Kicking off the run of its last seven episodes, this week’s double of Star Wars Rebels really was like nothing seen before in this series. “Jedi Night” and “Dume” demonstrate that the showrunners are not afraid of making big calls and are, blessedly, willing to let their characters deal with the fallout from these decisions.
Let’s dive right into the recap of both episodes before the review of them as a whole because I really can’t wait. Massive spoilers ahead for Rebels.
The episode opens on Kanan (Freddie Prinze Jr) meditating. His mind races between the voices of his friends and visions of the Loth Wolves. He tells Ezra (Taylor Gray) that Ezra will need to take the lead in the mission to rescue Hera (Vanessa Marshall), captured in “Rebel Assault”. Kanan says his feelings for Hera have compromised his judgment.
Ezra comes up with a plan where he, Sabine (Tiya Sircar), and Kanan will use gliders to infiltrate the Imperial headquarters. While the young rebels prepare the gliders, Kanan prepares himself. He cuts his hair, shaves his beard, and leaves his visor. It’s a beautiful sequence simultaneously displaying power and vulnerability. They take off and Zeb (Steven Blum) tells them to bring her home.
Meanwhile, Governor Pryce is torturing Hera for the location of the Rebel base while Thrawn (Lars Mikkelsen) has bailed to Coruscant. Apparently Director Krennic of Rogue One fame is about to take all the funding for Thrawn’s TIE Defender and funnel it into the Death Star. I kind of want to see that side story.
Kanan bursts in and rescues Hera in a sequence that is the most overtly “Jedi” thing the show has done. From Kanan’s method of entry down to Kevin Kiner’s reprised music, the whole thing screams The Clone Wars. They make it down to the roof of a fuel depot as Ezra and Sabine arrive in a ship for extraction.
Just as they are about to leave, however, Pryce orders her AT-AT to shoot the fuel cell they stand on. Kanan is forced to hold the explosion back with the force and allow his friends to escape, dying in the process. The episode ends with the title card in black and white and the credits roll in soundless mourning, a stark contrast to the usual upbeat music.
“Dume” kicks off with Governor Pryce freaking out about how much damage she did by blowing up all of the TIE Defender fuel. She decides to throw a parade to distract everyone, which is hilarious in its stupidity. It is, however, a good set-up for an episode where everyone deals with the fallout from the previous one.
Ezra is forced to deal with his resurgent fear and guilt by going on a vision quest. It features one gigantic Loth Wolf and some beautiful visual effects on the Lothal sky. The big Loth Wolf (named “Doom” or “Dume” apparently) tells him to go to the Jedi Temple on Lothal.
Hera is shattered and wracked with guilt. Almost the entire episode she’s clutching her kalikori that Kanan stole back from Thrawn for her tightly. When Ryder, Jai, and the other Lothal rebels ask her what they should do, she can’t even speak. An Imperial radio broadcast says the rebels are disheartened, leaderless, and broken. Looking at them, it’s hard to argue.
Sabine and Zeb try to kill grief with anger and basically do a roadside bombing on a bunch of stormtroopers commanded by Rukh. They find out that the TIE Defender factories have all stopped working due to Kanan’s sacrifice.
Speaking of the TIE Defender, Thrawn is pissed. He shuts down Pryce really hard, rightly mocking her for the parade. He speaks to Rukh as if Pryce isn’t there, and she really doesn’t like it. I wonder how shitty he’s going to be when Rukh comes back covered in Sabine’s graffiti next week?
The episode ends with all the rebels finding fresh hope. Sabine, Zeb, and Hera take heart from the fact that Kanan’s sacrifice was worth something beyond their lives. Ezra takes heart from knowing what he has to do. They’ve got to get to the Jedi Temple and save whatever knowledge they can find there.
I’ll kick off the review portion by talking about our fallen Knight, Kanan Jarrus aka Caleb Dume. His death was heavily telegraphed throughout “Jedi Night,” from ominously telling Ezra what a great listener he’s always been to his back and forth banter with Hera (both Prinze Jr and Marshall are great in these scenes). Finally, when Hera told him that she loved him, you know tragedy is coming. The thing is, his death is no less effective despite this.
If you think of where Kanan started this series, it is incredible how far he has come. When we first meet him, he’s afraid to wear his lightsaber openly. He’s afraid of the path Ezra might go down and for someone who was a Jedi, he’s almost selfish (selfish, in this sense, is not wanting to be part of bigger rebellion).
In this episode, there’s no fear left for Kanan, only certainty of purpose and confidence in his abilities to get the job done. He essentially ascends to the level of one of the Jedi we saw in The Clone Wars, tossing stormtroopers aside with ease, producing great feats with the force and, crucially, giving his life to save others and being totally okay with that. The final shot before he dies, where he looks at Hera and his blind eyes come alive once again is heartbreaking. He sees her, finally, just like he promised.
As I said before, his other scenes Hera are also beautiful. Particularly where he gives her back her kalikori and tells her it’s a present. Drugged up Hera’s reply:
“Kanan this is mine. It’s not a present if it’s mine.”
Also nice are his moments with Ezra early in the episode, where he rather explicitly passes on the mantle of leadership and gives Ezra command of this mission. It’s a big moment for a guy who has had a lot of doubts about his often erstwhile Padawan, and it clearly means the world to Ezra.
Moving on, the thing I love about the episode “Dume” is that it is basically an entire episode of our characters dealing with their grief. Sabine and Zeb deal with theirs in an external, practical way (blowing things up and smacking bucketheads) so I’ll focus on Ezra and Hera’s internal journeys.
Trippy vision quest Star Wars is my favorite kind of Star Wars, and Ezra gets literally chased into one by a pack of angry Loth Wolves. It’s startling how at the start of the episode, Ezra has regressed so far back towards his more childlike, season one self. He seems much younger, scared, and sad, talking to Kanan and telling him:
“You didn’t prepare me for this.”
When the Loth Wolves come for him their anger is visceral and powerful. The wolves clearly have a deep connection to Lothal and it seems like Lothal is angry that Kanan is dead. Ezra cries, not knowing what more he could have done. The wolves upbraid Ezra for drowning in self-pity after his friend’s sacrifice, and he understands that his journey isn’t over. Kanan’s sacrifice has allowed him the chance to save his world and he won’t waste it.
Hera, meanwhile, is light years away from the inspirational leader we saw in “Rebel Assault”. She can’t even speak to anyone except for Chopper because she is wracked with guilt over Kanan’s death. Hera, as you recall, was always the one pushing for them to be involved in the greater Rebellion, against Kanan’s wishes to do small amounts of good for individuals. Now, one of those missions has gotten the person closest to her killed and she feels responsible.
“He said that starting a war was a mistake and he was right! He was right and now he’s gone and it’s my fault.”
While it’s hard to see a character normally so in charge and together break down like this, it feels true to Hera’s character that Kanan’s death would be the thing that makes her question herself. It also feels true to her character that this would only be a passing thing. Hera has lost her mother (and we learn a little brother as well), fellow soldiers, and friends before. She knows the cost of war. When Zeb and Sabine bring back the news that Kanan’s sacrifice meant the mission was ultimately successful, you can see General Syndulla start to make her comeback.
This two parter continues Rebels strong run into it’s finale. The sad death of a main character catalyses the narrative, driving it toward it’s conclusion in a satisfying way. Freddie Prinze Jr. and his performance as Kanan the cowboy Jedi is going to be missed, but his sacrifice serves the narrative just as much as it served the Rebellion.
Next week we have action at Lothal’s Jedi Temple to look forward to and whatever delicious consequences Thrawn cooks up for Governor Pryce’s failures. Can’t wait!