– Spoiler Review –
Fans of The Clone Wars will find several familiar things in Star Wars Rebels‘ latest, “The Last Battle,” as Rex finds himself fighting alongside the Jedi again in a battle against Separatist droids who didn’t quite get the message the war was over. Come for the nostalgia, stay for the all too important and overlooked questions raised about the Clone War in another fine entry for season three.
Captain Rex, Kanan, Ezra, Zeb, and Chopper are dropped off at a seemingly abandoned Separatist outpost on the planet Agamar with the mission of locating proton bombs and any other munitions they can find. The place isn’t abandoned however and they are soon captured (besides Chopper) by a Super Tactical Droid named Kalani, who avoided the Droid Army shutdown command due to believing it was a Republic trick. Instead of killing his captives, Kalani offers them a deal: play his war game to see who truly was better, the Republic or the Separatists, and he’ll allow them to leave (with the proton bombs too, thanks to Ezra’s bargaining). Zeb is used as a captive while Rex, Ezra, and Kanan fight in Kalani’s game, but the situation gets personal for Rex and the battle isn’t as easy as anyone expected. Though they storm Kalani’s position, effectively winning the war game, Ezra’s been struggling with why the battle was so important to both Rex and Kalani that he finds himself asking an important question everyone else overlooked: if neither the clones or the Separatist won the Clone Wars, who did? The Empire, who just so happens to be showing up after intercepting a distress call from Chopper, is the answer for who won and Ezra is able to help turn the droids to their side to fight the incoming threat. The droids and rebels escape, amicably parting ways, while the rebels take their newly acquired transport to replace the lost Phantom.
In a way Ezra stopping the fighting and bringing a resolution to the conflict, through the logic that both sides were previously fighting a war they weren’t made to win, is a step in the right direction for him about realizing when fighting isn’t the answer. Kanan hasn’t been explicitly training Ezra this notion, but he’s been certainly acting with a focus on non-violent conflict resolution, and it’s beginning to wear off on Ezra. Learning when not to fight is going to be a struggle for Ezra in the long run still, as he was only able to apply the concept to Rex and Kalani’s battle of Republic versus Separatist because he’s looking at the situation dispassionately. However, he can’t yet do the same when it comes to his friends, as seen in “The Antilles Extraction,” where despite his trust in Sabine’s skills he would rather be the one in danger’s way or at least with her because then he can control the situation. If Ezra can manage to get over the fear of not having control, could his ability to think outside the box and resolve this conflict foretell of him doing the same thing for a different battle later in the season? Could he be the one to outsmart the slightly overconfident Grand Admiral Thrawn? Or could he find a way to prevent Maul and Obi-Wan from fighting, a battle hinted at in “Holocrons of Fate,” because he helps them unite against a common enemy, too?
At first I was a little surprised Rex seemed to be so caught up in the war game, even coming down on Ezra hard for taking more time then Rex would’ve liked him to when trying to use a crane to knock Destroyers off a bridge. After all, wasn’t this the retired clone we met slinging for joopas on some backwater planet with three of his closest brothers, who seemed to be content without war in his life? But when Rex mentioned they were essentially programmed, much like the droids, for combat and loyalty to the war effort, it made me realize even joopas had been an attempt for the clone(s) to find something else to win after being unable to win their war, even if they technically did. In fact, the idea of the war never being finished clearly haunts Rex, shown very clearly from his POV when he begins to panic about the war not being over after waking up from being knocked out and seeing the droids having captured him. As Kanan puts it, “Battles leave scars…some you can’t see,” and psychologically Rex has never been able to get over the war because he never actual won it. While we’ve never seen the moment play out in a different medium, we know Rex was with Ahsoka on Mandalore when Order 66 rolled out and somehow he overcame his inhibitor chip and helped Ahsoka escape while faking his own death. But imagine that being the end to the war you were bred to win, your brothers turning on people you considered friends and were loyal to, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise such a moment would never feel like a true resolution to the conflict, while alternatively the prospect of fighting it again might bring back memories of those terrifying final moments and the fear it might be worse fighting the same war a second time.
The programming aspect of Rex’s problems with the unresolved war can be applied to Kalani, as his programming requires him to win the war but it never truly ended so hence why he’s still so obsessed with fighting it to the point he created a war game scenario if the opportunity ever presented itself. After he teams up with Rex and the gang, as Zeb’s realization that the Empire is the true target after the Clone Wars—since they’ve just replaced the Republic—helps the droid accept the new enemy, both he and Rex come to understand they were never meant to win. Kalani finds his programming satisfied, as the focus on a new enemy (or at least the replacement of his old one) brings the Clone Wars effectively to a close for him, and he jets off to live another day doing whatever droids might do when they retire. Rex also considers the revelation about the war’s lack of purpose as a way to help him shrug off the programmed need to win the Clone Wars, helping him come to peace with its ending and no longer pushing his need to finish the war onto other things, like joopa hunting initially was for him. Rex won’t be focusing on the past so much any more and it could help him become even more committed to the Rebellion (as if he really needed to be more committed in the first place).
Here are few other things:
- Kalani was previously seen in the Onderon arc of TCW‘s 5th season, which is now notable for Saw Gerrera’s first appearance before making the jump to live-action in Rogue One. By the end of the arc, Kalani lives because he and Count Dooku believe the fight to keep Onderon isn’t worth the effort anymore and the droid is ordered to Agamar by Dooku. It seems he never left…until now. It would be interesting to see if he would try joining the fight against the Empire at one point since the odds of a successful Rebellion might go up a couple ticks after the Death Star is destroyed. Or he could run out of batteries by then. Who knows.
- Kanan calling the group of droids they are fighting alongside at the end “D-squad” is a fun little wink and nod reference to the D-squad arc in TCW‘s 5th season, which focused on a squadron of droids, including R2-D2, who carried out a dangerous mission behind enemy lines. The series of episodes weren’t met so favorably when first aired, even I didn’t enjoy them much, but I’ve grown to enjoy them as time has worn on. The writer for the D-squad arc, Brent Friedman, is actually the writer for “The Last Battle,” his first Rebels episode; This would account for the droid humor being very present in this episode as well. Friedman also wrote the Bad Batch arc, released as unfinished episodes last year, and the arc where Obi-Wan goes undercover as a bounty hunter. As much as “Battle” had a lot of TCW to it, this still felt like an episode of Rebels overall, so I’d be more than glad to have him back for more episodes.
- After “Stealth Strike,” I haven’t been too surprised Kanan and Rex are still buddies, but this episode was a nice extension of that: Kanan is the one to bring Rex out of his near nightmare upon waking up and seeing the droids, calmly bringing the aging clone to the here and now; Kanan lets Rex go off on his Padawan, reassuring Ezra afterwards that Rex just needs to see this through.
- Kallus and Governor Pryce, seen briefly here, seem to be pretty chummy these days. Is Kallus always by Pryce’s side because it’s his job, he was assigned to her side, or did he take the position so he could gather information from a person so high up in the Empire to help in his role as a Fulcrum agent for the Rebellion?
“The Last Battle,” was full of nostalgia and big questions about the Clone Wars, while it certainly wasn’t short on fun, humor, and action. It also gave Rex the resolution he deserves from the scars of his past while showing there’s still hope for Ezra learning the most valuable lesson of all: knowing when not to fight.
+ Healing Rex’s scars
+ Ezra thinking outside the box
+ The enemy of my enemy is my enemy i.e. the Empire
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. 6: “Imperial Supercommandos” | Ep. 7: “Iron Squadron” | Ep. 8: “The Wynkahthu Job” | Ep. 9: “An Inside Man” | Ep. 10: “Visions and Voices“
A New Dawn (Novel)