The Death Star looms large across the entire Star Wars franchise, and in this episode, it's looming large above our heroes - just out of reach and impossible for them to uncover.
[Warning - SPOILERS for Star Wars Rebels season 4, episodes 3 & 4 ahead!]
This week's two-part episode of Star Wars Rebels - 'In the Name of the Rebellion' - gets the crew of the Ghost back together after Sabine, Ezra, and Kanan's detour to Mandalore, making the episode feel more like a proper season opener than last week's premiere. The first part of 'In the Name of the Rebellion' picks up where season 3 left off, checking in with the Rebel forces at the base on Yavin IV - which now includes Hera Syndulla and Phoenix Squadron, seeing as how Grand Admiral Thrawn destroyed their base on Atollon in season 3's finale.
And if that strikes you as bringing the timeline of Rebels season 4 awfully close to that of Rogue One, you aren't wrong. That film included Hera's name coming over the loudspeaker of the Yavin IV base as a neat easter egg for fans of the animated series; but now that Rebels season 4 finds her stationed at that very base, the events of Rogue One and the war that follows are not very far away anymore. This episode in particular seems intended to drive home that point with its many references to that first Star Wars anthology film - including an appearance by Saw Gerrera, a character who played a small but significant role in Rogue One. This isn't Saw's first time on Rebels, but with each appearance, he's another step closer to the radical he is in the latter film.
The mission at hand in 'In the Name of the Rebellion' sends the Ghost crew to hack into an Imperial communications relay, allowing the Rebellion to listen in on the transmissions and therefore better plan their own operations. It's a tricky job, but nothing out of the ordinary for the Ghost. All starts out well, with Ezra, Sabine, and Chopper managing to tap in the dish's system, but the mission quickly turns into a disaster with the unexpected arrival of Admiral Brom Titus' cruiser. What follows is a fun sequence of Ezra and Sabine sliding back and forth in the shifting satellite dish while returning fire on incoming stormtroopers, reminiscent of their earlier adventures outrunning bucket heads back on Lothal. It isn't until Saw Gerrera arrives on the scene, coming to Sabine and Ezra's rescue and blowing up the Imperial relay in the process, that 'In the Name of the Rebellion' really gets moving.
In the second half of 'In the Name of the Rebellion', Ezra, Sabine, and Chopper join Saw as he continues his investigation into the Empire's secret super weapon. This brings them to a cargo ship with an unusually heavy Imperial presence, and upon investigation, they discover a group of technicians the Empire has kidnapped. Saw is irritated, to say the least, because he didn't come there to free some prisoners - he's looking for clues to lead him to the Empire's super weapon. Those technicians are in fact a major clue, but what Saw's wants is definitive evidence that the Empire is building something large and powerful, something that needs a massive power source - a giant Kyber crystal, perhaps?
Having first become obsessed with unearthing the Empire's new weapon during his time on Geonosis alongside Kanan, Ezra, and Rex (and Klik-Klak!), Saw has made discovering what it is the Empire is building his personal crusade. And what that is, of course, is the Death Star: a massive battle station capable of destroying entire planets, and the destruction of which becomes the first of many Rebel victories over the Empire. The Death Star looms large across the entire Star Wars franchise, and in this episode, it's looming large above our heroes - just out of reach and impossible for them to uncover.
This isn't Star Wars Rebel's first allusion to the Death Star and it probably won't be the last, but season 4 is unlikely to come any closer to revealing the truth of what the Empire is building; that remains Rogue One's story to tell. Still, the Death Star has a role to play on Rebels, functioning in this episode almost like Saw's white whale, sending him down a dark and dangerous path where he'll hurt or even kill his comrades and innocent prisoners just to sabotage the Empire's plans. It's actions like these that make him a wild card, unpredictable, and not someone the Rebellion will continue to work with anymore.
'In the Name of the Rebellion' plays like a true prequel to Rogue One, laying more hints for the Death Star's unveiling while managing to believably keep its characters in the dark about what's to come. Saw continues on his downward spiral from freedom fighter to radical lunatic, demonstrating just the sort of dangerous behavior Mon Mothma will not condone in her Rebellion. As this final season of Rebels carries on, it's making sure to spend time with its characters in ways that remind us why we enjoy watching them together; be it Ezra and Sabine teaming up on a dangerous mission, Hera and Kanan demonstrating their deep trust for one another, or Chopper acting totally exasperated at having to babysit a bunch of alien engineers.
Star Wars Rebels season 4 continues next Monday, 10/30 with 'The Occupation' and 'Flight of the Defender' at 9pm on Disney XD.