Season Three, Episode Ten — “An Inside Man”
By Jason Gibner. If there’s one thing Season Three of Rebels has proven, it’s that Star Wars desperately needs its bad guys. Stories set in that galaxy far, far away can’t survive without an inordinately intimidating baddie to stand in defiance of its often gee-whiz, goody-good guys. They often wear black or white, talk in near-whispers, wear masks, and are often very bad to the bone. Walk up to an average person on the street and ask them which character they associate with Star Wars, and chances are they will say Darth Vader. (Or Kitster, but then this becomes an entirely different article.)
The lack of a strong baddie has plagued Rebels this season and for most of the series. There was Maul, briefly, who then disappeared after looking too deeply into his Holocron (a metaphor if there ever was one). And it’s safe to admit that Rebels‘ Season Three baddie, Grand Admiral Thrawn, has up until now largely been a disappointment. Even back when the (now seemingly useless) Inquisitors were the Ghost crew’s primary foes, they never managed to live up to their admittedly mysterious potential. As the galaxy’s fans shift their focus back to the Original Trilogy, rife with Star Destroyers and Imperial ne’er-do-wells, it would seem that now would be the time to make the Empire truly strike back in a profound way.
“An Inside Man” opens with the sight of Imperial flags hanging proudly on Lothal. Just seeing those red, black and white flags brings to mind not only Saw Gerrera’s chilling line from the Rogue One trailer but the deadly, imposing, suffocating threat of the Empire, one that has (up until this week) completely eluded both our heroes and the show itself: “The world is coming undone. Imperial flags reign across the galaxy…”
The Ghost crew return to Ezra’s home planet where they find that it has become basically an Imperial sweatshop for making weapons, that most of the residents now work as masked, identity-free laborers. Some of the workers there have been sabotaging speeder bikes and AT-STs to make them randomly blow up — which has fallen under Grand Admiral Thawn’s attention. Ratcheting up the tension further is Kanan and Ezra attempt to infiltrate the factory in order to steal plans for a new Imperial weapon being (and, of course, blow the whole place up).
Aside from the Nazi imagery and historical themes, “An Inside Man” features a few rather heavy moments, when Thrawn orders a resident to test a defective speeder bike and the poor guy doesn’t make it off in one piece. (See the video below.) It would be a serious mistake for Rebels to miss out on the opportunity to tie into all that Rebellion goodwill swarming around Rogue One. While “An Inside Man” makes you think that maybe the secret weapon on Lothal could be Death Star related, the episode actually winks to Rogue One by making the Empire substantially freaky again.
That fear of the Empire is represented in Rebels by Grand Admiral Thrawn. This week the goofy guest stars were kept at bay, allowing Rebels to tell the kind of story that the show was seemingly created for. As we watch Thrawn gauge the Alliance’s weaknesses while simultaneously terrorizing the people tasked with serving him, we find a villain finally done messing around. Hopefully that means Rebels is too.
AT-AT Driver: “They didn’t have a chance.” Kanan:”We had a chance.” Ezra: “A pretty good chance.”
Kanan: “Can you get us into that factory?” Mr. Sumar: “I don’t know, do you have any manufacturing experience?” Ezra: “Um, not really.” Ryder: “Then you’ll fit right in.”
“Let’s play their game.” – Thrawn.
“Wait, Kallus is Fulcrum? How does that even make sense?” – Hera.
BEST MOMENT: As Kanan and Ezra attempt to escape the Imperial factory, they are stopped by that extremely mutton chopped Imperial bad guy/secret good guy, Agent Kallus. In the elevator he reveals what we’ve all known, that he really is secret agent Fulcrum, that it’s been Kallus who has been giving the Phoenix Squadron inside Imperial spy information. To not totally give it all away, Ezra nonchalantly and violently force pushes Kallus through a giant glass map screen. Not only is it one of the series’ out-and-out funniest and most unexpected moments, it also works by providing some much needed character repair for both Ezra and Kanan. Recent episodes have seen both of these Force sensitive guys go backwards in their development, and Ezra’s casual use of the dark side and Kanan’s immediate, fatherly disapproval just feels so right. Welcome back, Rebels. I missed you there for a while.
EPISODE’S MVP: Gotta give this one to the Big Bad Blue Dude himself, Grand Admiral Thrawn. This episode depicts Thrawn the way Timothy Zahn likely envisioned him back in the Heir to the Empire series. Cold blooded, calm, freakily intelligent, and always twenty five steps ahead of the good guys is exactly how he should be portrayed.
– Is it just me, or does Kanan really got this whole being blind thing down. I mean the guy is taking out AT-ST legs like a champion, commandeering an AT-ST, and looks people directly in the eyes when they speak to him. I know he’s got the Force and all but I’m not getting why his being blinded needed to happen right now.
– The great Clancy Brown is back as the Colonel Sanders looking former leader of Lothal, Ryder. Brown’s warm blanket of a voice previously made its way into Star Wars when he played Darth Maul’s doomed brother, Savage Opress.
-Thrawn’s art gallery/office features artifacts from not only the Ghost crew’s past on Lothal but Kanan’s mask he wore in “Twilight of the Apprentice”. This gives the impression that Thrawn has been following them for a while and that he may be a giant creep.
– The top secret TIE Defender comes from the classic 1994 LucasArts video game, TIE Fighter where it looked exactly the same and had all the same impossible to beat features. That makes two episodes in a row now that have taken elements from 90s Star Wars PC games. And I am not complaining about that.
8 out of 10
Next: “Visions and Voices,” soon.
Before: “The Wynkahthu Job,” here.