Season Three, Episode Eight — “Iron Squadron”
By Jason Gibner. Let’s take a little poll here, Rebels viewers: Has anyone been at all irritated with the slightly whiny, ridiculously capable Season Three Ezra Bridger? Are you wishing he’d give his snotty attitude a rest for a while? Well, here’s some lousy news for you.
Here, in the season’s weakest episode so far, you get a whole ship full of him. There’s no getting around it, “Iron Squadron” is a mess. Such a mess in fact, that I thought about just ending this review with that sentence. It’s such a mess that I almost gave up watching it halfway through. Redemption for this episode might have come had the Empire just blown everyone out of the sky with a turbo laser, followed by a credits roll in high speed. Yes, this episode is that much of a stinker.
After a string of impressive episodes to kick off the season, and some intriguing stuff still on the horizon, showrunner Dave Filoni and crew seem to be stuck in an old Clone Wars loop, stuffing the in-between episodes with dead weight. Last week saw Rebels dropping the ball with the half-baked Sabine and the Mandalorians tale, and this week Rebels fell on its face with an introduction of its own Cousin Oliver with a bland ship of Rebel juniors known as “Iron Squadron.”
Beginning with a confused and sluggish speed that never picks up, the episode cuts straight to it and introduces us to the titular crew of rascals as they perform a classic Han Solo move — dumping their explosive cargo to get away from a fleet of Imperial ships — which I think in retrospect was supposed to get us jazzed up to meet these kids, but all it really accomplished was illustrating just how low on new ideas this episode actually is. Once the Ghost crew meets the Rebel Juniors, we learn that they’re cocky, spunky, and funky little kids that cross their arms while say rebellious things like, “We don’t need your help!”
Of course they don’t. I bet they also skateboard, do radical tricks, drink Capri Sun, and recycle to the eXtreme. To make matters worse, the leads of Iron Squadron are named Mart Mattin and Gooti Terrez, based on two members of the Lucasfilm crew — story group member Matt Martin and Star Wars Show host Andi Gutierrez. This blatant level of cutesy, meta self-referencing comes off as being more than a little self serving, and all things considered, more than a little obnoxious.
In the midst of this limping episode comes a visit from Grand Admiral Thrawn, lots of talk of Iron Squadron’s busted hyperdrive and their own pointless version of Chopper, a droid named R3. Maybe this episode might have worked just a little if these Poochie-level characters could exist beyond the obvious “rad” stereotypes of ’90s cartoon cliches they’re distressingly trying to emulate. It’s especially difficult to root for a character like Mart if his “cool kid” demeanor keeps needling from “cocky” to “just plain stupid.” The kid flies his little freighter into the Imperial Fleet with the same unqualified brio of a teenager who just jumped off his roof for a YouTube video.
Maybe these kids will show up again. Maybe the creative team has something greater in mind for them down the road. Either could be true, but in the meantime what we’re stuck with is this half-baked vanity episode, one that ought to be sent straight to the trash compactor.
“Sounds like a ship full of Ezras, Let’s get out of here.” – Zeb.
“I’m saying how we choose to fight is just as important as what we fight for.” – Ezra.
“If it’s obviously a trap, it’s not a very good one.” – Ezra.
“This is a waste of time.” – Mart.
BEST MOMENT: I thought long and hard about this one. There’s a part where Chopper and R3 fly through space to take a bomb off a ship? That was nearly fun, but is the episode’s best moment? Maybe it’s the ending, with the vague promise that we’ll never ever see these characters ever again. Maybe it’s the hint that Rebel leader Sato and Thrawn are playing a long game of cat and mouse and have some kind of history. None of these moments are necessarily memorable, but this is all I’m left to work with here.
EPISODE’S MVP: One thing you have to give to Rebels is that even in these more mediocre episodes the show constantly continues to raise the bar on its animation quality. There are several stunning shots where Mart is stuck alone in the cockpit of his powerless ship as we see the giant planet below and TIE Bombers flying past that make you admire just how far the show has come with it’s craft. Now if the stories were just as consistent.
– The Iron Squadron ship is based on Dash Rendar’s old bootleg Millennium Falcon ship, The Outrider. Originally designed by Doug Chiang for the ’97 A New Hope: Special Edition, The Outrider first appeared in the weird and wonderful book, Shadows of the Empire. Now sadly, anyone flying that model of ship may be cursed to be some the most hated characters in the Star Wars universe.
– Anyone else pick up on the musical cue that echoed James Horner’s Wrath of Khan score during the ending’s very Star Trekish space battle?
– I’m starting to become concerned for Thrawn. His inclusion was the big selling point of Season Three, but the guy needs to start doing something soon. His whole “I’m learning about the Rebels” thing is getting stale pretty quick. Let’s show just why this guy is so feared in the galaxy, by both the Rebels and the Empire.
3 out of 10
Next: “The Wynkahthu Job,” soon.
Before: “Imperial Super Commandos,” here.