TWG contributor Elisa and I return to share our reactions, thoughts, and impressions of the latest episode, “Empire Day”. Share your thoughts in the comments section below!
General Thoughts About the Plot
EA: This episode is so stuffed with content that they had to make it a two-parter! Not only is it the Empire’s birthday, where they’re showing off the brand new TIE Starfighter, a design that Original Trilogy fans will be quick to recognize, but it’s also Ezra’s birthday. This time around we learn and get hints towards a lot of new information about the youngest member of the Ghost crew, we are introduced to a Rodian who knows of his past, and we get to see the Inquisitor in action once again but in a whole new way.
JM: Without a doubt, Star Wars Rebels continues to excel in all aspects of storytelling and animation, with each story getting better and better. “Empire Day” focused on Ezra’s struggle with his past on the Empire’s 15th anniversary, which also happens to be his birthday. From Kanan’s lesson to Old Jho’s Pit Stop and from the grand Imperial parade to the intense “to be continued,” this episode truly captured the “rebel” in Star Wars Rebels. Up until this point, we’ve seen small jobs and brief encounters with the antagonists, but the mission of the rebels and the threat of the Empire became clearer. The confrontation between the rebels and Imperials, especially with Agent Kallus and the Inquisitor on the scene, made for a thrilling episode that brought fans to the edge of their seats.
General Thoughts About the Characters
EA: I’ve enjoyed Kanan’s character since the start of the series, and even though his personality has been well shown by now, this episode really brings all the elements of his character together. From his patience at teaching Ezra a new way to use his Force abilities to his concern for his young Padawan when he finds out why he doesn’t like this day in particular, to finally, his humor that’s laced throughout, Kanan really had a lot of range in this episode.
JM: Kanan had many highlights during this episode. For someone whose training was cut off at a young age, Kanan continues to impress me with his hidden knowledge and skills. At one point, he even used the word “attach” during his lesson. I found that intriguing, given the fact that attachment and Jedi (or at least, the way Jedi viewed attachment) spelled doom. Kanan also had a brilliant moment, where he pretended to be drunk or overly enthusiastic about the festivities. It reminded me of his character in A New Dawn and the drinking he fell into in order to cope with his own past. Regardless of what it reminded you or not, it was highly amusing. Finally, after being wise and funny, Kanan also showed his tough side when he confronted a stormtrooper in the troop transport. It was different from his previous style of fighting and more like a bar fight.
I also found it interesting that Kanan seemed genuinely shocked (or perhaps, I should have recognized it as concern?) when Ezra mentioned his parents, as if the thought had never crossed his mind. Chances are Kanan doesn’t remember his own family, which may explain why he didn’t give it a fair thought.
EA: We don’t see a lot of Hera this time around, though it was great seeing her when they could have opted to having left her on the ship. I again enjoyed the little moments she had with Kanan and hope that we’ll be seeing even more of her in the next episode.
JM: Given the focus on Ezra and his background, we didn’t see much of Hera and the others, but she did have a few memorable moments. When Minister Maketh Tua unveiled the Advanced TIE starfighter, Hera clapped and briefly said that she almost felt bad because she’d eventually blow it out of the sky. This isn’t the first time where she highlights her unbelievable piloting skills, but I appreciate that it comes across as confidence and not as cockiness, at least, in my perspective. In her saying that, however, it demonstrates that she has no difficulty sleeping at night after essentially killing male and female pilots. Granted, I’m sure the stormtroopers have no problem in doing the same. She’s not tormented by the fact or bothered by it, which again, makes me more interested about her past and how she came to be a superb pilot.
EA: Though he didn’t appear until the last few minutes of the episode, Chopper’s part in this one is highly memorable. I was not expecting what happened to have happened, and I gasped when I saw him fall back to the floor. I cannot wait to see what will come of this in the next episode. Saying that, I have a mighty need for Chopper to be okay.
JM: Chopper made an appearance during the last few tensed minutes of the episode. His role is just as significant as any other team member’s role, so when we saw him take his rightful place at a gunner and contribute to the action, I saw him take that spot with pride rather than just being part of his programming. His little victory dance was just as adorable as the first time we saw him do it in “Machine in the Ghost.” Sadly, Chopper suffered some damage, and being so attached to this character, my heart jumped out in fear. Here’s hoping Chopper pulls through!
EA: Not seen a lot this episode, I did like the scene when Zeb was with Sabine and waited for her to give the go ahead for him to throw the detonator. What really stood out for me with Zeb, though, was the moment when we last saw him. While my excitement is more directed at the next episode, I still cannot help but wonder what exactly Zeb is going to find when he finds Chopper, especially after that comment he made before heading for the rear gun.
JM: My partner-in-crime, Elisa, pointed out several times how Zeb and Sabine work really well together, and I noticed that again in this episode. Though it was brief, Zeb held onto a live charge that Sabine had handed over to him. Even though he was desperate to chuck it and stop from possibly dying on the spot, I like that he didn’t toss it too early and relied on her word. As mentioned before, that sort of situation truly demonstrates how well the two trust each other and how he respects her craft at explosives.
EA: I love Sabine, and she had a fair share of moments this episode. Not only did we get a few more scenes of her with Kanan, but we also got more of her interacting with Ezra. Of all her scenes and her interacting beautifully with Ezra, there is one thing I wanted to touch upon, and it happened right at the start of the episode. When we first see her, she’s staring out beyond the audience where she removes her helmet and leans against the wall. Only after that do we get to see over her shoulder at what she’s looking at. She’s watching Ezra and Kanan. Her expression is one that stood out to me, and I’m unsure I can easily place it. I wonder if she is remembering a mentor of her own that she’s since lost or maybe something else. Whatever it is, I love that we get this silent moment with her, and I hope that we may learn more about why she would look towards the pair with such an expression.
JM: We first saw Sabine towards the beginning, when she stared off into the distance in the direction of Kanan and Ezra. Kevin Kiner brilliantly added a snippet of Leia’s theme to that scene, which I think added to the concern we’ll see from her later on. I also enjoyed seeing how genuinely concerned she was about Ezra. Besides Kanan, Sabine also noticed how Ezra was off his game. Up until this point in time, we saw her roll her eyes at him or ignore his silly crush on her, but she saw past that and treated him as a crewmate and a friend, asking him if he was okay.
Despite the focus being on Ezra, we saw a wide range of talents from Sabine, which made this fangirl inexplicably happy. She created those fireworks, hacked into Tseebo’s head gear, translated for those who were unable to understand him, and drove the troop transport through the blockade. She puts her skills to the test each time we see her, and I’m always left in awe of her abilities.
EA: Though we’re not given all the information, this episode opened up a lot of different paths that I can’t wait to see fully explored. First, it’s Ezra’s birthday, and I love how Sabine and Kanan both react upon that realization, it answering why their newest crew member has been less than welcoming on this day. Along with that though, we learn far more about Ezra’s life, and it is heartbreaking. How he speaks to Kanan about having been on his own for the past seven years, and how he speaks about the Empire and of the character Tseebo. It’s all made very clear that Ezra, for as young as he is, does have demons of his own. I can’t wait to know more about Ezra’s parents, and I, for one, am in desperate need for the next episode to give me these answers.
JM: Getting to know Ezra’s character in the past few episodes made this one all the more emotional because most fans have become attached to him, so bringing the story back around to him and his past was a nice touch. Unlike his master, Kanan has come to a point in his life where he has accepted what happened to him in the past and he doesn’t visibly harbor anger for what the Empire did. Instead, he copes with it by trying to make a difference. Ezra, on the other hand, is very bitter and angry for what happened to him and we visibly see the contrast between the two throughout the episode. As a result of his anger, he finds it hard to let go of his past, and given his growing Jedi abilities, he unknowingly opens himself up to voices long gone. Ezra, in my opinion, is an open channel of rushing water, and if he keeps that unchecked, he could become susceptible to other influences.
Despite battling images of his past, there was one scene where Ezra laughed after Sabine rammed through the Imperial blockade. Even though his birthday wasn’t full of joy and it was overshadowed by the Empire’s festivities, it made me smile to see him enjoy himself for at least a few moments and be a fifteen year old for once.
EA: A Rodian filled with mystery that I hope we learn more about. Who was he to Ezra’s parents? How or why does he know what happened to them? What exactly did he do or didn’t do to make Ezra so angry at him? And how exactly did he come into possession of the information he has on the Empire? One thing that we do know about his character is that he has a familiar piece of technology attached to him. Upon seeing him, he immediately made me think of Lobot. I’d love to know more about the tech that he’s wearing and how he came to possess it. Did the Empire force it upon him? Or was it willing? Hopefully, the next episode will give us and Ezra some answers.
JM: Tseebo was an interesting character. In many ways, he gave me the Peter Pettigrew (Harry Potter) vibe, given how Ezra reacted towards him and his relationship with his parents. He also provided much information on individuals like Lobot and Echo, who was revealed to be alive by Dave Filoni. Sabine said that the devices sacrifice personality in favor of productivity. It would have been interesting to see how Echo was controlled by that device or if the device itself acted as his primary brain function depending on his damages from the explosion that supposedly killed him. Tseebo, however, managed to think for himself in the last few minutes, demonstrating that there is still free will despite the technological and external control.
EA: We actually learn a bit about the Inquisitor in this episode. For those who have kept up with his information, it’s not too much of a surprise to learn that the Inquisitor is both a pilot and has his own special TIE fighter. For everyone else though, I think the scene of him walking with the two pilots was a good and exciting reveal. I have loved the Inquisitor since we’ve met him and seeing him in his flight helmet is the best. I love its design; it’s sleek like he is, and I hope we get to see him wear it again! I do have to wonder though, does his TIE have shields? Surely, it does because he’s so valuable, but still, we won’t know until it takes a hit.
And though he’s not exactly an antagonist in this episode, I still want to bring up Baron Rudor. One day–one glorious day–he will get to actually fly in a TIE and fight in it during the course of this series, and I dare say, it will be the happiest day of his life.
JM: This episode had a surprising amount of antagonists. Actually, not so surprising, given the fact that it was Empire Day and that Tseebo was their number one target. Finally, after many weeks of searching for competent stormtroopers, we see one soldier take charge and make his way into the troop transport. That right there is exactly the kind of stormtroopers we should be seeing throughout the series–threatening and capable of getting the job done as best as possible. Sadly, the poor trooper was kicked out during the chase, but he posed a real threat during a vulnerable moment for the rebels.
Other antagonists also had shining moments throughout the episode. Maketh Tua, though not an “evil” character by any means, is a woman of power under a regime that allows her to have that power. Therefore, she will do what she is told, even if it’s not the best course of action for Lothal. She’s a blind puppet and those can be just as dangerous as the real antagonists, like Agent Kallus. Kallus’ moves during the chase demonstrated once again how he is, in fact, a formidable opponent. This was also the first time we saw Kallus and the Inquisitor interacting outside of a hologram, and they worked rather well together. Lastly, the Inquisitor’s approach to attacking or pursuing the rebels in many ways reminded me of Jason Voorhees. He doesn’t run, but merely walks in a menacing way to his destination or prey (e.g. walking to his TIE fighter, while the other two pilots ran). There were more firsts in this episode with the Inquisitor in his TIE fighter and wearing his snazzy helmet.
Before, we had seen the Empire doing small things, such as taking land, shipping weapons, and arresting the locals, but the Imperial army definitely lived up to the image of being threatening and imposing in this episode.
EA: Hands down, it has to be Kanan acting drunk. That scene was amazing and it is as glorious as it sounds.
JM: Ezra and the Loth-cat. That cat was absolutely adorable!
EA: I wish the episodes were longer than 22 minutes.
JM: I know that Ezra’s old home was abandoned for years, but I wish there could have been a bit more lighting. The space was so dark; it was difficult to appreciate the design of Ezra’s old home.
EA: I have been enjoying Rebels since the start of the series, but this episode especially makes it feel as if it has found its feet. So many elements came together and really hit their marks that I can’t help but feel excitement over it. I am so excited for next episode and see the conclusion.
I want to know what happened to Ezra’s parents, and what that will lead to, if not physically, then for Ezra’s growth. What will happen to Tseebo and what all is the information that he has of the Empire? And what about all my other questions?!
Really, though, this was a fantastic episode, and it really did hit all the high points. I really can’t wait for next week, where I’m hoping we’ll start getting answers to at least some of the questions raised.
JM: Overall, the episode is truly one of the best we’ve seen so far. Above all else, I truly appreciated the small connections to Star Wars: The Clone Wars with the gunship and the clone trooper helmet. Luckily, the next part, “Gathering Forces”, is not after the midseason break. The “to be continued” would have been too cruel. I hope to see more episodes with that kind of approach in the future, since it keeps the audience begging for more.