Steps Into Shadow: Rebels Season 3 Episode 1 Review

 Steps Into Shadow

 After being blinded in the season 2 finale, Kanan has withdrawn himself from the other members of his crew. Hera still pilots the Ghost but interacts more with Commander Sato regarding plans for building a larger rebellion. Ezra has been promoted to leader of the rest of the team and has had many successes, aided by the use of the Sith Holocron. Has blindness relegated Kanan to the sidelines forever? Has Ezra been given too much responsibility too soon, and will he cross over to the dark side completely because of the influence of the Holocron?

What Worked?

 The first things that must be mentioned, although they may seem minor, are the new voices. The additions of Tom Baker as the voice of the Bendu and Lars Mikkelsen as Grand Admiral Thrawn are pure genius. Baker’s voice adds real gravitas to an already superb cast. It conveys the wisdom an ancient force welding beast would be expected to have. In the same manner, Mikkelsen’s voice expresses calculated coldness, perfect for what fans of Thrawn know to be the personality of the character.

Thrawn

Getting past the voices, the actual new characters work very well, especially Thrawn. Bringing this character back into the canon is a brilliant decision. First, it acknowledges investments made by many fans who read the extended universe, and it shows a response from a giant corporation that the opinions of the fans do matter. Second, it brings in a really great character. His blue face in a white uniform is very striking. Even those unfamiliar with the character sense something is off with the contrast between Thrawn and every other imperial officer, leading some to realize racism is just one more of the many evils of the empire.

The Bendu

The Bendu is very intriguing. The fact that he is somewhere between the light and the dark begs the question, “Is there a problem with the way the Jedi interpret the use of the Force?” Interestingly, the Bendu mentions that a thing cannot make a person good or evil, but he does mention that, among other more expected things, love for another person can lead toward evil. Implied is that extremes, in one direction or another, is what causes people to do evil things. Maybe there can be a righteous anger that spurs one to action, but that can then be quelled once the action has been undertaken. Maybe the removal of emotional attachments also isolates one from the real life problems others face, causing, perhaps a Jedi, to forget the reason for which he or she is fighting.

Audio and Visuals

The music, as always, is terrific. It almost has gotten to the point of not needing to be mentioned. However, it worked particularly well as Ezra used mind control on the walker pilot. It mixed the orchestral pieces associated with the rebellion with the low, heavy choral pieces associated with Dark Force users, expressing the turmoil inside Ezra as he uses skills learned from the Sith Holocron to complete rebel missions.

Visually the episode was solid as usual. The Bendu’s animation brought real creativity. Also, attention to detail made for some great images. One, in particular, came early in the episode. It was an overhead shot of the team jumping off a walkway onto the Ghost in mid-flight to escape from an imperial prison. The shot communicates the scale, speed, and danger of the escape.

Hints In The Dialogue?

A couple of lines caught my attention. One was from agent Kallus in which he pointed out the number of civilian casualties in the battle which prompted Thrawn’s promotion to Grand Admiral. Was Kallus showing disapproval of such carnage which may lead to his defection? The other line was spoken by Governor Pryce expressing her shock that the rebels fight so hard to gain so little. This shows the disconnect between the powerful and the powerless, and it may also be a comment on real current events.

What Didn’t Work

I was underwhelmed by how easily Kanan took away the Sith Holocron from Ezra. The Holocron had, at that point, led Ezra to power, success, and promotion. It spoke to him, telling him he could see more clearly than his friends, to which he responded he would do anything to keep his friends from harm. Its influence over him is shown when Ezra wants to destroy a ship, not in self-defense, but to eliminate any witnesses. Inexplicably, Ezra leaves it on a desk in his room with the door unlocked. A literally blind man then proceeds to discover it. Once it is removed, Ezra’s response is that he doesn’t need it or Kanan. Ezra’s attachment was akin to addiction, and it seems he would have put up more of a fight to keep it.

The Mystery of the Bendu

Another part which was also puzzling was Kanan’s interaction with the Bendu. For a creature that is somewhere between the light and the dark, he seemed to act like a being on the light side. Maybe it is because he was interacting with a Jedi, and his interactions would be different with a Sith. Like the cave on Dagobah, he is possibly what you carry with you. It will be interesting to see how the Bendu treats a Sith or how he acts when a Jedi and Sith are both present in his company.

Overall

Taking everything into account, the episode was very good. It had more meat than most season premieres, which usually just reintroduce characters after time off without doing anything of substance. With the Bendu and Thrawn already in the picture, I anticipate a very eventful season.

 

4-5 Death Stars

 

 

4.5 Death Stars out of 5