Galactic Hunter Video Theater Presents: Star Wars Rebels - Breaking Ranks

By Adam Pawlus — Monday, November 3, 2014

The pace of Star Wars Rebels continues to ramp up with "Breaking Ranks," an entertaining but still unfortunately small-scale tale of the Vader Youth. We get a couple of stock Imperial officers (plus a couple of returning faces), a group of kids, and a relatively familiar plot that (I hope) sets up an arc for the future.

You get a few seconds of the Inquisitor, a few new faces, and the first indication of a solid missed opportunity in the action figure line. Read on for more!



Since this is a toy site, let's start off with the action figure thing. NYCC reveals showed an Ezra set from this episode featuring his distinctive helmet and, frankly, pretty cool uniform. However, the repack of Kanan - a figure which, by my tally, will be in at least 4 configurations now with minimal (or no) changes - is sort of a waste. In this episode, we get to see Chopper in a pretty slapdash paint job as an undercover Imperial astromech droid. Naturally, I think that would have made for a spectacular action figure and as co-infiltrator, an exquisite addition to the set. Alas, we're just getting a repack. A pity.


SO! Why are we here? I'm not entirely sure - I want to assume this episode is planting seeds for future episodes, because we get a glimpse at a pathetically small academy (what school has 2 teachers and 8 kids?) in a barely-armed Imperial outpost. The lower budget of the show seems to be showing a bit more with fewer character models and sparse populations, especially when compared to the seemingly larger Republic training grounds in The Clone Wars "Clone Cadets." Granted, those stories got to exploit the benefit of masked characters with identical human faces, so maybe I'm being unfair here. Still - 8 kids? Make it 16 at least, because I can't imagine the Empire valued education to the point of having an instructor to student ratio quite that low.


Ezra is in this group to bust in and steal a decoder which will allow Kanan and Hera two, somehow take down a group of TIEs and three freighters escorting a kyber crystal to the Empire. (These are used in weapons, commonly lightsabers.) Taking a cue from Star Trek, we don't get to see all facets of the battle but instead focus on the two heroes and a short, sweet space battle. B-plots are appreciated because they keep things moving and give us brief glimpses at the rest of the cast. Zeb and Sabine mostly just stand around, so really, this episode is about Ezra's time undercover as the lost son of Elizabeth Taylor.


While acing tests, the kids draw the attention of the clearly under worked Inquisitor who is en route to Lothal while Ezra tries to swipe this decoder. He's aided by Zare Leonis, another cadet looking for clues as to the disappearance of his sister Dhara. The thought is that maybe the Inquisitor took her, so it's possible she's still around working for the Empire or was summarily executed. This is left open, so along with Bail Organa's brief appearance we've now got two plot threads that could pay off down the road.


So we already know they're going to steal this decoder and then need to escape. Ezra and Zare convince Jai Kell to help them out as they steal an AT-DP by stunning its driver after the "prize" for winning some training tournament lets them sit in the vehicle. This is a pretty crappy prize. This is like being employee of the month at Domino's Pizza and getting to sit in on a delivery. If anything, the Empire should learn a valuable lesson here about incentivizing its employees - maybe give them a cooler uniform, or let them sleep in, or ten bucks at the intergalactic Bed, Bath, and Beyond or some such. So take that, Empire, you lose your AT-DP and you get what you deserve here.


When all is said and done Zare stays behind to keep looking for his sister, Jai gets smuggled out to move back with his mom in hiding - again, it's tough to believe you'd step out on a job interview as a teenager when the result is to move back with mom for a long time under an assumed identity, but here we are - and oh yes, the crystal is destroyed, so there's that. This episode feels like it's setting up something later, which it might, but even The Clone Wars didn't do much with the whole foreshadowing thing. I appreciate the unique, contained story with a few neat sets and three of the four known action figure vehicles made an appearance. I was entertained. It wasn't great, but it was certainly fun to watch.


The net value of this episode seems to be to set up the Universe a little bit better. We know that the Empire is rooting out Force-sensitive people and they're disappearing. We also know that the Empire, like most people these days, is suspicious of anyone that does well on a standardized test. They want the best, sure, but the best of the best? They're up to something. Now we have a kidnapped girl to worry about, a sympathetic cadet to worry about, and we're still not entirely sure why the Rebels just decided to go after the Empire's crystal shipment. I mean, I believe in do-gooders, but we know these guys are short on funds and I've never been a big believer that people are going to engage in random acts of violence without an ulterior motive. They're not part of a larger Rebellion yet, and they're not (as far as I can tell) on someone's payroll this week. So why do it?


The animation and designs continue to bring Ezra's adventures in McQuarrieland to life, and I quite enjoy looking at it - but a lot of the same tricks are played, and recalling familiar musical cues and the same hallways does start to feel a little forced. Most of the kids wearing the same uniform and never taking off their helmets similarly feels like cost-cutting, as does a ridiculously fantastic couple of shots of 3 Imperials with their baseball caps covering their eyes so you wouldn't realize they're all basically the same character model. This isn't freeze-frame nerd stuff either - it's impossible to not realize it. The first time you see it, you'll say "Uh... why are their faces covered? Don't they have the same faces?" and then a few seconds later, you see them again, and they confirm it. It's a pretty apt metaphor for the show as a whole - if you look at it twice, you can see the code to the Matrix pretty quickly. I'd still suggest checking it out if you're a fan (and I am), but I assume it might be best enjoyed late at night on little sleep or if you happen to live in the states of Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and also Washington D.C. for reasons I have not personally attempted but am assured may be of some value to those who enjoy such things.


Takeaway from this week:
The skinny Imperial guy is named Cumberlayne Aresko. Myles Grint is the fat one. Both are voiced by David Shaughnessy doing a pretty good approximation of what the Vogons sounded like in the later Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy radio dramas.
Alternate outfits begin: Ezra has a new Imperial Cadet outfit. Chopper is repainted as a black droid. Where is my black Chopper, Hasbro?
Why yes, that was a cameo by the character model of Maketh Tua from "Droids in Distress."

Next time: "Out of Darkness." I don't know what this one is about yet. See you in a week!