– Spoiler Review –
In celebration of the first week of The Freemaker Adventures, Disney XD is treating their viewers to a new episode per day this week. After a strong pilot episode, the second episode dives deeper into the search for the kyber saber crystals while showing that 22 minutes is actually plenty of time to develop multiple characters at once, including some great villains. Read on to find out whether you should binge the series during its first week!
One of the hardest things for me to avoid in these reviews is referring to The Freemaker Adventures as a children’s show. Ostensibly, it is. But then again, so is Star Wars Rebels. When I refer to this as a kids’ show, I don’t mean to denigrate the show, nor say that the show is not worth watching. The show is worth watching solely for how much fun it is, but the show also boasts an interesting metanarrative and a complex depth to its characters.
At the end of the pilot episode, the viewers watch as Naare speaks with Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine about her plans to lull the Freemakers into a false sense of security so she can exploit Rowan’s ability to sense kyber saber crystal pieces. Knowing that she was actually an Imperial spy brought a whole new level of nuance for the viewers as we watch her train Rowan on how to be a Jedi. Naare teaches Rowan how to be a Jedi by giving a familiar speech about the Force, channeling her inner Ben Kenobi as she explains the nature of the Force. It almost hurts hearing her give this speech to Rowan knowing that she plans on eventually betraying them. At the end of the episode, Rowan seems to blow the mission by losing his handle on the kyber saber crystal, causing it to float off into an asteroid belt. Naare gets so angry that she opens fire on the Freemakers in the Star Scavenger, their family ship. Rowan senses the kyber saber crystal just in time to pull the ship away from her line of fire, causing her shots to barely miss them. The family is so preoccupied with figuring out what Rowan is doing that they don’t hear Naare shooting at them, thus leaving her true mission secret. This is an interesting dynamic to see open up so quickly (rather than just dragging it out by showing her as “too good” for too long), so I’m excited to see what the writers will do with her as the series progresses. At this rate, it seems that her cover would be blown about half-way through the season rather than in the finale!
As Naare explains the Force to Rowan, we get to see more of a realistic reaction to what it would be like to be 12 and be told you’re going to be a Jedi. Rather than being too excited about how he can save the galaxy, his immediate concern seems to be whether or not he can play with Naare’s lightsaber. At one point, he uses the Force to snatch it away from her as she monologues! It’s cute, and it’s not as exaggerated and annoying as you might think at first blush. After Naare reveals the location of another kyber saber crystal, Rowan senses it and decides that the two should go out and chase it down. Kordi is understandably anxious to prevent them from leaving, so she argues it out with Naare. I like how Kordi’s mistrust of Naare isn’t based on a nagging suspicion (NOTHING was more annoying for me than Anakin being vindicated on his mistrust for Goldie in a The Clone Wars Season 1 duology, “Duel of the Droids” when he had NO reason to be suspicious at first), but because she’s a big sister. Again, the family element comes out in full blast and brings some heart to the show.
Rather than sit and wait, Rowan tries to prove himself to them and takes one of Zander’s Z-Wings out and drags Roger out with him. The Z-Wings, or “Uglies” as Kordi refers to them, are a fun mismatch of pieces that you might see a child build when he loses (or ignores) the guidebooks on how to build his set. This Z-Wing looks like a combo of the Slave 1 and a Lambda-class shuttle. Again, The Freemaker Adventures really plays up the LEGO format and makes some wonderful inventions that would remind anyone of a child playing with these toys, bringing whimsy into a series without making it feel too light.
Rowan and Roger then find themselves in an asteroid field, landing in the middle of an illegal Hutt mine on one of the asteroids. An illegal Hutt mine sounds exactly like something you would find in an episode of The Clone Wars or Rebels, again proving that this series feels just outside canon. As Rowan and Roger explore the caves to find the kyber saber crystal buried deep in the mine, we see a fun rapport build between the two of them. After a twist on the bad feeling line, when Rowan says, “I’ve got a good feeling about this!” Roger asks, “Based on what, exactly?” The deadpan delivery, thanks to the droid modulated voice, makes the line even funnier. As Rowan sinks into a Force led trance, causing him to walk toward the kyber saber crystal, Roger’s anxiety gets the best of him as he watches Rowan wander through the dangers of a mine – and all of its tools and vehicles! Though the scene is full of danger, the comic relief comes without ruining the suspense. After finding the crystal, and snapping out of his trance, Rowan and Roger try to pose as bounty hunters to pass some thugs (Boosh and Ram, Iktochi bounty hunters), but the disguised pair is brought to Gabralla the Hutt instead. In the meatime, Kordi, Zander, and Naare agree to team up to try and rescue Rowan. The interaction between these three are great: between Kordi’s skepticism of Naare and Zander’s massivec rush on her, Kordi’s skepticism about the Force, and the nature of rescuing someone in the middle of space all make for a really funny scene.
The real stars of this episode were the villains. I’m going to be honest: I didn’t think this show would be capable of producing solid villains. Nor did I think any show could develop interesting villains in a single episode. “The Mines of Gabralla” proved me wrong on both accounts. The titular character, Gabralla, is the cousin of Jabba the Hutt. Gabralla has been relegated to one of the mines, leaving him angry and disappointed. He pleads with Jabba to be transferred, but Jabba laughs him off and ignores his request. When Boosh and Ram bring Rowan (disguised in a Boushh helmet, calling himself the galaxy’s most fearsome Ugnaught) and Roger (designated IG-89, “one better than IG-88!” by Rowan), Gabralla has them face off with Dengar. Dengar beats them, and Gabralla wants to feed the pair to his Nexu. When Naare, Kordi, and Zander try to distract Gabralla to free Rowan, Gabralla is both entertained by the distraction, but sees right through it. The episode establishes Gabralla as a recurring villain for the series by showing his interest in chasing more kyber saber crystals for profit. I, for one, will be excited to see more of Gabralla as the series progresses.
Returning to Dengar, I was excited to see him featured as the series’ main bounty hunter. This was sort of revealed when he was shown as part of the Eclipse set, in which you can build Naare’s flagship, featuring Naare, her ship, Dengar, and a speeder, but we weren’t sure what kind of role he would play. He has a significant role this episode, and it works out well for him. I think the show tries to play on his slightly chubbier build by showing him napping whenever he isn’t fighting. It’s nice to see the show be a bit self-referential in noting that Dengar doesn’t really seem to be much of a threat by now but doesn’t turn it into self-deprecation. He’s shown as a threat here to Rowan and Roger, reminding me of his time in Boba’s gang during the Clone Wars. During a chase as the Freemakers seek to escape the mine, we even get a look at the Punishing One, Dengar’s signature ship (like the Slave One is to Boba Fett) as he tries to stop them from leaving. I’m probably a bad fan for saying this, but this was my first look at the ship and seeing it in LEGO was pretty cool. (Though, seeing it in art, I’m not sure what practical function that design has!) I’d be excited to see Dengar again, and between him and Gabralla, Naare, the Emperor and Darth Vader, the show has plenty of fun and interesting villains to work with.
Based on the strong metanarrative, great, in-depth character moments, and interesting and mostly competent villains, “The Mines of Gabaralla” sets up a firm foundation for the rest of the series while being itself a fun episode to sit back and enjoy watching. If the first two episodes are any indication for the direction of the rest of the series, The Freemaker Adventures will definitely earn its place on your viewing schedule as it continues.
Star Wars Comic Book Reviews:
Darth Vader: The Shu-Torun War
LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures Reviews:
“A Hero Discovered” 1×01