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Goodbye Ghost Crew – The Blockade Runner Podcast – March 10th, 2018

Goodbye Ghost CrewIn this latest episode of the Blockade Runner Podcast, John and Dan bid farewell to Star Wars Rebels as the show’s four season run comes to a close. We look specifically at Rebels’s final three weeks (in a detailed, SPOILER FILLED discussion) and weigh in on some of the more controversial choices made by Dave Filoni and the rest of the creatives at Lucasfilm.

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The Blockade Runner Podcast – March 21st, 2017 – Star Wars Rebels Episode “Twin Suns”

Blockade Runner Podcast March 21

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Show Notes:

John and Dan break down Star Wars Rebels episode “Twin Suns.” We chat about Ezra’s involvement in the episode, Maul’s fate, and Ben Kenobi’s lightsaber skills before sharing some brief predictions for the upcoming season three finale. Watch or listen using the link’s below !

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The Blockade Runner Episode 8 – Rebels Finale Reactions

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Show Notes:

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Kevin, Dan, and John devote this entire episode to discussing the Star Wars Rebels season two finale, “Twilight of the Apprentice.” We share our favorite elements as well as some criticisms of this very special episode of Rebels, and we definitely delve deep into the major events from the show, so please don’t listen until you’ve watched at least once (though as we get into in the show, an episode this big probably requires at least two viewings).

Intro and outro music for The Blockade Runner is “Hedonism” by Ash.

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Acceptance and Fear in “Shroud of Darkness”

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Rebels season two episode “Shroud of Darkness” has sparked a great deal of discussion from Star Wars fans thanks to its mythos-expanding storyline featuring Yoda’s lessons at the Jedi Temple on Lothal. I’ve very much enjoyed the commentary I’ve seen and heard about the episode on blogs and podcasts, but I’ve found there’s a common takeaway from one of the episode’s more ambiguous lessons that I don’t quite agree with myself.

In an effort to better understand how to deal with the perpetual threat of the Inquisitors, Ahsoka, Kanan, and Ezra travel back to the Jedi Temple on Lothal in order to commune once again with Yoda. Through meditating in the Temple, all three rebels are able to experience Force visions that are facilitated by Yoda, the Temple, and themselves. These visions are representative of considerable growth for at least two of our three featured heroes, but it seems only Ahsoka’s conclusion is straightforward enough to find consensus among fans.

There’s no doubt by the conclusion of “Shroud of Darkness” that Ahsoka has accepted the truth she’s been running from all season; her former master Anakin is Darth Vader, and while it’s a bitter truth for her, it’s clear that she now understands what she’s been afraid of facing since encountering Vader in “Siege of Lothal.” Some part of Ahsoka must’ve known all along that Anakin had become the Sith Lord, but facing that fear and, crucially, accepting it is critical to her spiritual and emotional progression.

Kanan and Ezra’s questions are rooted in a different kind of fear, however. Where Ahsoka surely knows the truth about Anakin but attempts to avoid it before arriving on Lothal, Kanan and Ezra seek a type of knowledge that is beyond them before their experiences in the Temple. Both feel overpowered and outmatched by the Inquisitors and especially Vader, and neither knows how to successfully fight the dark side and the Empire.

Kanan is the first to receive a vision (confirmed to be orchestrated by Yoda on Rebels Recon) as he enters an approximation of a Jedi dojo and comes face to face with a Temple Guard. Kanan’s greatest fear at this point is that he cannot protect his pupil Ezra from the Empire, from Vader, from the dark side, and from himself. When the Temple Guard tells him that if he continues to fight he’ll fail and Ezra will become an agent of evil, Kanan resists. He engages the Temple Guard in lightsaber combat, but it quickly becomes clear that he is yet again outmatched and can’t win.

And this is where I start to disagree with most of the opinions I’ve seen and heard since “Shroud of Darkness” aired a few weeks ago.

After realizing that he will not be able to defeat the Temple Guards (two more joined the fight to emphasis the futility of resistance), Kanan lays down his weapon and accepts the truth that he cannot protect Ezra forever. He states that he knows that all he can do is train Ezra to the best of his ability. In this moment he faces his fear that he isn’t good enough to protect Ezra, accepts the reality that he can only control himself, and resolves at least part of his own internal conflict.

But I’ve seen and heard a lot of discussion concluding that the lesson Kanan learns in “Shroud of Darkness” is that fighting, generally speaking, is wrong. Many voices seem to be suggesting that Kanan now knows not to fight the Empire or the Inquisitors, that he’ll now holster his saber and avoid violence at all costs. However, I just don’t think that’s the case. I believe the lessons Kanan learns in the Temple are far more personal than global; he understands what he’s afraid of and he masters that fear by accepting it rather than denying it. So at this point Kanan and Ahsoka have both come to important realizations about themselves through the acceptance of their greatest fears.

Meanwhile, Ezra questions Yoda about the nature of fighting. Ezra’s fears are less apparent to us as an audience, and they’re less apparent to Ezra as well. It feels as if throughout their discussion, Yoda is hoping Ezra will come to a conclusion or understanding that’s probably beyond him at this point in his development. Yoda talks about the Jedi’s fear and arrogance during the time of the Clone Wars hoping Ezra will learn from the mistakes of the past, but he (like Empire-era Luke Skywalker) is too impulsive and confident to pause and listen. When their conversation ends, Yoda is disappointed (but probably not surprised) that Ezra still has much to learn. He understands that while Kanan and Ahsoka were able to find acceptance of their fears, Ezra isn’t there yet. Unfortunately, rather than Ezra accepting his fear that he may not be powerful enough to defeat his enemies, it’s Yoda who confirms his concerns that Ezra must learn hard truths through his own error.

It’s tempting to view his earlier comments about fighting as a grand statement of non-violence on Yoda’s part (especially when paired with Kanan’s experience with the Temple Guard), and from a certain point of view maybe we should. But from my perspective this is much more about internal conflicts than external ones. Kanan has learned to accept limitations, to be at peace with the limits of his power, but Ezra doesn’t truly internalize anything Yoda tries to tell him. He simply states that his decision is made, that he will fight, making it clear to Yoda that he knows essentially nothing more than he did when he entered the Temple. None of the humility displayed by Ahsoka and Kanan in accepting difficult truths is present in Ezra.

Viewing Yoda’s lesson to Kanan and Ezra as one of total non-violence is too literal a reading of his comments for me. Just as Luke’s refusal to fight Vader and Palpatine at the end of The Return of the Jedi is his moment of acceptance of the realities of the scenario in which he found himself rather than an absolute truth, Yoda pushes Ahsoka, Kanan, and Ezra to accept crucial truths in their own lives in “Shroud of Darkness.” He calls on them to emerge from the Temple more wise and more self-aware than they were when they entered. Ahsoka and Kanan clearly meet that challenge, but Yoda is disappointed to find that Ezra cannot understand the lesson he needs to learn through his wisdom, but that he instead must experience the pain of making his own mistakes, something we’ll most likely see in the final episodes of season two. Yoda’s purpose is to teach Ahsoka, Kanan, and Ezra not to fight themselves and to accept critical personal truths; simplifying that lesson to an instruction that Jedi should avoid violence altogether is just not complex enough, especially considering the ambiguity surrounding other aspects of the episode (particularly the reveal surrounding the Grand Inquisitor which surely cannot be read entirely literally).

Like many of the best moments in Star Wars, “Shroud of Darkness” is storytelling that asks as many questions as it answers. Yoda’s lessons through the Force are specific not only to the characters he instructs, but also the unique moments they find themselves in on their own spiritual journeys. It stands as one of the best episodes of Rebels so far, and it’s one that will be worth revisiting often as its characters’ stories continue to develop during the end of this season and beyond.


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Rebels Screenshot Spotlight – Legacy

“Legacy” is one of the most memorable and moving episodes of Rebels yet, and its final moments are among my favorite in the show’s entire run. As stories that are in some ways produced for kids, both Clone Wars and Rebels are unafraid to explore weighty, emotional material, a trend that continues in “Legacy,” an episode the show has been building toward from the start. It provides closure for Ezra’s search for this parents and further explores the meaning of family, a theme that has always been a focus for Rebels, while also proving brave enough to supply answers that are neither easy nor safe.

As a mid-season finale, this episode needs to feel more important than an average one; it needs to be a small conclusion, wrapping up at least some plot threads and perhaps sowing the seeds for future ones. “Legacy” does all of this, but I was also struck by how much of the show’s DNA was present in its final scene. Thematically, it addresses fathers and sons, teachers and students, hope and loss, light and dark, but it also acts as a concise summary of the show’s visual mission with its beautiful, McQuarrie-inspired landscapes and carefully composed shots.

IMG_0105I usually try to write about just one image from any given episode of Rebels, but the final scene in “Legacy” is an extended moment that works best when considered as a whole. Ezra’s vision of Lothal and his parents is composed of multiple shots, first of Ezra alone before his joined by his father first, then his mother. As day turns to night, Ezra is for a moment again alone before being joined by Kanan. The two shots I’ve chosen as the primary images for this post feature first Ezra and his father looking out over the familiar Lothal landscape and Ezra and Kanan sharing a similar moment as the moons set (a clear, but subtle nod to “Binary Sunset”). These shots, and those that make up the scene that links them, are a poignant and lyrical way of saying goodbye to the family Ezra has lost while acknowledging the one he’s now joined. They also immediately call to mind the Ralph McQuarrie art that is so influential to the design of Rebels. It’s a touching ending to this episode and the first half of season two as well as an example of the incredible art, design, and composition of the show.

IMG_0110I’m including a gallery of a few more individual shots I grabbed while prepping this post here too. Each of them is wonderful and would’ve been memorable enough to act as the primary image for the post, but viewed together I think they communicate most of the scene’s narrative and demonstrate how the Rebels team is staying true to George Lucas’s visual storytelling philosophy.


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The Blockade Runner Podcast Episode 5 – Rebels Trailer Reaction and TFA Editing Theories

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Show Notes:

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Ryan, Dan, John, and first time Blockade Runner Lindsey get together to discuss the new Rebels trailer, Rey’s heritage and how much was originally set to be revealed about her in TFA, and more. Check out the links below for links to articles discussed on the show.

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Intro and outro music in The Blockade Runner is “Hedonism” by Ash.

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Rebels Screenshot Spotlight – Stealth Strike

“Stealth Strike” stands out as an episode of Rebels that features a plethora of visual call-backs to the original trilogy (not unusual for the show, but at an even higher volume here), but also at least one key and noticeable reference to the The Phantom Menace.

Actually, I’m sure there are many smaller examples of artistic influence from the prequels throughout Rebels; though the concept art generated by Ralph McQuarrie for the original trilogy is clearly the visual foundation of the show, Dave Filoni and crew are no doubt drawing inspiration from George Lucas’s more recent vision of the Star Wars universe in more subtle ways as well.

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This shot of Ezra sabotaging the reactor core of The Interdictor seems to be an example of that kind of approach. While the room and structures are most noticeably similar to the scene in A New Hope in which Obi-Wan shuts down the Death Star’s tractor beam, the design also draws on the Theed generator complex from The Phantom Menace. The verticality of that structure led to an incredibly dynamic scene, and the Rebels crew takes full advantage of that aspect of this reactor core room in “Stealth Strike,” with Ezra moving up and down between platforms as he reflects blaster bolts back at the Imperial troops above. In one of the best episodes of the season so far, this reactor core scene is able to pay tribute to both the original trilogy and prequel trilogy eras while creating an exciting new sequence of its own.