‘Star Wars Rebels’ Season Four Review: “The Occupation” and “Flight of the Defender”

No words can describe my thoughts about these episodes better than Ahsoka’s quote from season two, “In my experience, just when you think you understand the Force, you find out how little you actually know.”

While “The Occupation” did a fantastic job of bringing the Ghost crew back to Lothal and setting up the story that’s to continue in later episodes, “Flight of the Defender” took me on a magical journey that ended with the rug being pulled out from under me. It was the first time in the entire series where I felt like I knew nothing—in a good way, of course. It’s exciting when you think the story is going one way, but it throws you off completely and takes you somewhere else. I’ve always favored stories that have an element of surprise to them because it makes me more invested in what’s to come, and “Flight of the Defender” did exactly that.

Here are the things that stood out to me the most from this set of episodes:

Ezra’s Decision: This entire time, Ezra has been doing things for the Rebellion (alongside the Ghost crew) in the hopes of making a difference. Luke Skywalker will eventually do the same, but there’s a difference between them. Luke came from a planet where he felt trapped. After his aunt and uncle tragically died, there was nothing left for him there. That’s not the case for Ezra. Despite having lived alone and on the street during his younger years, Ezra’s home has always been on Lothal, so it wasn’t surprising when he told Mon Mothma, “I’ve had a long time to think about this. We’ll get that intel, but I’m going home to help my people. Which means I’m there to stay.” The finality in his words made me excited because Ezra truly understands where he’s meant to be and what he’s meant to do. Luke’s actions later on will impact the grander picture, but Ezra’s actions are meant to affect things on a micro level on Lothal.

The State of Lothal: Seeing a ruined Lothal hit me on an emotional level because it wasn’t too long ago that a hurricane touched down on Puerto Rico and laid waste to the entire island. When Ezra and the team entered Lothal’s atmosphere, his reaction to the devastation was similar to my own when I saw the photos of the destruction left behind by the hurricane. It makes you feel utterly helpless, so I completely understand Ezra’s mentality when he shouts at Zeb that everything’s different and that Lothal’s gone. He’s frustrated at what his home has become, especially since he has seen (in a vision with his parents) what it could have been without the Empire’s presence. It’s heartbreaking.

Ghost Crew Disguises: Although the costumes didn’t really help much because they ended up having to run away from Imperial forces anyway, it was great to see the entire team decked out in new clothing for a brief time. (Many thanks to Tracy Cannobbio for sharing these!)

Jai Kell: It’s great that the writers brought Jai Kell back into the story because so far, the people who are originally from Lothal and who are interested in liberating their planet are older. Ryder and Sumar’s wife are examples. Ezra and Jai are young and they’re fighting for their future. Part of me wishes that Zare Leonis could have been brought back for the action, but Zare and his family went elsewhere, so that’s to be understood. Also, Ezra and Kanan both believed that Jai was Force sensitive, so something I hope that will be acknowledged at some point is whether Jai developed any of those abilities.

Kanan and Hera: What I loved most about the scene between Hera and Kanan was that it reminded me of their good ol’ days in A New Dawn. In fact, I found it fascinating that both of these episodes had a variety of subtle callbacks to past material, like seeing Baron Valen Rudor and Old Jho’s shop. We even get to hear Kanan’s former last name again. The past is resurfacing in intriguing ways, so it’ll be interesting to see what else is in store as the Ghost crew continue to operate on Lothal. And yes, I’m sad that Hera and Kanan didn’t kiss, but I’m pretty sure that’s coming down the line, so I’m not too worried.

Loth-cats: “Flight of the Defender” had the best opening ever, with Loth-cats frolicking about and coming across Ezra and the others as they spy on the Imperial base. While Capital City and nearby areas are surrounded by pollution and destruction, the Loth-cats scene gave me hope that Lothal’s future won’t be as bleak as many are imagining. Nature is still prevailing in other parts of the planet, so Lothal is not completely gone.

Sabine’s plan: Although Sabine’s plan had great intentions, she still disobeyed orders and nearly got Ezra and herself killed. So far, I have seen only one person comment on this, but had the roles been switched, I have a strong feeling that the fan community would not have hesitated in calling Ezra out on his mistake. In fact, that was the case when Ezra changed the mission at the start of season three, where he decided to steal the Y-wings from Reklam Station. I remember the overly harsh comments Ezra received at the time, but when Sabine does something similar, it seems to be okay. I felt it was important to point this out, since some characters seem to get away with certain stuff while others are criticized for performing similar actions with the same intentions.

(Photo: Lucasfilm)

White Loth-wolf: This is going to sound weird, but to me, the white Loth-cat and the white Loth-wolf are kind of like white blood cells. What are white blood cells? White blood cells are cells in the immune system that are responsible in protecting the body against infectious diseases and foreign invaders. In this situation, the Empire is a foreign invader spreading across Lothal and infecting it with its bad energy. The white Loth-wolf and Loth-cat are a response to that presence. Of course, there are other comparisons we could make, especially with Princess Mononoke and such. In terms of biology and nature, though, that’s my interpretation for all of this.

Dume: I have to be honest. I have absolutely no clue why the white Loth-wolf said Kanan’s former surname. When I first saw the episode, I thought the wolf said, “Doom.” In order to confirm, I used the subtitles and that’s when I noticed that the wolf actually said, “Dume.” I don’t think it’s a mistake. From my understanding, captions come from the transcripts and they are added after the show is edited and produced, so this was an intentional detail. Like all of you, I’m curious to know how is Kanan a factor in all of this. I don’t have the slightest idea, but some fans have brought up some interesting theories, like Kanan being born on Lothal (his homeworld is listed as Coruscant, but I think that’s mostly because that’s where the Jedi Temple was located), the Inquisitors being part of the magic, and Kanan himself having some sort of innate ability to awaken things in the Force. When it comes down to it, I’m not going to think too hard on it because I want the writers to tell me the story. I don’t want to create a story of my own just yet because I’m interested to see what they have cooked up first.

All that said, I’m genuinely and super happy that the Ghost crew is back on Lothal. This is the place where they first found Ezra and where they first established themselves as Rebels together. I don’t know what the future has in store for us, but if it’s anything like what we saw in these two episodes, then some of the best storytelling is still to come.

Until next time, make sure to visit the episode guides (“The Occupation” and “Flight of the Defender“) and tune into the next two episodes, “Crawler Commanders” and “Kindred,” on Monday, November 6, 2017, on Disney XD.

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4 comments on “‘Star Wars Rebels’ Season Four Review: “The Occupation” and “Flight of the Defender”

  1. Pingback: Bridging the Galaxy: Ezra’s Story, Part I – The Cozy Fan Corner

  2. “Lothal looks like it’s dying.”

    Can we say that, “Lothal is in a coma”?

    And the Loth-Wolves know, who had this predilection of bringing back people from a coma…

    Oh, also, the latest vid posted by the official Star Wars Tumblr account! It’s about Kanan… titled “A Jedi with a unique view of the Force”, with a quite telling statement “Kanan has developed a deeper understanding of the Force”.

    The paths are coming together, indeed!

  3. These two episodes were also jaw-droppers for me. We finally get a visual confirmation of Lothal’s desolation in “Occupation” but what hit me in the heart was the despair in Ezra’s voice when he said his home is dying. As a Force-user I am sure he is connected to Lothal physically and emotionally so its desecration would take a toll on Ezra. And after losing his parents, he’d be even more desperate to save his home. Unlike traditional Jedi who weren’t supposed to have allegiances to any particular home or system, Ezra takes a defensive stand on Lothal. And in a similar vein, Kanan’s tender moment with Hera confirms the depth of their relationship.

    There was a moment in the tunnels (a physical and metaphorical symbol of darkness) when Ezra started to relapse into desperation, regretting the mission and even quoting Saw, but it was good that Sabine and Zeb reassured him that they wouldn’t abandon the mission. Because Rebels is first and foremost about this family supporting each other.

    “Defender” had a more hopeful note and as JM pointed out, some parts of Lothal aren’t as ravished and the existence of the Lothcats confirmed there is still life on the planet. I *love* the way the Lothcats are animated with their big swishy tails and how they trot around proudly, and watching them hang around Ezra and purring when he pets them. I can already hear the haters groaning over the two stormtroopers who chased the Lothcats and can point out that they lamented how Lothal is “in the middle of nowhere”. With the general population subdued and the Empire holding the planet in its grip, I’m not surprised the foot soldiers would distract themselves by messing around with local animals. (Methinks Ezra should train a Lothcat to pounce on Thrawn’s face.)

    Thrawn continues to be bloodless yet bloodthirsty, calmly shooting at a stolen fighter and then analyzing its flight to deduce who is using it. He acknowledged that Hera couldn’t have been the pilot or else the Empire’s ships would have been blasted down at once. The climax of the Loth-wolf did not underestimate and also I got strong “Princess Mononoke” vibes as it saved Ezra and Sabine by riding out of danger. The concept of the animals as protective white-blood cells combating an outside threat is a brilliant one. The color white can have different uses based on context but in this episode I see it as a positive symbol of purity, safety, righteousness, and spirituality.

    • I really love what you said about Thrawn in that he’s “bloodless yet bloodthirsty.” Brilliant choice of words! And I totally agree, Ezra should train a Loth-cat to pounce on his face, haha!

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