Sunday, April 14, 2024

Rebel’s Warhead Showcases Excellent Design

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In a refreshing change of pace, Rebels was good this episode. After the lackluster start to the second-half of the season, the writers are back doing what they are good at: developing characters with unique interpersonal relationships. This episode in particular was an opportunity for Garazeb Orrelios to shine, as well as a much needed demonstration of Chopper as a wonderful human droid being. AP-5 returns, and his snark is hilarious.

Episode Overview

The episode starts with getting everyone out of the way so that we can focus on Zeb, Chopper, and AP-5. Hera leaves Zeb in charge of Atollon Base while she and the fleet go out on practice maneuvers. In a scene reminiscent of The Empire Strikes Back, the Imperial Infiltrator Droid, EXD-9, lands on the planet Atollon. This is a droid made by Thrawn to speicifically target the Rebellion’s bases. Unfortunately the giant-spider-things appear and attack EXD-9, damaging it to the point he develops droid-amnesia. Zeb and Chopper find it and return it to base, thinking they can put it to use taking inventory. However the droid remembers its mission and attacks. Zeb, Chopper, and AP-5 are able to subdue it, and to ensure that the Empire cannot find them the trio programs EXD-9 to self-destruct aboard a Star Destroyer, thus destroying the other Infiltrator Droids. While his efforts to discover the rebel base are stymied, Thrawn remains optimistic that the war.

Strategic Zeb

While he was introduced as “The Muscle,” that description does not encapsulate Zeb’s whole character. He was a warrior of Lasan, who followed a code of honor. Moreover he was a Captain of the Honor Guard. He must have been competent and capable of leadership before the Fall of Lasan, but he instead chooses to portray himself as dumb muscle, perhaps as a way to escape the trauma of his past. This veneer is often taken as his canon personality, especially during the early parts of Season 1.

The Zeb we have now is more accepting of his past, and thus behaves more like a captain than a grunt. He leads the motley crew of droids on this mission, even though of the three of them he is the only one with combat skill. It is only his leadership that allows them to succeed at all, and it is his quick thinking that ensures the safety of Chopper Base. It is refreshing to see a character so often relegated to the sidelines take the lead, especially when he is rewarded for it.

Throughout the episode, Zeb is put into situations where he has to stop the droid and use his mind to find solutions or realize truths. For instance, towards the climax, Zeb plots to have the droid be programmed to blow up as it transmits its information to the imperial army. This solves the problems they faced of having it either blow up or transmit the data plans, thus solving the situation. Through this actions, Zeb is able to display a level of competence and smarts becoming of his history.

A large chunk of the episode was given to Zeb’s fight with the droid. He displayed prowess with both hand to hand and Bo-rifle. The choreography for this scenes did well to incorporate the area of  rebels stockpile and the tight corridors. His fights let him display his strength and so case how he had to use his mind was fighting it.

The Role of the Droid

Ever since did their video about the droids it has become impossible not to think of the role of droids within the Star Wars galaxy. This episode touched on the topic, but left most of it to the subtext. As Pablo Hidalgo pointed out in this week’s Rebels Recon, the Empire places little value on its droids. This is echoed by Obi-Wan’s callous dismissal of R2-D2 in The Clone Wars: when R2 is lost and presumably captured. Obi-Wan basically tells Anakin to get over it and get a new one.

Anakin, on the other hand, considers R2 at the very least an equal, calling him “little buddy” and treating the droid with the respect one would afford a sentient life form. This is echoed by the rebels. Chopper shows so much personality that he might be considered defective by an impatient Imperial. Instead, the rebels accept it as a character trait and consider Chopper as a valuable, if annoying, member of the team. The same courtesy is extended to AP-5, who is show to have a sarcastic and orderly personality distinct from other droids in the series. EXD-9 on the other hand, lack any personality. Though what he lacks in personality he makes up for in design.

Excellent Design

The design of EXD-9 of one of the best parts of the episode. It combined aspects that were both comforting and threatening. Despite its too different moods, its design avoided clashing with itself and creating a terrifying dual image of what it could be.

The first thing that should be raved about is its design as something non-threatening. In this infiltration mode. The droid used the calming color of soft blue to showcase it’s initially non-threatening behavior. Further, the droid takes some inspiration from calming human-like design choices from thing such as C3PO prototype designs and old Isaac Asimov. It’s a good design choice that lets the viewer form a sense of trust with the droid.

Since its design was so non-threatening and calming, its transformation into its more sinister form made it transformation into its battle mode. Its arms extends out and introduces red colors. It’s arms open up with electric prongs, and it’s faces drops down to reveal red eyes. It’s a dramatic change that only requires a few alterations to the otherwise innocent design. Now itn has become more Terminator and even Five Night’s at Freddy’s like. It’s design in those mode is threatening and scary


Thrawn’s Net Closes

Thrawn is back, and he is once again scheming. Fortunately he is no longer at his god-tier level knowledge of the Rebels doings, but he remains terrifyingly attuned to them. Even though he does not know which planet the rebels are based on, he is starting to narrow it down to a possible 94 planets. His next step will probably be to increase surveillance of the area, but inconspicuously. Keep in mind my Thrawn/Tarkin Knife/Hammer analogy. Even though Thrawn desires a victory over the rebels he desires a complete, swift, decisive victory. He does not want to settle for a few Corellian corvettes or an A-Wing or two. Thrawn will only accept the utter annihilation of the rebels. Thrawn will wait until he is absolutely certain of the rebels’ location, at which point he will strike for the heart and leave no survivors.

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.

Favorite Quote

AP-5: I’m surprised you were able to think of a plan at all.

Next Week

We get to see Sabine, Queen of the Concordians, Kalevalans, and the Mandalorians, Lady of the Planets and Protector of the Sector, and some awesome Darksaber action.

All images courtesy of Disney, Philippe Cazaumayou, Paramount, and 20th Century Fox


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