4:30 pm EDT, September 25, 2016

‘Star Wars Rebels’ season 3 premiere review: Growing pains

Ezra messed up just about everything, and the deadly Thrawn narrows the Rebels’ margin for error in the Star Wars Rebels season 3 premiere.

Looking at it from a certain angle, “Steps into Shadow,” could function as a long list of reasons why Ezra makes everything worse. Our growing Space Aladdin smashes through the two-part episode like Order of the Phoenix Harry meshed with Ron while he’s wearing the horcrux-locket in Deathly Hallows. He makes poor choice after poor choice — and is initially rewarded for it.

The Star Wars Rebels season 3 premiere opens with Ezra orchestrating the rescue of Hondo Ohnaka from an Imperial prison. During this rescue, Hondo’s ugnaught companion is killed by a blast from an AT-ST, so Ezra takes over the mind of the pilot, kills a bunch of stormtroopers, and walks the guy off the platform to his death.

This might actually be the least problematic thing he does in the entire episode.

It turns out that Ezra has been using the Sith holocron regularly, allowing it to teach him the power of his anger. Ezra believes he can use that power to protect his friends, but spoiler alert: He can’t, because Sith.

Meanwhile, Kanan has been sulking and isolating himself from the rest of the crew. (He’s also grown a very fetching beard!) But when he tries to rebuild his bond with Ezra, Kanan finds and takes away the holocron.

“I can’t let you keep this,” Kanan says of the angry red pyramid.

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“Fine, I don’t need it,” Ezra retorts. “Just like I don’t need you.”

As I remind myself furiously that this is a normal stage of adolescent development, Ezra is given a mission by Commander Sato and Hera to check out a plant where the Empire keeps decommissioned ships. For the dangerously simple recon mission, Ezra is promoted to Lieutenant Commander.

Because Responsibility.

Ezra, Sabine, Chopper, Zeb, and Rex get into a bit of stickiness on their way to the system, during which they have to fight off a pack of miners with TIE fighters and Ezra wants to leave no survivors. Luckily, Sabine flies like an ace (not that anyone cares) and Rex advises Ezra to stick to their actual recon mission.

Upon reaching the planet, the team does find a wealth of retired Imperial Y-wings. Unfortunately, they are in the process of being destroyed, so Ezra changes their Simple Recon Mission to “Let’s steal all the fighters now by ourselves.”

But of course, the station is guarded by Imperials and scary, ship-killing droids. Sabine manages to guide the damaged Phantom to the station, and Hondo convinces the working ugnaughts to stop the conveyor belt of destruction. The team begins the laborious process of fueling and liberating their ships.

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Meanwhile, a few other things that (thank the Force!) have very little to do with Ezra have also been going on. First, the blue-skinned Grand Admiral Thrawn is called in to deal with what Governor Price (correctly) believes to be a burgeoning rebel problem.

It takes Thrawn approximately two seconds to figure out what the rebels are doing, and Imperial forces head straight for the planet where Ezra and the crew are at work. So this guy is going to be fun.

Kanan follows a Force-voice out into the wilderness, where he meets the Bendu — a Force user who sits “in the middle,” between Jedi and Sith. The Bendu is basically Dumbledore in massive triceratops form, and has plenty of wisdom he’s been waiting to share with Kanan.

Unimpressed by the Sith holocron, the Bendu tells Kanan that he can teach him how to see again. He guides Kanan into a pack of those crazy-huge spiders, forcing the Jedi Knight to realize that the feelings of fear, grief, and anger he senses come not from the spiders or Ezra — but from himself.

Back on the Imperial station, the officers finally realize that someone is trying to steal their stuff and lock down the Y-wings. Ezra goes straight for the command center as Sabine, Zeb, and Rex come ridiculously close to dying. Ezra confronts the Imperial captain, and blithely cuts power to the entire station.

It’s about this point where it’s starting to feel really strange that Ezra’s lightsaber is still an innocuous green.

Back on Atollon, Hera realizes that she has to go save Ezra’s space-bacon, and is pleased to find Kanan waiting for her in the cockpit of the Ghost.

“Ezra’s in trouble,” he says. “Let’s go.”

(Yeah, Sabine, Zeb, and Rex totally love you too, Kanan.)

But those three and Chopper do manage to fly the surviving Y-wings up into atmosphere. Unfortunately, the ships do not have hyperdrives, so they’re basically sitting ducks at the Empire arrives. Ezra is about as lucky; he races for the Phantom, but the ship falls into the abyss as the station collapses.

“Kanan!” he cries, clinging to a girder. “Where are you?”

HE’S BLIND AND YOU REJECTED HIS TEACHINGS, YOU LITTLE PIECE OF BANTHA POOP.

Sorry. Normal stage of adolescent development. Just keep saying that.

Luckily, the Ghost and their transport arrive in time to save Sabine and co. from the Empire’s attentions. Hera and Kanan manage to rescue Ezra with the flying, Force-powered equivalent of a Trust Fall.

Realizing that the rebels have not arrived with their significant fleet, and are basically stealing pennies from a jar, Thrawn lets them escape. But Governor Price is confident in the Grand Admiral’s plan.

“Thrawn has a much larger objective in mind than the capture of a single rebel cell,” she sniffs.

(Yeah, but could he just take Ezra, though?)

Having safely returned to their base, Hera chews out Ezra and demotes him. It is fractionally satisfying. Still, Ezra is grateful for the rescue.

He also apologizes to Kanan for using the holocron. Kanan tells him that the artifact is somewhere safe, and he will “always come back” when Ezra needs him.

“I know,” Ezra says.

I say, Kanan, consider this carefully. (That’s why I’m not a Jedi.)

What was your favorite part of the ‘Star Wars Rebels’ season 3 premiere?

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