Star Wars: Rebels is giving us some of the best Star Wars material in a long, long time. This episode is jam-packed with incredible visuals, gripping action, and some really juicy moments of backstory. In fact, “Empire Day” is such an overwhelmingly good episode that it’s hard to know where to start.
The conflict of the episode takes place on the 15th Empire Day – the anniversary of the founding of the Galactic Empire. The plot of this episode is shockingly in-depth for being only 22 minutes long, and I’d hate to spoil it all by just summarizing it. But rest assured that “Empire Day” is by far the best episode of the series to date. The story will keep you on the edge of your seat, and when the screen goes black with “TO BE CONTINUED,” you’ll likely have goosebumps.
This episode’s focus on Imperial parades, speeches, and (reluctantly?) cheering audiences really makes me think of the Nazi propoganda film “Triumph of the Will.” It wouldn’t be the first time that Star Wars has borrowed themes from that film…
We’re also seeing some violence in this series. Fans were initially concerned that the series would shy away from any depictions of lethal violence. The fans were wrong. Stormtroopers get blasted, blown up, and mangled freely. What the show does not depict is dead bodies. Every time a stormtrooper dies, his body is never shown again on-screen. If you ever see a stormtrooper on the ground, look closely, and he’s still wiggling. If you don’t see him again, he’s dead. Either way, it’s not really kiddie. The fact that we don’t see dead bodies doesn’t change the fact that the body count in this show is actually pretty high. Already, about an equal number of stormtroopers have lost their lives on-screen as in the entire original trilogy.
Between Nazi-eque imagery and some fairly brutal action, Rebels – like The Clone Wars before it – is really proving that it is not a mere kid’s show.
The character moments in this episode were mainly focused on Kanan and Ezra. They’re really starting to work together well as a team, and they share a pretty hilarious moment together trying to talk their way out of trouble with a stormtrooper. Ezra really shines in this episode as we learn more about his backstory and how he handles his past. Ezra can be a little bratty sometimes, but overall, he’s a very strong and mature character.
I’m also pleased that Sabine is getting more screentime. She’s really coming into her own as a contributing member of the team. She’s also been given a new dimension. In the first episode, she was a demolition expert. Now she’s an artist, tech geek, foreign language specialist, and a reasonably good shoot, too. You should see the way she takes down a few stormtroopers in this episode! I nearly cheered. She plays a major part in moving the story along, and I was happy to see her getting something worthwhile to do.
The characters who REALLY shine in this episode are the bad guys. Watch out world, Star Wars bad guys are awesome again! For years, we’ve had to put up with stupid baddies like General Grievous, Nute Gunray, and battledroids. Now we have the Inquisitor, Agent Kallus, and even a freakin’ kung-fu stormtrooper who took my breath away. This week, we learned that the Inquisitor has a new skill: flying a TIE fighter. And man, oh man, does he look awesome when he does.
It’s becoming pretty evident that the creative staff really focuses on the episodes they know are good. This episode was as beautiful as the rest. No sweeping vistas in this one, but the mood, colors, and lighting were all so spot-on. Rebels has shown us just how beautiful Star Wars can be. Some of the coolest art direction on television I’ve seen in a long, long time. If ever.
The music really stands out in this episode, perfectly fitting and heightening the action and suspense. I particularly liked the up-beat parade rendition of the oh-so-famous “Imperial March” originally heard in The Empire Strikes Back. Rebels seems to have embraced this theme as the literal, in-universe anthem of the Empire, and it works really well.
The animation in this show continues to impress me. Lighting and materials have taken a huge step up from The Clone Wars, and it really makes a difference. Reflective metals glimmering in moody searchlights make a lot of the visuals in this episode pop. A+
If you haven’t already started watching “Rebels,” do so now. While not every episode so far has been a smash hit, this series is definitely turning out to be some of the best Star Wars we’ve had in a long time.
Oh, and a shout-out to this guy: