– Spoiler Review –
For those watching The Freemaker Adventures on the Watch Disney XD app, we were shown the first and third episode of the series on Monday, the date of the premiere. The third episode, “Zander’s Joyride”, features a lot of fun callbacks to The Phantom Menace and has a heavier focus on character development for both our heroes and villains. As it is the third episode of the series, spoiler warnings will definitely apply for this review. Is the series worth pursuing past the pilot? I think so. Read on to find out why!
The episode takes a break from the search for the Kyber saber crystals to focus on what the Freemakers do for work: repairing ships. Wick Cooper, an extremely rich patron, comes to the shop for repairs on his N-1 Naboo Starfighter. Decades after the invasion of Naboo, these ships are extremely rare, especially in the condition that Mr. “Moneybags” (as Kordi calls him) keeps it in: his fighter still runs and the chronium undercarriage is still intact! Mr. Cooper has an extensive list of demands for repairs which only exacerbates Kordi as he lists them off. As someone who has worked in retail my entire life, this scene was all too real, but also extremely funny.
As the list of demands grows longer, Rowan tries to keep Zander from finding out there’s an original Naboo fighter in the shop. Rowan comes up with an increasingly weird list of ways to keep Zander tied up (sometimes literally) to keep him from seeing the ship. Unfortunately for Rowan, he fails at keeping the ship secret and Zander falls in love at first sight. He lists every detail of the ship, telling Rowan that he has to take the ship out for a joy ride. Rowan, rather humorously, fails to use the Force to try and stop him from taking the ship out of the shop. Kordi rushes back to stop the two brothers from fighting and to convince Zander to leave the ship alone. As Kordi and Rowan argue, Zander sneaks out with the ship and races around the Wheel, the space station in which their shop is located, for a couple of laps.
This sends Kordi into panic mode. She sends Roger to keep Mr. Wick occupied as they try and recover the ship. This solidifies Roger’s place as my favorite character in the entire series (seriously: the love that some people have for Chopper might be the same love I have for Roger right now). In an effort to keep Mr. Cooper busy, but also to get honest feedback about his writing, Roger reads the entirety of his autobiography, listing his service in the Clone Wars up until his most recent adventure in “The Mines of Gabralla”. He mentions the battles of Christophsis and Saluecami, which would be insanely interesting stories for the audience to hear, but Mr. Cooper is entirely disinterested in Roger’s stories.
As Zander is out flying the Naboo fighter, he finds what he thinks is a drag race featuring only A-Wings. He comes to find out that this is a rebel op, and the rebels are taking on the Star Destroyer Vendetta! The A-Wings escape after a quick engagement, but Zander is not so lucky. He is captured by the Imperials and interrogated to find out what he knows about the Rebellion. He manages to get a message off to the Wheel, letting Kordi and Rowan know that he was captured. After a funny debate over whether they should ask Naare for help (since Kordi still doesn’t trust her) or hire a bounty hunter, the two ask Naare for help when they remember that hiring a bounty hunter would cost money. When Naare finds out that Zander is aboard the Star Destroyer, she tries to opt out of the mission in order to keep her cover as a spy. Rowan, an oblivious twelve-year old, misunderstands this as a test being issued by his Master and takes the team with him to rescue Zander.
As “Zander’s Joyride” doesn’t focus on search for the kyber saber crystals, it was a nice little break in the overall plot in order to get to know our characters better without worrying about searching for more crystals. The first two episodes showed us a bit about Zander, but I enjoyed getting a closer look at him and his love for ships this episode. The Freemaker Adventures really does show heart, and it develops characters with far more depth than a lot of shows made for older audiences. The core cast is so well-done and lovable in these episodes that this series could live on for a long time focusing on them, even after the kyber crystal plotline wraps up.
Unlike Rebels, even though this episode sheds the spotlight on Zander more, that doesn’t mean the rest of the main cast is put to the side. We still get to know more about Kordi, and Rowan is just as fun as ever (and even more likeable since he was toned down from the first episode). Nicolas Cantu does an excellent job bringing Rowan to life and might be a better voice actor than a lot of trained adults! Kordi’s general wariness of Naare is well done, and her concern for her brother is a nice element of family driven drama that gives the series so much of its soul.
The episode also turns to focus on Naare and her relationship to the Freemakers and the Empire. Acting as a double agent, she has a lot of permissions on the Vendetta (such as clearance codes, the officers treating her with respect, and a working knowledge of the lay out) that she has to keep hidden from the Freemakers. The episode does a good job – in a very LEGO like way – of literally using “look over there!” gags to distract the Freemakers from noticing her using Imperial codes to save Zander from his detention block without seeming too silly or exaggerated. Seeing Naare’s Jedi persona and her Sith training start to become less rigid is a great development, and it’s interesting to watch her try and balance both sides of her life right now as she begins to lose the strict dichotomy between her roles.
Finally, having established Naare as a villain in episode one, and establishing Graballa the Hutt as a returning villain in episode 2, it was nice to return to Darth Vader for this episode. While Graballa and Naare make for compelling original villains, it’s nice to see some returning favorites, too. There’s a lot of ironic humor to Vader, and I think the episode plays this up really well: he reminds Naare that she can always Force choke people to get what she wants, and he Force chokes someone for failing him after he saves the officer from choking on food. We’re also given a really cool glimpse into Vader’s psyche that connects his story to The Phantom Menace well: As he sees the Naboo fighter, he is overjoyed and remembers the time that he blew up a Trade Federation flagship with the fighter during the Invasion of Theed. Vader is so excited that he, too, takes the ship on a joyride – a joyride met with hilarious results as the Freemakers use this as a distraction to get off the ship and back to the Wheel.
A solid character driven episode that focuses on almost the entire cast of the show, giving each character ample time for development, was a refreshing change of pace for Star Wars animation. The show’s cast is imbuing the show with a ton of heart and soul and continues to draw me into the series just for them. The balance of humor and drama is well done, keeping you engaged without taking you out of the narrative with overly silly jokes. Again, The Freemaker Adventures shows itself as a worthy bearer of the Star Wars title and a great way to spend 22 minutes tonight.
Star Wars Comic Book Reviews:
Darth Vader: The Shu-Torun War