This weekend, Star Wars Rebels offered another strong installment to its third season in the form of “Iron Squadron.” In the episode, Ezra Bridger and Sabine Wren must convince a team of young rebels to recognize the bigger picture in their fight against the Empire. And speaking of the Empire, Grand Admiral Thrawn returned as the rebellion’s growing menace. How far are the rebels — and Thrawn — willing to go in order to achieve victory? Let’s take a look.
How Do Children Fight the Empire?
Aboard the YT-2400 light freighter Sato’s Hammer, three young rebels wage a brave but desperate fight against the Empire. Gooti Terez, Jonner Jin, and their leader, Mart Mattin, strive to repel the Empire from their homeworld of Mykapo. When they cross paths with the Ghost crew, Ezra and Sabine recognize their bravery as well as their naïveté. The three young rebels represent alternate versions of Ezra and Sabine, had they not joined the larger rebellion.
“Iron Squadron” wisely uses Ezra and Sabine as points of reference between the three young rebels and the wider rebellion. In particular, the episode shows how much Ezra has grown up over the course of Rebels. He’s more measured in his thoughts and responses, and he also thinks more strategically. Adding to Iron Squadron’s naïveté is the fact that they keep on mistaking smaller Imperial ships for a Star Destroyer.
Mart also has personal ties to the rebellion, since he’s the nephew of Commander Jun Sato. Sato says of Mart, “He has always been somewhat… rebellious.” In that way, Mart seems strikingly similar to Jyn Erso, who crosses paths with the Rebel Alliance in the upcoming Rogue One. And when I saw Mart’s mop haircut, I had to chuckle. (Not because I used to have one — because it’s an irrevocable part of American teenage culture, and also a throwback to the 1970s fashions of A New Hope.)
Bravery is a vital part of fighting the Empire, but it’s useless without strategy. Mart, Jonner, and Gooti throw themselves head-on against the Empire, usually without seeing the larger picture. Their inexperience proves a nice contrast to the Ghost rebels, who have come a long way in their cooperative abilities. The Ghost crew works well as a team — a snapshot of what Iron Squadron might one day become. As long as they can overcome their youthful arrogance, that is.
A Larger Role for Jun Sato
Until now, Jun Sato has only been a supporting character. He hasn’t benefited from character development like Ezra, Sabine, and the other Ghost rebels have. Yet, “Iron Squadron” shows that Sato has a family, as well as personal stakes for being part of the rebellion. Since Sato’s late brother was Mart’s father, Sato is the only person who can serve as a parental figure to the adolescent Mart.
It was touching to see Sato personally come to save the Ghost and Iron Squadron from Admiral Kassius Konstantine. In the past, we’ve usually seen Sato contributing only to strategy meetings instead of field assignments. This was a welcome change for the character, and hopefully it’s a sign of greater things to come.
We also got to see more of Grand Admiral Thrawn’s calculating mind at work. He manipulated underling Konstantine into overseeing the subjugation of Mykapo, which became a doomed assignment thanks to Konstantine’s severe underestimation of the rebels. It also seemed like Thrawn’s true goal was to draw Sato back to Mykapo. And from the brief conversation that they shared, it seems like they might have met before.
Perhaps it was just banter, but I’m intrigued by the possibility that Thrawn and Sato had a past encounter. Nonetheless, their parting words — “Until we meet again” — were quite chilling. Thrawn’s true agenda still eludes fans, and that’s a refreshing change for Star Wars villains.
Since Rebels is back, that also means fellow Fan Contributor Robert Mitchell and I are back to provide a rundown of the episode’s other important moments!
- The teenagers of Iron Squadron are each based on Lucasfilm staff members. Gooti Terez is Andi Gutierrez, who hosts Rebels Recon and The Star Wars Show; Jonner Jin is John Harper, the cameraman for Rebels Recon; and Mart Mattin is Matt Martin, Creative Executive for the Lucasfilm Story Group.
- It was hilarious when Iron Squadron’s astromech, R3, was obviously scared about exiting through the Ghost‘s magnetic shield mid-flight. In response, Chopper simply pushed R3 out of the ship. It’s not the first time Chopper has shoved another astromech out of the Ghost (See: 264 from “Rebel Resolve”). But at least this time, it was for the mission, not out of jealousy.
- Has Ezra kicked his dark side tendencies? They seem absent for now, but perhaps they’ll relapse during his next inevitable encounter with Maul.
- Although “Iron Squadron” worked well as a standalone installment, the series is still struggling to showcase the wider rebellion. Sometimes, Rebels seems to forget just how many characters have joined the rebellion. Recent recruits include Ketsu Onyo, Wedge Antilles, and Derek “Hobbie” Klivian, all of whom need to be part of the series’ future.
- It’s possible that the series is gearing up to replace the Ghost crew with the new characters who have debuted this season. Sadly, Ezra and Kanan Jarrus need to somehow leave the picture before A New Hope, so that Luke Skywalker can truly become the last Jedi-in-training. And from a narrative perspective, the rebels are simply winning too much. Does that mean another crushing defeat is just around the corner?