A review by Elisa and Johnamarie. This review contains spoilers.
Fans of the series had imagined Princess Leia Organa crossing paths with the Ghost crew long before she officially made her first Star Wars Rebels appearance in the latest episode. Sharing the same age and a similar desire to do good across the galaxy, the idea of Ezra Bridger and Leia Organa meeting and striking up a friendship had always been an appealing concept, so seeing it come to life so brilliantly in “A Princess on Lothal” exceeded expectations. There’s always the concern of whether bringing a classic character is the right direction for the story and whether it’ll do more harm than good, but this episode proved once more that the creators working on this series take every detail into consideration and do so with a purpose in mind.
Some people preferred that “A Princess on Lothal” debuted before the mid-season break, but I’m glad that the episode was used as the premiere following the winter hiatus. It helped in reminding the audience that Ezra’s grieving is not something that’s going to disappear over the course of a night. Given the fast-paced nature of a television series, details like that tend to be glossed over, so I’m pleased that this wasn’t the case for Ezra, since the loss put him in a position to question his place in the rebellion. The Rebels crew captured that internal struggle perfectly, both in the writing and animation. It’s interesting to note that this wasn’t the first time Ezra found himself on the fence. Earlier in season two, after encountering two new Inquisitors, Ezra questioned his life choices and wondered whether living the life of a pirate would be more fulfilling. Hondo Ohnaka gave him the reassurance he needed that he is, in fact, a Jedi at heart.
Ezra was at that point again, wondering if it was all worth it. He came close to keeping his thoughts and sentiments locked up inside, as most people tend to do and something with which we can all identify, but that’s where Leia came in. Not only was she there to remind the audience that she is involved heavily in the politics of the galaxy at this time, but her presence and words also inspired Ezra to keep moving forward, just like how his transmission from season one had been an inspiration to so many others. It came full circle. Also, can we all appreciate the fact that these two 15/16 year olds had a mature conversation? Not once did Ezra try to push her away or lash out at her and Leia approached the situation with care and understanding. I find that kind of portrayal of two teenagers rare in television, since the writing out there mostly falls back on drama and stereotypes. This was not the case with Rebels and I commend the creators for presenting to the audience a scene that was both refreshing and genuine.
And of course, something else Rebels regularly excels in is finding the right time to incorporate levity. The episode dealt with loss, grief, and the weight of responsibility–heavy and important issues–but nestled in between those moments were morsels of humor and lightheartedness. Ezra’s initial reaction and facial expressions in response to Leia’s blunt orders, Zeb taking great pleasure in beating up Kanan and Ezra, the stormtroopers’ reactions to the rebels taking prisoners as well as Kanan’s AT-AT leg slicing action, and the final exchange between Ezra and Leia all go down as golden and memorable moments that allowed us to smile and laugh.
The only quibble about this episode is the fact that we didn’t see Leia, Hera, and Sabine interact outside of devising a plan to get the much-needed ships for the rebellion. However, I do understand that the main interaction had to happen between Leia and Ezra. She naturally understood the burden of responsibility at her age, so the two had that in common. It was also fun to see their relationship go from “I’m in charge here, you follow my orders” to “We’re both in this together, let’s do something about it.” I know this is Leia’s one-time appearance this season, but I really hope we see her again in season three.
- I’ve mentioned it before, but I love how Rebels has no problem cherry picking and canonizing bits of Legends (Expanded Universe) and using early Ralph McQuarrie concept art as inspiration as the series goes on. Specifically referring to the Hammerhead corvettes that were inspired by the Knights of the Old Republic game.
- I love that Supply Master Lyste got a promotion and not just so that we could see him again. It helps the Empire feel as if it’s growing, and it gives me hopes that maybe we’ll see the return of other certain Imperial Pilots in the future.
- Something I loved about this episode in general was that the death of Ezra’s parents wasn’t brushed off to the side. It also wasn’t forced aside for the time being only to pop up now and then when it was convenient/inconvenient for him and the characters around him. Saying that, seeing Chopper beside Ezra broke my heart. I loved how he and the white Loth-Cat at the start of the episode seemed to have been checking up and comforting him during this time.
- Leia’s first time interacting with Ezra and Kanan has to be one of my favourite moments. Not just because of how effortlessly she took charge and organized the people under her command, but also due to the incredible expressions Ezra was displaying in the background.
- Leia was very much her own character and different from others we had seen so far in Rebels. Her wit was sharp, and while blunt, she was not unkind. She was exactly as you would expect a young woman who grew up around Imperial politicians and senators to be. She had a knack for never saying anything to truly get her into trouble, but said enough to leave a sting–something Lyste learned quite well as his interactions with Leia progressed throughout the episode.
- While Ezra was a little slow to warm to Leia, Kanan was as he should be–the one who effortlessly allowed himself to be led when he knew it was the right thing for him to do. This was Leia’s mission to Lothal, not his.
- I really loved the Sentinel-class shuttle that the Empire had in this episode.
- I always wondered how AT-ATs were deployed, and now we know! How that ride would feel like for one of the pilots, I cannot begin to imagine.
- Chopper waving was one of my favourite things.
- I adored the smile on Zeb’s face when he was told to make it look good, and how he kept it while beating up both Kanan and Ezra.
- Something I noticed when Lyste was informed about the rebel attack was how the trooper mentioned that they were escaping with Ryder Azadi (which makes perfect sense) and that they abducted a cadet along with “some princess ambassador”. I found it interesting and quite telling that there was no mention of a grown trooper (Kanan) in there.
- I’m thankful that they had the scene of Sabine and Zeb giving Ezra their condolences about his parents. Yes, it was part of a greater scene, but it was different from when Sabine was the only person on the ship to have wished Ezra a happy birthday back in season one.
- I liked the scene between Ezra and Leia, and while I understood what people meant about her always having to comfort the characters around her, I really saw it as her doing what she does best. She’s being a leader and a great leader inspires those around them. Leia never seems to have much time to be an individual, always having to command or saving her own life. This conversation with Ezra, it was a moment that was hers, and she shared her insight with him and that motivated him.
- We saw Leia’s commanding presence again once she began talking about how the Empire didn’t underestimate the rebels. Again, she was doing what she does best and what gets her results. She was encouraging, and although it was not a personal level, she was comforting and questioning them to get them on the right track. It’s also interesting to point out that Ezra was the one to get the ball rolling, and from there, their plan comes together.
- Seeing a stormtrooper (Kanan) running around with a lightsaber was far more satisfying than I thought possible. I need more of it.
- Ezra giving the smack-down to the trooper was such a surprise to see, but also, satisfying. That last punch, though. The animation on it was fabulous, and I don’t even want to think about how hard that hit had to have been. Also, I’m pretty sure that if Kanan’s helmet was off, he would have looked just as shocked and surprised as Leia.
- “I don’t think he’s on our side.” The lines of dialogue from some of these troopers never fail to make me smile.
- I didn’t think Jedi could fail so badly at Force pulling objects towards them, but Ezra managed to do just that!
- I really enjoyed Leia and Ezra’s back-and-forth on the ramp before he stunned her. It makes me hope that she’ll appear again later in the series for one reason or another.
- I liked the animation of Lyste helping Leia up off the ground, and how quickly the scene turned with Leia acting the part of an unhappy princess. Given how failure goes in the Empire, I do hope this isn’t the last time we see of Lyste.
- Leia rubbing it in that Lyste lost his shuttle was amazing.
- I’ve seen a few people bring up concerns about Ryder Azadi after this episode. Some are worried that he’s not actually trustworthy. Personally, I feel that he is trustworthy and that he’s not that kind of a character. Also, I really thought he was actually going to get shot or get left behind when he was removing the gravity locks.
- Overall, I really enjoyed this episode. It was fun, and it felt like it was a calmer episode before things start to escalate towards the end of this season. I hope we get to see more of Leia, since this felt very much like an introduction to her character. And I hope the next time we see her, the story revolves a little more around her.
Make sure to tune into the next all-new episode, “The Protector of Concord Dawn”, on Wednesday, January 27, 2016, at 9:00PM EST on Disney XD.