This episode is so good Nick and Zach finally fuse to form Nach. The fanboyish nerd bro with a strong heart, alternating moods that go from either intense joy and wonder to deep wallowing anxiety and worry, and a Nach for expression and human study. In essence:
Thank goodness we have “An Inside Man” as an episode. The last two episodes have probably been some of the worst in the series. “Iron Squadron” and “The Wykanthu Job” were not fun to sit through, and painful to review. Fortunately it seems the storm has passed, and given us an excellent episode in “An Inside Man”. Well paced, written, some brave story telling, and only a few issues here and there. This episode is a very nice return to form, a treat after the last few episodes.
Ezra and Kanan’s Super Secret Spy Mission
The main plot of this episode revolves around Kanan and Ezra going undercover to gain some secret Empire Plans. Things do not going according to plan, but impulsive improvisation is part of the Ghost Crew’s specialty, and they succeed while learning some interesting things.
Something excellent was the episode’s pacing. It felt like watching a mini-movie. The plot remained unpredictable and as such was much more exciting. Who (barring leakers and those who saw it early) expected Thrawn? Who expected that Ezra and Kanan would learn Kallus was Fulcrum? We couldn’t really guess how the episode would resolve. The result being something a great episode that felt a lot longer(in the good way) than it actually was.
Something that we noted in Star Wars: The Clone Wars was how frequently people died. Of course, since it is a show about a war, that can be expected. Star Wars: Rebels, however, has made me realize just how disposable the cast for TCW was. When the budget for a TV show was as large as TCW (around $1,000,000 per episode if we remember correctly) it is easy to maintain a large production staff and thus have plenty of characters to populate the screen. A critical difference between 2D and 3D animation is that extras, who may appear for scant seconds on screen, must be fully rendered in a 3D production. Since Disney has slashed Rebels’ budget when compared to TCW it is understandable that the only people the writers can afford to whack are the disposable stormtroopers and generic Imperial officers.
This episode saw the death of Morad Sumar, a poor farmer from Season 1. For those of you who have not read Ahsoka (which you totally should) the Empire has little use for small-time farmers, instead relying on Super-GMO plants that destroy the soil and make super-nutritious ration bars. It only makes sense to destroy his farm (and thus his livelihood) so that he can lend his time to production of Imperial hardware. When Morad tried to use this position within the Empire to aid the rebels, he paid the ultimate price. He is survived by his wife, Marida, and in the vein of keeping the cast small, perhaps Morad’s death with drive Marida to become an Imperial spy.
The Writer’s Blindness to Kanan’s Blindness
This is something that has been bothering me for the last few episodes but wefinally decided to write about it today. Kanan is blind. He took a lightsaber to the face in the Season 2 finale and it fried his cornea like a chicken tender. This lack of physical ability prompted him to deepen his understanding of the Force, and it was all good, but then the episodes started to stretch things. A few weeks ago we saw Kanan in a gunner’s turret. This week he infiltrated an Imperial factory. This is starting to test my patience. Yes, Kanan is a Jedi, and yes he can sense things in the Force in a way that we cannot understand, but even that power has limits. During his fight with Maul Kanan relied on his other senses as well as the Force to achieve victory.
We think what I’m really asking for is that the writers let Kanan be blind. Toph from Avatar: The Last Airbender was a fierce warrior (in a way that was somewhat similar to the Force), but she was also blind, something that the writers never shied away from. She cannot read, she cannot see faces, and she cannot feel things that are not connected to the ground. Even when she is rooted to a physical medium Toph sometimes needs a hand to guide her. These things never diminish Toph’s worth as a character or fighter, but there are limits.
Toph worked because she had limits. Kanan and the Force currently doesn’t. While the idea is good, there needs to be some limits, else how will Kanan ever truly face any obstacles. The writers of Rebels seem bent on making Kanan perfectly capable of everything he could do when he could see, and this puts me off a bit. Giving a character a disability is great for representation; erasing or ignoring it…
It’s like he is not blind when it is convenient. Instead of being a way for him to navigate the world differently, and having him have some limitations or obstacles because of his blindness, Kanan instead has been shown in recent episodes to have zero problems navigating missions and other things. This episode being particularly egregious.
Is Thrawn Too Good?
Yes, we know Thrawn is supposed to be a ferocious badass. Thank goodness he is a ferocious badass, the Clone Crew has a history for woobifying badass characters. Case in point, compare General Grievous in Star Wars: Clone Wars (the 2003 mini-series) and in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. One was a ferocious, fear-inspiring, Jedi-killing badass decked out all in white. The other was a hacking, wheezing coward who got his butt handed to him by a crew of Gungans. we for one was dead scared that this would happen to Thrawn, but instead we seem to be going a bit too far in the other direction.
Thrawn seems to be almost supernaturally aware of the doings of the Rebels. Sure, the number of malfunctioning Imperial tech is an obvious indication of sabotage, and the farmer who was impressed into Imperial service was a similarly obvious suspect as saboteur, but from there the degree of accuracy to which Thrawn is able to predict exactly what is happening with the insurgents is a little too much. The most obvious moment of this is when the rebels run into Kallus (more on him later) and Thrawn just knows that they have found an “unexpected ally.”
It is more logical for Thrawn to believe that the rebels went in knowing that they had an agent on the inside, especially considering that Thrawn and Pryce are obviously sharing information and she would have told him about Sabine’s near miraculous escape. To think or suspect that the rebels ally was “unexpected” makes Thrawn seem almost omniscient and a little unbelievable.
Kallusdemption: Is it working?
One of the main focal points of the episode is Kallus revealing himself as Fulcrum. He’s in essence become a spy for the rebellion, after everything that went down in “The Honorable Ones” and “Zeb”. That episode, and The Antilles Extraction seeded this. It seeded it so well that the fandom easily saw this coming. So now that the fan theory was confirmed, how does the actual reveal stack up?
We both liked how nonchalant the reveal was. Since pretty much everyone saw it coming, it was nice that the reveal wasn’t too dramatic or drawn out. In addition and as I’ll talk about later, now that we know Kallus is Fulcrum, it allows for a lot more dramatic tension. It may well be one of the most interesting plots in upcoming season.
Now that we’re getting something of a rehabilitation/redemption arc, it’ll be interesting to see how they handled it. Kallus has done some terrible things. He was part of the genocide of the Lasat people, brutally interrogated Kanan, and generally been very vindictive and threatening. In essence, he’s done a lot of bad things.
Yet as TV Tropes notes, Kallus has shown examples of Even Evil Has Standards, and considering he’s now thrown himself into an high stakes mental chess match with Thrawn, it’s not like he isn’t trying to make up for it.
Redemption/Rehabilitation Arcs can be very hard to write. But they led to some of the most interesting stories we’ve seen in media. Zuko, Peridot, and Jaime Lannister have redemption arcs and are very rewarding, if they are done well. We’ll all have to wait and see how they handle Kallus and his past actions.
Despite some issues, “An Inside Man” is probably one of the best in the series. It’s pacing is excellent. It’s stakes are real, and it takes chances and goes place a lot of other show wouldn’t or couldn’t. How Kanan’s blindness is treated is an issue, but it’s not the episode fault and more a general fault with the series right now. Thrawn has yet be neutered like other villains before him, and hopefully stays where he is or perhaps is toned back just a bit. Kallus’s arc is interesting and we are excited to see where it goes, both in terms of how his arc forms and the mental chess matches he and Thrawn are now in. In essence, it get the thumbs of approval.
Overall Episode Rating: 8, Inspiring: Any shortcomings are nothing but small dots on an otherwise perfect painting. Despite some minor issues, it’s on par with some of the best. I could definitely watch it more than once (or twice).
Some favorite quotes:
Stromtrooper: What are you doing here?
Kanan in spy mode: Uhg…we’re on guard duty.
Stormtropper: And what exactly are you guarding?
(Cue shoot of Ezra and Kanan, sitting in front of and guarding a completely harmless wall.)
Ezra in spy mode: We go where we’re ordered sir.
Next week: Maul jumps back onto the scene.
All Images Courtesy of Disney