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“Out of Darkness” has some great ideas, but at the end of the day? It’s about watching Rebels‘ female cast kick all of the ass.

I’ve been enjoying the last few Star Wars: Rebels episodes, but if I wanted anything more? That would include (a) giving more time to other cast members and (b) focusing less on the Force. Every episode has basically been “Star Wars: Ezra’s Adventures” so far, which usually means Ezra has to prove his worth as the Ghost’s latest Force user. It’s been fun, but Rebels should absolutely branch out from time to time; there’s a lot more to Star Wars after all.

Kanan and Zeb have had some attention (although still within context to Ezra’s character) but “Out of Darkness” is the first episode to focus squarely on Ghost’s female crew members: Hera and Sabine. It’s a great opportunity to not only develop these characters, but show how badass Rebels can be without breaking out a single Force power. To top it off, “Out of Darkness” even leaves the Empire behind for a bit to face a far more alien threat.

Want to check it out for yourself? You can watch it on Disney XD or iTunes.

The episode opens as Hera, Sabine, and Ezra flee from TIE Fighters in their Phantom shuttle after a mission went wrong. While the group escapes the encounter and returns to Ghost, it isn’t without damage; the Phantom’s fuel tank has ruptured, a detail which slips through the cracks during diagnostic checks. So when Hera and Sabine leave for their next job, picking up supplies from a mysterious benefactor, they don’t realize it’s impossible to return to Ghost until they’ve already landed.

Unfortunately, that’s especially bad news in this case, because their location is far more unsafe than expected. Hera and Sabine are retrieving cargo from Fort Anaxes, an abandoned asteroid base the Republic used during the Clone Wars. But there’s a reason it was abandoned: an infestation of alien creatures have completely taken over the base’s interior. Vastly outnumbered, Hera and Sabine need to find a way to defend themselves until the Ghost can arrive to extract them.

That’s pretty much the episode in a nutshell; a simple, small-scale conflict that almost never leaves the landing strip where the Phantom landed. Limiting the scope has worked pretty well for Rebels lately, and “Out of Darkness” is no exception. It really gives us a chance to breathe and get to know these characters without feeling like the universe will fly apart at any moment. That means we finally learn more about Sabine, the only character who hasn’t had time to describe her backstory in any meaningful way (even Kanan and Hera got an entire novel for that).

As it turns out, Sabine is a former Imperial soldier who trusted her superiors without question, leading to some unspecified disaster happening. (Given the Empire’s behavior in Rebels so far, that could range from planetary genocide to arresting an unlicensed fruit vendor, but we can safely say it’s probably closer to the former.) She joined the Ghost’s crew specifically to take orders from people she could trust, and more importantly will be upfront with her about their objectives.

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That final point creates a conflict with Hera, who is receiving Imperial intelligence from someone named “Fulcrum”, but refuses to disclose his identity to the crew. From Kanan and Hera’s mind, this is a precaution in case a crew member is captured by the Empire. But with Ghost facing so many botched and complicated missions, Sabine is starting to wonder whether Ghost’s missions are as altruistic as she’d thought.

The concept would be an interesting one to follow up on. We’ve seen very few legitimate disagreements between this crew, who have shown themselves to be more destructive than the Empire on several occasions. But the question is dropped almost immediately when the alien creatures (dubbed fymocks) star attacking like Star Wars was set on LV-426. Thankfully, the creatures can be shot down individually and are driven into the shadows by sunlight, but once darkness falls they swarm out in massive numbers. That’s a huge problem in this particular asteroid belt, where space rocks keep eclipsing the sun every few minutes.

We’re then treated to a sequence where Sabine and Hera are basically video game characters, specifically from a survival-based horde mode inspired by Pitch Black. The pair start by setting explosives around the main entrance, and literally call out “Wave 1, Wave 2” as successfully larger numbers of fymocks emerge from the base. While Rebels has always had solid action sequences, the style of combat and nature of the aliens makes for a refreshing change of pace, especially since Ezra and Kanan can’t waltz in and Jedi everything to death. (Although Ezra does try to pitch in once the Ghost arrives, but it doesn’t exactly work out for him.)

As enjoyable as the fight is, it means we never really get a chance to learn more of Hera’s intentions. Even before the battle begins, there’s no attempt to address Sabine’s concerns beyond “No seriously, just trust us,” even though something is clearly going on (Hera specifically grabs a marked container that she doesn’t want Sabine to be looking at, for example). I’m not expecting Kanan and Hera to be Sith all along (although now that I think of it, that sounds awesome) but if you’re going to introduce these elements, it would be nice to do something with them. Instead, Hera and Sabine bond over their fymock shooting, and all is well again. Meanwhile, Fulcrum is obviously planning something behind the scenes, but whatever that is will be saved for another episode.

Rebels, you tease.

Bottom Line: “Out of Darkness” has some intriguing plot details and character developments, but at the end of the day? It’s an excuse to watch Rebels‘ female cast members kick all of the ass. And that’s a good thing.

Recommended: Were you looking forward to an episode about Sabine? It’s finally here, and it’s good, just don’t expect anything especially deep.

[rating=3.5]

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