– Spoiler Review –
In Star Wars Rebels‘ “Iron Squadron,” the crew ends up assisting a “ship full of Ezras” in their fight against the Empire and an intriguing connection between Thrawn and a member of Phoenix Squadron is revealed.
On a mission from Fulcrum to Mykapo, Phoenix Squadron and the Ghost crew encounter a tiny band of young rebels, calling themselves the Iron Squadron, fighting against the Imperial presence over their planet. This helps Phoenix Squad with their mission to rescue citizens of the planet who want asylum from the Empire, while Commander Sato requests the Ghost crew to bring in Iron Squadron because it’s being led by his nephew. The scrappy group of young freedom fighters doesn’t want to leave their planet behind to the whims of the Empire, but their leader Mart might be taking it further than his pals Gooti and Jonner really want to go. When Ezra volunteers himself and Sabine (and Chopper) to stay behind and try to convince the Iron Squad to join them, things take a turn for the worse when the Imperials come back with an even bigger force. Iron Squadron finally decides to leave, but while Gooti and Jonner flee with Ezra and Sabine, Mart stays to take the fight to the new foes and ends up losing, left stranded as bait while the rest escape and regroup for a rescue operation. The rebels are of course victorious, leaving Admiral Konstantine as an embarrassment to Grand Admiral Thrawn, who surprises with the reveal he has a history with Commander Sato.
In a consistently strong season, “Iron Squadron” stands out a bit like a Gungan in a lightsaber fight only because it is slightly subpar to the quality so far in S3. A ship full of Ezras has the potential to be an interesting concept and a good way to show how much he’s changed and grown (both to us viewers and to Ezra himself), but there has already been plenty this season that’s pointed out his changes in better ways. However, this episode does showcase how far he’s come from his time in the premiere, as it was nice to hear him be open and honest about his past and the fears he had while alone on Lothal, and he now understands what it means to fight the Empire and that how one chooses to fight is just as important as why one fights. Here’s hoping Ezra continues to take his own advice, as his desire to fight the Empire to protect his friends and those in need is what turned him down the path for power (and a slow pull to the dark) in the first place. I particularly enjoyed his line about how fighting the Empire makes it easier for them to destroy you, as he certainly won’t forget that lesson after learning it the hard way on Malachor. Yoda would probably be happy with Ezra’s progress, but he’d likely say there’s much work left to be done.
As great as some of the material was for Ezra, the Iron Squadron themselves didn’t work so well for me. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy Jonner’s big, dopey ways, Gooti’s confidence, or had a problem with Mart’s brooding attitude, as each one’s personality made them all truly feel like teenagers caught up in something they don’t totally understand. At their age, being afraid to lose everything that’s important to them if they don’t stay and fight is totally understandable, and something we saw with Ezra originally all the way back in the S1 premiere, so again they were unmistakably filling a trope familiar to Iron’s inspiration: the teens from Red Dawn, and any other movie where a group of teens fight back when the adults aren’t able or willing. But even though having the Iron Squad similar to those other stories made it quicker to accept their characters, it also was disappointing the creative team didn’t try to do something different or unique with them. The fact this episode retread the same ground, three times over, with what they originally did with Ezra is what made this whole plotline of a ship full of Ezras to go from potentially interesting to rote.
Thrawn’s game with Admiral Konstantine seems to be his attempt to weed out the ineffectual officers beneath him, or to teach them humility through defeat, but that’s probably the least interesting thing Thrawn does this episode. In fact, his most interesting moment is the smallest part of his appearance, as it raises many questions and helps give Thrawn a sense of history in this time frame: he and Commander Sato have had a previous run-in at Mykapo. How and why did Jun Sato and Thrawn cross paths before? Was it in Sato’s earlier rebellion days? Was Sato with the Empire and Thrawn killed his rebellious brother? Whatever the case may be, them previously meeting explains Thrawn’s actions at Mykapo, as he throws just enough threat (Konstantine) at Sato’s nephew to convince him to reveal himself (even if Thrawn didn’t seem to have any intention of actually fighting Sato, but testing his ability to manipulate him). I’ve very intrigued to see the details of how they knew each other and how that could effect Phoenix Squadron going forward. Beyond that, if there’s one thing Thrawn’s been missing, it’s a sense of history in the new canon. Everyone who has read his Legends tales already has an idea how Thrawn can be depicted and shown to be involved in this era of the timeline, but for both of those who haven’t and those who have read the books, he’s had a real lack of historical presence up until this point in canon. Thrawn (out April 2017), Timothy Zahn’s first novel for the new canon, promises to fill in the blanks regarding Thrawn’s life prior to Rebels S3, but I’m happy we don’t have to wait until the book releases to get some type of minor detail that makes the character feel more grounded and less ‘Legendary’ in the series/era. Here’s hoping there are plenty more moments like this one ahead.
Here are a few other things:
- I’m interested to learn if we’ll see how Hera felt about Ezra and Sabine’s success. I know she doesn’t doubt Sabine, but Hera and Ezra still haven’t quite rebuilt the relationship and trust they used to have before his bumbling of the mission to secure Y-wings in the S3 premiere.
- While I’m not surprised Kanan is such a great and trusted shot as a gunner for the Ghost thanks to his heightened Force-senses, did anyone else laugh when he and Hera exchange their Space-Dad-and-Space-Mom-unsure-about-their-Space-Kids-going-off-on-a-rather-risky-mission look? I get he could probably sense her concern and uncertainty and that’s why he turned and looked at her, but it still made me do a double-take and laugh.
- Considering Bendu is “in the middle,” and therefore neither really good or bad, Mart, Gooti, and Jonner are the first new, named hero characters to join the show this season that aren’t already established characters (like Wedge and Hobbie). Considering there’s been a build up of villains for the show’s rogue’s gallery, it was nice to finally have this offset a bit.
- Yes, Zeb’s line about the ship full of Ezras was my favorite of the episode.
- I usually wait for the cast and crew parts of the credits to see the new character names because I never manage to spell them the correct way. While Mart Mattin’s name did seem a little familiar, it didn’t really hit me until I saw the entirety of Gooti Terez’s name: these characters have names inspired by and in honor of members of Lucasfilm! Gooti Terez is for Andi Gutierrez, host of Rebels Recon and co-host of The Star Wars Show and The Star Wars After Show. Mart Mattin is for Matt Martin, a rather newly minted member of the Lucasfilm Story Group. There were more names than I realized in this episode inspired by employees who bring the cheer of Star Wars to fans and you can get the whole list in the “Iron Squadron” trivia gallery over at the official site.
- Shadows of the Empire for the N64 was one of the first Star Wars video games I played, played a lot of, and actually beat the whole thing (even if the sewer levels scared the crap out of me as a kid) so it was really cool to see Dash Rendar’s model of ship on the screen again in more than a Special Edition cameo. Also, the ending is still one of my favorite space battles in a non-Rogue Squadron game.
- This week’s Rebels Recon touches on the YT-2400’s history a bit, as well as includes the first appearance by Justin Ridge, Dave Filoni’s replacement as Supervising Director!
Compared to the rest of the season, “Iron Squadron” might fall a little short, but it’s still another fun overall entertaining episode of Star Wars Rebels.
+ Ezra’s wise words
+ Thrawn and Sato’s connection
– Retreading some ground in regards to Ezra
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.5: “Breaking Ranks” | 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“
Season Three: Steps into Shadow | Ep. 2: “Holocrons of Fate” | Ep. 3: “The Antilles Extraction” | Ep. 4: “Hera’s Heroes” | Ep. 5: “The Last Battle” | Ep. 6: “Imperial Supercommandos” | Ep. 8: “The Wynkahthu Job” | Ep. 9: “An Inside Man” | Ep. 10: “Visions and Voices” | Ep. 11: “Ghosts of Geonosis” | Ep. 12: “Warhead” | Ep. 13: “Trials of the Darksaber” | Ep. 14: “Legacy of Mandalore” | Ep. 15: “Through Imperial Eyes” | Ep. 16: “Secret Cargo” | Ep. 17: “Double Agent Droid” | Ep. 18: “Twin Suns” | Ep. 19: “Zero Hour“
Season Four: Ep.1/2: “Heroes of Mandalore” Part One / Part Two | Ep. 3/4: “In the Name of the Rebellion” | Ep. 5: “The Occupation” | Ep. 6: “Flight of the Defender” | Ep. 7/8: “Kindred” and “Crawler Commandeers” | Ep. 9: “Rebel Assault” | Ep. 10/11 “Jedi Night” and “Dume” | Ep. 12/13: “Wolves and a Door” & “A World Between Worlds” | Ep. 14/15: Series Finale “A Fool’s Hope” & “Family Reunion – And Farewell”