Galactic Hunter Video Theater Presents: Star Wars Rebels - Fighter Flight

By Adam Pawlus — Monday, October 20, 2014

Star Wars Rebels goes back to square one, and gives us a shopping trip in Fighter Flight. In case you forgot you were watching a kid's show that isn't exactly being given a ton of thought, well, here we are. The good guys go grocery shopping and come home with a new toy. And you'll see some old toys off in the distance.

Bringing things back to the Star Trek spin-offs, Rebels is somewhat consistent. The first seasons of those shows had some pretty bumpy times as we watched Tom Paris and Harry Kim hang out. Zeb and Ezra are this show's bickering buddies, and their rivalry continues with a trip to go do the shopping.



When you can't figure out a great story, you can usually substitute a great character and the story will either fall into place, or the audience will be charmed and just not care. While nobody will remember the Next Generation episode "Code of Honor" in a positive light, it did create a rather unflattering (and backward) portrait of a civilization with a more or less funky combat ritual to distract you that you're watching a technologically superior race fight over a vaccine. But at least you got a crazy combat ritual that was kind of neat. Here, we've got the same guys again, plus some more generic Imperials, fighting over some fruit and the freedom of Ezra's dead parents' farmer friends. The life-or-death struggle of survival as revolutionaries against an evil government is in and of itself quite interesting and ripe for the plucking, and instead here we are going after imported fruit and a joyride in Imperial hardware.


Newness tended to help the previous Star Wars cartoons move things along, with criminal syndicates or invading flagships or even new civilizations coming to visit. Here, we're back on Lothal with pretty much the same premise - Zeb and Ezra go fight some Stormtroopers and nameless Brits in black and grey costumes. The big fan service reveal here are the Imperial Troop Transport (an old Kenner toy heretofore scarcely seen in the fiction) and the deep cut of Meiloorun, a fruit from the X-Wing novels in the 1990s. None of this will matter to you unless you're a pretty hardcore fan, and if you are, you'll probably nod and go "cool" and go about your business of wondering why this episode wasn't more fun. Less fan service, but also welcome, was Chopper and Kanan Jarrus at a functioning Dejarik table.


Given the a-plot of a snipe hunt gone wrong, the similarly thin b-plot does continue to let the writers highlight the personalities of the entire crew, although by now I'd like to focus more on the outside world. Sabine paints a mural, Chopper annoys people, and Hera feels kind of bad about sending the boys out to get some supplies. Generally b-plots have more going on - perhaps Jake Sisko wants to buy a baseball card on Deep Space Nine or some such. The point is, desire or curiosity or a problem to solve really help drive excitement - and the most exciting thing in the b-story is that Sabine is painting something, and we can't see it. Were this cut out completely, you would not miss it as it serves no real purpose other than to remind us Sabine likes to paint.


Thankfully if you want action, the episode gives you some fun new things to gawk at like a group of Imperial Troop Transports being chased down by a stolen TIE Fighter, and we see that you can cram two people in there. The model seems to be based off of the Target exclusive The Vintage Collection TIE Fighter from 2010 with the short wings and the interior decoration, with a couple of minor modifications. Seeing the ship wobble as Zeb figures it out and unable to see through the window due to some smashed fruit is amusing, sure, but much of what happens seems to be the result of the 22-minute runtime being simultaneously too long and too short to deliver the goods.


Unless Ezra'a parents' farmer friends recur and turn out to be big-deal rebels, there's not much purpose to this episode beyond a brief joyride and continued development of the grudging, blooming friendship between a young boy and one of the last survivors of a galactic holocaust. Of course, it's expected that all of our heroes are going to be friends anyway so it feels like we're just running out the clock until we eventually get to the actual first non-holographic appearance of an actual significant villain like the Inquisitor, or perhaps a looming threat of some sort.


A celebration of the mundane on a budget doesn't have to be boring. We saw lots of shows, especially 1980s and 1990s Star Trek follow the "tell, don't show" approach to cool space stuff happening while the Clerks cartoon spent an entire episode with utterly crazy stuff going on outside as our heroes refuse to go out and look. The rooftop TIE fighter chase here is quite the spectacle but the actual task at hand could be a lot of fun, depending on how you want to treat the audience. We saw what R2-D2 and C-3PO did with fruit shopping in The Clone Wars, and it would certainly be possible to have an episode where nothing really happens and the show is still entertaining. For kids it's a challenge, and right now I'm challenged to really walk away from the installment with this series having been enriched in any meaningful way. Seeing either Zeb or Ezra annoyed or even outraged at being tasked to do shopping would have added some color. Seeing Ezra complain that he wants Jedi training would at least draw more parallels with Luke, and carry the subplot forward to its conclusion... whatever that may be. (Perhaps appearing in the new movies.) I guess if nothing else, we're seeing that this is a team that is going to stick together and do what is needed, which isn't necessarily very interesting to watch.


With the classic Droids cartoon we got to see all sorts of nifty concepts which seem to have been born from the various authors' passions - archaeology, racing, and apparently amnesiac disposed royalty. These ongoing plot threads worked. Even Ewoks had a sense of saving their village from various menaces as a central plot. But Rebels? I don't know what this show is about. We know the Empire sucks - we know these people want to stop them. While The Clone Wars shoehorned in a lesson of sorts most of the time, the series found its out-of-sequence serialized storytelling footing and delivered entertaining episodes pretty quickly. Fighter Flight brings you about as much of value as one of the lesser comic books - a neat cameo, a fun drop in the lexicon, but it really does feel like we're juicing an already dried fruit here.


Takeaway from this week:
Fruit shopping. It's not quite bank interest rates or school lunches, but... it's still pretty boring.
The rescue of parental ex-neighbors isn't quite "I am your father's brother's nephew's cousin's former roommate" but it's getting there.
Other than the TIE Fighter and Stormtroopers, this episode has little real connection to the movie franchise as a whole - and without the borrowed love of a Rex or an Obi-Wan Kenobi, it does feel a little flat.
Seeing a TIE fighter putter around over a grassy plain in low orbit is a memorable image, but lacks any sort of real weight. At least it was fun, right?

Next time: "Rise of the Old Masters." A Jedi master is found, a bad guy resurfaces, and we get to hear a little bit about a location developed for The Clone Wars that ultimately wound up in the comics. See you in a week!