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Star Wars: Rebels - The Occupation & Flight of the Defender - Review: "Return to Lothal"

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Star Wars Rebels 4.05 "The Occupation" Review:
Directed by Steward Lee & Written by Christopher Yost

It was only going to be a matter of time before Ezra and the crew of The Ghost returned to Lothal, which they fled at the end of Season 3, especially while it was under Imperial occupation. The first episode was very much one that showed us what had changed whilst they'd been away, and the place had become a shadow of its former self, scorched to the ground. Ezra is understandably angry about this, but the show doesn't waste too much time with his grief, opting instead to move on with a pair of plot-driven episodes that both worked very well.

The Occupation and Flight of the Defender, despite not being labeled Part 1 & Part 2 are still very much two-parter episodes that continued the storyline on from each other very well indeed. The episode itself features plenty of returning characters from as early as Season 1 in cameo spots, as the show continues to wrap up its run by dealing with unanswered questions. The nod to showing an older image of Ezra's character was a callback to this, and they quickly learn how dangerous Lothal has become since they were dropped off on the planet by Rex and Kallus via Ezra's smuggling connections. The duo of Rex and Kallus are great together in the short time that they're here, as Rex does his best to remind Kallus that there is a reason why Hera assigned him command of The Ghost and not Kallus. Kallus was at one point an Imperial Commander of his own Star Destroyer, even though he may be wearing different colours now. I'd love it if we had a brief episode with Rex and Kallus, maybe not a whole two-parter, but just a single half-hour devoted to the two of them on a solo adventure. Throwing in Zeb as well for good measure would make a fun outing for the characters, especially as all three haven't really been used as much as say, Sabine and Ezra have so far in this series. Rex makes for some great back and forth dialogue with both of these two, and the Clone Humour line - with Rex bringing up that at least Zeb looks unique, was one of the more amusing parts of this week's otherwise serious episode of Rebels.

Sabine and Ezra ended up splitting up from Hera, Zeb and Kanan once they were on the planet and they went to Jho's bar only to find out that the Empire had now taken over a place where they weren't previously welcome, placing none other than the Baron in charge. It was cool seeing him again in a different but nonetheless deadly antagonistic role, playing the bartender, and his reintroduction, along with that of Jai Kell's, a former Imperial cadet who had risen through the ranks with Ezra when he was undercover with the Imperials back in Season 1, didn't feel forced at all and felt like a natural progression for both characters even if they are not the most important parts of the Star Wars Universe. Their additions here are a bit brief, especially Baron's, but Jai is able to use his position as a stranger to his advantage in order to rescue Ezra when he and Sabine are just about to be identified by Baron. They end up heading out of the bar after Jai pays Baron when Ezra and Sabine come up short, but their time outside of the bar doesn't last long as Hera, Zeb and Kanan arrive being followed by Stormtroopers. I loved how they were able to navigate their way back into the bar, informing the Imperials that the Rebels were still outside, using their cover disguises to maximum effect.

It doesn't last long however because the stormtroopers quickly discover that something is up and follow them back. They end up chasing them into the tunnels where they're eventually rescued by none other than Ryder, after following Sabine's old signature design which Ryder knows about. The tense tunnel encounter with the probe droids and the troopers was a rather exciting one and one of the coolest fight sequences of the season so far, with both groups meeting in the middle, being pursued by troopers either side, and being forced to climb the ladder to escape, thus ending episode five.

Star Wars: Rebels 4.06 "Flight of the Defender" - Review:
Directed by Saul Ruiz & Written by Dave Filoni & Steven Melching

The sixth episode of Rebels picked up where things left off in The Occupation by having the crew of The Ghost (minus the Ghost), scouting the Imperial facility where they get to witness the TIE Defender Elite in action. This is one of Thrawn's pet projects, a superior upgrade to any other fighter that will likely surpass anything that the Rebels have to offer in terms of speed, accuracy and agility. Needless to say the Rebels are desperate to get their hands on it any kind of intelligence it has to offer, and Sabine taking command to suggest a ballsy infiltration of the Defender itself was their best shot at learning more details about it. The ship itself has both a shield and a hyperdrive too, and their hyperdrive could be the clue to getting off Lothal, which they currently have no way of escaping from.

But first there was bad news as a Thrawn-sized problem quickly arose when the man himself arrived to oversee the ship. The timing was a bit too convenient, but it did do a good job at increasing the tension and further adding agency to Sabine's mission. However, of course stealing the plans was not going to be an instantaneous thing, as Ezra quickly found out when he reluctantly had to create a distraction. Rather than intervene directly Thrawn was quite happy to sit back and watch things unfold, observing Ezra's combat even as he fought back against the troopers. Sabine is able to eventually get the Defender working again so she can aid Ezra in escaping, and in another cool scene, we got to see them attempt to kill Thrawn only for him not to move for cover and stand there, shooting the ship with nothing more than a pistol. Thrawn is fearless, intimidating and incredibly badass, so it was great to see him actually do something here, even if it was just a brief scene.

Thrawn then displays another piece of shrewd, ruthless tactical cunning to see how the Defender fares in a dogfight, even if it means costing the lives of Imperial pilots in the process. He is quick to observe that the other occupant of the ship is not Hera, who has obtained a legendary status even amongst the Empire as being a good pilot, because otherwise they'd have been killed by now. Of course, we know it's Sabine, who's able to disable the Empire's in-built tracking system as she doesn't want to lead the Empire back to the Rebel base (even if they were able to use the hyperdrive, which is currently offline), but then they are faced with a bigger problem, the Empire's in-built kill-switch, which is activated in an attempt to kill them off for good. Of course, Ezra and Sabine aren't going down that easily and Ezra is able to crash-land the ship and they escape with the Hyperdrive.

Over the course of this episode we are introduced to Loth-Cats, small beings which Ezra develops a connection with. Think Ewok/Porg type creatures that aren't irritating, or at least, not just yet. They are not only able to aid Ezra and Sabine in keeping the Imperial stormtroopers busy allowing Sabine to get to the Defender in the first place (and it doesn't look like they can fly, much to one stormtrooper's disappointment), but they're also able to show Ezra where to hide the damaged hyperdrive so they can come back for it later after the Imperials have stopped searching for them. It's not just the Loth-Cats that Ezra has a connection with as well, it's worth noting, because there's also the Loth-Wolf, which only he is able to see, is there to guide him. It appears that the Loth-Wolf has some kind of ability to use the force as well, which means that it is able to knock out Sabine before she notices it properly. I love the small fantasy touches like these that Star Wars Rebels is applying to the universe, especially as it's another reminder that pretty much every living thing has access to the force, not just the usual suspects. It's something that the movies didn't go into much detail of, but as a result it's given the show plenty of room to explore.

It also looks it won't be the last we'll see of the Loth-Wolf - a creature that looked absolutely amazing here and was another example of how much the show's animation levels have improved since first season, as Kanan says that all of the paths are coming together now. It's another foreshadowing towards the series' conclusion, and another sad reminder that this will be our last season with this brilliant group of characters. Thankfully, the writers have so far been able to bring some excellent episodes to the table so far, as the show continues to hit home run after home run.

What did you think of The Occupation & Flight of the Defender? Let me know in the comments section below and be sure to check out the next two episodes of Star Wars: Rebels next Monday on Disney XD.

About the Author - Milo MJ
Milo is an Arsenal FC supporter and loves TV shows like Battlestar Galactica, Justified, The Wire, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Person of Interest. He reviews Preacher, The Exorcist, Star Wars Rebels, Star Trek Discovery, Silicon Valley and Veep for Spoiler TV and will be covering Castle Rock, Counterpart, Krypton, Marvel's New Warriors, Rise, Marvel's Runaways, Succession and Trust. He also contributes to comic reviews on a weekly basis for All-Comic. He also regularly watches and reviews films on Letterboxd, and you can find his ever-changing list of 300 favourite movies here.
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