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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Ezra’s powerful emotional journey is too bogged down by busy work in an unfortunately unfocused Rebels

Illustration for article titled Ezra’s powerful emotional journey is too bogged down by busy work in an unfortunately unfocused Rebels

I’ve been pretty critical of Star Wars Rebels when it leans too hard on the Ghost crew as a family dynamic, as opposed to a team dynamic. For one thing, in order to make the crew fit the family mold, the writers have to force the characters to act pretty dumb and childish. It’s hard to reconcile, for example, Zeb playing the part of a goofy, bitter, older brother when you realize he’s the very last of his kind. Sabine switches between the “sister” and the “love interest,” which is too gross to contemplate, and Chopper is, I guess, a toddler and a pet? Kanan and Hera have too much going on in their lives to play parental guardians to those three, so it’s difficult to accept the familial tropes that Rebels engage in.

“Legacy,” in its own way, addresses that struggle by bringing in the prospect of the return of Ezra’s parents. Ezra really becomes a character in this episode, whose new-found energy and optimism this season is pressed up against the mystery of what happened to them and the belief that they may be alive. Ezra goes through a full range of emotional curveballs here: hope, faith, anger, confusion, impatience, fear, angst, happiness, sadness, and, eventually, hard acceptance (at least by the end of the episode), and Henry Gilroy’s script and Taylor Gray’s voice acting really get to the struggle within Ezra but also maintaining his youthful, complex (mis)understanding of everything that’s happening. It’s powerful stuff, but unfortunately the story and events that happen around this emotional story are too cluttered.

I was bouncing between giving “Legacy” a B or B+, and I decided on the B because as much as I loved Ezra’s personal story, the script just fails to let it latch onto the overall narrative, which prevents it from being truly effective. The only person who connects (or even understands) his dilemma is Kanan–Hera gets it as well but is too distracted by the Empire’s invasion, which to be fair, is a valid distraction. Zeb, Sabine, and Chopper could hardly give a crap, which also is a knock against the “family” dynamic. Taking this idea as far as it can go, “Legacy” is about an adopted kid who discovers a way to find his real parents, the real story of his past life, and how he goes about dealing with that. Yet that turmoil between his “real” family and his “adoptive” one is only channeled through Kanan, which feels like a missed opportunity to do more.

Star Wars Rebels is a kids show, and it’s 22-minutes, so sure, time and demographics demand a limit on content. Still, I feel like a lot of the other elements in the episode should have been either given room to breathe, or tied more thematically to Ezra’s conflict. Like, I don’t know… I feel like the Empire’s invasion of Garell was a pretty big deal, but Hera and the rebels escape it with ease (they just lose a ship in the process), all while causally being like, “Oh, Kanan and Ezra, just go on ahead, it’s all good here,” as if they were going to meet them in about five minutes after taking care of a thing real quick. Also in the episode, Ezra runs into the new Inquisitors (who are useless at this point). As Ezra’s impatience and frustration mounts, there’s a sense that Ezra’s once again falling into the dark side, which the episode did pretty well in the first season episode, “Gathering Forces.” But Kanan shoots a door closed between Ezra and the Inquisitors, and that dark side temptation never comes, and the Inquisitors then just disappear from the episode. So if they weren’t there for thematic or narrative purposes, what were they there for?

Yet Ezra’s story, if isolated from the rest of the episode, works, from his visions, to his shifting emotional state, to his final powerful moment, crying real tears when Ryder Azadi, that final escaped prisoner, tells Ezra that his parents indeed did not survive the escape. It’s an episode that strengthens the bond between Ezra and Kanan as well. It doesn’t tell us anything new between the two, but it does show Kanan’s full and complete understanding of Ezra’s desire, even connecting it to Kanan’s own terrible past. He himself never knew his parents and lost his master in a horrific massacre, and he goes out of his way to provide Ezra a path to at least find out if he can save them. Even though it was a doomed mission, it brought the two closer than ever before.

Stray Observations

  • Or was it? We don’t know much about this Ryder Azadi guy, and the next episode is called “The Secret of Prisoner X10,” referring to Azadi himself. “Legacy” ended on a pretty definitive note of finality, but there’s one more episode left for the year which means anything can happen. Oddly enough, this episode will air Saturday, December 12. (UPDATE: apparently, “Legacy” was the last episode of the year. “The Secret of Prisoner X10” was just another name for “Legacy,” so there is no new episode coming Saturday, nor the rest of the year.)
  • I wonder if Weisman’s departure from the show is what preventing Rebels from engaging with its characters more deeply and consistently. Rebels was never a perfect show but its first season did seem to have a better understanding of its characters emotional journey than this current one.
  • The final scene, with Ezra’s visionary talk with his parents, followed by the real conversation with Kanan, was just so well done. Kanan words to help Ezra accept his parents’ passing were succinct but powerful, and the final shot of them standing together on that cliff spoke more than any dialogue necessary.