Some time has passed since Ezra and Kanan last tangled with Darth Vader who, after dealing with Ahsoka, apparently doesn’t have time for them anymore. Now, Kanan is blind and feeling sorry for himself and Ezra has used the found Sith holocron as a gateway drug to the Dark Side of the force and is becoming increasingly hardcore. As Ezra and the crew of the Ghost head off to steal some Y-Wings from the Empire, a new player appears on the board in the form of Grand Admiral Thrawn who is apparently important, but I haven’t read any of the formerly cannon Star Wars novels that set him up so I’ll take your word on that. Meanwhile, Kanan meets an enigmatic giant called The Bendu who helps him deal with his new handicap and reminds him that he’s not supposed to be a little bitch about everything.
I absolutely loved this episode. Rebels has come back as strong as ever… The jump in time has allowed us to skip the predictable story of Ezra being tempted by the holocron and put us right into the middle of the good stuff.
Despite all of my kidding and my sarcastic wit in describing this episode, “Steps Into Shadow” was remarkably written. The scenes with Kanan and the Bendu were wonderful, the parallels between the mission and Ezra’s decent into the dark side were masterful… Heck, you literally had Ezra falling to his destruction with Kanan reaching out to him at the end… if that’s not a fitting analogy, I’m not sure what is.
Ezra himself has become a darker character without much of the cliched scenes we’re used to. Sure, we got that momentarily painful scene when Ezra rants about no one trusting him to the holocron, but it was short and then it was done. Am I the only one who noticed that Ezra looked a lot like Kylo Ren in this episode? I’m not sure if that was a parallel or not.
What’s more, the the addition of Grand Admiral Thrawn, we have a sleeker, more cunning, and far more dangerous Empire to deal with. I really know next to dick about this guy, but based on his icy grip on everything in this episode, I can tell he’s bad news for our heroes and, unlike most of the big bads that show up on series like this, like the Seventh Sister and her retarded brother, this guy feels dangerous. He’s practically licking his lips at the prospect of dissecting the rebel cells.
It was a hard task to follow up last seasons’ “Twilight of the Apprentice,” but Rebels did it solidly with an hour that was well-written, well-voiced (how about that Tom Baker, eh?), and well plotted with both action and drama. It’s amazing that a cartoon… a show built for kids to sell action figures, can be this sophisticated and mature.