendu claims to be able to restore the Jedi’s sight in a way. Kanan is made to realize that it’s fear that’s blinding him and learns how to be more in touch with himself. I’m glad this arc is being taken care of right in the premiere. We didn’t need more than one episode of Kanan wallowing in his blindness. He joins Hera to rescue Ezra and the others for the climax of the episode.

The moment where Ezra hurdles toward the planet and Kanan quite literally pulls him into the light was gorgeously animated. It was the kind of unsubtle Star Wars symbolism that ever so gently deepens this saga beyond its swashbuckling roots. Now, the master and apprentice are back on the same team. But this premiere raises the question, is Ezra beyond saving? His new lightsaber may be green, but he’s already acting as if it were red. Now that’s how you get an audience excited about a new season. Grade: A-

Some Other Notes:

  • Interesting that the new goal for the Rebellion is to destroy the Imperial factory on Lothal. Rebels just won’t let its favorite planet be.
  • We didn’t get a whole lot of Lars Mikkelsen’s take on Thrawn, but what we did get was really haunting. I expect the hype to pay off on this villain.
  • Was anyone else reminded of the infamous youngling scene in Revenge of the Sith when Ezra walked into that control room and ignited his lightsaber?
  • I wonder what use a being like Bendu has for a Sith holocron. Though it doesn’t look like he’ll hold onto it for long, as the preview for next week showed Darth Maul already asking for it. Already we’re getting Maul. That’s got to be a record for Filoni.

By Matt Dougherty

 

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