“Fighter Flight” is a light filler episode, but that’s a good thing.
In many ways, Star Wars operates on Saturday Morning Cartoon logic. Its action is over-the-top, its villains are evil to the point of silliness, and the concept of good and evil is built directly into its mythology. Star Wars: Rebels generally takes that logic even farther, sacrificing the franchise’s deeper elements (struggles with the dark side, awkward family reunions) for heroes who cause more property damage than all the cartoonishly-evil Stormtroopers combined
“Fighter Flight” is the first episode to almost completely embrace that philosophy, and it’s all the better for it. There’s no time to play at sci-fi drama like “Spark of Rebellion” and no attempts to reference canon like “Droids in Distress”. It’s just a fun, simple premise developing into a fun, well-directed battle sequence, all spinning from a misunderstanding involving rare space fruit. If Rebels had gone a little farther, the episode could have been perfectly Looney Tune-esque in its simplicity. Sadly, Rebels won’t stop muddying the water with unnecessary side plots, but it’s a step in the right direction that should at least get a few laughs.
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Following the events of the last two episodes, Ezra and Zeb’s fighting is driving the crew crazy. Fed up, Hera sends the pair on a supply run to a nearby city, ordering them not to come back until they find a meiloorun fruit. What Ezra and Zeb don’t know is that Hera played a trick on them: this fruit is almost impossible to find and was largely meant to keep them busy for a few hours. What Hera didn’t know is that the Empire just obtained a crate of meiloorun, and Ezra thinks he can easily steal it. Naturally, the plan spirals out of control, forcing the team to improvise by stealing a TIE Fighter and eventually fighting Stormtroopers on top of a prison transport.
On a base level, the episode is just filler, creating opportunities to enjoy the spectacle without worrying the larger mythology. Stealing fruit from the Empire is just a hilarious way to go about it, escalating the conflict in direct proportion to how silly the goal is. For the most part, nothing that happens here will have a significant impact on the rest of the series, it’s just about kicking back and enjoying the ride.
Not that “Fighter Flight” is without a few nice character touches, like Sabine’s love of painting or Kanan’s enjoyment of Holochess. Even better, this episode gives Ezra and Zeb a chance to bury the hatchet and stop this forced rivalry Rebels keeps insisting they have. Perhaps that occurs a little too quickly; Rebels jumps from bickering and death threats to gleefully cracking jokes in no time at all. But it’s far more refreshing to watch these two laugh over common ground than argue constantly for no good reason. If we’re lucky, this is where that plot point will be forgotten so Rebels can move on to better things.
The bad news is that Rebels still insists on cramming unnecessary plot points into each episode that could’ve been better spent highlighting something more interesting. Specifically, Ezra bumps into an old friend of his parents who’s being pressured by the Empire to sell his farm. After refusing them for one final time, Stormtroopers arrest him and blow up his house before returning to base. When Ezra realizes what’s happened, he insists on using the stolen TIE Fighter to organize an impromptu rescue.
We’re only a few episodes in, and this is already a recurring problem for Rebels: When you only have a 22-minute time slot it’s crucial to focus on something. Rebels could have done a great filler episode about an outrageous fruit caper, or a great filler episode of Ezra finding a connection to his parents. When you try to do both, it lessens the impact of each plot point and generally creates a muddled mess. Not to mention these characters don’t end up adding anything to Ezra’s backstory; they could have been Hutts smuggling rare fruits to the planet instead and little of significance would have changed.
On top of that, forcing this particular side plot creates all kinds of inconsistencies. Why exactly is the Empire interested in a moisture farm? Why risk blowing up the farm afterwards if the land is so valuable? Why is your prisoner transport pulling double-duty as a fruit shipping convoy? And once you’ve rescued your parent’s friends, why are you fleeing the scene when they have no home or livelihood to return to, and probably ended up with an Imperial bounty on their heads? Shouldn’t you at least make sure they have somewhere to go so the Empire can’t find them again?
The good news is that the episode is so silly to begin with that you can largely suspend your disbelief and enjoy the proceedings. Everything from Zeb piloting the TIE Fighter with his feet to Ezra blocking blaster fire with a fruit shield is so goofy and fun that it’s hard not to be charmed. Not every episode needs to take this route, but as a light-hearted break from the commonplace, it’s perfectly welcome. Rebels only needed to go a little farther with its cartoon logic to reach perfection, but as it stands, this is a fun diversion all the same.
Bottom Line: “Fighter Flight” is the closest Rebels has come to acting like a Saturday morning cartoon, and that’s a good thing. Its silly premise builds to a ridiculous fight sequence and some long-overdue banter between Ezra and Zeb. Rebels is still trying to force unnecessary side plots into the mix, but thankfully the episode is enjoyable enough that you can suffer through it.
Recommended: This is the good kind of filler episode. Here’s hoping it sets the tone for filler episodes to come.[rating=3.5]