Season Three, Episode Four — “The Antilles Extraction”
By Jason Gibner. Before we get started, there’s something extremely important everyone should know. I am a card carrying, 30-year-plus member of a group known as The Cult Of Wedge. We are the small but fiercely loyal group of Wedge Antilles followers that swear by the Michael Stackpole-penned Rogue Squadron novels, read The Phantom Affair trade paperback every year (but only on religious holidays), and know full well who it was that blew up the second Death Star without breaking a sweat.
I was first initiated into the Cult Of Wedge back in 1983 when I began to notice that that same raven haired x-wing pilot kept showing up in each of the mind-blowing, life-changing Star Wars films. Who was this noble hero in orange who stood bravely while Mothma, Ackbar and Madine laid out the plans to blow up another battle station? Who was this man who saved the entire galaxy from the military might of a crazed and evil Sith Lord? Just who was this mystery man known then only as “Wedge”?
With the Star Wars resurgence of the mid-Nineties, the Cult Of Wedge began to grow. There were multiple books by Stackpole, there were the dozens of Wedge comics from Dark Horse, there most important of all, there finally arrived a Wedge action figure. (Heck, I even bought and still proudly display the rarely talked about 12 inch beautiful Wedge vinyl doll from Applause.) Now known by his full name, Wedge Antilles, the legend was no longer the stuff of folk tales. Wedge was here to stay. That is, until actor Denis Lawson flat out told Lucasfilm he had better things to do than come back for a new series of films.
But the legend lives on. Rebels showrunner Dave Filoni knows full well that, like all folk heroes, the Legend is always bigger then the man. Thus, with Star Wars Rebels’ third season, Wedge returns to the saga with an origin story of his own.
In this action-packed episode we learn that Wedge was a cadet at the Imperial Academy learning how to kill for the Empire. Since we know Wedge is one the bravest heroes ever created, it comes as no surprise that he ain’t having that Empire life, so he reaches out to the ever-growing Rebel Alliance to express his desire to defect. That catches the attention of the Ghost crew, who send Sabine undercover to get Wedge out. “The Antilles Extraction” utilizes Star Wars’ patented “faster, more intense” balance of space action and deeper character moments that have made past episodes of Rebels fall under the weight of their ambition. Only thing is, this episode cinches it.
Much of that credit goes to original Rogue One screenplay writer Gary Whitta, who makes his official Star Wars debut here. Whitta’s script pays tribute to Wedge’s heroic nature (and his Boy Scout stoicism), and it actually gives Sabine some genuine moments that define her character far more ably than the entire previous two seasons put together. The space battle action, which so often for Rebels has felt forced or unnecessary, is here pumped full of excitement and has the feeling that actual stakes are at play. Whitta’s script isn’t just tight — it’s Han Solo-pants tight.
We all know where Wedge’s story ends up, but here none of that matters. “The Antilles Extraction” offers a backstory for the best pilot in the Alliance that works like Freddie Mercury on stage at Live Aid. It clicks from beginning to end. If this episode is any indication of how attuned Whitta is to the Star Wars secret sauce, then we can rest assured he’ll become a welcome addition to the Rebels creative team.
“Most of you will fail. Whatever you have achieved before means nothing. Here only the best survive.” – Imperial Instructor.
Wedge: “What’s your plan?” Sabine: “Well, I’ll tell you when I figure that out.” Wedge: “Are you serious?” Sabine: “Welcome to the Rebellion!“
“And now you’ve come home, little Mandalorian. So proud. And tough, I think. We shall see.” – Governor Pryce.
Sabine: “I hope you’re better pilots then you are soldiers. ” Wedge: “Sabine! We were coming to rescue you!” Sabine: “That’s cute. Come on, let’s go.”
“Tell Garazeb Orrelios we’re even.” – Agent Kallus.
“I can fly anything.” – Wedge.
Sabine: “Commander Sato, allow me to present Lieutenants Wedge Antilles and… Hobbie. Formerly of the Galactic Empire.” Wedge: “Commander, we heard you’re looking for some good pilots.” Sato: “Indeed we are. Welcome to the Rebellion.“
BEST MOMENT: As Sabine, Wedge, Hobbie, and poor, doomed Rake attempt to escape from the Imperial Skystriker Academy, the blast doors close all around them and for a second it seems all hope is lost. From nowhere steps our mutton chopped Imperial baddie Agent Kallus. As Sabine raises her blaster at him, he tells exactly how to escape. As Sabine begins to walk away she asks him why she should trust him. Kallus turns to her with these words: “Tell Garazeb Orrelios we’re even.“
EPISODE’S MVP: Even though the episode serves as introduction to the legendary ace that is Wedge Antilles, the episode’s real star here is the criminally underused Sabine Wren. The solo mission to rescue the Imperial cadets could have easily gone to Ezra. Having Sabine take charge, showing her effortlessly holding her own and saving just everyone’s butts, adds to the undeniable appeal of her character. Sabine busts the cadets out of Empire jail and blasts her way through hallways filled with legions of Stormtroopers with a smile on her face. These last two red hot episodes have featured references to her Mandalorian past, and if the trailers for the first half of the season are to be believed, we’ll be learning quite a bit more about our purple-haired Rebel before long.
– The mustached TIE pilot ace Vult Skerris showed echoes of the Rogue Squadron comics #1 bad guy, the anti-Wedge, and Wedge’s actual brother in law who defected to the Alliance, Baron Soontir Fel I was on the couch ready to have a heart attack if they revealed his name was Fel, but thankfully Rebels didn’t kill me this time.
– Pryce’s torture-chair looked a whole lot like Kylo Ren’s “I’m going to read your mind” chair. These little connections to the new Star Wars era makes me head bang like Reign in Blood was playing in the background. Wedge saying “I can fly anything” like his biggest fan Poe Dameron says almost forty years later was like Ride The Lightning. Head-banging all night.
– There were a couple shoutouts to Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath novel: Wedge explains how he was recruited into the Rebellion by someone known as Fulcrum, and he is tortured by a high ranking Imperial officer to get info.
– Hera explains that her code name, Fulcrum, was Ashoka’s idea… and there are several more Fulcrums out there embedded in the Empire, snagging secret info for the Alliance. Which makes me think of Captain Cassian Andor’s line in the Rogue One trailer — that he’s “been recruiting for the Rebellion for a long time.” Was Andor once part of the Empire, secretly sending folks over to the Alliance? Is that why his best buddy is a former Imperial droid?
– Sabine has obviously played a lot of Nintendo Entertainment System games growing up, as she clearly knows that if the cartridge doesn’t work at first, just blow on it and it’ll be all good.
– Pryce’s trick to have the defecting TIE’s wings pop off is a sly reference to the classic Kenner toy TIE Fighters which had a feature where the wings would pop off when they were hit. Much to the frustration of every kid in the late 70s and early 80s, the wings constantly fell off.
– The back and forth TIE Fighter pilot call chatter with 3-6 talking to 2-5 and stuff harked back to Lucas’ dehumanization of calling people by numbers — first seen in his underrated sci fi classic, THX-1138. This is a trend that has continued in The Force Awakens, with FN-2187 coming into his own and dropping the number for the much more pronounceable name, Finn.
8 out of 10
Next: “Hera’s Heroes,” soon.
Before: “The Holocrons of Fate,” here.