After a week’s hiatus, Star Wars Rebels‘ third season returns tonight with Imperial Supercommandos. Continuing the Mandalorian story arc which began in last season’s The Protector of Concord Dawn, tonight’s episode, while somewhat rushed, moves the story forward and sets up what seems to be an unfolding story for later this season.
First of all, it’s important to note that The Protector of Concord Dawn is almost required viewing for this episode. Fenn Rau, the titular Mandalorian Protector of the war-torn planet of Concord Dawn, now a hostage of the rebellion, accompanies Sabine, Ezra, and Chopper to his homeworld to investigate a breakdown of communications with his soldiers, the rebels’ uneasy allies. Naturally, the Empire has caused this, and Imperial Viceroy of Mandalore Gar Saxon is dispatched to handle the rebels.
Saxon’s inclusion was one of the most exciting aspects of this episode for me. Diehard fans of Star Wars comics will recognize him from Son of Dathomir, a 2014 adaptation of what would have been four episodes of the sixth season of The Clone Wars had the show not been cancelled the year prior. Saxon, alongside fellow Mandalorian Death Watch terrorist Rook Kast (more on her in a bit), freed Darth Maul from imprisonment in the Spire, a secret facility of Palpatine’s which has also made an appearance in Rebels, back in the early Season One episode Rise of the Old Masters. The inclusion of Saxon is a nice callback to longtime fans who have waited to see him onscreen since his captivating comic appearance. His performance by Ray Stevenson, joining his Rome costar Kevin McKidd, who returns as Fenn Rau, is appropriately chilling.
The story, while not as cerebral as the last (or really any of the preceding episodes this season), is still clearly laying the foundation for something more. There are hints of Sabine’s past and the fate of Mandalore after Maul’s failed takeover and the subsequent Siege of Mandalore at the end of the Clone Wars. As mentioned above, in Son of Dathomir, Rook Kast serves alongside Saxon. Fans have noticed striking similarities between her helmet’s forehead markings and those of Sabine Wren. Could Kast be Sabine’s mother, established to have been a member of Death Watch and a contemporary of Maul? This episode drops further clues just as it raises further questions.
The main problem I found with this episode was its very abrupt conclusion. It zooms along quite literally and then screeches to a halt. There’s not much to say along those lines without spoilers, of course, but this definitely felt like the first act of a larger story with a thrilling climax rushed in to flesh it out. I think we hopefully can expect to see more of Mandalore in the second half of Season Three early next year.
Despite this somewhat empty feel, the climactic battle was gorgeous, using daring, dynamic “camera” angles to create a powerful tension. Director Steward Lee, veteran of every single season of The Clone Wars, returns strongly to Rebels after directing several episodes of the show’s first season. Writer Christopher Yost, a veteran of Marvel Comics and the Thor film franchise but a newcomer to the Star Wars galaxy, handles the episode’s various strong personalities with the mastery of, well, a Marvel writer.
Imperial Supercommandos airs tonight at 9:30 PM on Disney XD and is available right now on www.watchdisneyxd.com for Disney XD subscribers. Check back in two weeks when Ezra and Sabine encounter the Iron Squadron!