Season Two, Episode Sixteen — “The Honorable Ones”
By Jason Gibner. Alternate name for this episode: “The Empire Isn’t All Bad, Just Misunderstood!”
Seriously, for a show called Star Wars Rebels, the show has done a shockingly good job at showing us that there are a lot of folks in this galaxy far, far away that may not mind so much that liberty died with thunderous applause (RIP, Padme. *single tear*). This controversial idea took root in Season One, where we saw the Empire Day parade — it illustrated that there may actually be people who love the Empire, and this week we shown, for maybe the first time, that real heart & soul can be given to an Imperial character. “The Honorable Ones” shows Rebels riffing on the now iconic scenario perfected in 1985’s who-knew-it-was-a-classic film, Enemy Mine.
For those out there unfamiliar with that Dennis Quaid and Louis Gossett Jr. gem, I offer a recap: Enemy Mine is a film that concerns itself with two rival space-war people, stranded on a planet and forced to become instant BFFs. It’s the kind of genre story that Rod Serling could tell with his mouth sewn shut, and it’s one that seemingly never gets old. And here it is, played masterfully in the Star Wars galaxy, as we see an Imperial bootlick possibly have a change of heart after spending a life or death night in a cave with that lovable Lasat, Zeb. It all probably sounds cheese-puffy and clichéd (and maybe it is), but Karabast, it is one dang good 22 minutes of Star Wars animated television.
WHAT WORKED: The episode starts out with a doozy, as the Ghost crew pulls up to everyone’s favorite planet, Geonosis, only to find that there are several orbital sphere-shaped things being built around the planet. (Hmmmm… I wonder… what could THAT mean?) After making a very Star Wars decision to go in them to check it out, there’s a lot of awesome fun action: after they’re ambushed by Stormtroopers, there’s a knock-down, drag-out droid backyard wrestling match between Chopper and some Imperial astromech. So, clearly right away you know this episode is going to be a keeper.
Things slow down after that, as Zeb and the grumpy Agent Kallus escape while fighting in a pod and crash-land on the ice moon of Bahryn. Here the two save each other’s lives a few times, share their heartbreaking backstories, and come to understand each other a little better as to where they stand in this impending galactic civil war. Start to finish, this is a perfectly put-together episode that hits all the right beats, doesn’t ever feel rushed, and keeps the good warm vibes from last week’s superb “Homecoming” still flowing.
WHAT DIDN’T: In my notes while watching this episode, the “What Didn’t” section was empty. Empty. As in, I didn’t write a damn thing in it. Much like “Homecoming”, if I have to start looking for flaws, I gotta dig deep with “The Honorable Ones”. While the lighthearted action of the opening is A+, and does its job of making you stop scrolling through Instagram (DROID BACKYARD WRESTLING), once the meat of the episode begins to take shape and the tears start a-flowing, upon retrospect, that opening with TIEs crashing into AT-DPs could feel a little out of place. (Keep in mind I used the words “could” and “a little”.)
“Don’t tell me you’re afraid of the dark…?” – Zeb.
“The goal is not to fall!” – Kallus
“Good questions. Chase the answers and maybe you’ll find the truth.” – Zeb.
“Karabast! Karabast! What does that even mean?” – Kallus.
“Is that what happened on Geonosis? The weak perished?” – Zeb.
“We all have things we won’t forget.” – Kallus.
“I’ve never seen an orbital construction field this big!” – Sabine.
BEST MOMENT: There’s two in this episode.
First, Zeb and Kallus’ chilly campfire heart-to-heart is done so simply and has so much no-joke emotion behind it that the scene almost has no business being a cartoon that in all reality is made for the kids. Here we have two proud warriors from opposing factions who may be facing their own imminent deaths, who have both dropped the tough-guy act and let their guards down. They both fight for what they believe in, but when that’s under threat of being taken away, all they have left is each other.
Secondly, how ding-dang heartbreaking was it seeing Kallus limp his way back through that cold Star Destroyer and into his sad empty little grey bedroom? The guy sits down still holding on to the glowing rock thing Zeb gave him so he could stay warm. As Kallus puts aside that glowing rock, which at that moment symbolizes all the warmth and humanity that he never sees in the Empire, your heart literally shatters for the guy.
EPISODE’S MVP: For a while, it seemed like a weird waste that acclaimed actor David Oyelowo was voicing Kallus. For the longest time I thought Kallus was going to get killed off, as I thought there’s no way Oyelowo would keep playing this mustache-twirling bad guy wearing a bowling ball helmet. A lot of what makes this episode work as well as it does is the fact that we at last get to hear Oyelowo get to use his deep velvety voice to breath some life into this guy. Before this episode, Agent Kallus was a real deal, one-note, action figure of a character. After this episode, he emerges as a complex, conflicted, and rather tragic character who was fiercely loyal to a system that he suddenly realizes does not care about him at all. You don’t have to be Lobot to realize that this pretty much sums up the Empire.
– So here we have the first solid hint that Rebel cells are investigating the idea that the Empire is building something massive and deadly in space. I still feel like at some point next season the Ghost crew will discover the Death Star, which will start to lead into Rogue One (the plot of the film involves itself with the spies hired to steal plans for the space station). Also, the discovery of an Imperial super weapon will probably unite all the Rebel cells as they now have a clear reason to band together.
– Is it just me, or was it 100% beautiful seeing Geonosis again? Just me? Okay, whatever. That’s fine.
– Oh hey Captain Rex! Good to see you again!
– Have I mentioned how fab that droid fight was?
– Ezra used one of the best Huttese name calling words ever: “Sleemo“, As in Anakin’s immortal line from The Phantom Menace, “Cho skrunee dopat, sleemo! (Don’t count on it, slimeball!)”
– In this week’s Ralph McQuarrie shoutout, those Imperial construction spheres were directly based on art he did early on for Return of Jedi, when they were playing with the idea of having multiple Death Stars in various stages of construction.
9.5 out of 10
Next: “Shroud of Darkness”, soon.
Before: “Homecoming”, here.