TWG contributor Elisa and I return to share our thoughts and impressions about “Breaking Ranks.”
General Thoughts About the Plot
EA: I thought “Breaking Ranks” was well laid out pacing wise. I also liked all that we saw a different look at Imperial locations and getting a peek into the Stormtrooper training. Although I am left with questions–some I wish that had been answered–I did like both the main and secondary plots that made up the episode. Lastly, I loved seeing Hera and Kanan interacting together and watching them kick Imperial butt.
JM: In “Breaking Ranks,” we find Ezra undercover at the Imperial Academy, while Hera and Kanan await for the coordinates to destroy a secret kyber crystal shipment. With Ezra at the Academy, we saw a sneak peek at stormtrooper training, and the kyber crystal chase explained why a certain Star Wars: The Clone Wars story arc was released despite its unfinished state. The episode flowed at a great pace. It was both action-packed and intense because two storylines were happening at the same time. The audience was also introduced to brand new characters, Zare Leonis being my personal favorite. Although “Breaking Ranks” didn’t refer to the heavy tones introduced in the previous episode, “Rise of the Old Masters,” this particular episode touched on Ezra’s progress with his Jedi training, the existence of other children with similar abilities (which referred back to the Darth Vader scene in “Spark of Rebellion”), and the resources that fuel the Empire’s super weapon.
General Thoughts About the Characters
EA: Though we’ve seen Kanan be concerned for Ezra before, I really like how it presented itself in this episode. With the way Kanan talks, you can believe that if something had happened to Ezra, that Kanan would blame himself for it. Still, despite knowing the danger that Ezra is surely in, Kanan pulls through and does what he must when they’re going after the kyber crystal shipment.
JM: Kanan’s growing concern for Ezra was impossible to miss in this episode. His attachment and behavior in many ways reminded me of Anakin when he was worried for Ahsoka. In a previous episode of “Rebels Chat,” my mom emphasized how Kanan was ‘alone’ before Ezra came along, meaning that he had no one else like him aboard the ship. Now that he and Ezra have established this relationship and mutual understanding, he’s afraid of losing it and returning to just being by himself. He did, however, move forward with the mission. I like the fact that he acted as bait, while Hera went on the attack. Kanan could have easily taken up the job himself because he’s the leader, but what makes him such a great leader is the fact that he knows how to play with the strengths of his team members.
EA: I love Hera’s role in this episode, for she is ever the voice of reason. I like how it’s almost implied that Kanan would have stuck around to help Ezra had he been able. Or at the very least, would have stuck around till the end of the conversation. Hera knows that there is a job to be done, and she will do it! What I also loved is that we get to see Hera do what she does best: piloting. Not only that, but she (not Kanan) got the shot on the ship carrying the kyber crystal. So often women are delegated to supporting roles that I found myself pleasantly surprised by what she was able to do in this episode.
JM: Hera, as we all already know, is the conscience of the group. I found it entertaining to see her practically sit on Kanan’s shoulder and show him reason. Additionally, this was definitely the episode for Hera’s flying skills to shine. It really demonstrated her determination because she’d rather sacrifice herself and the ship to get the job done. I’m curious about how she and Kanan came to know about the crystal in the first place. It was implied in Star Wars: The Clone Wars that the crystal powers the super laser weapon on the Death Star, and Hera herself was aware of the crystal’s potential. Sadly, it’s a bitter victory in the end from the audience’s perspective because even though they managed to destroy that shipment, the Empire will find alternative solutions and eventually destroy a planet to demonstrate their power.
EA: Besides playing a messenger of sorts between Ezra and where Sabine and Zeb were outside, we didn’t see Chopper do too much this episode. Saying that, I loved that we were able to see him be utilized as we did, and in disguise no less. This also makes this fangirl happy because this was something I had wanted to see Chopper do. Maybe not this exact scenario, but I wanted to see Chopper go undercover or be personally important in a mission. So this is something that I can now cross off my Star Wars Rebels bucket list.
JM: Last week, we saw how Chopper was annoyed at being left behind on the Ghost. I bet he was most excited to participate in the operation and infiltrating the Imperial Academy. I found it humorous that he had to be painted all black because his colors would have stood out in the Empire’s strict black, white, and gray color palette. I like that Chopper clearly has no fear in these type of situations. C-3PO would not have agreed to go undercover, and although R2-D2 has done many things and gone to many places, you often hear his soft scared sounds when he’s in an unfamiliar scenario. Chopper enjoys being on the front lines and that makes him a very useful member of the crew.
EA: Not too much to say about Zeb this time around. Zeb was great support, as always. I adore his animation and facial expressions, and though he wasn’t seen too much, his movements continue to be natural and a joy to watch. Again, I must say that I love just how often we see Sabine and Zeb being a team. Of course there are reasons for that, but I love how this older warrior, who’s clearly accomplished, doesn’t tease or belittle her in any way. As I have said before, he feels as if he’s on equal ground with Sabine, and that is so very cool to see.
JM: Unlike the first few episodes, we didn’t see Zeb as much. The focus, obviously, was on Ezra’s mission and Hera and Kanan tracking down the kyber crystal. As mentioned in previous reviews, everyone has their role. Not everyone can be the center of attention in one episode. In this case, he was essential during the attack when Ezra needed assistance, but otherwise, he played his role as backup.
EA: Like Zeb, Sabine isn’t in this episode too much. Despite that, she has her memorable moments as well. I love watching her fight; her movements are so fluid and precise. It’s not like watching Ezra stumble after a long leap or needing help. She comes off as a fully competent fighter. Just like what you’d want from someone who was wearing Mandalorian armour. Another thing she did this episode that stood out to me was her shooting a trooper directly in the helmeted face. That was a little shocking, but also, pretty fantastic.
JM: Sabine played the messenger in this episode. If Ezra wasn’t the focus character of the series, I would have much preferred to see Sabine in Ezra’s position within the Academy. Sabine’s character will be explored in “Out of Darkness,” but she would have made an excellent undercover agent, and I’m sure it would have dredged up some emotional pain from her past. Nevertheless, she kicked Imperial rear in this episode and even shot a stormtrooper in the face. Always capable in the face of danger, and that’s why she’s a fan favorite!
EA: Though I have seen people mention that we’ve gotten a lot of Ezra these episodes, to which I may or may not agree, I do like that we were able to see him go undercover and infiltrate the Empire. He’s a kid and seeing him do this mission while making friends and watching out for others are things I enjoyed viewing.
Kanan mentions how this mission has been going on for weeks, and even if the accommodations didn’t look deplorable by any means it makes me wonder just how long this whole venture was for Ezra. No matter the length I can’t imagine that this was an overly easy mission, even though he was very social and clearly made a good friend with Jai by the time we’re introduced to them.
I do wonder what other ways we’ll eventually see Ezra utilized. Before this episode, he was primarily doing little things, used his slingshot, dodged being shot at, climbing, and using the Force in small ways. At the end of the day, he’s not a fighter, and I’m interested in seeing how his character grows and what role he will eventually fill.
JM: There are people who only work well with others and there are individuals who only work well on their own, and Ezra happens to be a perfect blend of the two. Even though he struggled at first, he adapted quickly to living and working with the crew. However, his instincts to survive on his own and think on his feet will always be part of who he is as an individual, and that’s definitely Ezra’s strongest trait. Unlike Kanan, he wasn’t sighing in distress and thinking, “I miss everyone.” For a temporary time, he found his niche at the Academy and carried out his mission without distracting himself with thoughts about his friends on the outside. He quickly adapts to any situation he finds himself in, proving once again to be quite resourceful. Also, I like that Ezra stuck his neck out for someone he barely knew and contributed that to his shared time with the crew. It re-emphasizes that he is, in fact, a good person with good intentions. He was also very capable of creating his own strategies and plans. It would be interesting to see that quality of his clash with Kanan in the future, since that’s essentially his job.
EA: I love Zare’s character, and I cannot talk enough about him. First, I love that he exists. For a very long time, the Empire has always been white males and seeing Zare added to that group, even though he’s not as Imperial at heart as his supervisors may want him to be. His existence opens up all the doors for skin colours in the Empire. It’s something simple and something that has been a long time coming, but I am ecstatic that it has happened.
Second, I love how he feels like he’s not going to be a one-off character. There’s a story happening with him, a personal mission to find out what happened to his sister who mysteriously disappeared. I want to find out more about this character, and I really do hope that we do because now I have all these questions that I really want answered.
And finally, I need to say that I swear I recognized his voice, though I didn’t identify it at the time. It turns out that the awesomely talented Bryton James was Zare’s voice actor and that brought a smile to my face. Bryton was fantastic in this role. The nuances he has in his voice and the little “Soooo” he gave Kallus when asking if he was going to sign the order for the speeder parts had me smiling so much. I loved this actor for a long time thanks to his role on Young and the Restless. Knowing that he is now part of Star Wars, playing a role that will hopefully return soon, makes me so unbelievably happy.
JM: Zare! Take this time to applaud at the team’s magnificent efforts at incorporating more diversity in Star Wars. I can’t stress enough the importance of representation, especially when it comes to something like Star Wars.
Although Zare didn’t get much screen time, there is a prequel to “Breaking Ranks” known as Servants of the Empire: Edge of the Galaxy by Jason Fry. Highly recommended, the book will introduce you to Zare and his sister, Dhara. Zare joined the Academy to find out what happened to her and why she disappeared. He started to doubt the Empire, and because of that, I love that he didn’t need much convincing to help Ezra’s cause, endangering himself and his own goals. Zare believes the Inquisitor took his sister, and I believe he’s right. Spoilers for Edge of the Galaxy: Dhara exhibited great skill while she was in school and had the knack for sensing Zare before Zare could find her in a room crowded with people. Chances are Dhara was Force sensitive and was taken captive because she fit the Inquisitor’s criteria. She may be another child of the Force, and if so, was she eliminated because she posed a threat or was she converted into some tool for the Empire?
Zare is our connection in finding out more and his story continues in Rebel in the Ranks, coming March 2015.
Also, Bryton James did a fantastic job voicing Zare. I remember the character he played in The Vampire Diaries, and I practically shouted in glee when I read his name in the credits. Lastly, if you hadn’t noticed it before, Zare’s name is Ezra’s name rearranged in a different order.
EA: I adored the friendship that we see between Ezra and Jai. Watching the two of them laugh and joke right at the beginning of the episode really warmed my heart. Besides being adorable and being voiced by Dante Basco, who is another incredible actor, he is also the other half of the plot we see Ezra having to deal with in this episode.
Though not much was ever learned about Jai, what was coming for him and Ezra does raise a lot of uncomfortable questions. And even though I am curious to know what exactly the Inquisitor was going to do, I am also happy we didn’t get an answer for that in this episode. Somewhere down the line, I do hope we do get one.
JM: Voice by Dante Basco, that alone was a treat. Jai fit the Inquisitor’s ‘special criteria,’ but was he really Force sensitive? Although there’s no real proof, he could have been really good at the tasks assigned to him. Jai himself commented on Ezra’s outstanding capabilities in awe, and he was nowhere near Ezra’s level of skill–at least, in my opinion. Given the “children of the Force” theme in the episode, however, I could see him being a late bloomer.
EA: It has to be the scene with Ezra successfully stealing the information he needs. I love how Zare was the distraction for Kallus and the story he made up to keep the ISB Agent’s attention. I also liked that we were able to see Ezra successfully use the Force once again, for as slow and untrained as it was.
If I could have a runner up, it would be when Ezra was jumping on the walker and wanting to be let in. Hearing Commandant Cumberlayne excitedly exclaim about what “Morgan” was doing and knowing how wrong he was really did make me laugh.
JM: The introduction of Zare. He’s already one of my favorite characters!
EA: There are a couple things that I really need to touch upon for this episode, for as great and enjoyable as I found it.
Even though I loved Jai and Dante Basco for voicing him, I really wish Jai had been a girl. The books have mentioned, and the existence of Zare’s sister confirms yet again, that the Empire does have female officers. I know that having background Imperial Officers in uniform would require more than a voice over, given the different physiques between a man and a woman. However, I can’t help but wonder why we’re not at least hearing some female voices from the troopers, since from what we’ve been told, there would be no need for a different model due to Stormtrooper armour being the same for men and women.
I just can’t help but feel that Jai was a missed opportunity and how easily he could have been a girl. Initially, when he removed his helmet, I thought he was one, and then I heard him speak and that clarified everything.
And this isn’t so much a dislike as it is me furrowing my brow in confusion, but am I supposed to believe that all the Stormtroopers went through the same exercises seen in this episode? I know it’s a joke that they can’t hit anything, but in “The Well” session, they’re actually hitting targets. Now, one could say that the targets they were shooting at were actually a lot closer than other targets they may shoot at, but I’d hope that even from a distance, a trooper could manage to hit a human-sized target.
The Empire is supposed to be, or I at least feel it should be, intimidating. I just want to know what happens between them being wee kids that can pull off shots and being full grown adults in armor that are unable to accomplish that.
JM: Despite my love for the episode, it still had its faults. The stormtrooper training is quite rigorous, and a character in Edge of the Galaxy was completely transformed and made into a hardened soldier. The kids showed more skill in shooting targets than the adults who are currently in stormtrooper uniforms. My mom and I in “Rebels Chat” contributed that to complacency. The adults are settled in their ways and don’t give 110 percent as much as they used to, as seen in their rookie and cadet days. Whatever the case, there’s a disconnect between their portrayal in this episode and how they actually act when attacking the rebels.
Also, it would have been great to see at least one female in the cadet ranks. Or at least, hear the voice of a female to show that there is gender diversity present. We know there are female stormtroopers, but it’d be great to finally see one in canon.
Lastly, “Crystal Crisis on Utapau” from Star Wars: The Clone Wars is the only reason I know about the giant kyber crystals with unlimited power. Though I was comfortable with the pace of the episode, it may have escaped from the attention of others the purpose of the crystal, its origin, and the importance of it. I hope the kyber crystal is addressed in a later episode and discussed further in order to give what happened in “Breaking Ranks” more context.
EA: I really do love this episode and the unsettling questions it opens up. What happens to the kids that the Inquisitor takes away? Is that what happened to Zare’s sister? Are they given a choice to join the dark side? Have any said yes to that? Are they killed if they don’t? How many families have been told their child up and left to never return? I’d love answers to these questions–answers I’m certain will be painful and heartbreaking.
I also sort of wish we had been able to see Oleg’s face (boy with the green marked helmet). We saw the other three and his helmet was identically marked like Ezra, Zare, and Jai’s, which helped him stand out as one of the four that were given the most attention.
Speaking of Oleg, I do have an animation moment to talk about. I love how when he’s stunned and slumping back unconscious, you see his mouth open. It’s a little thing, but it’s something I did want to point out that I had noticed.
Lastly, I also wish that we had seen what the crew were up to during the weeks that Ezra was undercover. Or even witness how they had first heard about the kyber crystal shipment. As it is, it feels like it came out of the blue, and for those who haven’t been able to see the unfinished TCW reels for the Utapau arc, I doubt many know why the Empire would want a kyber crystal or why it’s so dangerous. I can’t help but feel that having some explanation, especially for the age group that this show is being primarily made for, would have helped set up this episode’s secondary plot.
JM: “Breaking Ranks” was another fun and enjoyable episode. So far, the series hasn’t let me down, and I hope it continues to perform well when it comes to storytelling and portraying diversity. Also, I love that there were references to Star Wars: The Clone Wars. The cadet training reminded me of “Clone Cadets” and the exercises were straight out of the “The Box.” Finally, I urge you all to pick up a copy of Jason Fry’s Edge of the Galaxy. Read my review and enjoy the story that helps establish this awesome new character.