Last night, Star Wars Rebels returned after a month-long hiatus. Anticipation was high, particularly after Wednesday’s epic mid-season trailer reveal and the release of Rogue One, and I’m pleased to report that Ghosts of Geonosis, the hour-long two-parter kicking off the latter half of season three, absolutely delivers!
As is usual for Rebels, particularly of late, we enter the story with the crew of the Ghost already on their mission to the mysteriously deserted planet of Geonosis. It is here that all of the episode’s action takes place, and it is here that we encounter the legendary Saw Gerrera.
To be honest, while Saw was intriguing in the novel Catalyst and fascinating in Rogue One, he absolutely shines here. This brutal, relentless, extreme, emotionally-scarred Saw Gerrera was the Saw I expected and hoped for in the movie, of which we certainly got hints, but which fell a bit short of expectations. Don’t get me wrong; I loved Rogue One as a film, and I know it wasn’t Saw’s story, but as a huge fan of the character since his first appearance on The Clone Wars, I had expected more of him. I got it in Ghosts of Geonosis. I found myself literally on the edge of my seat as he earned his reputation again and again as a brutal and controversial Rebel leader. The episode doesn’t force itself to explain every aspect of his changes from The Clone Wars to Rogue One (though one explanation I had reason to expect did not come…more on that later), but rather focused on Saw’s story as it related to our protagonists. Forest Whitaker’s performance tugs all the right heartstrings and captures Saw perfectly for this part of his life, slightly younger and no less intense.
Another strength of the episode were the callbacks to The Clone Wars. There’s not much to say without spoilers, but Saw’s pain from the end of his last appearance on the earlier show is still felt, and his interactions with the Jedi and with Rex are very much informed by his experiences in the earliest days of his life as a revolutionary as seen in the Onderon arc of The Clone Wars. Still, the episode can be watched and enjoyed by those who aren’t familiar with those stories; they just add another layer of depth.
Speaking of which, the nuances of unique and interesting lighting always impressed me in later seasons of The Clone Wars. Rebels is beginning to deliver more and more on that front. In this episode, the realistically varied shadows and patterns from the lens of the flashlights the crew uses is the best example of such subtlety that isn’t necessary for the story but adds a bit of believability to this cartoon about space wizards.
This is probably a byproduct of being a two-parter, and therefore double the budget, but the episode was bold with its sets. After a season of largely being confined to familiar places and aboard cramped starships, the vast plains and chasms of Geonosis are a refreshing expansion into new, yet familiar, locales, a change I expect to continue as we explore more of the Mandalorian story this season. I really like it. It’s restoring some of the epic feel that The Clone Wars had which Rebels has largely lacked. I understand that it’s a more intimate story by nature, of course, but still, this is a nice change of pace.
The only negative aspect of the episode I can think of is the inconsistency with little nitpicky bits of established lore. A character from a familiar species with a distinctive voice is introduced, but he sounds nothing like the others we’ve met. Their sound is somewhat iconic, so this was sort of a bummer, but it served to make the character more human and therefore more empathetic, so this may have been an intentional stylistic choice.
Also, the Rogue One Ultimate Visual Guide tells us that Saw uses his medical equipment to remove “Geonosian venom” from his lungs. I sort of got my hopes up that the episode would explore this, but that may have been a story element that was scrapped, as he already has his breathing apparatus in the prologue of Rogue One, which takes place over a decade prior to this episode. Regardless, as stated above, although I expected it, in terms of the episode, I’m okay with it not explaining every little detail about Saw and remaining story-driven. Still, the inconsistency is troubling. With the end of the Expanded Universe and the advent of a new canon planned by a Story Group rather than Lucas Licensing, these continuity errors are jarring, although admittedly no one and nothing is perfect, so I get it and it doesn’t detract from my enjoyment of Star Wars.
Ghosts of Geonosis, all in all, might be my favorite episode of Rebels so far. I fully expect to see Saw Gerrera again on this show, as he lends a refreshing moral ambiguity to our squeaky-clean young Rebellion, which, in small doses, makes for a great Star Wars story. Catch me next week for my thoughts on Warhead!