Now, that’s more like it. Earlier this week and in my last few reviews, I’ve been complaining that Rebels is getting too caught up in the Star Wars saga and not telling its own story. This week’s episode course-corrects on that issue by telling a decent, solid, independent story with shades of the Season 3 Thrawn storyline. The only thing Rebels is lacking is enough episodes like this one.
“Warhead” gives us a effective mix of horror and humor elements, showcasing an episode where Zeb, Chopper, and AP-5 are left to run the base on their own with unexpected results. The trio encounter a damaged droid (who, consistent with this show’s pattern, resembles the early designs for C-3PO) on the outskirts of Chopper base. Feeling sorry for the stray, Zeb brings it home to be repaired and put to work. Too late, a message from Kallus in his “Fulcrum” persona reveals that the droid is actually an imperial inflitrator which Zeb needs to take down before it remembers what it is.
A Zeb-Chopper episode is bound to be funny, but throwing in AP-5 with his dry Alan Rickman style humor doubles it. Zeb’s a well-meaning Lasat of little brain, and AP-5 can’t help but remind him of that. Surprisingly, this works well against the terror of the Imperial Droid, who quickly transforms into a monstrous, stalking version of its basic form. The trio has to hatch a desperate plan to take the thing down before it can contact the Empire and reveal where the Rebels are hiding. Worse, it seems that every time Zeb’s got it under control, things get worse, as when capturing the droid turns on its self-destruct mechanism.
Things work out when Zeb and AP-5 reprogram the droid to return to the Empire and only blow up then. Lingering question: how did they know it wouldn’t end up on Kallus’ ship and blow him up? Oops. That doesn’t happen, but it does, impressively, take out an entire Star Destroyer. That victory aside, the episode does end with Thrawn still playing the long game, revealing that the droid’s capture by the Rebels means that he can narrow down where they’re hiding.
Unfortunately, next week returns Rebels to a leftover Clone Wars plotline focused on Sabine and her Mandalorian mother. That’s good, but it does remind us that this show doesn’t stray far from earlier material. “Warhead” is a simple episode, but one that reminds us that Rebels can tell its own story very well without getting caught up in the past or the future.
Rating: Five Choppers out of Five.