Star Wars Rebels: “The Occupation” & “Flight of the Defender” - Full Spoiler Review
Star Wars Rebels: “The Occupation” opens on Yavin 4, where the crew of the Ghost receive a startling transmission. In which, Ryder Azadi reveals a sinister Imperial plot to develop an even more powerful version of the TIE defender. Mon Mothma, knowing the threat this project could possess, sends the Spectres off to Lothal to find out more. And with help from Cikatro Vizago, they make their way past the planet's blockade of star destroyers. But, of course, the mission isn't without its problems. Firstly, having been detected by Imperial scanners, the rebels narrowly escape capture on board the Broken Horn. Secondly, their ground transport is ambushed by a group of combat assault tanks. And thirdly, they are forced down into Lothal's maze-like sewage system, where they have to fend off Imperial probe droids, stormtroopers, and death troopers alike. Thankfully, though, they are rescued by Ryder and whisked away from danger. This then takes us into the next episode, “Flight of the Defender”. It begins with the Rebels observing an Imperial base and a test flight of the upgraded TIE defender. Unhappy with simply taking photos, however, Sabine and Ezra seek to grab its flight recorder, so to give Rebel command a greater idea of the craft's capabilities. Unfortunately, they are forced into stealing the defender due to the arrival of Thrawn, who makes no qualms about testing its defensive output. And just when they think they're in the clear, the Empire activates a kill switch, sending them hurtling toward the ground. Ezra and Sabine are then forced to evade the subsequent Imperial search party - though their efforts are greatly bolstered by a mystical Loth-wolf. Did you get all that? Good, me neither. Explaining these double-episodes in detail is not the easiest job in the world. Regardless, let's take a look at everything I personally liked about “The Occupation” and “Flight of the Defender”, and all the things I wasn't so keen on.
• Kicking off with the positives, and I have to say – seeing Lothal as a burning mess is awesome! Now, before you all call me some kind of psychopath, let me clarify. Returning to the planet where the show all began is a nice creative choice, given that this is the final season. But by adding the chaos and destruction, each of the planet's locations feel completely different from those we've all seen a dozen times before. It also makes the Empire feel like more of a threat, and highlights that the war for freedom is a costly one.
• In addition, I really liked the mystical side to “Flight of the Defender”, with the introduction of the Loth-wolf. Not only is it a beautiful creature, but it's nice to see that aspect of Star Wars once more come into the show. There is also now plenty of intrigue heading into the remaining episodes of the season. Just what exactly are these incredible beasts?
• Moving onto the negatives. Now, I was going to mention this in my review of last week's episodes, before giving the show's creators the benefit of the doubt. But seeing as though death troopers no longer seem to speak with scrambled voices, I have to mention how utterly baffling this decision is. For the purposes of these recent instalments, I get that we need to understand what each soldier is saying. Hearing their normal voices, however, takes away even more of their mystique. They simply don't feel as special or unique as they once did.
• It is also completely head-scratching to have someone like Old Jho killed off-screen. Sure, he isn't one of the show's main protagonists, but to have his passing mentioned as nothing more than an aside does not do the character justice at all. They could have at least included a flashback to make his death feel more impactful.
• And last but not least, let's talk about the somewhat easy escape. Yes, I may sound like a broken record at this point, but it's always sigh-inducing to see the Rebels make such quick work of the Empire's forces. Honestly, I think that's why I enjoyed Rogue One so much. There was a ton at stake, and not everyone made it out alive. It felt really gritty, which was completely appropriate given its setting just prior to the Galactic Civil War.
Overall, “The Occupation” and “Flight of the Defender” were yet two more solid episodes in this final season of Rebels. And while there were a few elements which did frustrate me as a viewer, there is plenty of set-up for future instalments to keep me interested and intrigued. Speaking of which, next week's episodes – titled “Kindred” and “Crawler Commanders” – see the Spectres tracked back to Yavin 4 by an Imperial agent, where they must rely upon seemingly dangerous native creatures who are far more mysterious than anyone could imagine. Then, desperate to contact Rebel command, they steal a mining vehicle with long range communications gear, as the Empire gives chase. Do let me know in the comments below what you think of the premise of next week's episodes, as well as everything you personally liked and disliked regarding “The Occupation” and “Flight of the Defender”.