Review: Star Wars Rebels, “Gathering Forces”

TWG contributor Elisa and I share our latest thoughts and reactions of the latest Star Wars Rebels episode, “Gathering Forces.” Share your impressions in the comments section below and join in the conversation!

General Thoughts About the Plot

EA: The second half of “Empire Day” and the end of the mid-season, “Gathering Forces” had an equal amount of action and intrigue as last week’s episode. We learn more about Ezra’s family, his growing abilities, and the Ghost’s current passenger: Tseebo. Needless to say, I loved the episode as much as “Empire Day”. Along with the information gathered from this second installment, we also get a plethora of new and familiar questions related to Ezra’s parents and Fulcrum.

JM: An epic showdown between good and evil unveils Ezra’s true potential and provides him with a taste of the dark side. By far, “Gathering Forces” was the most powerful episode of the series, placing young Ezra on unknown territory and leading us all to further question his fate and place in the Star Wars universe. The episode’s success primarily came from Taylor Gray’s performance, perfectly capturing the fear, uncertainty, and anger that consumed Ezra, as well as the fact that it was written by creative storyteller Greg Weisman. In a way, the episode echoed Anakin Skywalker’s exposure to the dark Side in the Mortis trilogy from Star Wars: The Clone Wars. The parallel speaks volumes about Ezra’s character and reveals one of the many possible paths laid out for him. Overall, the episode goes down as one of the best, especially in terms of character development.

General Thoughts About the Characters

Star Wars Rebels,
Credit: Disney XD, Lucasfilm Animation, Lucasfilm.


EA: Something I appreciate about Kanan is how he asks Ezra what he wants to do and for his general opinion, instead of walking all over him and assuming he’d answer one way over another. He is aware that Ezra knows Tseebo, and as a result, he asks for Ezra’s advice. Even though he doesn’t respond in a helpful way, it’s the fact that Kanan asks in the first place that jumps out at me. Kanan is also understanding. After what he’s been through, even without taking the fall of his people into consideration, he’s still open, warm and kind. He’s supportive, gentle and knows what Jedi-like advice to hand out when needed. It’s clear he’s doing the best he can with what little he knows, and I think he’s doing a great job at it.

Also, Kanan quickly identifies what’s happening with Ezra when the huge fyrnock makes its appearance. The first thing he says of any real substance is “I know, it’s okay.” Their talk in the Phantom makes me wonder if Kanan has ever slipped or stepped a bit too close to the dark side. I imagine Jedi younglings are told of the dangers and he could be relaying information he was once told, but the way he looks around and the pauses he makes, it simply makes me wonder. Either way, I hope this isn’t the last instance that this subject is touched upon.

JM: Kanan has been called “the worst Jedi ever” by some fans who fail to see how he’s grown as a teacher and a Jedi in his own way. In previous episodes, we saw how he studied his student and how he recently applied his growing knowledge of Ezra into his teaching methods (e.g. teaching him by what Ezra knows best: surviving). Personally, Kanan is a smart teacher, molding his lessons and catering to Ezra’s style of learning. In addition to being a good teacher, he also came across as a caring father/older brother, giving him encouragement and seeking his opinion. For those who watched Big Hero 6, he reminded me of Tadashi Hamada, looking out for his younger brother and desiring for him to do his best.

Lastly, this is the second time Kanan faced the Inquisitor, was rendered unconscious, and escaped by the skin of his teeth. Though he has much courage and determination for his cause, there will come a time when he won’t be so lucky. After all, the Inquisitor is a formidable opponent and one who is leagues better in lightsaber skills and various other forms of fighting. Here’s hoping that he continues to learn himself through his teachings with Ezra and hone in on skills that he can use for his own advantage.

Star Wars Rebels,
Credit: Disney XD, Lucasfilm Animation, Lucasfilm.


EA: Not too much to say for Hera, though, I do like that she called Fulcrum. It’s clear that the trust she has for the informant is high, and it makes me wonder if Fulcrum was Hera’s first and possibly only choice. The other big Hera moment doesn’t come until later in the episode, when she asks Tseebo if there is anything he wants her to tell Ezra. By its conclusion, it’s clear that Tseebo did share what he knew, and even though we don’t know what the information was specifically, Hera’s expression gives us hope that it’s not awful news.

JM: Hera, although not in the forefront of the action, continued to have spectacular moments as seen with her flying and mechanical skills (repairing Chopper). There was also this beautifully animated moment when Hera informed Ezra that the ship could become a real ghost without his immediate assistance. She knows she is skilled, but in that moment, she recognized her limits. She’s confident–not cocky–and understands when to step away from a fight. She’s also the only one in the crew with real knowledge about Ezra’s parents and what Tseebo told her made her look hopeful when she later tried to tell Ezra what she knew.

Given the fact that Hera is the face of the crew and maintains a variety of contacts, I would love to see her use those to her advantage to find out more about his parents, since I have an inkling that they aren’t dead and may have been subjected to a different fate. Needless to say, Hera remains to be an invaluable member of the crew. Truly looking forward to discovering more about her background, especially after the holiday break, and if not, in season two.

Star Wars Rebels,
Credit: Disney XD, Lucasfilm Animation, Lucasfilm.


EA: Chopper’s okay! I knew the likelihood of something permanent happening to him was slim to none, but that didn’t make the shock any less real for me. I loved how Chopper ‘woke up’ once he was reactivated. His karate moves and flailing really brought out the humor of the scene for a few moments before it settled back into its more serious mood.

JM: He’s alive! Despite the minority who see Chopper as a nuisance, many expressed relief when he was brought back online–myself included. Out of all the characters, Chopper is definitely the most animated, as seen with the mechanical arm flailing and chopping through the air. In seeing his reaction to waking up, I like to think that he hated missing out on the action. As previously mentioned in other reviews, Chopper likes to be in the thick of it and being a contributing member of the team. Being offline clearly didn’t sit well with him and I’m glad to know that the grumpy astromech is back up and running.

Star Wars Rebels,
Credit: Disney XD, Lucasfilm Animation, Lucasfilm.


EA: Like Chopper in this episode, we don’t see much of Zeb. One thing I do want to touch upon, though, is how happy Zeb looked when he called Chopper a rust bucket. So far through the series, we’ve seen how the two interact with one another, and it’s clear that they’re close, but I enjoyed the reminder.

JM: Zeb was the first to find Chopper in an inoperable state and took over the guns in the heat of the moment. Later on, when Chopper started operating again, we saw Zeb tell the ‘rust bucket’ to get back to work, but notice the subtle smile on his face as he said it. Despite the arguments and taunting that transpire between them, there is genuine care for the other character’s welfare.

Also, it’s important to note that Sabine was not the only one feeling left out when it came to Hera’s contact with the mysterious Fulcrum. Zeb also had a look of disappointment at being shut down by Hera. I’m glad we saw that because it demonstrates that Sabine’s concerns are also felt by others in the crew.

Star Wars Rebels,
Credit: Disney XD, Lucasfilm Animation, Lucasfilm.


EA: Going by the scenes Ezra and Sabine had in this episode, it seems clear to me that Sabine took what was going on with Ezra personally. She had much passion in trying to get him to talk to Tseebo about his family while he still had a chance. It felt as if it hit a nerve within her. Again, this only brings up more questions about her past that we still know so little about. I can’t wait to learn more about her background and how that may be presented to us as the show continues. Lastly, I love how she was the one to give Ezra a present, even if it was technically his to begin with.

JM: In addition to the various other skills she already possesses, Sabine also has the ability to repair damaged machinery (fixing up Chopper). Her character is so unbelievably talented and she continues to be a fan favorite, despite the lack of information when it comes to her background. On that note, I have a strong suspicion that things between Sabine and her family didn’t end well. Something might have happened to them, leading her to find the crew of the Ghost. She was so adamant when it came to Ezra learning more about his parents. The desperate need for Ezra to find out more and talk to Tseebo felt more personal to her, in my opinion. She may have experienced something tragic in her younger years and may even harbor some regret that she doesn’t want Ezra to also experience. Whatever the case, Sabine saw past the young boy with a crush and saw a friend in need, going the extra mile to help him and making him feel better in the warmest way possible.

Star Wars Rebels,
Credit: Disney XD, Lucasfilm Animation, Lucasfilm.


EA: Things were not easy for Ezra this time around. There was his anger at Tseebo, the only individual who knows the whereabouts of his parents. He was obviously angry that Tseebo didn’t protect them and didn’t stop the Empire from taking his parents, which we can now speculate was due to their underground and illegal broadcasts over possibly something else. I also liked how Ezra’s anger towards Tseebo came to its resolution in a natural way and how it was something important to his character’s growth.

Of course we can’t talk about Ezra in this episode without talking about the significant scene towards the end. I’m a fan of sci-fi, comic books, superhero movies, and anime, and I bring that up because I am a huge fan of so-called “freak out moments”. Seeing those bits of debris begin to float, I felt a mix of excitement and fear because, as a Star Wars fan, we knew what was happening and how it wasn’t a good thing, especially since Ezra’s in the prime age for such things to happen.

I wonder if this will be touched upon again or if Ezra will have learned his lesson and be able to avoid such a thing from reoccurring in the future. Part of me hopes that this is not the end, but another part would hate for Ezra to suffer, do something far worse, or have his actions result in greater consequences. Only time will tell, and I can’t wait to see what’ll happen.

JM: One of the most memorable lines from Star Wars Rebels: Rebel Journal by Ezra Bridger is “Everybody leaves. Everybody ALWAYS leaves.” Ezra’s parents were taken when he was young, Tseebo left him alone to raise himself, his good friend (Moreena Krai) left to go live on Alderaan, and the Ghost crew temporarily abandoned him in Spark of Rebellion. All he’s ever known was people leaving him behind. Now that he’s formed these brand new friendships, he made himself more susceptible to the pain of attachment. With the Inquisitor painting a nightmare for Ezra, he lost himself in the fear and anger that he would be left alone again–to be abandoned like his seven year old self. The fact that Kanan hadn’t informed him about the dark side makes Ezra’s actions look like a mistake–that he didn’t mean for all of it to happen. Had Kanan taught him about the dark side and Ezra had been aware, his actions would have been colored differently for me because he would have succumbed to those feelings willingly. Instead, his emotions took over (or to add a bit of humor, “prepubescent mood swings” as expressed by Baymax when referring to Hiro Hamada’s emotional state in Big Hero 6), and he unknowingly opened himself up to negative energy.

Despite his encounter with that kind of power, I hope he’s not discouraged from practicing what he needs to know. I also hope that with Sabine’s gift to him, that he has a renewed sense of himself and is willing to learn more about his abilities and how to prevent something like that from happening again.

Star Wars Rebels,
Credit: Disney XD, Lucasfilm Animation, Lucasfilm.


EA: Sabine brings up the idea that Tseebo willingly allowed the Empire to add on the implants and that he may have done it to try to make it up to Ezra for failing his parents. Though we never are given a specific answer as to this idea being true or not, I feel that it is a believable one. Now that he is safe with Fulcrum, I wonder what will come of the information he possesses, and more importantly to the immediacy of the story, I wonder what he told Hera.

It’s disconcerting to watch Tseebo in this episode, however. I can’t help but wonder what he is able to recall when he’s in a zoned out state. Is he aware of what is going on around him? Can he see Kanan waving his hand in front of his face but is unable react to it? Or is his higher functioning skills taking a backseat to whatever programs are running through the implant?

Additionally, I found myself tilting my head whenever I saw Tseebo and I couldn’t place why. When I re-watched the episode, I identified what stood out and it makes me shudder. Not only does the Empire have a way to make someone into a mindless worker, but they also appear to have cropped Tseebo’s ears. Unlike Lobot, where you can easily imagine human ears fitting under the device, Tseebo’s would be far too tall. This just adds to the list of awful things this poor man has been through, even if he did do it willingly and for good and honest reasons.

JM: Some would probably call Tseebo a coward, but he was left with an enormous responsibility. He made mistakes, his biggest one leaving Ezra to fend for himself. I do appreciate, however, the fact that he tried to make up for those mistakes by righting the wrong and subjecting himself to the Empire’s cybernetic implants in order to steal information. I hope he and Ezra can meet up again in the future, especially since Ezra forgave him (a mighty act that most people wouldn’t have done–just like how he admitted to his fear).

With Tseebo now in the hands of Fulcrum’s people, we can see the early beginnings of the Rebel Alliance taking shape. In a way, Tseebo’s actions could have also contributed to the early unravelings of the Empire, giving existing rebels concrete information to start fighting back.

Star Wars Rebels,
Credit: Disney XD, Lucasfilm Animation, Lucasfilm.

The Inquisitor

EA: Not only was he hunting down Ezra and Kanan, but the Inquisitor was the reason Ezra slipped with his abilities, since he had pushed Ezra over the edge. Overall, I think he got the reaction he wanted, but at the same time, I don’t think he was at all expecting what ultimately happened.

It’s always a pleasure to watch lightsaber fights and the Inquisitor never disappoints. The way he moves and the almost smug confidence he has differs so much from Kanan. I also appreciate how easily he took Kanan’s saber from Ezra. Of course, he should be able to given his skill, but you never know how a situation like that could pan out.

Lastly, the Inquisitor said something that made me very curious. While approaching Ezra, he called him an orphan. I’ve gone back through the episodes, but there was no mention or evidence. How does he know that? At first I thought maybe he had gotten some information from Zare Leonis, but given what was shown, Zare never knew Ezra’s real name or other personal details. Perhaps, more details will surface as the series continues.

JM: Along with Sabine and Hera, I would love to know more about the Inquisitor’s background and what sort of methods the Emperor (or his minions) used to create and condition beings like him. For someone who is neither a Sith Lord or apprentice, he practices the “dark arts”, if you will, rather well and possesses a way about him that can lure others into a likemind state. Also, it took me far too long to notice this obvious detail, but so far, he’s the only non-human Imperial we’ve seen in the show and in related reading material (though, I may be mistaken). That said, it’s interesting to see a non-human (and essentially, an individual that the Empire would normally discriminate against because he’s not human), lead the efforts against stopping “children of the Force” from rising.

Lastly, the expression on the Inquisitor’s face when Ezra summons the giant fyrnock was priceless. He was not expecting a child to exhibit that kind of power and I like that Ezra had that advantage over the Inquisitor, even though the dark side took advantage of him.

Favorite Scene

EA: Ezra using the Force when he opened himself up to the dark side. So much of what happened was spot on, and I was not at all expecting it, especially Ezra using the Force in that way or summoning the huge beast.

JM: Ezra using the Force to connect with the fyrnocks and with Tseebo. There was an eerie whistling sound and then silence. Such a powerful scene and wonderfully performed by Taylor Gray.


EA: I would love to hear a female voice come from one of the Stormtroopers. A New Dawn has established that there are female troopers and that they also wear the same armour as the men. I just wish it wasn’t taking so long for them to appear in the series.

JM: I originally had no dislikes, but then I read Elisa’s dislike and I completely agree. More females in the ranks are needed.

Final Thoughts

EA: I loved this episode. It was a great mid-season finale, leaving us with curious questions that I look forward to having answered in the later half of this season or in the next. And even though we didn’t find out about the fate of Ezra’s parents, I am happy that we were given an image of them. I can’t wait to know if that’s all we’ll see of them, or if we and Ezra will be given more.

And finally, I just want to say that this series has engaged me fully. The animation is only growing stronger by the episode and this covers both full movements and the subtleties of facial expressions. It has been a joy to watch and experience this series, and I can’t wait to see what else is in store for these characters.

JM: “Gathering Forces” was a spectacular episode from beginning to end. When it comes to storytelling and animation, Star Wars Rebels is hitting it out of the park. I like that the cast and crew went there with the characters, taking Ezra into a very dark place at such an early stage in the game. Quite daring and most appreciated, since putting characters in challenging situations is something I look for in a good story. The holiday break is truly an unfortunate circumstance because the show gained so much momentum and it’s a shame that it has to be put on hold. Nevertheless, I look forward to its premiere in January, and I hope to see repercussions from this episode ripple throughout the rest of the season.

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