Wedge Antilles, Fenn Rau, and now, the Iron Squadron. These characters are wildly different from each other, but besides their mutual dislike for the Empire, they share one other thing in common: they were recruited by the Ghost crew of the growing Rebel Alliance. Given that we’ve seen this play out several times before, it’s easy for most of us to say that the plot of “Iron Squadron” was simple and predictable. Some have even tossed around a word I detest as much as the rebels despise the Empire: “filler.” The latest episode may not the best of the season or the series, but there is still much to be appreciated in the finer details that collectively overshadow the simplicity and predictability of the plot.
The best surprise of the episode was finding out that Mart Mattin is the nephew of Commander Jun Sato. Sato is one of those characters who lingers in the background, and ever since he was introduced in season two, I’ve wanted to learn more about his background and motivation. Albeit brief, we discover that he had a brother and that his brother operated in a crew called the Iron Squadron. Now, while I get that Mart Mattin was inspired by Lucasfilm’s Matt Martin, I’m curious to know what’s the explanation behind his character having a different surname. Is Mattin his mother’s maiden name? If so, what happened to his mother? Sato’s connection to this planet and Mart left me wanting more. Additionally, while this part was also brief, it was interesting to find out that Sato and Thrawn had previously met. That story is one that I hope we get in the future.
Speaking of Thrawn, I find it fascinating that this is a giant chess game to him. Granted, that’s bad for the rebels, but his method of operation is truly genius. He wants the entire fleet, we’ve known this from the beginning, but how he goes about getting them all in one place is what he’s been testing and doing all this time. He knows now that in order to get to Sato, he needs to put the Ghost crew in danger. He even states, “Commander Jun Sato, I wondered what it would take to motivate your return to Mykapo.” It’s all about figuring out their weaknesses and how to lure all of them out before he makes his final blow. While that makes him seem incompetent to some fans, they don’t realize that he knows exactly what he’s doing, making him one of the most competent in the ranks. It’s also interesting that his plans to destroy the Rebellion are two-fold. In addition to plotting, he’s also testing his fellow Imperial officers. At first, I wondered if he was doing this because he knows there’s a mole, so he’s trying to lure them out. Then again, we haven’t seen much of Kallus to even make that sort of connection.
By the way, where is Agent Kallus? We were told prior to the start of season three that Kallus would play a bigger role this season, and we’ve been wanting to see more of him ever since he let Sabine go. Also, what happened to Maul? Last we saw him, he found his version of “hope,” but we haven’t seen him since. Finally, Rogue One is coming out next month. I don’t expect there to be a grand connection between the film and Star Wars Rebels, but it would be fun and satisfying to see even the most minor of threads weaved between the two. All that said, I can see why fans would be frustrated with this episode. It doesn’t touch on any of these previously established characters or storylines, so one can’t help but ask, will we ever see Iron Squadron ever again? Will there be an episode similar to what was seen in Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes or Avatar: The Last Airbender, where there’ll be a massive reunion of all these brief characters for an equally massive showdown at the end of the season? Personally, I love seeing new characters being introduced, but I also want to see them more often.
As for the new characters, the fact that they’re based on people who work at Lucasfilm made me smile. I had an even bigger smile at seeing Sabine and Ezra working together again. I also very much enjoyed the interactions between Chopper and R3, especially at the end when Chopper rammed into R3 in what I assume is his version of a pat on the back or a high five.
Finally, my favorite part of the episode was when Ezra passed down what he’s learned to his fellow peers. Ezra, despite being opinionated and reckless from time to time, does pay attention and apply what he’s been taught. He recognized where the Iron Squadron was coming from because he was like them at one point in his life, and since then, he’d matured and learned valuable life lessons. I really appreciate that Hera and Kanan were handling other business because if they had been given the task of trying to convince Gooti, Jonner, and Mart to retreat, they wouldn’t have succeeded. They’re adults. They represent authority. Ezra is in the same age group as them, and I’m thankful that the writers had one teenager reasoning with other teenagers. Sometimes, we need to hear the truth from people who are like us and who identify with us. Otherwise, it’ll go through one ear and out the other. So in my book, that was a very well done from Ezra and from Matt Michnovetz (writer) and Steven Melching (story editor).
Could this episode have been about something completely different, carrying the awesome momentum that kick started this season? Yes. Am I disappointed with the actual outcome? No. Star Wars Rebels, believe it or not, is one of the few animated shows teaching children important life lessons. Is that their goal? Probably not, but the morals and good role models are definitely there, so we can extrapolate and apply what we learn from these characters to our lives. Some people watch the series for pure entertainment, others watch it to see how it’ll make a bigger connection to what already exists. I watch it for those same reasons, but I also watch it for the learning experience.
Make sure to tune into the next all-new episode on Saturday, November 26, 2016, at 8:30PM EST on Disney XD.