There’s a common adage shared amongst a lot of Star Wars fans that most Star Wars TV shows really hit their stride in episode four. The Clone Wars gained a lot of support with episode 1×05 “Rookies” where we saw a new batch of Clone Troopers ward off an invasion and protect their home base. Rebels became remarkably good with the airing of Rise of the Old Masters, in which the crew of The Ghost went to rescue Luminara Undili from the clutches of the Empire, only to be caught by the Grand Inquisitor. What about The Freemaker Adventures? Did the fourth episode make a great show even better?
You probably won’t be surprised to hear that the answer is, yes, absolutely, the fourth episode made a great show better. The first three episodes did a good job at starting some good plot lines: the search for the kyber saber crystals, Graballa the Hutt, Dengar and the other bounty hunters, Naare’s dual identity, and Rowan’s blooming Jedi training. This episode saw the interaction of almost every single plot point, taking the show out of the starting positions and into the race, so to speak.
If you were as confused as I was at first, don’t be: the episode opens in the middle of the invasion of Cloud City. I thought I had missed an episode, but this invasion comes as reprisal for Lando’s betrayal of the Empire at the end of The Empire Strikes Back. As the Imperials race into the city, Lando tasks Lobot with guarding his most valuable treasure. Lando escapes in the Millenium Falcon while Lobot checks into Lando’s room. I’ve laughed out loud at the series before, but this scene…this scene took the cake. When Lobot tries to flip the secret switch to find Lando’s secret treasure, he instead turns on a disco ball, a stereo system, and makes a portable bar with martinis come out of the wall. I was so shocked to see this in a children’s show (the adult themes nonwithstanding) that I missed the next line. As Lobot checks on the treasure, we get a real Pulp Fiction (yes, you read that correctly) vibe as the box glows in his face.
Back on The Wheel, at the Freemakers’ shop, the family has hit hard times. No buyer is really interested in their ships and they’re not making very much money as scavengers. Rowan struggles to become a better Jedi as Naare forces him to get better faster than he might naturally. It makes me laugh to remember how they accidentally made Mr. Wick Cooper drift into space in the last episode by selling him a bad Z-Wing, so it makes sense that they’d be struggling again after that failure. Because everybody is so down (Naare because she hasn’t found any crystals, Rowan because he isn’t “getting” Jedi training as much as he “should”, and Kordi because the family isn’t making money), Zander takes action to fix at least Rowan’s mood. He takes Rowan down to the lower levels of The Wheel to view a podrace (something expressly forbidden by Kordi!) There, Rowan overhears Lando trying to hire a bounty hunter to find his treasure (which is still in Cloud City). Rowan, after some conniving, manages to take the Freemakers out to get Lando’s treasure.
As the Freemakers leave for the mission, they leave Roger behind and ask him to make sure not to tell anyone about their mission. When Naare figures out where they had left, she thinks that the family has figured out about Naare’s real intentions to use Rowan for her Imperial goals. She also gets a holo-call from Palpatine and Darth Vader asking for any progress (and noting how few crystals she has found so far). Feeling spurned by both sides, she chases the Freemakers to Bespin to try and stop them from finding the crystal before her.
One of the most fun parts of the episode was seeing how the Freemakers, Naare, Dengar, Boosh, and Ram are able to get into Cloud City to get to Lando’s treasure. The Freemakers have to sneak into the facility, acting as a pretend repair crew to fix Bespin’s problems. Well, more accurately, they hope Bespin has technical issues, and thankfully, the Stormtroopers tell them that the carbonite chamber is broken. Dengar simply bribes the Stormtroopers to get in on a mission from Graballa the Hutt, who has it out for the Freemakers since the second episode. Naare being an Imperial agent, is able to simply walk right in. This is where she continues to be interesting: though the Stormtroopers let her in, she uses a mind trick to make them walk off the platform at the docks.
As I said before, it’s great to see the disparate storylines pressed together. As Rowan struggles with his Jedi training, and Naare and the Freemakers chase what they think is a kyber saber crystal, Dengar is on the scene as well. He shows up on Cloud City at the same time as the Freemakers and gives them quite a chase, at one point taking the treasure away from them! This forces Naare, Zander, and Kordi to have to team up in order to catch Dengar. At the end, due to a dropped business card, Dengar learns the identity of the small child who outwitted Graballa the Hutt, guaranteeing Graballa and Dengar’s future in the show.
The show has been moving forward quite consistently in showing the cracks in Naare’s double agent status. After her cover was almost blown as early as episode two, it’s interesting to see how worried she is about her cover being blown. After opening fire on the Freemakers in episode two, we would imagine that she would tone her anger back in the later episodes. Instead, she goes full frontal assault in blocking them from getting the treasure before her. I’m excited to see where her story goes, but I’m not sure how much further they can move her without blowing her cover. The episode ends with Naare and the Freemakers on good terms, so there’s still possibilities for them to work together for a few more episodes.
Palpatine played a huge role in this episode. One of the strangest moves this series has taken is that they’ve made him one of the most comedic characters in the series. I’m not saying that he’s always funny, but every line he speaks is obviously designed to make you laugh. He definitely feels more like a Robot Chicken character than the evil Emperor. I’m not completely against this idea, but I wouldn’t mind if they turned him down from his level of obtuseness. Palpatine may be the only character in the show that I don’t want to see again.
One of the funniest scenes in the series was when Naare puts Palpatine’s holo-call on mute. In the discussion, Naare mentions midi-chlorians; I was shocked to hear midi-chlorians mentioned. Earlier in the episode, Zander took Rowan to a podrace. Not only is The Freemaker Adventures full of references to the movies and the whole of the canon, but it unashamedly embraces The Phantom Menace. I know we’ll say, “the canon does love TPM!” but they’ve never embraced it as well as Freemaker Adventures. The episode also subtly references Darth Vader and Luke’s fight at the end of ESB by noting the damage that their fight caused.
Not only does The Freemaker Adventures really embrace the movies, but it has a lot of fun making meta-jokes about the movies. In an early scene, Lando is shown in his “Han” outfit, the vest and the blue jeans. The treasure, as it turns out, will make Rogue One fans happy as it’s actually Lando’s cape. When he switches back to his original outfit, he says, “Thank goodness! I can finally stop wearing Han’s old clothes!” The show has also had two jokes about Stormtroopers and their aim: While Rowan and Zander work on the carbon chamber as Kordi goes on her own to find the treasure, the Stormtroopers decide to go to a shooting range. One says, “Great! I might finally be able to hit something!” As I said in my article over at Eleven-Thirty Eight, it’s great to be able to laugh at Star Wars again.
With a great, more structured story, as all of the different plotlines come together and take advantage of the wonderful character work done in the first three episodes, the Freemaker Adventures hits a wonderful stride and makes great gains in becoming an even better show than it already was.
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