Season Two, Episode Nineteen — “The Mystery of Chopper Base”
By Jason Gibner. Since the beginning of this second half of Rebels‘ second season, Dave Filoni and his team have been teasing us with the fact that bad Dark Side business is about to go down for these characters. (Heck, I think I’ve mentioned it as a major plot point in every review of every episode.) All of these character-driven episodes have been leading to something heavy on the horizon, and I pray that the Force is with all of us when that all finally plays out. But that moment is not now. (That’s all next week, folks.)
This week we’re met with another thrilling adventure, one where our heroes bicker at each other (like they do) all while the episode tries to shoehorn in the requisite doom ‘n’ gloom that pretty much signifies that everyone on the Ghost is screwed. Which is no surprise when you think about it, but this episode is possibly one of darkest Rebels has given us thus far. When you can’t go three minutes before somebody makes mention that our lightsaber-carrying friends might not make it back after their upcoming trip to the Sith hell known as Malachor, the episode becomes about as fun as an open casket funeral. Perhaps one day, when viewers can binge-watch their way through the season, this is episode where you can get sit back, order a pizza, and be comfortably aware that it’ll be there by the time Vader shows up in the next one.
WHAT WORKED: Star Wars has always had a rich tapestry of fun monsters, ranging from Rancors to Ratters, and the Knykna spiders? They are almost awesome. Even though the monster stuff here is totally filler, some of it is goofy fun: watching Rex go all Randy Macho Man on one of them is a bit of a treat, and the spiders have that certain Lucasian charm (like all Star Wars creatures do).
Kanan and Ezra are fighting and snapping at each other just like a teenage kid and their cool dad would, which makes me wonder where their story is headed. (One thing’s for sure, I don’t think it’s a place filled with rainbows and dancing Ewoks.) While stuff like that is all well and good (and it is), I can’t help but think these moments could have been more evenly spread out over previous episodes. “The Mystery of Chopper Base” doesn’t set fire to everything that has been done in the season so far but aside from a few moments, even if it does touch on the grim future of these two guys. Which leads us to…
WHAT DIDN’T: The episode tries like hell, but its pseudo-space horror and downbeat character moments just don’t fit together. There’s an obvious musical callback to the Alien films here: the Ghost crew stumble across a patch of spider eggs in one of the more cringe-worthy sequences, sure, but zero of the episode’s attempts to emulate Ridley Scott and James Cameron’s sci-fi terror works at all. You could cut out all the space-spider stuff (not to mention having Sabine fly through the air) and focus one the four or five emotional beats where the characters all basically say goodbye to each other, and the episode would have been a just-fine (and maybe even bittersweet) prelude to the finale.
“You realize I know when you’re lying, right?” – Hera.
“No, you win by surviving.” – Kanan.
“This planet may be hot, dry and unpleasant but at least there’s nothing trying to kill us.” – Rex.
“I hate multi-leggers.” – Zeb.
“I met the neighbors. I don’t care for them.” – Rex.
“It’s times like these I really wish I had a jet pack.” – Sabine.
Zeb: “Shouldn’t we have a Jedi on each team?” Hera: “We’ve got to get used to not having them around...”
Ahsoka: “In my experience, just when you think you understand the Force, you find out just how little you actually know.” Ezra: “I don’t think I ever understood the Force to begin with.”
BEST MOMENT: In the episode’s last five minutes or so we get a pair of scenes that almost underline just how meaningless all the space-spider nonsense was. First there is a little heart-to-heart between Kanan and Hera where they both know that they may not see each other again for a while. Their will-they-or-won’t they relationship is something that has been hinted at ever since John Jackson Miller’s A New Dawn novel and this moment plays it very well. As they embrace in front a sunset it’s beyond clear that things may not go well for them.
Next we have a moment with Ezra, as he sits by himself and tries to Force-connect with a space spider. As the spider hisses back at him, Ezra really fails, possibly for the first time, as the Imperial March theme plays softly in the background. (If you’ve ever seen a Star Wars movie, you know that’s not a good sign.) That’s right, Ezra, you don’t have it all figured out, and there are some very dark forces in the universe out there. This kid is doomed. Heck, they could all be doomed.
EPISODE’S MVP: It’s not a person, this week, but a feeling. Dread. Creeping fear is the real star of this episode, and doom is clearly its message. Seriously, this episode will leave you feeling bummed out beyond bummed out. We’ve had a lot of whiz-bang, golly-gee episodes with space whales, B-Wings and Ugnaughts selling droid legs, but there are absolutely no smiles in this one. This is an episode based around failures. The crew has failed to get along with each other, the new Rebel base is looked at as a failure, you’ll never stop the giant space-spiders, Ezra is not all powerful… if the episode embraced these moments more and spent less time giving shout-outs to Aliens, this really could have been a great one.
– Okay, so the Ghost turbo lasers can blow up a TIE fighter in one shot, but they can’t blow up a space spider? I know science in Star Wars is very fuzzy thing and Sabine says they have “tough armor”, but come on.
-There’s a part where Ezra is freaking out that he’s going to get eaten by a space spider and he says that he, the last Jedi in the galaxy, is about to be eaten. Dude, you are not the only hope, and now I feel like you just sealed your fate.
– Ezra and Kanan using their sabers as flashlights in the cave reminded me of a time in college where I tried to get a squirrel out an attic using my light up Luke Skywalker toy lightsaber as a flashlight/weapon. Long story short, it didn’t work and the squirrel was not intimidated by my knowledge of the Force, or my skills with a Hasbro lightsaber.
– In this week’s “Ralph McQuarrie desgined it first moment”, the Krykna spiders come almost directly from a production painting he did of Dagobah for Empire Strikes Back. His creatures had a couple more legs, but who’s counting? Well, actually, I did.
6 out of 10
Next: “Twilight of the Apprentice”, soon.
Before: “The Forgotten Droid”, here.