TWG contributor Elisa and I return to share our thoughts about the latest Star Wars Rebels episode, “Call to Action”. Visit StarWars.com for the official episode guide to discover more information.
General Thoughts About the Plot
EA: We have reached the point in Star Wars Rebels where we’re heading into the final episodes of the season, and this episode does far more than gently guide us in that direction. With the introduction of Tarkin right at the start of the episode, we were assured of the fact that he was going to be a game changer and what we saw from him was terrifying. After having heard that the season finale will be shocking, I fear of what will happen moving into the final two episodes that we still have left. In this episode, the premise is simple on the side of the rebels, which is to take over a large Imperial communications tower and send out a message of hope to as many people as they can. Only time will tell if the sacrifices made in this episode were ultimately worth it.
JM: Up until this point, Star Wars Rebels had an Empire that seemed incapable of snuffing out a small group of rebels, failing at every attempt without showing any consequences. Agent Kallus and the Inquisitor seemed intimidating on their own, but things finally took a sharp turn in “Call to Action” with the appearance of the fearsome Grand Moff Tarkin, a man with the executive power to crush the rebel crew we’ve come to know and love. Written by Greg Weisman and Simon Kinberg, “Call to Action” was intense and suspenseful until the very end, leaving me with chills and wanting for more. For the first time in the series, the stakes were higher than ever and we felt that these characters were in genuine danger. After all, you can only do so much until the growing might of the Empire catches up to you. There had to be consequences for their actions and for the threat to feel real. War has its risks and sacrifices, and this episode did a fantastic job at showing how those were experienced on both fronts.
General Thoughts About the Characters
EA: Heading into the finale, it was no surprise that Kanan was a focused upon character in this episode. It was him who got the ball rolling with the idea to send a message of truth out to as many systems as possible, and he was ultimately the one who ensured his friends’ escape at the end of the episode. Leading up to that, though, we get another amazing fight between Kanan and the Inquisitor and this one also didn’t disappoint. I also like that the Inquisitor noticed that Kanan had practiced after he got a hit on him. He could have not said anything or called him something out of anger, but he didn’t. After Kanan was captured and the Phantom was forced to leave without him, I couldn’t help but think back to what Kanan said earlier in the episode to Ezra. He told him, “We will take more losses before this is over.” I wonder if Kanan’s capture will be counted as a loss or if something far more sinister and heartbreaking remains on the horizon.
Kanan was 14 when Order 66 happened, and that fact led me to wonder if he knew Tarkin. I would imagine that Ahsoka’s trial would have made the rounds at the temple. I can’t see something like that happening without some Master talking to the younglings about losing one’s way and how they must always be aware of their path and stay true to it, especially after she chose to walk away. It could go either way, though, and I am interested in seeing it unfold. The only reason I hold any hope that maybe Kanan did know him was because Tarkin’s name was never mentioned once in front of Kanan.
JM: The Kanan we saw in this episode reminded me so much of the Kanan we saw towards the second half of Star Wars: A New Dawn. He had neglected his calling as a Jedi for his own safety for so long, but when placed in a situation that required a strategic plan, he stepped up as a natural born leader and laid one out. That was exactly what we witnessed in this latest episode when he proposed to send out their own message. Many people had questioned why he was labeled Specter One to begin with, and by now, it should be quite obvious. Hera is certainly a leader as well and the first in the group who stood up against the Empire, but Kanan is the initiator of ideas worth pursuing. He takes the team forward, and in order to do that, there have to be risks and sacrifices. That was what he told Ezra in the beautiful and heart wrenching conversation they had while preparing for the operation. What I love most about Kanan in this episode was that he accepted his fate. He did what he had to do to get his team to safety, but he didn’t go down without a fight, and when he did succumb to the Inquisitor, he did so knowing that he did everything he could do. It was wonderful to see him come full circle because there was a significant portion of his life where he wouldn’t stick his neck out for anyone, but now, he is someone who would sacrifice himself for a cause.
Other small things that stood out to me included his use of the word “Padawan” and being proud of Ezra’s out-of-the-box thinking. Those small moments really showed how far their relationship had come. His duel with the Inquisitor was so on point because he harbored no visible anger or fear. In many ways, he reminded me of Obi-Wan and his calm demeanor. My favorite, though, has to be at the very end when the communication tower was shot down. He couldn’t hold back his look of genuine surprise because, sure, the Empire had no problem in blowing up the rest of the galaxy, but destroying its own structure in order to keep its oppressing nature in tact was something that hadn’t dawned on him before.
EA: While she wasn’t heavily featured in this episode, her scene of flying the Phantom and her conversation with Kanan were memorable ones. Hearing her call him by name and not Specter One spoke to the level of distress she felt. And him, in turn, calling her by her name only added to that heartbreak of having to leave him behind. Her final scene with the rest of the crew on the Ghost after Ezra’s message really solidified that they were not going to stand by and leave Kanan in the hands of the Empire, and her final line spoke to that promise.
JM: For me, it’s impossible to talk about Hera without adding Kanan in the mix. The two share the same brain, essentially, when it comes to agreeing on a plan. She was completely on board with his suggestion, as we’ve seen many times before, especially in A New Dawn. (I just love how their personalities echo from that starting point.) The moment things began to go down hill, however, that was when their views started to diverge. She wanted to stay and retrieve him at all costs, while he wanted her to get out and find safety—Kanan having the more logical view. Being a shipper and hopeless romantic, it broke my heart to see Hera’s face when she had to leave him behind. Shipper feelings aside, however, the fact of the matter is that they’ve been friends and comrades for more than seven years, being there for each other through thick and thin. So when she told Ezra that it wasn’t over with a hard and determined face, you know 110 percent that this woman meant business. Hell has no fury like a woman who just lost her best friend.
EA: Having received the least screen time in this episode, Chopper did the important task of setting the spike needed for them to broadcast their message out to Lothal and surrounding systems. It was a little disconcerting to notice it at the moment, but Chopper did not play the role that he normally played. None of his scenes had any humor and he only made a few sounds here and there. For the most part, he was completely silent, and did what he had been told to do without question or complaint. If that didn’t tell you of the serious stakes the crew had to deal with in this episode, then I don’t know what will.
JM: Chopper’s involvement was toned down in this episode, especially compared to the golden and hilarious moments seen in “Vision of Hope”. Even though Zeb told him to stop complaining (an intriguing statement on Zeb’s part, since he doesn’t understand Chopper), the little astromech was well-behaved and cooperative throughout the episode. I like that he works well with Sabine when it comes to hacking into the systems, since that’s how we first saw them in Spark of Rebellion. I also continue to enjoy the fact that he isn’t the cookie-cutter version of an astromech, almost always reacting very much like an ordinary person in the team. The fact that he’s a droid never seems to hold him back and it’s only second to his personality.
EA: Zeb also had little screen time in this episode, the minute humor coming from the moment he had with Ezra over liking the mounted turret gun. It was a touch of levity to what had overall been a fairly humorless and heavy episode.
JM: Zeb’s comedic, child-like nature made another appearance in this episode. As previously stated in past reviews, Zeb comes across more and more as the source for the younger audience’s laughter, often making wild movements and resorting to child-like behavior, “But I like this gun!” Not that it bothers me, but I remember his character introduction video describing him as someone who was not just the muscle of the group. So far, however, he’s mostly come across as the muscle of the group with a short temper. I’d like to see Zeb using his military side for once and strategizing and mapping out a plan of action, demonstrating that he is just more than the brawn. For now, I don’t mind his behavior, simply because he and Chopper have easily taken up the roles as the character reliefs, providing moments of physical and slapstick humor. Though, this episode had far more heavier themes and had little space for jokes.
EA: I love how much of a significant role she had in this episode. Not only was she part of the initial scout group with Kanan and Ezra, but she was also the first one to head for the tower and to clear away most of the troopers before heading inside with Chopper and setting up what they needed to make their broadcast.
JM: Sabine came up with the plan to upload a computer spike, and I appreciated the fact that Kanan relied on her to come up with a solid plan for the technical side of things. It was recently revealed in the Sabine My Rebel Sketchbook that Kanan was the one who recruited her. I’m very curious about how that event came about between the two. It’s been said many times, but it’s refreshing to see a leader, like Kanan, defer to someone else’s expertise (or better yet, ask them to step up to the plate, knowing they have the potential) and let them play a pivotal role.
Two other moments that stood out for Sabine: (1) when she wanted to shoot the Imperial Probe Droid and (2) when her time was cut down to a minute when getting the signal. The first reinforced the fact that she will shoot first and ask questions later. She didn’t even hesitate to throw that charge at the stormtroopers at the top of the tower, proving once again that Sabine held nothing but ill will towards the Empire. As for the second, Sabine displayed a remarkable amount of grace under pressure. Kanan needed something done in a shorter amount of time and she not only did the job under the time constraint, but she did it without arguing or passing off attitude. All that said, it would be interesting to see how Sabine would look like when emotions are involved, because up until this point, she’s had a controlled and stoic approach when dealing with the Empire.
EA: In addition to seeing how much Ezra has grown since we first met him back in Spark of Rebellion, we also saw Ezra successfully use a technique with which we became familiar–suggesting animals to do his bidding–much like Obi-Wan in the past.
Ezra voiced his worries to Kanan on the ramp of the Ghost before being told the harsh truth that there will be losses and that that reality won’t stop them from taking risks. Given what happened later in the episode, his fears of losing any of his new family member were realized. I think people may have forgotten that Ezra was alone for seven years of his life, and since he’s not even an adult yet, those were important years of development. He wants to protect his family, he wants it to stay together, and he doesn’t want to lose them like he lost his parents. These are natural fears and desires, since even people who have grown up and still have their family can express these concerns without ever being called out for feeling them.
We’ve come to a point where Ezra has expanded his knowledge and techniques, and even if he does still argue at times and even questions things, he ultimately does what he has to do. This is highly different from the first time we saw him, having to be told by Hera to go help the others. His concerns are no longer about himself; they’re about others. And that’s what makes Ezra a good and well-rounded character who has grown while still giving him realistic flaws to work on.
Rebels continues to surprise me in that aspect, unlike other content in current programming. Hera could have ordered Ezra to jump into the Phantom because you get the slightest hesitation that he’d go the other way back down to Kanan. The fact that Ezra didn’t do that and jumped in without being told is something that I fully appreciate in terms of the writing and being consistent with his character development.
JM: Ezra had the most to gain when he joined the crew of the Ghost and the most to lose, since whatever training he received from Kanan would remain incomplete with his loss. Besides that fact, Ezra was obviously more afraid of losing another family member, his fears coming to fruition when Kanan stayed behind. Other than Hera, Ezra was the one to visibly show the most pain when it came to losing his friend and Master, someone he’d come to rely on and see as a brother/father figure. But instead of shutting everyone out and sobbing in the corner, Ezra showed remarkable maturity for his age, stepping up to the plate and becoming a voice of freedom, like his parents before him.
A fellow Rebels fan even tweeted, “Without Ezra’s message of hope, the rebel alliance wouldn’t be formed and inspire Luke. Think about it.” Seeing in that way simply blows my mind because Bail Organa may have had the resources and intel, but it was Ezra Bridger who rallied and made it known that the time to fight back was now. Whether we see it in the next episode or not, I like to think that he literally sparked a rebellion with his words, living up to his parents’ legacy. Sure, he has a cloud of angst surrounding him because of the rough life he’s had and the circumstance he now finds himself in with the rest of the crew, but wouldn’t you be? Keeping on topic about his maturity, I loved how he handled the situation with the Imperial Probe Droid, recalling his past lesson about connecting with another being and using that as a defense mechanism. Ezra may be rough around the edges, but he’s got the talent and the ability to apply himself where and when it counts.
EA: The perfect Imperial, Tarkin has always been the game changer when it comes to Star Wars. We’ve see that he’s capable of taking a Jedi into a court proceeding, asking for death to be her only punishment, talking Vader down from choking a Captain with just one word, and ordering the destruction of Alderaan. Besides being a major character that dies on the first Death Star, he’s always been portrayed as knowing what he’s doing and having full confidence in his abilities without ever looking cocky. He is just that good, and he knows it and everyone else around him knows it as well.
Seeing him walk into the scene immediately at the start of the episode and with the iconic tune of the Imperial March as the background, I knew something was going to happen, but I was not at all prepared for what actually did happen. Even if we know him to be a cold and harsh man, especially with ordering the destruction of a planet in his future, the idea of him ordering the execution of his own men out of their lack of success was still a shock to me. He promised that failure will have consequences and I can only imagine what that meant for the three other people in the room with him, especially since he looked at Kallus and Maketh Tua as he said those words.
Now, knowing that characters who originally appeared in the Star Wars Rebels visual guide are not actually exempt from harm, I can only imagine what’s waiting for those surrounding Tarkin as we head into the finale and into future seasons of Rebels. Tarkin is an untouchable character and potentially one of the most dangerous and capable that we have seen in Star Wars. He’s not a bounty hunter on his own, he has control of many men and women, he is not a Sith, but we have seen him put them in their place. He is, in fact, a high ranking Imperial Officer who knows how to get results and has no qualms with killing to get them. This episode only furthered the fact that he will do what he wants to get closer to that end.
His introduction left me to speculate that he could potentially be a recurring character, depending on how the next couple of episodes progress. His goal is to get rid of the rebel cell on Lothal, and if his past and his future are taken into account, it’s worrying to think just how far he may go to get rid of or harm our beloved characters.
Lastly, it’s clear that Tarkin never liked the Jedi or Force users in general. He’s so assured of his position of power and the Inquisitor’s loyalty, that he openly mocked him during their first meeting. The following time we saw the Inquisitor, he was obedient to Tarkin, showing that he did know his place and only requiring a glance to go ahead with the execution. This episode allowed the Inquisitor to have a victory against the rebels when he successfully captured Kanan. Saying that, I have no doubt that he is also an expendable character if need be. How many losses will the Inquisitor be allowed to make while Tarkin remains on Lothal before he’s dealt the same hand as others who have failed?
JM: I was genuinely surprised to see Tarkin return. Looking back on the appearance, it made sense for a higher and stricter authority to step in, especially after Kallus and the Inquisitor’s many failures in capturing what he called “the insurgents”. Ruthless to the core, I like that he brought the fear factor in. As previously mentioned, the Empire is downright laughable at points because of their inability to thwart our heroes time after time. His presence raised the stakes, and I like that his mere presence had even his fellow Imperials shaking in their boots. He and Kallus think very differently when it comes to protecting the Empire’s interests. Kallus wanted to protect and defend the communications tower (and his own men), while Tarkin didn’t even blink when he brought it down (or when he gave the order to kill two Imperial officers). My favorite thing about Kallus in this episode were his subtle visual cues and expressions. The animators did a fantastic job capturing his genuine shock, while David Oyelowo successfully added a level of uncertainty in his voice. As for the Inquisitor, it’s interesting to see that up until this point, he was taking command of the situation. As soon as Tarkin entered the picture, he became this subservient hound by his side. Without a doubt, the minute interactions between the three main antagonists were insightful, each working on their own level with different goals in mind.
EA: This was a tough episode, but I think my favourite has to be the final scenes with Ezra saying his message. Hearing him say that he’s not that old and speaking of better times throughout his planet’s history, it was more than touching. It was unsettling, to say the least, when that hope and the brief words between him and Hera were followed by an eerie silence of winding down static and a fade out to the pre-credits title card.
JM: When Kanan pulled Ezra aside to talk to him about his concerns. That got to me. He was spitting out words, like risks and sacrifices, and it was at that point when I realized that it wasn’t going to end well for him. The sun was setting in the background and I just thought it was a wonderful and reflective time between the two of them.
EA: That I have to wait two weeks for the next episode! What’s up with that?
JM: When Sabine said, “Ah, now I get it!” It felt out of character for her, since I imagined that she’d pick up on what Kanan was saying a bit faster. Taking the audience the show is intended for into consideration, it made sense, but it still felt off to me.
EA: I am fearful going into the next two episodes, but I’m also excited to see what things are in store for us. A lot has been set up, and I am thrilled to see what will ultimately come of it in the upcoming episodes.
The shot of the Imperial ships coming into the final confrontation with the Inquisitor really took me back to the gunships from Star Wars: The Clone Wars. It hasn’t been that long since the series ended, but seeing that shot and hearing that sound really took me back to all the other times I’ve seen it.
Yet again, we get another mention of Governor Pryce, this time from Tarkin and being used against Maketh Tua. She has been mentioned several times during the course of the series, including the stand-alone HoloNet News reports that aired online before the series began. After this episode, it makes me wonder if Maketh’s fate has been potentially sealed since the beginning or if Governor Arihnda Pryce will return to take back her role with leading Lothal. Given what little is known about her, she sounds as if she would be a fine and interesting adversary.
Following the events from the past episode, I also wondered why the rebel crew didn’t attempt to use Gall Trayvis as a traitor to any rebel cause. I later realized that all they wanted to do was to send a message of hope and to not muddle it with anything else, especially when we saw the HoloNet News report where Trayvis put a reward on their capture. Any mention of him could have been taken the wrong way, like them attempting to shift the blame off of themselves.
JM: When reading other people’s reviews or responses, it’s always amusing to see “this is the best episode yet” for each new episode. It just shows that the series keeps raising the bar. There are those who, unfortunately, continue to criticize the animation. A shame, really, when its rounded and smooth style is so appealing to the eye. The animators continue to take my breath away with the subtle gestures and expressions as well as the fluid motions that the characters are able to perform. It’s really unlike anything we’ve seen in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, but that isn’t a bad thing. “Call to Action”, without a doubt, was an absolute delight from beginning to end because the story went to the level where we find our other heroes in A New Hope.