Star Wars Rebels review: "Brothers of the Broken Horn"

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Every television show has its hits and its misses. "Brothers of the Broken Horn" was unquestionably a miss. It was fantastic to see Hondo Ohnaka again, but he was the only good thing about this episode. It began with a farfetched premise and continued in a manner that was alternately boring and unbelievable. As a huge fan of Star Wars Rebels, "Brothers of the Broken Horn" was more than disappointing—it was unsettling. The crew of this show is so good that it was almost inconceivable that they could stumble this much. Since October 2014, they've been developing Ezra Bridger in a fascinating, nuanced, and realistic way. With this episode, they seemed to forget what they were doing with him.

The episode began with Ezra frustrated by his many responsibilities. That was understandable, and so, too, was Ezra's desire to chase a distress call for a change of pace. But the core problem with this episode—putting aside a few corny and unbelievable elements—was that Ezra's frustration seemed to come out of nowhere and escalate beyond a reasonable level. The brief opening scene with Rex, Kanan, and Hera all demanding something of Ezra was not nearly enough to establish that strain on Ezra—certainly not to the point where he would consider leaving the crew. He told Chopper that he missed the old days, "when everything was simple," but things don't seem very different now than they used to. Yes, the Ghost crew is working with the rebel movement, but that hasn't noticeably affected Ezra at all. If anything, Kanan is the one who's most disturbed by joining an army.

Chopper was right that Ezra was running away from his problems, and sadly, that was a major part of why this episode disappointed me. Even though Ezra is still a teenager, he's much more mature than most other teenagers, because he's seen so much and received so much wisdom and training. As I watched Ezra run from his problems and his friends in a completely out-of-character fashion, I kept thinking of the episode in which Yoda counseled Ezra and rewarded his wisdom and maturity with a kyber crystal. That Ezra—someone who understood what it meant to be a Jedi, who yearned to help his friends and others who were less fortunate—was nowhere to be seen in "Brothers of the Broken Horn," and that deeply concerned me.

No scene better encapsulated the farfetched plot of this episode than the one in which Ezra accidentally agreed to join Hondo after he encouraged Ezra to forget his burdens on the Ghost. The scene just made no sense. Ezra asked Hondo for the generators, presumably for the rebels, and all of a sudden he was asking Chopper if he had just joined Hondo's crew. I know things have to happen fast in a twenty-two-minute story, but that part was just poorly written. Hondo obviously misunderstood Ezra, who wasn't sure of what he was saying. But if Ezra wasn't comfortable joining Hondo's crew, he should have said something right then and there. That didn't happen. Ezra, acting completely unlike the assertive rebel we've seen in previous episodes, slinked out of the room and let Hondo assume the wrong thing. It was a thoroughly unbelievable scene.

The creators of Rebels obviously wanted to show Ezra wavering in his commitment to the rebel cause. Had this episode occurred midway through season 1, I could understand that desire. But Ezra is deeply enmeshed in both Commander Sato's task force, the Ghost family, and his Jedi training. Numerous episodes have shown him struggling with those commitments and coming out the other side more committed than ever before. Thus, the only way to make this story even halfway credible was to yank Ezra out of character and give him a desire that viewers had every reason to assume was completely gone. There were a handful of moments where we saw the real Ezra, the confident Ezra—he stood his ground against Vizago and demanded the power generators in exchange for rescuing him, and he took on Vizago's droids with more athleticism, coordination, and lightsaber prowess than we've ever seen him display—but those moments were lost in a muddled and contrived plot.

The sole bright spot in "Brothers of the Broken Horn" was thankfully not confined to a single spot—it was a bright persona, Hondo Ohnaka. Easily one of the best characters in The Clone Wars, Hondo proved to be just as funny and refreshing in Rebels. He hadn't lost any of his trademark wit or energy, despite his age and his loneliness. His relentless charm despite his circumstances made him even more compelling in Rebels than when he had a pirate base and a small army of henchmen in The Clone Wars. And his isolation raised so many questions: Where did his crew go? What happened to his base? What did the Empire have to do with his plight? The only part that really bothered me was that Hondo, a master-class pirate, had never met or even seen Lando Calrissian, whom Ezra initially impersonated.

Hondo's dialog is easily some of the finest that Dave Filoni and his team have ever delivered, and Jim Cummings' delivery is by far the funniest of any voice actor on Rebels or The Clone Wars. This combination of writing and acting made lines like "The stories I could tell—so many of them true," "Come now, let's leave your wife out of this," and "You lied to me—I knew I liked you" utterly perfect. But while Hondo was the badly needed light in the darkness in this episode, he wasn't all laughs. He saved Ezra's life at nearly the cost of his own, which was a refreshing change of pace for him and a sign that he genuinely liked Ezra. He also fondly recalled his relationship with Obi-Wan Kenobi, telling Ezra, "One of my best friends was a Jedi...I'm pretty sure we were friends." It was clear that Hondo did like and respect the Jedi; he could never live the Jedi life even if he had their powers, but he appreciated that they existed in the galaxy. When he told Ezra, "You truly are a Jedi," it was clearly a heartfelt compliment.

There were a few other refreshing tidbits in this episode. I loved seeing Chopper save the day by crashing Azmorigan’s party and wheeling toward him firing two blasters. And the funniest moment in the episode was when Ezra pointed out to Vizago that the generators were his, which was followed by a quick cut to Ezra timidly waving as Vizago booted him off the ship in an escape pod. Clearly the writers haven't lost their edge or their sense of who these characters are.

But the writing in this episode was unquestionably lacking. Every Wednesday night, just before Rebels begins airing, I turn on my television and let the last few minutes of a live-action Disney XD show called Lab Rats play out while I'm reading Twitter. Lab Rats is a thoroughly stupid show, with terrible dialog and even worse acting. Its very existence consistently reminds me that Star Wars Rebels is likely the only truly sophisticated program on Disney XD. But Azmorigan’s double-cross felt like something out of a typical childish Disney XD show. It was pointless, poorly written, and hackneyed. Azmorigan himself is a silly character, a two-dimensional fool who sits uncomfortably in Rebels' nuanced portrayal of the Star Wars galaxy. He's a cardboard cutout of a gangster villain, and while it was believable that Hondo would have a bounty on his head, the confrontation that resulted from that was a devastatingly boring waste of time.

At the end of the episode, Ezra, now back with his adopted family, pointed out to Kanan that he used to be like Hondo—alone and mostly unscrupulous. But, he added, he wasn't like that anymore. That was very true, but it had been true for many, many episodes, which was why this story wasn't a credible extension of Ezra's character. After all the Ghost crew had been through together, it simply wasn't believable that Ezra would be tempted to slip back into his Loth-rat ways. At the end of the day, that lack of believability sealed this episode's unfortunate fate—even if Hondo did his best to save it.

You can read all of my Rebels reviews right here.
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