Season Three, Episode Seven — “Imperial Super Commandos”
By Jason Gibner. I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent that last eleven months thinking about that groundbreaking Rebels Season Two episode, “The Protector of Concord Dawn”, and I’ve gotten almost zero sleep wondering what happened to Fenn Rau, that mysterious Mandalorian that took Star Wars fandom by storm.
Actually, zero of that is true. What’s more, I think it’s safe to say that if we never saw Rau again, most fans would be able to sleep at night just fine. Whether we asked for it or not, here we are anyway, shoved right back into that “Concord Dawn” storyline with a wickedly uneven episode, “Imperial Super Commandos”.
Things start on a discomfiting note, with an opening scene featuring Sabine and Rau playing some kind of Mandalorian chess game that involves holographic knives (?!), which leads to everyone piling around a hologram for a mission briefing (a moment that happens so often on Rebels it borders on the cliche). We quickly learn that the Rebels have lost communication with Rau’s old stomping ground, Concord Dawn, and Rebel leaders are concerned that the Mandalorians may be setting a trap for the Alliance.
With that dollar store tissue thin reason, it’s decided that Sabine and Rau (and, of course, Ezra and Chopper, because they have to go on every mission now) should head to Concord Dawn to see what’s up. Along the way there comes a pointless scene with Rau trying to sabotage the mission, but none of that matters — they still land on Concord Dawn to find that it’s been destroyed. So… who did it?
Seems there’s an Imperial Viceroy of Mandalore named Gar Saxon (voiced by Punisher War Zone‘s own Ray Stevenson), who’s been looking for Rau for a while, going so far as to allow Rebel ships through that sector in a vain effort to lure Rau out into the open. Is he doing this because he’s working for the Empire, or because Mandalorians are engaged in a constant intergalactic version of Family Feud? Maybe a little of both. Is most of Rebels’ audience aware of what’s going on? Probably not.
While the first half is a dry, Betty Crocker boxed cake of an episode, the second half literally takes off, thanks to a sleek, silver jetpack. Once the Imperial Mandalorians have Sabine surrounded and begin to share with her some very interesting tidbits about her mother and how she relates to all this, the episode turns a corner and actually begins to show some spark. (Seriously, Sabine’s downright killer action sequences could rank as one of Rebels coolest moments yet.)
As for everything else, Rebels has much more interesting things to contend with, considering that there’s plenty to work from with The Bendu, Kanan, and Ezra’s story arc. There’s really no reason to call on episodes long since passed, either from previous seasons of Rebels or from The Clone Wars. With this show well on its way to finding its own path, it’s awkward that most of “Imperial Super Commandos” plays solely as setup for one of Sabine’s bigger moments. In a show with so much epic history, these fluffy filler episodes can come off as transparent. Even embarrassingly so.
“Don’t take this the wrong way, guys, but Mandalorians are crazy.” – Ezra.
“What are those? Flying Stormtroopers?” – Ezra.
“They shot my jetpack!” – Sabine.
“My name is Lando Calrissian, I’m a smuggler!” – Ezra.
“You’re dealing with the Mandalorians now, child!” – Gar Saxon.
Sabine: “Well, we’re either fine or a few Star Destroyers are on their way. You wanna wait and see?” Ezra: “Good point. We’re leaving.”
BEST MOMENT: Without a doubt, the jetpack chase. Flying super commandos shooting lasers at a flying Sabine, while a lightsaber-wielding Ezra jumps from person to person, all with a droid flying along underneath them. (Ezra even takes it to the limit as he surfs along on top of Chopper.) It’s a diabolically cool sequence that echoes to the saga’s Saturday morning adventure serial roots.
EPISODE’S MVP: Mandalorians. As messy as the first 15 minutes of this episode was, and as unnecessary it is for Rebels to be using old stories as a crutch, there’s always been and always will be some something about those cooler-than-cool helmets. This week’s episode hinted at a richer story to come, connecting Sabine to the late Duchess Satine of Mandalore. Just when you think you maybe didn’t need yet another story about a rogue Mandalorian dude and his “warrior’s ways,” along comes the age old Star Wars family soap opera to pull you back in. Thanks a lot, cool helmets.
– So the new Phantom is called The Phantom II? Not Phantom II: Attack of the Clones? Anyhoo, nice spiffy paint job, Sabine.
– I couldn’t help thinking Sabine with a jetpack is a metaphor for where her character could go now. Hopefully she gets that thing fixed and uses it in every single episode she’s in.
– So where has Rau been all this time? On the Ghost? In some kind of Alliance jail thing?
– Gar Saxon first made his Star Wars debut in the Dark Horse comic, Son of Dathomir. There, he was a Mandalorian who did the impossible when he helped rescue Maul from Darth Sidious. Saxon making the leap from comic to screen is yet another example of the Star Wars story group including characters from all over the saga, particularly from things that may or may not still be considered canon.
– Recognize the voices of the other three unnamed Mandalorians? Freddie Prinze, Jr., Steve Blum, and Dave Filoni himself.
– These Imperial Mandalorians had an interesting combination of styles that referenced both Joe Johnston and Ralph McQuarrie’s early Boba Fett concept art. Again, thanks a lot, cool helmets.
6 out of 10
Next: “Iron Squadron,” soon.
Before: “The Last Battle,” here.