Field testing the B-wing, stealing Clone War era Y-wings, and now, the origin stories of Wedge and Hobbie. Star Wars Rebels continues to make more and more significant connections to the movies and contributing to the larger picture, and things like that just have a way of blowing my mind every time. Written by Gary Whitta, “The Antilles Extraction” gives us a glimpse at the life of a TIE pilot in training and demonstrating how it’s not all it’s cracked up to be, especially to someone like Wedge who thought it would be better that hauling parts around the galaxy. To gather more human resources for the Rebellion, an undercover mission to extract Wedge and pilots of like mind goes underway, giving Sabine the opportunity to shine and sticking it to the Empire the way she knows best.
Honestly speaking, Sabine is the Ghost crew’s main asset. Not only is she highly skilled and tactical, but she’s the only one suitable and capable of infiltrating the Empire and not just escaping it once but escaping it twice. A former Imperial cadet, I like how that knowledge has served her well in past missions and in the one that takes place in this episode. Sabine, much like Hera, are well-developed characters, knowing who they are as individuals and how to work as part of a whole. Ezra and Kanan don’t have that benefit and that’s why they end up taking a few steps back instead of a few steps forward because they’re constantly trying to find themselves. Sabine already knows who she is and what she’s capable of doing, making her a fantastic role model for young girls and boys (and adults!). That doesn’t mean she’s perfect, however. She still makes mistakes (underestimating the lengths the Empire would go to in tracking down defectors), and in this episode, she fails at her original mission. Most importantly, she demonstrates that she has the endurance and the ability to bounce back from a dire situation. All of these things put together—the confidence to go in undercover, being resourceful under a tight spot, the satisfaction at having successfully completed a mission—make up her character and she definitely shines in this episode.
What I also love about “The Antilles Extraction” is that it’s a mirror to what happened in “Breaking Ranks” from season one. In that episode, Kanan was the one to be worried about Ezra going undercover. Now, Ezra is the one to exhibit that same anxiety. For Ezra, however, it’s not that he doesn’t trust her to get the job done because when he says, “Of course I trust her,” he sincerely means it. Even though he’s older and doesn’t exhibit a schoolboy crush as often as before, Ezra still cares about Sabine. That’s the reason why he interrupted and reminded everyone at the briefing that he should be the one to go. It isn’t about pride. He’s willing to put himself in danger, and it goes along with what Kanan says later on, “Unless it’s you,” in response to Ezra saying that he’s not a fan of solo missions.
I’m also very happy about the fact that Kanan doesn’t tell him, “Mind your feelings, Ezra.” He also doesn’t speak over him in an all-knowing tone. He would crouch down to Ezra’s level and tell him what he needed to hear in that moment. Also, notice that Ezra doesn’t protest back or do anything extremely reckless. (Very different from how Anakin would have responded had he been in that situation.) Personally, I don’t feel like Ezra and Kanan’s interactions took away from what was happening with Sabine. As previously mentioned, it was very similar to “Breaking Ranks” and it was interesting to see the characters switch roles. In the end, it helped reinforce that Ezra has lingering emotions toward his crew member that weren’t traditionally lovey-dovey and goo-goo eyed. They were legitimate concerns, and Kanan masterfully handled the situation without being that compassion-less Jedi we’ve seen before from past Master/Padawan relationships.
Although I’m not that familiar with the character, it was great to see how Wedge Antilles joined the Rebellion. For casual viewers, like my mom, (and for viewers not familiar with Legends or every single nitty-gritty detail from the movies, like me) Wedge is essentially a new character. Some fans called it fan service, but I still believe the writing team does things with a purpose in mind. At the start of the episode, we see that the A-wing pilots assisting the cargo ship are highly inexperienced and that’s why they are taken out without laying a scratch on the Imperial fighters. The Rebellion desperately needs pilots with great skill to outmaneuver the enemy. Enter Wedge Antilles, the guy who isn’t afraid to say, “I can fly anything.” (I also love that this is something that Poe Dameron says in Star Wars: The Force Awakens!) The Rebellion needs more pilots like that. Could they have introduced a new pilot with that same kind of attitude and skill? Sure! I do, however, see that they took this opportunity to flesh out and canonize a fan favorite character’s origin story.
What also made this episode supremely satisfying (in addition to Sabine kicking Governor Pryce’s rear) is the fact that we have Agent Kallus returning the favor that Zeb showed to him first. “The Honorable Ones” is one of my favorite episodes from the second season, and it left us all wondering if Kallus would become an informant to the Rebellion. The fact that he said, “We’re even,” however, leads me to believe that Kallus isn’t fully on board with giving away the Empire’s secrets. Was this just a one-time act of mercy? If he comes across that fork in the road again, which side will he choose? I’m so intrigued by his character and the fact that we really can’t tell what he’s thinking. The creative team have mentioned that Kallus will have more of a focus this season, so I look forward to seeing some internal conflict brewing inside of him (if that is where they plan to go with him, that is).
I do have a few things that didn’t sit well with me. I completely understand that this is a time of war and that people will die at every turn and at any moment, but did Rake really have to die? “The Black Dude Dies First” trope is so overdone. I also understand it’s a double-edged sword. On one hand, if you had made the character white, fans would have pointed out the lack of diversity. On the other hand, you give us a character of color, but he dies because the other three characters are essentially safe and can’t die just yet. This leads me to my next gripe. There were only three cadets interested in defecting? The Fulcrum agent made it sound like there were several Imperial cadets, so in the end (putting aside the fact that these two pilots are Wedge and Hobbie), was it really worth it? I guess for the Rebellion, every little bit helps, but had there been other pilots interested in defecting and had they also been characters of color, then my complaints would be non-existent.
Other than that, I think this episode is visually stunning. That view of the Skystrike Academy standing tall in the skies with the twin suns setting in the background is absolutely gorgeous. The episode also gives us a taste of what we’ll see in terms of Sabine in action. The writers have promised a bigger role for her, so I look forward to seeing her take up more responsibility and joining the leading effort with Ezra. Taylor Gray has also made comments about Ezra’s feelings toward Sabine, so that is something I’ll keep a close eye on because I’m a proud shipper and it’ll be interesting to see if there’s anything that will develop between those two characters. That said, I also love the idea of a strong friendship between Sabine and Ezra, so I can’t wait to see how it will all play out.
Make sure to tune into the next all-new episode on Saturday, October 15, 2016, at 8:30PM EST on Disney XD.