Season Two, Episode Eleven — “A Princess On Lothal”
By Jason Gibner. After a hiatus of just a little over a month (that was pretty much filled with some other little Star Wars thing you might have heard about), Star Wars Rebels blasts back onto TV screens with one of their “very special guest star episodes”. This time our weekly adventure with the Ghost crew features the one & only Princess Leia.
While having Her Worship in this new era of Star Wars is worth being excited about, it can also be a cause for some concern: like the film and comic book series, when Rebels tries too hard to force in a fan favorite character (I’m sorry, I had to) , the results can be very mixed to say the least. For every episode that features Ahsoka Tano, or the nonstop charm of Billy Dee’s Lando, or Tarkin having underperforming Imperial officers murdered in cold blood (on a kids show), there’s the pointless Hondo Ohnaka episode, or that instantly forgettable C-3PO episode. I get that bringing in these guests is what will get more people tuning in and talking about the show, but (too much) fan service and Star Wars can have a very toxic relationship. As The Force Awakens boldly showed audiences, the Star Wars universe is big enough and rich enough that creators don’t have to rely on old fan favorites in order to move the galaxy forward.
WHAT WORKED: Every scene with young Leia. Seriously folks, Rebels perfectly portrays the brick wall of brains, sass and guts that is Princess Leia. Perfectly voiced by Julie Dolan, this sixteen year old version of Leia steals every single scene she’s in as if she was hopping on that speeder bike on Endor. The moments where she outsasses and outsmarts clueless Imperial officers over and over again while she’s on another one of her “mercy missions” are flawless.
WHAT DIDN’T: Sadly, the episode’s story is so insanely thin that at times I wondered if there was any plot at all behind the excuse to have Leia in the episode. It starts nicely by picking up where the previous episode (“Legacy”) ended, where we find Ezra dealing with the sudden loss of his parents, but in the last act — when it tries to throw in an action scene with AT-AT walkers and Kanan running around in Stormtrooper armor wielding a lightsaber — it all feels unnecessary and beyond forced. (Sorry, I did it again.)
Leia: “Where’s the rest of your team?” Kanan: “They’ll be here… eventually.” Leia: “Good, then you can steal my ships!”
“They’re taking prisoners! They can do that now?” – Stormtrooper.
“Lieutenant, did you lose your ship too?” – Leia, to a clueless Imperial goon.
BEST MOMENT: In a very nicely done scene, when Leia walks in on Ezra alone grieving over his late parents, she not only offers inspiring advice, they share a moment that shows how these guest star episodes have the ability to soar beyond the wink winks of muddy fan service. As two teenagers with the weight of the galaxy on their shoulders, Ezra and Leia instantly connect. Leia may not know at this point in time that she too is an orphan but the scene brings the point home subtly, thanks to the gentle use of the episode’s musical score by Kevin Kiner (using John Williams’ beautiful Leia theme). Hot stuff.
EPISODE’S MVP: Princess Leia. When Rebels was first announced, the thought of bringing in a young Leia seemed like a given, considering when we first meet her (in 1977’s Star Wars) she’s already a well-known, fearless, ass-kicking, and trash-talking leader in the Rebel Alliance. (Heck, she has zero problems telling off Darth Vader or telling Grand Moff Tarkin that he smells bad! To his face!) All of that fire is here in these twenty minutes of animated television. The character is done with the class and grace she deserves. Seeing a glimpse into how the future military leader gets her start is something almost every fan has wanted to see, and this episode of Rebels delivered it perfectly.
– The attention that Rebels shows to Star Wars history never stops impressing me. The fact that Leia’s outfit in the episode is based on a very early Ralph McQuarrie concept drawing of character is a golden touch.
– Once again, Sabine gets nothing to do. I think she maybe has one line in the whole episode? I know she’s not the focus, but the show is running the risk of just having too many damn characters, now more than ever.
– On that note, does anyone, anywhere care about this Ryder Azadi guy? Why is he in the Ghost with the crew at the end? I feel like we’re supposed to feel for him and his straight-up goofy hat, but that can’t be. Let’s hope he goes off with Hat Lady from Season One and we never see him again.
– Umm… where’s Rex? Is he back with Pheonix Squadron? Again, too many characters and never knowing where the right focus should be has been a problem plaguing Rebels since the first episode.
– While slightly pointless story-wise, the sight of seeing a Stormtrooper with a lightsaber slice the legs of an AT-AT was just plain cool.
-Nice to see glimpses of Padme in Leia here, especially The Clone Wars version. This really isn’t a surprise, as so many of the Rebels creative crew are Clone Wars veterans, but it’s still an awesome shout-out to the criminally underrated series.
7 out of 10