Rebels, Season 3 Premiere (Part I): Thrawn Right Back Into Things

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Rebels, Season 3 Premiere: Steps Into Shadow (Part I)

A new season of Star Wars: Rebels is upon us, and to honor this occasion, fellow geeks, please accept my offering of the following episode recap of this year’s Season Premiere. To preserve my sanity, I have broken it up into two parts, each covering roughly 20+ish minutes of runtime.

NoteIt should go without saying, but this recap, like all of my recaps, contains a play-by-play of the episode(s) in question, so this blog entry is 10000% NOT SPOILER-FREE. If you haven’t watched the episode yet, but you want to, go do that first. Otherwise, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

All right, we all settled in, then? Everyone comfy and good on snacks? Good! So, you’ll recall that when we last saw the Ghost crew, Ezra was getting his mind poisoned by Darth Fucking Maul (who lived to fight another day again, peeling out of the episode in a stolen TIE fighter,) and Ezra also swiped a Sith holocron from yet another of the Sith’s abandoned foreclosure planets. Our friend Kanan took a Mauling to the eyes (ugh 😦 ), Vader showed up riding on top of a damn TIE fighter, his cape flowing in the wind, because he is the most dramatic human being who has ever lived in this galaxy, and Ahsoka Tano, having faced off with the New Unimproved Anakin Skywalker, departed us for Parts Unknown (possibly permanently, but who the fuck even knows anymore. We all know no one in this series ever actually dies.)

All things taken together, we ended last season on kiiiind of a bummer note, especially since Ezra also OPENED the Sith holocron they stole. But this is STAR WARS, guys! Everything will be totally fine. It’s not like our scrappy ragtag team of Rebels are going to give it their all and help save the universe and then Kylo fucking Ren is going to become a thing and everything will be back to being horrible only a mere few decades later or anything so don’t sweat it. I mean, the last Republic lasted something like 1,000 years, so having the entire galactic government collapse and a Skywalker turn to the Dark Side, AGAIN, while Luke Skywalker is STILL ALIVE would just be crazy, right?

Oh! I’m sorry, I appear to have gotten lost in my own nerd rage again. My apologies. Ahem. OK: the Season 3 opener does not waste any time throwing us right back into the thick of things: loss, grief, haircuts, dye jobs, swindling pirates whom we all sort of have a grudging fondness for now, love, mythical creatures with insight into the Force, friendship, smooth-talking villains, and the constant drumbeat of the encroaching Daaaaahhhk Side of Ezra Bridger. There’s so much to cover, I’m going to be rambling for days. Let’s get going, friends!

Recurring Theme: Look Who’s Got New Hair
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Ezra, now sporting a buzzcut of sorts (meh, I prefer my Star Wars Hair long, but at least we’re not in Jedi Trainee Hair territory or anything), is leading a team comprised of himself, Sabine, Chopper and Zeb on a rescue mission. After some Chopper-related hijinks, which I am calling out specifically so that we can appreciate the glory of these shows on closed-captioning:

…the team approaches a jail cell. Sabine, tasked with opening the cell, is Not Enthusiastic:
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Recurring Theme: Cartoon Crossover

Ezra is adamant — this guy’s got good intel for us, we’ve gotta spring him. Who are they rescuing here, you ask? Why, it’s an old buddy of ours from the Good Old Bad Days, and God love him, he is just as hilarious as ever:
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Hondo’s got a buddy with him, too — an Ugnaught named Terba. Hondo insists he also has premium intel for the crew, and they end up helping them both escape. As they make their way out, Sabine hands Hondo a fancy Mando blaster:

Recurring Theme: Check Out My New Green Lightsaber

The gang heads down a hallway crawling with stormtroopers and as they do, Ezra steels himself and busts out his new lightsaber (since, uh, his last one kind of got, you know, trashed by Darth Vader, just like EVERYTHING ELSE IN THIS UNIVERSE DAMN IT ANAKIN.) He’s now sporting a more traditional-style saber with a green blade, instead of the blue Swiss-Army Blaster/Lightsaber combo he used to have.

He leads the way into the fray and OH MY GOD, he is (yes!) a total badass, flipping around in the air and spinning and just generally kicking ass and taking names:

Even Hondo is like “damn Bridger!”:
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They continue to progress towards the exit and as they do, Hondo and his buddy are arguing over the terms of their deal with each other. Terba decides that he’s DONE with all this nonsense and goes barreling out ahead of the rest of the group and, yeah, that was maybe not a great idea, since an AT-ST is right outside the door alongside some stormtroopers:

Recurring Theme: HOLY SHIT
BONUS Recurring Theme: Hey Everyone Check Out This Kids’ Show For Kids
BONUS Recurring Theme: Shady Hero

OK. So this next scene was featured in the previews leading up to this season, and everyone’s been flipping their shit about, and honestly: I’m not super sure how I feel about it, either. Ezra takes matters into his own hands (literally) here to coordinate their escape by mind-tricking the guy controlling the AT-ST. In doing this, he influences the guy to first kill his own comrades, and then kill himself by walking the AT-ST off a ledge.

KIDS’ SHOW, EVERYONE! LIKE RIGHT NOW WHEN THE TEENAGE HERO OF THE SHOW FORCES A GUY TO KILL HIMSELF! Holy crap. STAR WARS IS GRIM, people. I mean, this should come as no surprise to anyone who’s actually been PAYING ATTENTION to Star Wars, but still. Yikes.

In addition to this being like, really really heavy, I also feel like this begs the question of why Vader and Sidious, for one, weren’t constantly doing this to at least some of the weaker-minded people in the rebellion all the time. I have to believe that their Dark Side powers are about 5,000 times greater than Ezra’s. Couldn’t they have just Mind Tricked huge swaths of the Rebellion into loving the Empire, or flying themselves into a sun? I guess I don’t keep an eye on those two all the time or anything, though, so maybe they are. Either that, or Sidious is just too busy cackling evilly to himself and Vader’s too busy writing wistful poems about Obi-Wan for either of them to squeeze this activity into their busy schedules.

Sabine is like UH OK THAT IS INSANE, did Kanan teach you that? And Ezra, making Dark Side Face, is like “NEWP”:


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With the Imperials taken care of, for better or for worse, Hera arrives to collect the crew and make their getaway.

On board the Ghost, Zeb is telling Hera what happened:

…and, OK, Zeb: I guess it was “wizard”? If by “wizard” you mean “probably a sign of bad things to come”?

Recurring Theme: Ezra Bridger, The Original Anakin Skywalker Fanboy

Hera gets into it with Ezra over not covering every little detail of the mission, and Ezra is all like EVERYONE JUST GET OFF MY BACK OK I TRIED I DID MY BEST OMG I’M GOING TO GO TO MY ROOM TO SULK NOW and just move the fuck on over, Kylo, because I’m pretty sure the founder of the Anakin Skywalker Troubled Edgelord Fanclub is Ezra Bridger.

I need to point out Ezra’s room here. Can we please take a moment to enjoy the poster in the background here? LIKE FOR REAL, FILONI.  rebels-s3e1-0045
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I had to go grab that screenshot even though I haven’t recapped TCW’s Clovis episode with Anakin’s depressing dorm room in it yet. You guys, Ezra and Anakin would be like MAJOR BFFs until they inevitably tried to destroy each other. Just think: they could commiserate about how their Masters don’t love them enough and that No One Understands Them and how They Want Mooooore, Little Mermaid-Style while wistfully recalling their lost parents. Also I don’t know Ezra’s feelings about sand but I bet he thinks it sucks.

Ezra pulls out something he’s been keeping hidden in his room under one of these helmets: that Sith Holocron from before! Oh good. This seems like a great idea.
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Recurring Theme: I Can’t Even Narrow It Down To Only A Few Recurring Themes Here

Ezra opens the eeeeevil red holocron, and this scene more or less proceeds as follows:

Holocron With the Voice of Asajj Ventress: Your anger gives you focusssssss.

Ezra: I’m more powerful than all of you! This is insulting! I want more, and I know I shouldn’t! It’s impossible! I can’t go with you to Alderdaan! If there’s a bright spot in the universe, I’m furthest from it! I won’t let my friends die! I will finish what you started! That lightsaber belongs to me!
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Me: OMFG not this shit again. Also, I swear to God, Ventress, if that’s actually you and they’re making even the Darksiders come back after they die to impart training advice to whiny teenagers now, I am going to be so annoyed on your behalf.

Ezra marinates in his burgeoning Evil, and we end the scene. Well. Sure looks like we’re on a good path here, Star Wars! What could go wrong?

Your Daily Reminder That Darth Vader Makes Me Sad

Back in what appears to be an Evil Empire Conference Room of some sort (complete with conference speaker phone in the middle of the table) our anemic, gaunt friend Tarkin is talking to his colleague, Governor Pryce.rebels-s3e1-0053

Pryce says that she wants someone to help her crack down on the Rebel Threat. She thinks there’s a bigger problem brewing. Tarkin is like “well Vader said he totally killed Ahsoka”:

…and OK, not that that even means anything, but the fact that we’re at a point where part of Anakin’s job is reporting back about having at least ATTEMPTED to murder Ahsoka at some point is the worst. Damn it, Anakin.
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Anyhow: Pryce. She needs fresh eyes. Someone good. Someone eeeeeevill. Someone from the old EU, if possible. Tarkin says he’ll see about breaking out his copy of Heir to the Empire and start looking for job candidates.

Recurring Theme: Hondo Ohnaka, Entrepreneur

Next, we find Hondo shaking the Rebels down as he negotiates his payment for the information he’s going to provide them. Dude, I hope you realize that the Jedi and their friends have a lot less petty cash on hand to pay you off with than they used to. I mean, Kenobi’s living in a hut in the desert and Yoda’s living in an actual swamp now, for one thing. Hera is like WTF: helping you get out of a jail cell wasn’t enough?

Hondo’s like, nope, I could use a ship, so…get on that. Something like the Ghost for example LOL TOTALLY JK.

Eventually they agree to set him up with a ship — if his intel pans out — and in return, he shows them a planet…
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Hey cool! Turns out, this old salvage station has some Y-wings sitting around, just waiting to get melted down for scrap. Hera’s like “ehh…Y-wings? Kind of old-school…” and Rex is like “HEY JUST A MINUTE THERE LADY. Y-wings did their job. OLD THINGS CAN STILL BE GOOD.” Aw, Rex.
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Ezra, being an impatient hothead, is like:
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Hold your horses there, my increasingly-sour little blueberry! They need to go scope things out first before trying to abscond with these Y-wings — get the lay of the land, see what kind of security is in place, confirm that Hondo isn’t full of shit because he is a damn pirate after all. You can’t just badass your way in there.

I’m Overwhelmed, Sir

Ezra is then informed that because he’s been doing such a good job lately, he’s in charge of this mission, too, AND he’s getting a promotion to Lieutenant Commander. Everyone gives him attaboys:

Hera tells Ezra that Kanan will be proud of him, only to have Ezra go Full Skywalker again and be like UGH AS IF HE WOULD EVEN NOTICE MY MASTER DOESN’T EVEN GET ME HE DOESN’T UNDERSTAND IT’S ALL OBI-WAN’S FAULT.
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Recurring Theme: We Need To Talk About Our Evil Son
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After this, Hera finds Kanan meditating outside. Kanan, I should note, is wearing a mask over his injured, now-blinded eyes, and it has Rex’s little design on it, which is cool and definitely not at all heart-squeezing or anything. She tells Kanan that Ezra is doing well, but he blames himself for what happened to Kanan and Ahsoka, and Kanan is like:
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Hera, leaving him to his solitude, tells him:
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Recurring Theme: It’s Time For a Heart-to-Heart, My Young Jedi Trainee

Later, Ezra is relaxing in his room thinking about how great the Dark Side is or whatever when Kanan enters and says he thinks the two of them should talk. Ezra gets panicky and weird, because the idiot LEFT THE FUCKING SITH HOLOCRON SITTING RIGHT OUT ON THE TABLE. Ezra: FFS. Anakin: I’m sorry, pumpkin, but it appears a new contender has emerged for Worst At Hiding Their Inner Conflict. Don’t worry, you’re still the uncontested titleholder for Most Dramatic Fist-Clencher, as well as Least-Biggest Fan of Sand. Ezra babbles on awkwardly about how he’s super busy right now, Dad, and he thinks he hears the Force calling him and he’s got an important mission to focus on, and Kanan is like yeah yeah big shot, so I’ve heard.

Well Then You Are Lost

Kanan then sets his arm down on the table and, in doing so, discovers why Ezra was so nervous:

DUN DUN DUUUUUN! Kanan is like OMG you’ve been doing the Dark Side in here? WHO RAISED YOU I AM SO DISAPPOINTED YOUNG MAN I am going to make you smoke this entire pack of Sith holocrons and then we’ll see how much you like it.

The two dive into a Good Old Fashioned Bitch-Off About The Merits of Using the Dark Side:

Eventually Kanan puts his foot down: he’s taking the holocron away from Ezra, and we’ll have no more of this Dark Side business, buddy. Ezra is furious and preeeeetty much just pulls up Anakin’s old livejournal for inspiration for his next few lines:
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Kanan leaves, and I begin to wonder if any Jedi has ever had a relationship with their teacher that did not end in misery and angst.

We cut now to Sabine, Zeb, and Hondo making their way towards Reklam Station, and there’s some back and forth about how they have to make a stop on their way there in this Mining Guild District and Hondo hopes the Empire won’t get alerted to their presence because it could jeopardize his payment, errr:

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Subtle as always, Ohnaka!

Kanan’s Excellent Force Adventure

Oh, LOOK. What do you know, guys? It’s time for someone in Star Wars to get confusing, inscrutable words of “wisdom” from the fucking Force again. The Force, as I’ve mentioned in earlier recaps, is often kind of a dick to our characters, delighting in terrifying them, making them go on long, insane quests for unclear reasons, scaring them with shirtless nightmares and all sorts of other nonsense as part of their journeys. This week’s victim is Kanan, who during his meditation outdoors hears a voice beckoning him to come find him. He arms himself and, cautiously, proceeds forward. Be careful out there, Jarrus! Watch out for Force Nuns and Darth Bane!
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Meanwhile, things aren’t going so well for the rest of the crew, as they’re trying to weasel their way through space without their plan being uncovered:

Recurring Theme: Part of Your Journey Involves Talking to a Crazy Old Creature Who Speaks In Riddles

Kanan continues to cautiously find his way following the mysterious voice, and as he does he maneuvers around gigantic creepy spiders:
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…and encounters a definitely-significant owl, who guides him the rest of the way:
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Eventually, he comes upon the thing that was trying to call for him earlier. And it’s BIG:

Back on board the Phantom, things are getting hairy. Hondo laments:
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Ultimately Sabine blasts the TIE fighters away, but Ezra’s nervous:
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Rex and Sabine point out that they probably already HAVE tipped off the Empire, so they’d best just get a hyperspace move on, NOW. Ezra, annoyed, relents.

The Light, The Dark, and The Grey

Kanan has a chat with this mysterious stranger he’s found. This guy is all “Hey dude, I’m glad you finally found me! I was SLEEPING here, and then you and your weird imbalance woke me up!”

Who’s this guy? Well, Kanan can tell he’s a Force wielder. But he’s not a Jedi. The stranger seems amused by this and drops some more Advanced Force-o-nomics on us:
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Kanan introduces himself, and the Bendu notes:
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Kanan suspects he knows what’s causing the imbalance: it’s this Sith holocron he’s got with him. His apprentice keeps touching it and it’s probably making him evil. The Bendu’s like hey give it here:
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Kanan is all BE CAREFUL it’s totally evil and don’t touch it and don’t look at it, it’ll make you murdery and the next thing you know you’re going to be missing multiple limbs and/or Mauling people left and right.

The Bendu is unimpressed. He’s like yeah OK dude, chill: an object isn’t going to make anyone go Darksider. Now, some things that MIGHT make someone go Darksider include, say:

Yeah, we’re all looking at you, Skywalker. Consider yourself called out.

He takes Kanan’s weapon, and Kanan is furious — he needs that to fend off those crazy giant-ass spiders! He can’t even see where he’s going anymore!
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A-HA! Says the Bendu. You’re the one with the imbalance. Not the holocron. Not Ezra (maybe). Maybe the Bendu can help him to see — no, not in the traditional sense, but in some Weird Spiritual Force-y Way. That is, if he’s willing to listen:

Kanan is ready, and removes his mask:
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Recurring Theme: Let’s Do The Canon Jump Again

We’re now back with the Imperials, and they’re blahblahblahing about whether or not the Rebellion is big or small and how big of a threat they are or aren’t:

Eventually, a smooth, sly, cartoonishly eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeevil voice — think Bond Villain, but somehow almost Slightly Drunk Bond Villain? becausehesverrryslurrywhenhetalksinadeliberatesssslowway — appears. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome this week’s arrival from the Old Expanded Universe, making his first jump into Actually 100% Officially-Official Canon…
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Yes, it’s Grand Admiral Thrawn. I almost cannot overstate how large this character loomed in Ye Olde EU in terms of popularity. People who didn’t like anything about the old EU would frequently still be like “…oh, but Thrawn, man. THRAWN. You know? Thrawn. Man.” When Filoni busted out a clip from this episode at Star Wars Celebration this past summer and The Big Thrawn Confirmation/Reveal occurred, it was like Filoni was a Cowboy-Hat-Wearing Oprah and the nerds in the audience had all just been told they were getting cars.

Recurring Theme: Dramatic Plan Reveal

Having no especially strong opinion on the old EU myself (short of the fact that it was frequently hilarious and do not even TRY to tell me it was not, people,) I’m not here to sway you on Thrawn’s inclusion here as being an Amazing or Terrible thing. I am Thrawn-Neutral, I guess, although selfishly I will say he seems likely to provide me with great fodder for commentary. ANYWAYS, none of this is important: the point is that Thrawn’s here and he’s a monocle and a white Persian cat away from going Full Classic Evil Guy on us as he starts laying out what he believes to be the case with with our Rrrrrrebel Frriends!

Our man Thrawn here? He is no joke. Unlike virtually every single other person on either side of the galactic conflict, Thrawn is supposed to actually know what the hell he’s doing a lot of the time. Thus, Thrawn is like ALL OVER this Rebellion shit: he knows exactly what they’re up to, and knows they’re going to try to steal the Y-wings from the Space Junkyard. Not to worry, though, Evil Uncle Sidious — Thrawn’s got a plan:
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Oh. Well then. That sounds…maybe not so good for our pals. DUN DUN DUUUUUN!

On that extremely bright note, it’s time for us to pause — but not to worry, there’s still more of this episode yet to be unpacked! Thanks for reading — until next time!

In Part II: Kanan gets himself together, Ezra is a master of daring but also needs his parents to come pick him up from his Incredible Dangerous Feat, and Thrawn’s playing the long game.