Warning: this review contains spoilers.
"Fun" is a word that often describes Star Wars Rebels, and this was especially true of "Stealth Strike". In a throwback to the Death Star rescue from A New Hope, the unlikely duo of Kanan and Rex donned stormtrooper armour to save a captured Ezra.
One of the best things about the episode, though, was that Ezra hardly needed saving. He’s always been a crafty kid, and stormtroopers aren’t the sharpest hydrospanners in the shed, but the ease of Ezra’s escape, his confident command of the Force, and his increased lightsaber skills impressed even me. And having Commander Sato doubt him at first only to do an about-face by the end of the episode ("He’s got this!") only drove the point home.
The "reluctant allies are forced to team up and gain each other’s trust" story arc is a standard trope, but it’s often effective. This is because it varies based on the characters who go through it and the baggage they bring into it. And Kanan’s baggage is unique, to say the least. Just a little something about the genocide of all of his friends caused by the betrayal of people who shared his current ally’s face. You know, standard stuff. That has made his distrust of Rex perfectly understandable. They’ve also had many disagreements on top of that, especially with Ezra’s training. They were due for a reconciliation arc, and "Stealth Strike" delivered one with a peppering of Star Wars adventure and humour.
"Stealth Strike" also made great use of Rex on his own. He employed his old clone trooper skills both in stealth and in combat. He kept making disdainful comments about stormtroopers, which as a clone fan I absolutely loved. And his scene with Admiral Titus, in which he denounced the Empire even though the purpose of his own creation was to help form it, was a great character moment. I’m so glad he’s on the show now.
The bulk of the humour in "Stealth Stike" came from Kanan and Rex’s constant bickering, and they really played well off each other. Obviously Chopper elicited his usual share of nervous laughter—at this point I’m convinced he’s just a cutesy mass murderer, and I love it. There were also a few chuckle-worthy self-aware jokes, like Kanan’s remark about how easily the rebels keep stealing ships from the Empire. It’s not the first time Rebels has used that kind of joke, but I hope they don’t overdo it. I genuinely wondered how Zeb got his hands on a couple of knocked-out stormtroopers, and handwaving it away with a meta joke isn’t always going to excuse a narrative shortcut. Winking-at-the-audience comes at the risk of self-parody, and I hope Rebels maintains the balance it’s kept so far.
As a consequence of both the Ghost crew joining the rebellion and the larger cast of Season 2, Rebels has only been able to focus on two or three main characters at a time. An advantage of that is underused characters like Hera and Sabine getting the spotlight, such as in the previous two episodes. The disadvantage is that when they’re not front and centre, they’re sidelined even more than usual. In "Stealth Strike", Hera suffered the most. Her role this week was basically a plot device dispenser. Pairing Kanan and Rex together makes more storytelling sense than in-universe sense, so by assigning them this mission, Hera felt like a screenwriter proxy rather than a wise leader. "Wings of the Master" was great, but Hera needs a more active role.
Rating: 4/5 (Great)
Notes and Observations
- Quote of the week: "He takes after Hera sometimes."
- Kallus warning Admiral Titus not to underestimate the rebels then arriving at the end to find literally everything blown up was hilarious. Even he smirked at that, though I think by now he cares less about catching the rebels than about feeling vindicated for not having already caught them.
- This episode was the onscreen introduction to the Interdictor. The effect of being pulled out of hyperspace was a beautiful visual.
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