Warning: Spoilers ahead to “Legends of the Lasat,” with bonus references to The Force Awakens.
Canonical Star Wars hasn’t tackled religion much, despite the fact that it carries hefty religious elements at times. Sure, there’s debates in A New Hope as Han and Obi-Wan debate whether the Force exists, but outside of a few moments like that, the Force is pretty much a given in the story. By Empire, Luke and Vader are openly using it, and the religious question (if any) is really more of a moral one in terms of which side of the Force Luke and Vader will embrace. It’s not typically about faith in the unknown, even when things are at their worst.
So tonight’s Rebels throws us for a bit of a loop by playing with explicitly religious themes in what, to date, has largely been a good-guy-vs-bad-guy story. Season 2 has started to give us more character-driven episodes, and tonight we got our first Zeb-centric episode. To date, we’ve only known that Zeb is among the few survivors of the Lasat, a species which was largely wiped out by the Empire. The crew of the Ghost receives a call to aid some refugees who, surprise, turn out to be two more Lasat in diaspora.
The two Lasat are pretty steeped in the religions and rituals of their people, keeping faith that an ancient prophecy will lead them to a new home which will be safe from the Empire. It’s here that we get a lot more insight into Zeb’s background. Normally presented as a jovial rough-and-tumble character, Zeb’s exterior is peeled away to reveal him as a broken individual, a former captain of the royal guard for his people who failed to protect them when the Empire attacked. Zeb is a post-religious individual, in that his faith in prophecies and legends is broken from seeing most of his people are dead.
The other two Lasat are still true believers, and they continue to keep faith that “Ashla” will guide them home. Tellingly, “Ashla” appears to be the Lasat’s interpretation of the Force, and they believe Zeb is a key part of the prophecy which will guide them home. Not that he’s buying it–the scars of the Lasat holocaust still weigh on him.
Unfortunately, it’s the second half of the episode where the plausibility of the plot begins to fall apart. It’s the nature of a 22-minute show that everything has to wrap up in a very tight space. Regardless, it’s a little goofy that Zeb’s attitude changes with a mere pep-talk from Ezra, who just reminds him to try not to fail his people a second time. With that, Zeb joins the other two Lasat in…well, it’s a little unclear what happens. Apparently they embrace a special stick which uses some lightning to create a map to where the Lasat need to go. Suddenly, Zeb is all in with this prophecy stuff. This rapid change is a little too reminiscent of Rey’s journey from desert scavenger to Jedi in The Force Awakens, except Zeb’s progression happens in 20 minutes versus Rey’s two hours.
“Legends of the Lasat” climaxes with yet another one of these action sequences that simultaneously comes off as exciting and low-risk. Pursued by the Empire, the Ghost makes its way to a nebula which somehow has the capacity to rip starships apart. Zeb’s new magic stick somehow manages to simultaneously protect the ship and guide them safely through the nebula, while the enemy, of course, has to let them go. This might be nail-biting for the kids who are watching, but it’s starting to get a bit rote for adults watching the show.
The bigger problem is that Zeb goes through a rapid conversion from being faithless to faithful in a few episode beats. It’s the natural progression for the character that’s called for by this kind of story, but it stretches the imagination to think that a faith shattered by seeing the extermination of his people can be restored by a few minutes with a magic stick. Nonetheless, that’s where we end up when the Ghost locates the ancient Lasat homeworld, and Zeb’s people in exile now have a safe place to go. It’s a nice moment for Zeb, and he’s desperately needed this kind of focus. (I’m thinking we’re owed a Chopper episode someday.) It just would have helped if it’d been spread over more than one episode.
- “Ashla”? That’s a callback to the deleted Dawn of the Jedi series, where the ancient Jedi homeworld was orbited by twin moons called Ashla and Bogan representing the light and dark sides of the force. This isn’t nearly a full reincorporation of that Expanded Universe element, but it’s a nice reference all the same.
- The Ghost crew located the two Lasat through the assistance of…Hondo. That guy again. We already had one Hondo episode, and now they’ve brought him back again. I’m not a fan of the character, so I don’t want to give him much more than lip service here.
- The music during the nebula sequence was very atypical for a Star Wars show. It was dramatic and seemingly appropriate for the moment, but also not a style we’re used to here. Most of the music to date has been reminiscent of John Williams’ style, while this was…not.
- Lastly, I had to roll my eyes at seeing the Ghost orbit yet another lifeless world at the beginning of the episode, and we never even see what the Lasat planet looks like. I get it, the CGI budget of this show doesn’t let them show much more than rocks and spaceships. It’d be nice if they tried to show us a planet with trees for once.
Rating: Three epiphanies out of five.