Rogue One: A Star Wars Story thrusted fans into a Rebellion close to, if not at, its low point, with leading figures Mon Mothma and Saw Gerrera embroiled in a bitter feud that threatened to tear the organization apart before it won its first victory. In the first half of the Star Wars Rebels two-parter In the Name of the Rebellion, airing tonight on Disney XD, the catalyst for the split is finally shown, as Gerrera interferes with a crucial and controversial mission undertaken by the heroic crew of the Ghost.
This episode is what a lot of fans hungered for at the start of the show, which presented an A-Team sort of ragtag band acting alone for a full season, only revealing in the first season finale that they were one cell of a larger rebellion all along. Late in the last season, Mon Mothma formally unified those cells into the Rebel Alliance we know from the classic trilogy.
Today, I think most folks can look back and really appreciate the arc we got, wherein the budding movement grew with the viewers’ scope, but a lot of folks I talked to early on were disappointed, expecting the series to begin in media res with X-wings blasting TIEs by the dozen and familiar faces popping up like fleas on a Loth-cat, instead of a (let’s just admit it) space Aladdin stealing fruit and inflatable pig hijinks. Other fans (like myself) always had a feeling we’d get this down the line, but were okay with waiting if it meant a good story.
There will be no such debate about In the Name of the Rebellion, Part One. From classic characters (a few Rebels from the movies have roles in this episode, one of whom we haven’t seen on the show before) to TIE-blasting action (no X-wings yet, but man, is it cool to see TIE Defenders!) this is indubitably a classic Star Wars adventure. The punchy dialogue, especially between Ezra and Sabine, hearkens back to a time when three young heroes (and one 200-year-old Wookiee hero) blasted their way through the Death Star, bickering all the way.
I stated back in April after watching the first half of the season premiere, Heroes of Mandalore, that it felt like it should’ve been the Season Three finale. This episode only solidified that for me; this would’ve been a far better season premiere, as it sets the tone for the rest of the season, both by hinting at Ezra’s priorities and where they may conflict with the mission of the Alliance, but also by warming us up for the heavy stuff with some fantastic Rebels versus Empire fun, with appropriately dark undercurrents. The events of last season’s finale, Zero Hour, had real consequences for the Rebellion, specifically for its leadership’s attitude towards the feasibility of open conflict, polarizing Rebel command even further.
This probably goes without saying (but I’ve said a lot about him)…Forest Whitaker was brilliantly deranged as Saw Gerrera. The joy at striking at the Empire and the frustration at Mon Mothma’s reservations shone as well as they did in Rogue One, if not slightly better. I’m still a bit confused as to whether or not he’s doing an accent for this character, but maybe that shows how far Saw has traveled and how much he’s seen. As for Mothma herself, Genevieve O’Reilly portrays her as regally as ever, although sparks begin to break her serenity as Gerrera pushes his rhetoric into dangerously divisive terms.
You may wonder why I only reviewed Part One. Here’s my biggest issue with “In the Name of the Rebellion, which isn’t even an issue of the content of the episode itself: they only uploaded Part One to www.watchdisneyxd.com. The thumbnail for Part Two, as of this writing, links to Part One. This may be a side effect of the recent major time slot change (from five airings every Monday to one, a decision I think is good in the long run to avoid spoilers and oversaturation), but it’s quite frustrating. As soon as this is fixed, and I am confident it will be sometime today, I will weigh in on Part Two.
You can catch In the Name of the Rebellion tonight at 9:00 PM EDT/PDT, or right now (hopefully Part Two, too, by the time you read this …) at www.watchdisneyxd.com or on the DisneyNow App, along with every episode of Star Wars Rebels thus far.