– Spoiler Review –
“Breaking Ranks” had the tough job of following the excellent “Rise of the Old Masters,” but it performed its duties wonderfully even if it wasn’t as good. The introduction of Zare Leonis, Ezra’s true mission and the friends he makes at Lothal’s Imperial Academy, plus a space battle are all pretty great ways to counteract “RotOM.”
As with most episodes so far, we arrive in the middle of the situation and get caught up as the action moves along at a brisk, but breezy pace. “Breaking Ranks” does this expertly thanks to the dialogue shared between characters, which doesn’t sound like exposition even though some of it is. Whether it’s Kanan fretting about Ezra’s mission in the Academy, Hera reassuring him the risk is worth it, Sabine updating them on his progress, or Ezra’s funny hologram to the rest of the team, everything said not only sounds believably like something they’d say, but it smartly moves the story forward and informs the audience.
Ezra’s currently undercover at the Imperial Academy, going through stormtrooper cadet training, in an attempt to steal an Imperial encoder. Seeing Ezra with other kids his age reminded me a bit of him chumming with Zeb aboard the Ghost, but also reminded me of how lonely an existence he had until he met up with the crew. He quickly makes friends, first with Jai Kell (Dante Basco) and eventually with Zare Leonis (Bryton James) and his reaction to having friends informs on his choices throughout the episode.
The training inside the Well is visually reminiscent of the Box from The Clone Wars‘ 4th season arc involving an undercover Obi-Wan Kenobi. The Well is no where near as deadly as the Box, but can still be considered quite difficult. It’s also surprising most stormtroopers go through this training, considering they can’t jump out of the way of a thermal detonator (as seen in previous episodes). Being amongst the first three to reach the top means special privileges, like getting inside places Ezra needs to complete his mission, so with the help of the Force he’s always on top.
Overseeing the training are two Imperials we haven’t seen since Spark of Rebellion, Commandant Arekso and Taskmaster Grint (it’s nice to have that consistency, and I’m only slightly surprised they didn’t recognize Ezra as the loth-rat they met). They take notice of Ezra’s ability and question if it’s too good, which sounds an awful lot like they’re looking out for possible Force sensitives. It’s later revealed Aresko is reporting instances of possible Force sensitives to the Inquisitor, who decides to personally come and vet the candidates (Jai and Ezra). I believe this is an extension of the edict handed down to the Inquisitor from the Emperor by way of Vader in the new opening scene that aired in the primetime telecast of SoR, as the instructions are for the Inquisitor to hunt the “…children of the Force.” Can’t be coincidence they just so happened to include the new scene and now this episode aired.
Not only is Ezra under cover, but so too is Chopper (or as I like to say, “Unda’ cova’ Choppa’!”) who they mostly painted black and it shows rather obviously but hilariously. He’s the main way for Ezra to get messages out and while no one else suspects a thing, it’s how Zare gets onto Ezra. If you haven’t read the first Servants of the Empire book, Edge of the Galaxy (and I haven’t, yet), then it’s definitely surprising when Zare doesn’t want to report Ezra for breaking into Agent Kallus’ office and attempting to steal the encoder; In fact, Zare wants to help him by pointing out an alarm Ezra missed and is more curious about his motives than his actions. Zare is the main character of the SotE young adult series, which tells his story around events from Rebels. While Zare explains his situation to Ezra in the episode, his sister went missing after attending the Academy and he’s trying to get to the bottom of it, SotE: EotG covers that backstory and leads into “Breaking Ranks.” He ends the episode not joining Ezra and the crew, instead staying behind to continue looking for his sister, the story of which will carry on in the SotE series until we see him again in the show. Being a strong character with an interesting mission against the Empire that doesn’t necessarily have to end with him joining the eventual Rebellion, I really hope we get to see more of him in the show.
Zare distracting Kallus with a fake order of podracer parts was entertaining and Ezra’s certainly gotten better at using the Force as he deftly sneaks the encoder out of the room before Kallus suspects anything. However, to undertake their plan, Ezra has to push Jai down the Well in an effort to ensure Zare makes it among the top three, thus getting their special access. I really liked how obvious betraying Jai like that hurt Ezra, but it really shows his commitment to the mission. And just after he turns on Jai, Ezra overhears Aresko talking to the Inquisitor about them both. Even though his mission his over, Ezra pulls a Jedi and decides to stay behind to help get Jai and Zare out. It takes a pretty heartfelt, but fear inducing speech from Zare to convince Jai to join their cause after he felt so burnt by Ezra; Not having Ezra do all the talking about how bad the Empire is was refreshing, showing us how strongly others have been affected by them too.
Ezra’s hologram message to Zeb and Sabine was funny, as he blamed hanging around with “heroes” forced him to stay behind and get his friends out. Sabine relays his message to a restless Kanan and calm Hera, along with the encoder data about an Imperial hyperspace jump route, as Kanan and Hera argue about the mission and how Ezra shouldn’t stay behind. Hera has faith in their newest charge, but also reminds Kanan they have bigger fish to fry: the Imperials are shipping a kyber crystal around. Kyber crystals are the gem used in lightsabers, but occasionally ones far larger than normal can be found. Case in the point, the recently released “Crystal Crisis“ arc from TCW, which deals with a giant kyber crystal and it’s potential usage/danger (see: Death Star), joining a reference in Tarkin as another reason they released those episodes even unfinished.
The space battle isn’t giant, nor is it long, but it’s intense, especially as it’s intercut with action back on Lothal. Hera flying into the thick of things and reacting so physically when piloting were a blast to see, as well as that magnificent explosion once she strikes the ship carrying the kyber crystal (something I’ve been dying to see since the “The Big Bang” episode of the Crystal Crisis arc). On Lothal, Jai, Zare, and Ezra nearly make it out of the Academy’s hanger in a AT-DP (the prize for winning the Well one last time), but it takes a save from Sabine, Zeb, and even Chopper to get them out. This is where Zare fakes Imperial loyalty, shooting at the fleeing crew; His mission gets more dangerous now, as the Inquisitor has arrived and is eager to hear what he has to say about Ezra and the others.
Here are a few other things:
- Oleg was the one evil cadet Jai, Ezra, and Zare had to deal with, but we never see his face. I wonder if there was any specific reason for that.
- The way Chopper sits on the back of the speeder Zeb’s driving is priceless (it’s a blink and you might miss it moment).
- Having the Inquisitor be on Lothal already is a surprising touch, but welcomed as I feared we might not see him again for quite some time.
- I like how Aresko always refers to himself by his operating number over the comms, unlike how the clones strived to be individuals and always used their chosen/given names. Clones being more individual than a force made up of individuals really highlights the differences in the armies of each era.
Watching Ezra act not only in the interest of the mission but also to help others is great show of how much he’s changed even from the first episode. “Breaking Ranks” also introduced viewers to Zare Leonis, a book character who is now more than welcomed as the show progresses, while the ultimate mission here, to stop a kyber crystal shipment, should have some far reaching consequences for our heroes, especially with the Inquisitor so close at hand. Star Wars Rebels is continuing to use it’s strengths of strong characters and dialogue to make for entertaining stories surrounding the crew of the Ghost and this week was no exception, even if wasn’t as thrilling as last week.
+ Zare Leonis
+ Unda’ Cova’ Choppa’
+ Ezra pulling a Jedi
+ Space battle/Kyber explosion
STAR WARS REBELS REVIEWS:
Season One: Spark of Rebellion | Ep. 2: “Droids In Distress” | Ep.3: “Fighter Flight” | Ep.4: “Rise of the Old Masters” | Ep.6: “Out of Darkness” | Ep.7: “Empire Day” | Ep.8: “Gathering Forces” | Ep.9: “Path of the Jedi” | Ep.10: “Idiot’s Array” | Ep.11: “Vision of Hope” | Ep.12: “Call to Action” | Ep.13: “Rebel Resolve” | Ep.14: “Fire Across the Galaxy”
Season Two: The Siege of Lothal | Ep. 2: “The Lost Commanders” | Ep. 3: “Relics of the Old Republic” | Ep. 4: “Always Two There Are” | Ep. 5: “Brothers of the Broken Horn” | Ep. 6: “Wings of the Master” | Ep. 7: “Blood Sisters” | Ep. 8: “Stealth Strike” | Ep. 9: “The Future of the Force” | Ep. 10: “Legacy” | Ep. 11: “A Princess on Lothal” | Ep. 12: “The Protector of Concord Dawn” | Ep. 13: “Legends of the Lasat” | Ep. 14: “The Call” | Ep. 15: “Homecoming” | Ep. 16: “The Honorable Ones” | Ep. 17: “Shroud of Darkness” | Ep. 18: “The Forgotten Droid” | Ep. 19: “The Mystery of Chopper Base” | Ep. 20: “Twilight of the Apprentice“