Thrawn Ascendency

A Thrawn In The Side Of Episode 3.10

In the aftermath of my review of “The Antilles Extraction” episode of Star Wars Rebels season three, I have been awaiting my next episode with eagerness despite the previous chapters being a little underwhelming. The episodes entitled “Imperial Super Commandos” and “The Last Battle” were the exception to the rule and proved that there is life left in this season despite the continual over reliance on the tiresome Ezra Bridger story arc.
So, when I was asked to cast an objective eye over episode 3.10, named “An Inside Man” I was eager for a story that would break the mould and actually fulfil its promise, a difficult task so far this season.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not a hater of this season of Star Wars Rebels, but I have found it to hold far less gravitas that season two, partway to the current lack of Darth Vader’s involvement. The Dark Lord of the Sith is proving to be a tough act to follow but, the legendary Grand Admiral Thrawn, made famous amongst the pages of the Heir to the Empire novel trilogy is in the process of carving out his very own ominous niche.

And so, to the story…

The Rebels crew, acting upon intelligence gained from the clandestine Fulcrum agent, return to the planet Lothal to infiltrate an Imperial construction facility where, a top secret weapons project has been commissioned. With the support of returning characters Ryder Azadi and Ezra’s childhood neighbour Morad Sumar, both Bridger and Kanan, disguised as construction crew plan to make a reconnaissance of the facility in order to gain valuable intelligence pertaining to this new threat. However, unbeknownst to them, the sinister Grand Admiral Thrawn, suspecting the inside sabotage of the Empire’s assembly line has arrived to investigate a sudden upsurge in deliberate production failings stemming from the enslaved crew of locals.

From the episodes fast paced introduction, we are thrust into a welcome explosion of action stemming from a speeder bike chase involving classic Imperial Biker Scout’s, who are in the midst of chasing Ryder through the streets of Lothal. We swiftly discover that the sabotage being implemented at the construction facility has been designed to cripple the craft upon the achievement of high speeds. With this information fresh in their minds, Ezra and Kanan infiltrate the facility disguised as workers in order to spy upon the top secret project being undertaken in a restricted section of the base. Once inside, the workers are addressed by the sinister Thrawn who swiftly identifies Ezra’s childhood confidant, Morad Sumar and forces him to demonstrate the top speed achievement of his recently completed speeder bike. With the vehicle sabotaged and Thrawn well aware of the vehicles failings, the sinister tactician awaits the inevitable outcome which tragically claims the life of the ageing worker.

As the Rebels attempt to escape the facility, their trusty droid Chopper is busy trying to acquire the all-important intelligence concerning the secret project which is revealed to be a state of the art, shielded Tie Fighter. Disguised as Imperial troops, Ezra and Kanan manage to evade detection until they bump into Agent Kallus, who along with Governor Pryce had arrived as part as Thrawn’s inspection team.

And then, the moment I had predicted several weeks ago during my last review came to fruition. Kallus was revealed to be the clandestine Fulcrum agent, secretly feeding intelligence to the Rebellion. Aiding in both their intelligence gathering as well as their escape, Kallus directed Ezra and Kanan to the walker storage yard where an active AT-DP awaited them. Once their mission was complete, Kallus was force pushed into a wall to ensure that their escape appeared genuine before they encountered a deployment of AT-AT Walkers.

Despite the destruction of their escape vehicle, the Rebels escaped and transmitted their hard won intelligence back to Hera Syndulla and the forces of the Rebellion who were left to fear for their safety at the prospect of the new Tie Fighters. Thrawn on the other hand, immersed himself in the Pheonix Squadron’s artwork left behind by Sabine Wren during previous escapades and regarded the family portraits of the Ghost crew in greater detail.

The master tactician, began to suspect a traitor among their ranks and cast a suspecting eye upon Kallus who appeared unnerved by his sudden, unspoken suspicion. The episode came to a close with Thrawn’s malicious intent hinting at Kallus’ involvement and setting the stage for an inevitable confrontation in later episodes.

In light of the recent collection of episodes that I have found to be a little mundane, I found this episode to be a breath of fresh air, one that is long overdue. This episode was dark and foreboding, the Empire Strikes Back episode if you will. And this was all down to one character…Thrawn. The villainous antagonist was at his very best in this episode, cold, calculated and malicious. Without ever resorting to violence, he struck terror into the hearts of everyone around him which even transcended across the stars to the Rebel stronghold light years away whose occupants, felt his icy presence looking over their shoulder.

In one foul swoop, Thrawn had eliminated the saboteurs and uncovered a possible traitor in his midst whilst immersing himself in his customary surroundings of the art and culture of his enemies, a classic Thrawn trait. The use of vintage AT-AT walkers to pursue the fleeing Rebels was a masterstroke, especially when one such walker deliberately crouched and crushed the fleeing AT-DP taking refuge below its legs with its heavy duty armoured frame. Dave Filoni and his exceptional team continue to go above and beyond the cause when it comes to shedding new light upon our vintage vehicles and witnessing them perform such subliminal moves was a delight to see.

Having Agent Kallus revealed as the clandestine Fulcrum spy was a pleasure, but one that had been telegraphed many weeks ago during “The Antilles Extraction”. At long last, the character looks to have been given something to do throughout this season, correcting the failings of the previous seasons where he sadly faded into the background. Whether or not he will survive to see the fourth season remains to be seen, as I feel a tragic end coming for our valiant defector but, his current arc is a welcome change of pace.

In contrast, Governor Pryce was afforded very little to do but act as a glorified confident for Thrawn who is gradually seizing the forefront of the Empire’s war against the Rebellion. “An Inside Man” finally bypassed the lethargic story arc of Ezra Bridger, despite the loss of his childhood neighbour that threatened to return us to his tiresome learning curve. But this could not hide the fact that he once again, climbed inside the armour of a Biker Scout. Paraphrasing the great Princess Leia Organa, “aren’t you a little short for a Stormtrooper” these words seem to be forgotten every time he exploits an Imperial get-up as a disguise. His small stature is obvious in every scene but even Thrawn seems to overlook this obvious flaw at every turn.

But these minor detractions could not impede what was a thoroughly enjoyable episode. From start to finish, this was an episode to be taken seriously and the icy hand of Grand Admiral Thrawn is slowly closing around the throat of the Ghost crew.

We can only watch with mounting excitement as this season unfolds to its inevitable climax.

Until then…

May The Force Be With You.


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