"Empire Day" raises the stakes and puts the crew of the Ghost into real peril.
With several episodes under its belt, Star Wars: Rebels has a familiar cast of heroic characters at its disposal, not to mention some legitimately terrifying villains. That means it's time to shift gears and tell a story with higher stakes, just in time for the mid-season finale. The good news is that Rebels has fully recovered from the missteps of early episodes. Instead of throwing extraneous fight scenes or helpless civilians on the screen to force viewers to care, Rebels uses effective pacing and character development to pull us in without heavy exposition. Even better, it's the first time the Ghost crew seems to have bitten off more than it can chew, instead of walking into and out of battles with a devil-may-care attitude.
That makes it all the more disappointing that these elements are unresolved, since the second half of the finale hasn't aired yet. It's especially frustrating since by itself, "Empire Day" can't quite decide if it's the opening chapter of a finale or a standalone episode; the pacing hints that there's lots to come, but it also tries to settle Ghost's current mission before moving on. This leaves the final fight and half-hearted cliffhanger feeling more anticlimactic than they rightly should, something that could have been easily avoided if Rebels made this a full-length special like "Spark of Rebellion".
But that minor point aside, this is the solid beginning to the finale that will leave you anxiously wondering what's going to happen next. If you want to see for yourself, the episode is on Disney XD and iTunes.
And you should definitely watch it. Even if just to hear the Imperial March performed as a wonderfully upbeat parade song.
Across the galaxy, every settled world is celebrating Empire Day, honoring Emperor Palpatine's pivotal role in ending the Clone Wars and assuming command of the "corrupt" Republic. The Ghost's home planet of Lothal is no exception, where all alien races must patriotically attend the Empire Day parade where Stormtroopers proudly show off their military might. It's also too good an opportunity for the Ghost crew to ignore, who have made plans to blow up the new Advanced TIE Fighter that the Empire intends to showcase.
The twist? The Stormtroopers are on high alert, even more so than usual. It turns out that a valuable Rodian refugee has slipped out of Imperial hands, prompting the Empire to put the planet on lockdown. While Empire Day celebrations must continue (it's the law), old enemies like Agent Kallus and the Inquisitor himself are combing the planet for his presence. But Ezra recognizes the Rodian as Tseebo, a friend of his long-lost parents, prompting him to shanghai the mission into an impromptu rescue operation.