All good things come to those who wait, and boy is that true in both our world and the Star Wars galaxy. After a season of buildup, Thrawn finally springs his trap and ends the season in style. Breathy action, explosive spectacle, and a little character development thrown in come together to deliver a spectacular season finale that both ties up this season’s conflict and sets up more in the season to come.
The episode opens with Thrawn explaining to Pryce, Tarkin, and Konstantine that the Rebels of Phoenix Squadron and the Massassi Group under General Jan Dodonna are planning a coordinated attack against the shipyards on Lothal. Agent Kallus has been listening in using a mouse droid, and contacts the Rebels to warn them. However, Thrawn has followed Kallus and the two engage in a brief bout of fisticufs that ends with a victory for Thrawn, who now has enough information to deduce the location of the Rebel base on Atollon.
On Atollon, the rebel leadership is in conference and receives part of Kallus’ message. This, combined with a suspicious lack of Imperial presence on Lothal, convinces Hera that an attack is imminent. The Rebels try to escape, but Thrawn has brought two Interdictor ships that prevent the Rebel craft from jumping to hyperspace. Ezra suggests that the Rebels call for reinforcements, which could outflank Thrawn’s Star Destroyers, but Thrawn is jamming communications off world. To give Ezra a chance to escape, Commander Sato baits Konstantine’s Interdictor out of formation and rams his ship into it. Both die, but the opening allows Ezra to flee the system to get help.
Thrawn then launches a ground assault against the Rebels, following Tarkin’s orders to capture the leadership alive. Kanan petitions the Bendu for help, eventually calling the Force-Entity a coward. Thus enraged, Bendu disappears and becomes a storm. The Rebels are pushed back and defeat seems inevitable. Ezra, meanwhile is having no luck getting reinforcements from Mon Mothma and instead visits Krownest. Duchess Ursa Wren gives Ezra several ships and a few warriors to aid in the fight and Sabine tags along for giggles.
Meanwhile on Atollon, the Bendu Storm arrives and starts wreaking havoc on Thrawn’s forces (and the Rebels too but mostly on Thrawn), allowing the Rebels to make a break for it. Thrawn manages to defeat the Bendu using an AT-AT, but the Bendu utters a chilling prophecy to Thawn forseeing his defeat and disappears before Thrawn can finish things. In space, with the Interdictor destroyed by Ezra and the Mandalorians, Governor Pryce can only watch as the Rebels and Kallus escape her grasp and flee to parts unknown. The episode ends as the Rebels patch up their wounded, cautiously optimistic about their future, as they flee towards Yavin IV.
General Episode Musings
The “Zero Hour” story serves as a good capstone to the excellent series Season 3 has become. The story was dynamic, taking place both in space and on the ground, and it utilized its worldbuilding extremely well. Pacing to the main battle is tense, as the tables quickly turn on the Rebels, leading to them to be on the defensive from Thrawn. The payoff for a season’s worth of anticipation is well played. The narrative depicts the struggle of the Rebels against an indomitable and well-prepared Thrawn perfectly. There is an interplay as each side attempts to take control of the situation, spotting any weakness to exploit.
In a shocking turn of events, Kallus actually lives. In spite of fan predictions and a general sense of dread over Thrawn’s knowledge of his defection. Yet he, despite all odds, actually survives and finds himself on board The Ghost.
We found it refreshing that the Bendu does not give a (Insert favorite expletive here) who he’s hurting. He is so neutral, he’ll destroy everything to achieve his goal, even our protagonists.
The animation for the battle is top notch. Backed by excellent staging and a sense of power, “Zero Hour” gives uses all it can to create a suspenseful battle sequence. Despite the numerous ships, the show makes sure the viewer can understand what’s happening. It would be very easy to lose track of what was happening, but Rebels maintains its ground and keeps the action clear.
Another achievement in animation was the Bendu storm. The art for this being’s rage was equal parts beautiful and terrifying. Stark black clouds obscure the light of Atollon, looking like something straight out of a sketchbook. Just take a look at the concept art (above) and you’ll get an idea of how awe-inspiring it was.
Thrawn Failure by Incompetent Followers
Thrawn himself is as competent as ever. His analyzes the rebels and their tactics with precision, deduces the location of their base easily, and employs a strategy that even left room to counter any Rebel surprises. By all counts he would’ve utterly crushed everything. However, small things here and there utterly derailed his plans.
It all began with Tarkin demanding hostages. Thrawn knows this will constrain him, but he is forced to submit. Then, Konstantine tried to play hero and brashly defied Thrawn by going after Sato, making it so Ezra could get reinforcements. Thrawn still outplays as much as he can, but then Bendu shows up and breaks everything. The rebels escape, and Thrawn is left with nothing. While succeeding in his mission to destroy the base, it is still a bittersweet victory for Thrawn. Furthermore, he now has to contend with the chilling warning left by the Bendu.
Thrawn the Art-Snob Saves the Day
In a sci-fi world or story, art often takes a back seat in-universe. Sure there can be artistry in the set design, costumes, and props, but art itself is only ever a background item and never really results in anything of consequence. Thrawn turns this on its head and uses art to devastating effect. Thrawn tracks the path of General Dodonna and the direction of Kallus’ Fulcrum transmission but finds that the place where they intersect has no known star system. Kallus had deleted Atollon from Thrawn’s map.
My(Zach’s) immediate thought was “Bullcrap, you can physically see stars with a telescope, whip it out and see what you can find.” Thrawn actually thought of this too in a way, and used an ancient painting made by the native Lothalians to point out that there is, in fact, a star there. Sure, it is not as practical as whipping out a telescope, but it still goes to show that overreliance on technology, even in a sci-fi world, has its disadvantages.
Tidbits of Character
Most of this episode was dedicated to the battle with very little room for character development. Still, there were tiny hints of it sprinkled throughout the episode. For one, Kanan and Ezra have a heart to heart right at the beginning. Even though Kanan thinks he has nothing left to teach Ezra in the ways of a Jedi, since his own Jedi training was cut short, Ezra insists that Kanan still has much to teach. This is positive development for both Ezra and Kanan, since Kanan still has self-confidence issues about his teaching ability, and Ezra acknowledges his own character flaws.
Kanan also got a moment of awesome with the Bendu. Even though he is a giant, godlike Force being, Bendu is very much like Season 1 Kanan: unwilling to get involved. Think about it, Kanan was basically dragged into the larger rebellion by Hera. He wanted no part of a military strike against the Empire. Bendu is very much the same. Now, though, Kanan will actually volunteer for missions and readily accepts his role within the Rebellion. He openly admits this, and points out that sitting on the sidelines and allowing injustice to continue is just as bad as perpetrating it. It was a wonderful moment.
Ezra too has grown. In the beginning of this season his characterization swung wildly from episode to episode, perhaps as part of his constant exposure to the Sith Holocron or from Kanan’s emotional distance at the time. Since then, Ezra has more or less settled into a role that suits his Force powers. Ezra can relate to creatures through the Force, something quite prominent in Season 2. Now, that ability to communicate and empathize allows Ezra to be a capable negotiator. His pleas even manage to convince the Mandalorians to come the the aid of the rebellion.
Speaking of the Mandalorians, Sabine gets to show loyalty to both of her families. In a little ancillary information (which we had BETTER get more information on next season) it turns out that she has been helping her family fight a(nother) civil war on Mandalore and they cannot spare any large number of troops. They are stretched too thin already. However, Sabine is still loyal to the rebels and refuses to not help them. The more we see of Sabine, the more we see that all of her motivations stem from protecting the people she considers family, which includes her rebel family.
Zach Theory Redaction
In a previous review, I speculated that the reason Lothal was so important to the Empire was that it was creating some part of the Death Star. This episode proved me wrong. In the opening minutes, Thrawn explained that the target of the Rebel’s attack would be shipyards on Lothal where the TIE Defender is being produced. Alas, no Death Star for Lothal.
Episode Rating: 7 – Satisfying: Fantastic! Entertaining! I would be willing to watch it again. It isn’t perfect, but it hits an emotional or thematic sweet spot that leaves you glad you spent time on it.
Next Week: Tune in next week for our Season 3 Recap and Review!
All Images Courtesy of Disney