TFN Rebels Review: "Vision of Hope"
Star Wars Rebels Season 1 Episode 10: "Vision of Hope"
Force visions can be devastatingly unreliable. Sometimes you're doing a handstand on a swamp planet and a vision of your friends suffering sends you off to a fatal confrontation in which you lose one of your hands. Other times you're deflecting low-powered blaster fire with your lightsaber and a vision of your political idol sends you down the path to bitter disillusionment. Just as Luke recovered from disaster in the former scenario, so too did Ezra learn a lot from the latter in "Vision of Hope," the tenth episode of Rebels. The thing is, Ezra didn't just learn from a mistake in this story. He also showed off his existing strengths and reminded the team of his ingenuity. When combined, Ezra's successes and failures in "Vision of Hope" paint a fascinating and complex picture of a young man with equal parts potential and peril.
To be clear, it was definitely a rough episode for Ezra, who had his optimism and his faith in the Force tested in painful ways. Distracted by the thought of an upcoming transmission from Senator-in-exile Gall Trayvis, Ezra performed sloppily in his laser-deflection test. For all his strengths, he is still impulsive and undisciplined at a times. His interest in the future transmission at the expense of his present obligation reminded me of what Yoda said of Luke in The Empire Strikes Back: "All his life has he looked away... to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing." Kanan had to remind Ezra to "stay in the moment," not unlike the reminder Qui-Gon gave Obi-Wan in The Phantom Menace.
Ezra's vision set the stage for events to come, but it also reminded us how powerful Ezra can be when he abandons his inhibitions and sinks fully into the Force. We saw it in "Gathering Forces," when Ezra tamed the giant fyrnock to save Kanan from the Inquisitor. We saw it again in this episode, as Ezra, fully in the grip of the Force and witnessing future events, masterfully deflected every laser blast into the stormtrooper helmet he was using as a target. When he relies on the Force, as Kanan has tried to get him to do, he demonstrates his incredible potential. This was a great reminder of how powerful Ezra could be if he were only given the right training.
Although he fell for Trayvis' ruse, Ezra generally impressed me in this episode. He not only continued to develop his source inside the Imperial academy, young Zare Leonis, but he also evaded capture by stormtroopers during the ensuing chase. He proved himself to be quite competent as a solo rebel on Lothal. As he would later point out to the others, "I survived alone against the Empire for eight years." He demonstrated some of what he'd learned on his own in this episode, and I found myself hoping that the rest of the team would trust him more.
I really enjoyed seeing Zare again in "Vision of Hope," especially because he sound enthusiastic about helping the rebels. He's a minor character right now, but my hope is that he will play a bigger role in the future. If he's used well, he could represent an important part of Ezra's boyhood humanity. For example, Ezra may someday have to choose between pulling Zare out of harm's way and continuing with his own mission. That kind of challenge to Ezra, which relies on his combination of friendship and working relationship with Zare, ought to be key to the future of his character. I did wonder why the episode needed to interrupt Ezra telling Zare his real name. Will Zare's reaction to Ezra's true identity be important in the future? For now, we can only wonder.
One thing about Ezra that at first surprised and then impressed me was his refusal to really identify with his childhood home. When he left to meet up with Zare, he told the others to meet them at "my..." then he trailed off and continued, "My parents' house." It seemed as if he didn't want to remain linked to that place indefinitely. At first, I thought he was trying to reject his past because he was ashamed of it, but then I realized that his words reflected independence and pride. He was happy that his parents had lived there and raised him while secretly fighting the Empire from their hidden basement transmitter station. He emphasized his parents in his comment to the team because he wanted them to remember what that basement had been used for. It was a beacon of light, just as they now were.
It was exactly this optimism and rebellious pride that led Ezra to his central failing in this episode: trusting Trayvis. He has idolized Trayvis ever since joining up with the rebels; he built Trayvis up as a role model. For kids slightly older than him, disillusionment wouldn't be as devastating. But consider that Ezra's last role models—his parents—were ripped away from him before he was old enough to understand the way of things. Trayvis was a guiding voice from outside Lothal a time when Ezra needed that inspiration the most. It was for all these reasons that Ezra couldn't accept the fact of Trayvis' Imperial loyalty.
Although Ezra's failure to see the betrayal coming reflected a youthful naivety, it was neither out of place for his character nor unwelcome in the episode. Ezra, who has built a budding rebel career around Trayvis' transmissions, saw the older man as a pseudo-father-figure, especially since his parents had done the same things as Trayvis. When you're that invested in someone, you ignore or misperceive every warning sign. It's a human fallibility that fit perfectly into this plot twist.
Kanan had warned Ezra to be careful about his vision, but Ezra made the correct, albeit ultimately unhelpful, point that Kanan always wanted him to trust his feelings. Ezra's failure was that he wasn't so much trusting the Force as he was shoveling his own hopes on top of its energy. He wanted the vision to be true too badly that his feelings warped it. As Kanan said at the end of the episode, after each element of the vision turned out to be true but incomplete, Ezra's emotions had clouded his Force sensitivity.
The way I saw it, "Vision of Hope" was the start of Ezra's maturity into one of two archetypes. On the one hand, there's Hera, who, as I'll discuss shortly, tempered her genuine admiration and trust in Trayvis with her omnipresent caution. For Hera, it was "trust but verify." The other alternative was Zeb, who doubted that Trayvis had even arrived as scheduled when they saw a diplomatic cruiser outside the old Republic building. Zeb had been burned too many times in the past and had developed into quite the cynic by this point. Will Ezra become a cynic, too, or will Hera be able to guide his youthful optimism in a healthy and safe direction?
Let's talk about Hera. She's the leader of the group, an impressive pilot and an even more impressive tactician who has to guide the other rebels on their individual journeys while nurturing a group dynamic that will see the rebels to collective success. Hera encouraged Ezra's interest in Trayvis; after all, she was the one who introduced him to the senator's transmissions. Like a mother recording her son's favorite TV show while he's out at soccer practice, Hera helped Ezra out by capturing Trayvis' latest message in full. (If only he'd known that during lightsaber defense training!) Hera wasn't just helping Ezra; she, too, was deeply invested in Trayvis' broadcasts. What's more, she believed his message just as eagerly as Ezra did; she wanted him to be coming to Lothal to meet them.
Luckily for the team, Hera remained diligent in Trayvis' presence. As we learned at the end of the episode, the first red flag was his encouraging them to surrender to Kallus in the Republic building. She only seemed to take stock of his suspicious behavior later, when he began stalling them by pretending to be winded. Ever the observant Twi'lek, Hera noticed that he bore none of the signs of genuine fatigue, and she began to piece together what he was doing. The next red flag was when Trayvis fished for information on Hera's operation. At this point, I should have detected the suspicious nature of his questioning, but just like Ezra and Hera, I wanted him to be a real ally for the rebels. Nevertheless, the camera showed us through quick close-ups of Hera's face that she was beginning to distrust Trayvis—another credit to her intelligence and perceptiveness.
Hera didn't look surprised when Trayvis revealed his true allegiance. She had had her doubts the entire time, of course. But Hera wasn't just aware of Trayvis' ploy; she was two steps ahead of him. When he threatened her with her blaster, she just took more steps forward. When he pulled the trigger, she just smirked dangerously. She had depowered the weapon in anticipation of exactly the move that Trayvis pulled. This was exactly the situational mastery I've come to expect from a woman accustomed to juggling the divergent personalities of an entire crew, the basic needs of a family and a ship, and the political and military priorities of a rebel movement. Hera is every bit the leader that Leia will become.
Hera was still disappointed, of course. She may be a great leader, but as rebel cell organizers go, she's all alone. Fulcrum is out there somewhere, communicating with her via the HoloNet and occasionally short-range ship-to-ship transceivers, but that mysterious ally seems to be her primary connection to the larger rebel network. The effects of Trayvis' betrayal will no doubt weigh heavily on her, especially because she exposed her crew to capture and death in falling for his ruse. By exploring the psychology of an isolated rebel leader like Hera, Rebels is shining a crucial light on the isolation, disillusionment, and against-all-odds perseverance that had to be affecting the men and women who set the stage for the Rebel Alliance during these dark times.
Although this was primarily an Ezra episode, and secondarily a story of trust and deceit from the rebels' perspective, the Imperials had a few important story beats that are worth discussing. By far the most important scene for the bad guys was Agent Kallus' conversation with Minister Tua about the Empire's priorities on Lothal. Whenever we see the Inquisitor, he is primarily concerned with capturing Kanan and Ezra. That's to be expected; after all, Darth Vader himself tasked the Inquisitor with rounding up the remnants of the Jedi Order. But in talking to Minister Tua, Kallus revealed his frustration with that strategy, a frustration that made perfect sense coming from an ISB man.
Kallus thought the Empire should be focused on rooting out rebellion on Lothal instead of throwing everything it had against a pair of laser-sword-wielders. He didn't appreciate that the Inquisitor monopolized Lothal's security forces every time he arrived on the scene to chase down Kanan. The way I saw it, from Kallus' perspective, Kanan could swing his lightsaber around all he wanted, but as soon as he joined up with a crew that started causing trouble, the problem was bigger than Jedi. That's probably why, after the rebels escaped Trayvis' trap, Kallus gave him a look of disgust, as if to say, "You had them right where you wanted them. Now I have to start all over again. Worthless politicians."
The tension between Kallus and the Inquisitor reminded me of Vader and Tarkin's interactions in A New Hope. Vader fixated on Obi-Wan, while Tarkin downplayed the risk the old Jedi Master posed and stressed to his armored colleague that Vader and his former teacher were all that remained of the Jedi Order. Tarkin saw the rebellion as a pernicious threat to Imperial rule, while Vader saw Obi-Wan and his control of the Force as a threat to the dark side designs of him and his Sith master. In both cases, the deeply intertwined priorities of the Empire and the Sith caused trouble in the Imperial bureaucracy. I was happy to see a spark of that tension in "Vision of Hope," and I want more of that in the future.
When Agent Kallus and his stormtroopers first arrive to confront the rebels in the old Republic building, he says two very important things. He identifies Hera as the talented pilot of the group based on her outfit and in doing so acknowledges that she has given the Empire quite the headache with her fancy flying. I appreciated that line because it showed that Kallus knew talented when he saw it and wasn't afraid to admit it.
Kallus' other important comment...well, it's more important for me and my reviews than it is for the episode. In my review of Spark of Rebellion, I expressed incredulity at Kallus believing Ezra when he identified himself as Jabba the Hutt: "A seasoned intelligence officer like Kallus hadn't heard of one of the biggest crime lords in the Outer Rim, while a boy who had never left his homeworld had?" In "Vision of Hope," Kallus acknowledged Ezra by calling him "Jabba," and I was ready to once again criticize Kallus for it. Then Lucasfilm publicist Tracy Cannobbio tweeted, "Bravo to those who said Kallus was being sarcastic with 'Padawan Jabba.' I asked [executive producer Dave Filoni] & he said Kallus is just messing with him." I was adamant that Kallus had bought Ezra's lie in Spark of Rebellion, so I want to take this opportunity to say I was wrong and commend those who said I initially misread Kallus for their perceptiveness. (I wasn't alone. Even Tracy was with me at first!) Two points for you, Kallus.
Before I wrap up, a few miscellaneous notes. Trayvis' security droids were straight out of Ralph McQuarrie's design playbook, so bravo to the Rebels team for continuing to weave in that classic Star Wars aesthetic. Chopper attacked, disabled, and discarded a clueless Imperial astromech droid, making him a cold-blooded killer and earning my simultaneous respect and fear. The rebels impressed me with their coordinated defense of Trayvis in the old Republic building; it was great to Ezra and Kanan back to back while Zeb smacked down troopers and Sabine picked them off from the upper level. And finally, yes, Ezra continued his clumsy pursuit of Sabine, as the two shared a few romantic olfactory moments in the sewers. ("You know what I smell like?" he asked with facepalm-worthy earnestness. Later, when she said, "I can smell you, remember?" Hera had to remind Ezra to "think of something clever to say later.")
For all their differences, Hera and Ezra shared an important trait: optimism. At the end of the episode, they also shared a quiet moment about their mutual failure to stop Trayvis before it was too late. Sitting together on the Ghost's boarding ramp, they reflected on their shared optimism, and Hera took it upon herself to lift Ezra's spirits with praise. His optimism might have gotten him into trouble on this mission, she said, but it would serve him well in the future as the rebels began to fight a broader ideological war against a vicious, implacable enemy. It was also important for Ezra to see that someone more competent and savvy than him had been fooled; otherwise, he might have grown embittered over his naivety.
Kanan was constantly reminding Ezra to trust the Force; in the closing moments of "Vision of Hope," Hera reminded him to trust his humanity. The captain of the Ghost and her youngest, newest recruit shared a "hope that things can get better," she said. This hope wasn't a weakness; it was a ballast in the rough weather of rebellion. Similarly, "Vision of Hope" may have been a downbeat episode that saw one of the team's greatest hopes dashed, but it ended on a hopeful note that reflected the lessons the team had learned. Hera was right about her and Ezra's shared hope: Only by remaining optimistic could the rebels hope to make things better.
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5/27 - Christopher Lee
5/27 - Michonne Bourriague
5/27 - Star Wars Celebration IV (2007)
6/5 - Kathleen Kennedy
6/6 - Daniel Logan
6/7 - Michael Pennington
6/7 - Liam Neeson