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Recap / Star Wars Rebels S3E12 "Warhead"

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Zeb and Chopper bring a damaged droid found in the Atollon wilderness back to Chopper Base, only to discover that the droid is a new Imperial probe programmed to spy on and destroy rebels.

Tropes in this episode:

  • All There in the Manual: Rebels Recon confirms that the EXD models are outlawed even by the Empire due to how dangerous they are, but Thrawn overrode that mandate to use them. They later blow up an entire Star Destroyer, but Thrawn doesn't care as he got part of the information he needed.
  • Ambiguous Situation: This being the first episode showing them after "An Inside Man", neither Kallus or Thrawn show any hostility or awareness to each other of the former's possibly compromised status as Fulcrum. Either Thrawn is just hiding it because there's not much reason to bring it up at the time, or Thrawn doesn't actually know Kallus is Fulcrum in spite of what he implied in the ending of "An Inside Man", let alone know of Fulcrum's existence. Alternatively, his planning means there's little anyone, even Fulcrum, can do to affect the outcome in a way that won't benefit him, so he has no need to exclude Kallus for that reason.
  • Actually a Good Idea: Zeb comes up with the idea to send the EXD back to the Empire in such a way that it will explode when they try to access its memory. AP-5, who has spent the episode insulting Zeb's intelligence, is momentarily speechless over Zeb coming up with a good idea.
  • Call-Back:
    • Wedge and Hobbie return after last being seen in their debut episode, "The Antilles Extraction".
    • Kallus being Fulcrum is alluded to, after The Reveal in "An Inside Man". Almost every time Kallus appears, Fulcrum sends a message.
    • Kallus' first scene in the episode, where he's informed that one of the infiltrator droids failed to report in, and he tells the officer that they don't have time to respond to every temporary comm failure, so they won't check up on it unless it takes over a day to report back, is a deliberate contrast to his only scene in "The Lost Commanders". There, upon being told they've received a binary transmission from Wolffe, a source known to be unreliable, he immediately orders a probe droid sent. The difference is that back then, he was still loyal to the Empire.
    • Zeb appears to have gone back to referring to himself as "Captain" again since he's Chief of Security. Back in "Legends of the Lasat", he felt he no longer deserved the title, and in "The Wynkahthu Job", it was an insult. Presumably, being made chief of security makes him feel like he can proudly bear his former title again.
  • Call-Forward: This episode starts in pretty much the same way as The Empire Strikes Back, with a Star Destroyer sending out probes to locate the rebels. (Even the background music is similar.) Not to mention a lot of talk about meteorites.
  • The Cameo: Wedge and Hobbie briefly appear as A-Wing pilots.
  • Creepy Monotone: EXD-9.
  • A Day in the Limelight: AP-5, Zeb and Chopper.
  • Deadpan Snarker: AP-5 doesn't hold back at all with Zeb.
  • Didn't See That Coming: Thrawn didn't expect that the rebels would get the idea to send the droid back to him while counting down to self-destruct, leading him to ask how it was even possible. Even though he didn't account for that development, it still helped him in another way.
  • Dumb Muscle: What AP-5 considers Zeb to be, even calling him a "grunt".
  • Failsafe Failure: EXD-9's Self-Destruct Mechanism is intended to kill whoever disables the droid or attempts to alter its memories. Instead, the bomb itself is reprogrammed to detonate if the Empire tries to access the droid's memories, taking out an entire Star Destroyer. Chopper accomplishes this by freezing its countdown to delay the effect.
  • Funny Background Event: When Hera tells Wedge and Hobbie to get to their fighters, Ezra and Zeb can be seen fist-bumping in the background.
  • Hoist by Their Own Petard: EXD-9's self-destruct mechanism ends up being used against the Empire by sending it back while still counting down. Results aside, even Thrawn is surprised that the Rebels managed to pull that kind of stunt on him.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: AP-5 and Zeb immediately trust a stoic, quiet droid that has virtually no personality. Droids of that type are usually bad news.
  • Innocuously Important Episode: While it can be considered a Breather Episode compared to the three that immediately preceded it, that an Imperial droid was able to find the base is definitely not something to be taken lightly. Given that the Imperials finding the new base was already teased as being a major part of the last few episodes of the season, it's pretty safe to presume that the events of the episode will have an impact on what follows.
  • I Told You So: Chopper re the decision to bring EXD-9 back to base. At least, that's how AP-5 translates it.
  • It's a Long Story: Zeb says this to everyone else after receiving Fulcrum's congratulations. AP-5 immediately begins recounting the story himself, and Zeb has to shut him up.
  • Killer Robot: EXD-9 looks like a seemingly harmless protocol droid, but can transform into a heavily-armed Imperial Infiltrator Droid that will destroy any rebel it sees.
  • Missed Him by That Much: Since Zeb and the droids had no idea where EXD-9 was gonna go, they unknowingly almost got Kallus killed had he been on the same Star Destroyer that the infiltrator droids were returning to.
  • Morton's Fork: If Zeb prevents EXD-9 from leaving the base, it will explode and destroy the base, and the Empire will come looking for it. If Zeb allows EXD-9 to explode somewhere safe, the Empire will come looking for it. If Zeb can somehow prevent it from exploding but doesn't let it go, the Empire will come looking for it. If he stops it from exploding and lets it go, it will report where they are, and the Empire will come looking for them. All the options result in the base being compromised. Even taking the fifth option — letting it go back to its origin and exploding there before it can pass on the information — helps the Empire because the number of places it has to look has dropped considerably, but it bought the rebels a significant amount of time.
  • Mythology Gag:
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Thrawn reveals to Kallus that even though Zeb took steps to make sure the individual droid couldn't be identified, its use as a bomb still narrowed the search for the Rebel base down to a much smaller number of planets and systems. It wasn't helped by the fact that Kallus, who is on the rebels' side, implicated them on this ordeal. Still, better than the alternatives.
  • No-Sell: Unlike most droids, both Chopper's shock prod and Zeb's electrostaff fail to disable EXD, and Zeb gets shocked in return when it grabs and electrifies the staff.
  • Odd Friendship: AP-5 is happy to have another protocol droid on base, rather than making any snarks about the new guy. EXD-9 is apparently a quiet and/or mindless droid undercover (so it wasn't like he could reciprocate it anyway if he wanted to), probably also due to being damaged. Of course, it doesn't last when EXD remembers his mission.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Zeb, when he realizes that the EXD droid isn't as harmless as it seems.
    • The Imperial operators who activate the reprogrammed droid, and realize they're screwed. "Is that a countdown?" "Oh my . . ." [KABOOM]
    • Kallus is rather disturbed when he sees the Star Destroyer containing the Infiltrator Droids ripped apart from the explosion, although when he looks away his face has a bare hint of a smile.
  • One-Word Title: "Warhead".
  • Properly Paranoid:
    • Chopper wants to destroy the damaged Infiltrator Droid, even though it just looks like a busted protocol droid. Zeb ignores him. Chopper gives him an "I told you so" through AP-5 when it reveals its true nature. Had Chopper gotten his way, however, the Rebel base would have been compromised even sooner since the Empire would have known exactly which droid failed to report back and focused their search accordingly.
    • Since EXD-9 lost contact with Thrawn's fleet, Kallus suspected the rebels have the unit, so he contacted them as Fulcrum.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: Kallus' line after seeing the Star Destroyer get blown up:
    Kallus: What. Just. Happened?! Report!
  • Relocating the Explosion: After freezing EXD's Self-Destruct Mechanism, Zeb has AP-5 reprogram it to return to base and detonate on arrival. This way, the Empire can't be sure which droid detonated.
  • Revealing Cover-Up: By sending the droid back with its Self-Destruct Mechanism set to activate as soon as the Imperials try to access its memory, Zeb disguises which of the droids was compromised, but narrows the search considerably because there were only about 100 droids and all their destinations are on record. Out of thousands of possible locations to search, now there are less than 100, which the Empire can search in a much more reasonable time frame.
  • Self-Destruct Mechanism: EXD-9’s anti-capture protocol activates a time bomb that packs enough explosives to level the entire base, and any tampering will cause immediate detonation.
  • Shout-Out:
    • A robot built to harm and destroy gets bonked on the head when it lands on a new and unfamiliar world, causing it to forget its mission, then befriends two of the locals before turning back into a superweapon when something reminds it of its mission. Sound familiar? Except here, there was never any good in EXD, nor will there ever be.
    • The interface that EXD-9 has in combat mode greatly resembles the one that the T-800 has.
    • The self-destruct countdown vaguely resembles the one possessed by the Predator.
  • Spanner in the Works: The krykna attack the Infiltrator Droid before it can investigate, or even relay knowledge of its destination, ultimately allowing the Rebels to postpone the eventual discovery of their base.
  • Spectacular Spinning: The EXD's hands start spinning when Zeb confronts it at the end of their fight. "I'ma whisk you to death, Lasat!"
  • Symbolic Blood: EXD leaks fluid when injured.
  • Taking You with Me: EXD has an internal proton warhead which is designed to detonate if the droid is disabled or its memory hacked.
  • Thank the Maker: AP-5 says "my maker" while bemoaning the disorganization of the rebel supplies.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: EXD-9's failsafe proton warhead is powerful enough to destroy the entire rebel base, or split a Star Destroyer in half. This is probably why the Empire deemed them too dangerous to use.
  • Trojan Horse: The Imperial Infiltrator Droid can disguise itself as a protocol droid to perform covert surveillance.
  • We Have Reserves: The officers go back and forth on this trope. On one hand, Kallus makes it a point that it's too wasteful to spend resources to keep chasing temporary comm failure, because the Imperial Navy has more important things to do. On the other hand, Thrawn has no concern for the loss of one Star Destroyer with its entire crew and nearly all his valuable infiltrator droids, because the results were worth it.
  • Worf Had the Flu: It's implied from its attempts to scavenge power cells that EXD is running on significantly reduced power, which presumably made it far less dangerous than it would have been in pristine condition.
  • Worthy Opponent: Thrawn may not know who got the idea to send back the Infiltrator Droid rigged to blow to make sure he won't know which one was compromised, but he felt that they at least deserved credit for the effort.
  • Xanatos Gambit: By Thrawn, naturally. If the droid returns safely to base, he gets the Rebels' location. If the droid never returns, he knows to investigate that world as a likely target. If the Rebels manage to catch and deactivate the droid, it will blow up and kill them all, as well as revealing which world to investigate to see what's left. Packing up and relocating their base to avoid being compromised (which was discussed in "Visions and Voices") will only take a lot of precious time and effort away from a direct strike on the Empire, and the Rebels are on a strict timetable. Even when Zeb gets the idea to send the droid back rigged to blow, thus destroying a large portion of the droids without revealing which one was compromised, Thrawn still narrows his search considerably because all those droids had randomized, yet specific targets.