If the past few episodes of Star Wars Rebels has lacked anything, it’s plot movement. But “Call to Action” more than makes up for that lack (hence its title). This episode dials in the coordinates and jumps straight into hyperspace.
With the revelation of a potential ally’s betrayal, the Rebels are hurting for a solid win against the Empire. And, by the same token, the Emperor sends one of his very best, Grand Moff Tarkin, to Lothal in order right Agent Kallus’ and the Inquisitor’s continuing blunders.
Star Wars Rebels has never been short on intimidating, ruthless villains, but Grand Moff Tarkin, with the cool, detached air of a nihilistic chess master, makes even the menacing Inquisitor look about as terrifying as a teddy bear wearing a bonnet. Tarkin, voiced to tongue-rolling perfection by Stephen Stanton, adds a striking new element to a series that has already proven itself an enticing addition to Star Wars canon. One of the last shots of the episode is a close-up of Tarkin’s face and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. He’s cold, yes, calculating, yes, but not arrogant. His eyes are searching, piercing, penetrating. He says that he’s going to win, and you believe him. It’s an absolute feat of animation and of story-telling.
The plot moves along quite nicely—and quite quickly—this episode. We learn a tad more about other Rebel factions that may or may not exist out in the universe, all while the crew of the Ghost goes on a risky mission (is there any other kind of mission for these people?) to cut through Imperial propaganda and to officially begin a true Rebellion. Exciting!
Tarkin brings more than icy command to the show, he brings a brutal war philosophy into play, the horrifying implications of which this show does not shy away from. This isn’t yet Tarkin’s most catastrophic philosophy on full display in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (We weep for you still, Alderaan.) but it is a small-stage, skirmish-level precursor to the kind of brutality that comes later.
At any rate, this episode delivers nuanced acting, tremendous plot development, and ramps the emotional stakes of the series into the stratosphere. Easily one of the best episodes of an already ridiculously great season.
What’d you all think?
Enjoy this week’s Rebels Recon while you’re at it.