[WARNING – This review contains SPOILERS for Star Wars Rebels season 3, episode 8.]
Season 3 of Star Wars Rebels has seen the Ghost crew grapple with their pasts and face the threats in their future, giving the whole season a feeling of growth and maturation. Nowhere is this more apparent than with Ezra, who since crossing paths with Maul and then Darth Vader has had to grow up very fast. He's had to learn to harness his new abilities and quiet his emotions, to follow orders and act less hastily.
In tonight's episode, 'Iron Squadron' - written by Matt Michnovetz and directed by Saul Ruiz - Sabine and Ezra team up with another group of fresh-faced, young Rebels just raring to take on the Empire. The Iron Squadron, as they're known, exhibit all the tenacity and enthusiasm that Ezra once felt for fighting against the Empire, but they're also just as foolhardy, needlessly risking their lives. It'll be up to Ezra and Sabine to teach these knuckleheads how to properly lead a covert resistance - but when the enemy you're up against is Grand Admiral Thrawn, no amount of training or discipline might be enough.
"A Ship Full Of Ezras"
What brings the Ghost crew to Mycoppo is the same mission they’ve had for much of season 3 - recruit more allies to the Rebellion. The Iron Squadron, however, aren’t interested in either leaving Mycoppo or joining the Rebellion, instead satisfied with their work at repelling the Imperial forces so far. Thing is, the Imperials they’ve faced have been meager at best, and are nothing like the real threat the Empire poses.
In that way, the Iron Squadron is very much like “a ship full of Ezras”, as Zeb at one point remarks. Or at least they - and in particular their leader, Mart - are much like the Ezra we first met on Lothal: headstrong, overconfident, and unwilling to accept help from others. And just as Ezra had to learn, that attitude has no place in the Rebellion, where the key to standing up to the Empire is teamwork.
Along with that, this episode also has Ezra demonstrating just how much he has learned from his time with the Rebellion, imparting some surprising wisdom on the young Iron Squadron. For example, Ezra tells them that deciding how to fight is just as important as knowing what to fight for, stressing the importance of strategy, and later points out that if something is obviously a trap, then it isn’t a very good trap and is likely a situation that can be used to their advantage. Clearly, Ezra is developing a keen understanding of battle and displaying some actual leadership skills. For his sake, let's hope this sort of development only continues.
"Until We Meet Again"
Beyond giving us a new, younger foil for Ezra to demonstrate how much he's matured, "Iron Squadron" didn't offer much in the way of new or really valuable information. Having Mart be Commander Sato's nephew was a neat connection, leading to what is, basically, the only pertinent info we learn in this episode - Sato and Thrawn have met before.
It's a great little tease, coming right at the end, but it's barely enough to warrant Thrawn's involvement in this episode - or in fact, this season. Since being introduced, Thrawn has mostly remained out of the fray, quietly observing how the Rebellion operates. Those familiar with the character from his previous stint in the Expanded Universe will understand that Thrawn is merely biding his time and waiting for the perfect moment, but everyone else must be wondering why this blue guy is such a big deal? It's still early, and the tease that Sato and Thrawn share a history is certainly intriguing. Let's have faith Star Wars Rebels makes good use of the Grand Admiral in the end.
To be blunt, "Iron Squadron" is little more than a filler episode. There are nice moments to illustrate how far along Ezra has come from the brat he was on Lothal, and a bit of intrigue surrounding Thrawn and Sato, but otherwise the episode is a definite a low point for the season.
Star Wars Rebels season 3 continues Saturday, November 26th at 8:30PM on Disney XD.