Warning: this review contains spoilers. You can find all of my Star Wars Rebels reviews here.
After being mostly absent for several episodes, Thrawn returned in full force to Star Wars Rebels, and his presence absolutely elevated “An Inside Man”. He was undoubtedly the standout this week, as ruthless, efficient, and incredibly intelligent as promised.
The Rebels returned to Lothal in “An Inside Man”, teaming up with the growing resistance on that planet (led by Ryder Azadi) to infiltrate an Imperial factory. A factory that Thrawn, one step ahead as usual, had come to investigate due to the presence of insurgents in the workforce sabotaging the vehicles and equipment.
It would have been easy to demonstrate Thrawn’s villainy by having him kill off nameless Rebels and subordinates. But “An Inside Man” took advantage of the return to Lothal to raise the stakes as well as the audience’s emotional investment by unleashing Thrawn’s wrath on a familiar character from Season 1: Ezra’s friend, Mr. Sumar. And the way Thrawn killed Sumar, by forcing him to operate a speeder bike Sumar had sabotaged, was incredibly effective.
Ezra and Kanan only managed to escape Thrawn’s clutches thanks to an unexpected ally: Agent Kallus, the titular inside man, who was also revealed to be the new Fulcrum. Several fans had predicted this twist, which made the reveal gratifying, especially relatively early in the season. I also liked the Rebels’ general unease about trusting Kallus. Not to mention the hilarious scene where Ezra Force-pushed Kallus through a sheet of glass to “make it look convincing”. Being an animated series really gives Rebels the freedom to do great physical comedy.
Kallus’s betrayal did not go unnoticed. The ever-shrewd Thrawn immediately suspected a traitor in the Empire, and though he didn’t name Kallus specifically, he clearly had his eye on him. This not only puts Kallus in a very dangerous position down the line, but also spells trouble for the Rebels. There’s a reason Thrawn hasn’t acted on Kallus’s betrayal yet: he intends to use the inside man to his advantage.
Also worth mentioning is the action in “An Inside Man”. The episode kicked off with an awesome and exhilarating speeder chase scene, and ended with a great AT-AT battle too. That last battle was very clever, with bits like Ezra’s chicken walker hiding behind the legs of a larger AT-AT for cover, or the AT-AT “sitting” on Ezra and Kanan’s walker to crush them. Which of course backfired when the two Jedi use their lightsabers to escape into the AT-AT through its belly.
The Kallus reveal and an abundance of Thrawn made for a notably great Rebels episode. That being said, I can’t wait until Thrawn is done passively observing and starts putting his plans in motion. His effectiveness as a villain will truly be determined by how hard the hammer falls when that time comes.