After last week’s “Ghosts of Geonosis” hour-long special, Star Wars Rebels continues with a simpler and tighter episode. Zeb Orrelios and the rebels’ trusty droids take center stage in “Warhead,” in which they must protect the rebellion’s secret base. Did they succeed, or did they only delay the Empire’s inevitable discovery of Chopper Base? Moreover, did Zeb receive the spotlight that he deserves? Let’s find out.
Thrawn Makes Progress
“Warhead” begins with a clear homage to The Empire Strikes Back. Everything in the episode’s opening sequence is straight out of the film, from the first shot of the Star Destroyers to the launch of probe droids into deep space. Apparently, the Empire only sends out a huge batch of probe droids whenever it’s looking for a rebel base. Agent Kallus deploys the probe droids as part of Grand Admiral Thrawn‘s efforts to locate the rebellion’s secret base.
“Warhead” is the perfect example of how Thrawn maintains an obscured yet menacing presence as season three’s main antagonist. Even though the probe droids fail to locate Chopper Base, all is not lost. Thrawn shrewdly deduces that the rebels’ base must be on one of the 94 planets that his droids scouted. Salvaging victory from a defeat is a classic part of Thrawn’s character. It’s another on-point reference to the way author Timothy Zahn envisioned the character for his 1990s Thrawn Trilogy.
Of course, the open question that remains from “Warhead” is whether Kallus will ultimately choose between his loyalties to the Empire or the rebellion. Since this episode has Kallus tip off Zeb to the Infiltrator Droids’ mission, it seems as though Kallus’s ties to the rebels outweigh his longtime Imperial commitments. However, his loyalties have yet to directly come into conflict with each other. There’s no doubt that Thrawn will have a large role in forcing Kallus to choose one way or the other.
Zeb Doesn’t Get Enough Development
Aside from Thrawn’s ever-increasing progress, “Warhead” provides Zeb with the largest focus since last season’s “The Honorable Ones.” This week’s episode mainly focuses on Zeb’s relationship with Chopper and AP-5. It’s fun and entertaining to watch the three of them outwit EXD-9, especially since the mission showcases Zeb’s ingenuity. Still, throughout the entire episode, it felt like something was missing.
Sadly, “Warhead” emphasizes how Zeb hasn’t received enough character development this season. Out of the show’s five main characters, Zeb is the only one who hasn’t received a major storyline this season. Granted, he’s saved Ezra Bridger from making rash decisions on several occasions. Yet, it feels like the writers don’t really know the characters that they’re writing, at least as far as Zeb goes. Just because Zeb is the series’ main source of comic relief, that doesn’t exempt him from proper character development. (Case in point: Sokka from Avatar: The Last Airbender.)
Recently, Zeb’s most important contribution to the rebellion has been his inadvertent recruitment of Kallus as an Imperial double agent. Yet, so far season three hasn’t pulled on that story thread as much as it should have. It felt like “Warhead” should have done more to expand on Zeb’s relationship with Kallus, especially since both of them had prominent roles in the episode. Still, at least “Warhead” proves that Zeb isn’t merely the show’s muscle. He’s always been more than that, and hopefully, future episodes will do a better job of showcasing his leadership abilities.
Fan Contributor Robert Mitchell is here once more to help me with our usual list of other observations:
- It looks like Hera Syndulla has promoted Zeb to become chief of security for Chopper Base. It seems like this development occurred offscreen since this is the first we’ve heard about it.
- Even after two and a half seasons, Zeb still can’t understand Chopper. In “Warhead,” Zeb needs AP-5 to translate Chopper’s droid-speak.
- Wedge Antilles and “Hobbie” Klivian have begun training with Phoenix Squadron. This episode marks the first time we’ve seen Hobbie and Wedge since “The Antilles Extraction.” However, their appearance this time was a slight letdown, since they lacked speaking roles and their helmets even obscured their faces.
- Nothing against voice actor Stephen Stanton, but AP-5 was almost a bit too rude throughout the episode. The “rude droid” character is getting a bit old, especially on a show that already has Chopper.
- Kallus’s Fulcrum messages to the rebellion barely mask his voice anymore, at least in comparison to Ahsoka Tano‘s messages in season one. Perhaps the series’ sound mixing team has cut back on the voice synthesizer, since fans now know that Kallus is the new Fulcrum.
- The Imperial Infiltrator Droid‘s changeable design — and even some of its sound effects — resembles that of the heftier demolition droid from The Clone Wars. Having the Infiltrator Droid “feed” off other droids was a chilling plot point.
- Still, it was a bit too convenient that EXD-9 didn’t kill Zeb outright. Of course, that would have brought the episode (and the series) to a grinding halt. Nevertheless, EXD-9 had several opportunities to do so.
- Despite Zeb and AP-5’s efforts in this episode, we know from the mid-season trailer that Thrawn eventually locates Chopper Base. The Empire is coming to Atollon, and that doesn’t bode well for the rebellion.
The next Rebels episode, “Trials of the Darksaber,” is exactly what it sounds like. Not only will Fenn Rau be back to provide a lesson in Mandalorian history, but we’ll also see Sabine Wren finally spark up the Darksaber. (At least, for the first time without a Nightsister spirit possessing her.) Tune into Disney XD next Saturday, January 21 for “Trials of the Darksaber.” As always, come back for our next Recap and Reaction!