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Recap / Star Wars Rebels "Steps Into Shadow"

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"Jedi and Sith wield the Ashla and Bogan, the light and the dark. I'm the one in the middle, the Bendu."
Having established a secret base on Atollon, the Ghost crew, now led by a more powerful Ezra, strengthens the rebel fleet by acquiring new resources and recruits eager to stand against the Empire. However in response, the Imperial efforts to eliminate the rebellion turn to the coldly analytical Grand Admiral Thrawn, whose strategic, tactical and cultural insights make him a threat unlike any they have faced before.

Tropes in this episode:

  • Achilles in His Tent: Kanan, rather understandably, has kept away from the other members of the crew since being blinded, removing himself from all Phoenix Squadron activities.
  • Action Prologue: The episode starts with the gang rescuing Hondo.
  • Arc Words: Another iteration of Kanan's "I've got you.", as always, said to Ezra as Kanan is saving/protecting him from some mortal peril.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: This exchange.
    The Bendu: Are [the krykna] close?
    Kanan: No.
    The Bendu: Are you sure?
    [Kanan reaches his hand out and touches a krykna standing right in front of him.]
  • Artifact of Doom: Discussed between Kanan and the Bendu over the Sith holocron. Kanan worries that the holocron is corrupting Ezra, but the Bendu believes an object alone can't determine one's morality, but rather a combination of factors, such as the desire for knowledge or power, and that ultimately the person is responsible for themselves.
    The Bendu: An object cannot make you good or evil. The temptation of power, forbidden knowledge, even the desire to do good can lead some down that path, but only you can change yourself.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: Thrawn deduces that the rebels are headed for Reklam Station based on their use of a specific hyperspace waypoint, their rescue of Hondo, and Hondo's cellmate.
  • Beard of Sorrow: Kanan grew his goatee into a beard during his depression over being blinded. (It actually doesn't look that bad, though.)
  • Behind the Black: Justified in that Kanan's blind, and thus doesn't notice the giant spider in front of him until he touches it.
  • Blatant Lies: Ezra claims that the recon mission is going great, even though Sato and Hera can hear blaster fire over the comm. They immediately know that things are going south.
  • Break the Haughty:
    • Ezra brags about what he's learned from listening to the Sith Holocron, how it's helped him move up in the Rebellion's hierarchy, and how he can use it to defeat the Sith. He doesn't pay much heed to Kanan's warnings about the Sith Holocron, but Hera's scolding after the fiasco at Reklam Station and the loss of the Phantom, pointing out the consequences of his actions and reprimanding him, knocks him down a peg or two.
    • Averted with Commander (formerly Admiral) Titus. Following his demotion after his miserable performance the last time he faced Ezra, Titus is still quite the Smug Snake.
  • The Bus Came Back:
    • Hondo gets rescued in the intro mission after we last saw him in custody back in "Legends of the Lasat".
    • Titus is at Reklam Station, demoted to Commander from his former rank of Admiral. Losing a prototype Interdictor will do that.
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • It's not Played for Laughs anywhere near as much as other examples of the trope, but Konstantine is constantly getting taken down a peg since he's the Imperial with the longest standing rivalry with Phoenix Squadron but with the least amount of success compared to fellow veteran Kallus. First, he's mocked by Pryce in private. He's then humiliated when he hasn't heard about Thrawn's promotion. Finally, he is completely baffled at the Imperials allowing Phoenix Squadron to escape as part of Thrawn's larger plan.
    • Titus loses another command.
  • Call-Back:
    • The crew makes a quick stop in realspace between hyperspace jumps, and are accosted by the Mining Guild.
    • Commander Titus returns. Ezra remarks on his demotion from Admiral since their previous meeting in "Stealth Strike".
    • Hondo has been in prison since the events of "Legends of the Lasat", where he was captured by Kallus.
    • Kanan takes one of the sensor markers as he goes off to follow the Bendu's voice to deter the krykna. When they meet, the Bendu destroys it and explains that the krykna pick up on his fears and negative emotions rather than being naturally hostile to the Force.
    • Chopper has to be manhandled into hopping into a Y-Wing. Considering the last one he rode in was shot out from under him, this is understandable.
  • Call-Forward:
  • The Cavalry: Sato's fleet showing up to rescue Ezra's team from the Empire.
  • Centipede's Dilemma: Kanan is able to approach a krykna without it being a threat without even knowing it was there. Once he's aware of it, however, his fear starts to provoke them into being hostile.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: This episode has surprisingly less humor than previous episodes. Ezra doesn't goof around anymore, has a shorter temper, and has taken up the responsibility of leader, and Kanan is depressed. Everyone else has noticed. The closest thing to a constant source of comedy is Hondo.
  • Collapsing Lair: Ezra lets Reklam Station fall in order to free the Y-Wings and has to race back to the Phantom.
  • Continuity Nod:
  • Despite the Plan: The Imperials start incinerating the Y-Wings to keep them from falling into Rebel hands, leading to Ezra deciding to change it into a full-on retrieval mission. Hondo manages to convince the Ugnaught workers into stopping the incinerations in exchange for safe passage off the station, and Ezra lets the station fall while everyone else fuels up and grabs a Y-Wing. It works . . . but it results in the loss of the Phantom, and if Kanan hadn't come in the last second, Ezra would've been trapped and died.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Ezra does this twice:
    • After realizing that the station they came to recon is hastily destroying its remaining stock of Y-Wings, Ezra changes the mission from recon to retrieval. With no prior intel, they're left to improvise around problems, such as the bombers lacking fuel and hyperdrives.
    • Ezra takes out Reklam's power grid after stating that he trusts his friends to get off safely, but this backfires when the collapsing station takes out the Phantom, stranding him.
  • Dodge by Braking: Sabine does this against a TIE fighter.
  • Double Meaning: Ezra and the station are falling into the dark of the abyss. Kanan reaches out to him through the Ghost with light from inside leaking out. Ezra tells Kanan that he's too far to reach, to which he replies that he's got him and all he has to do is let go. He does.
  • Easily Forgiven: Hondo last left the Ghost crew on less than stellar relations, especially with Ezra, but Ezra is glad to see him again. As for the rest of the crew, they're more annoyed that they have to deal with his shenanigans again.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: Thrawn is a non-human (specifically a Chiss) member of the Imperial Navy. In the Legends continuity Thrawn was always treated as an oddity by Imperial Command and was typically sent on far flung missions to the edges of the galaxy to keep him out of sight. This is sharply contrasted by the way Pryce actively requests his presence and Tarkin appears to highly respect his abilities.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Kallus notes with restrained, but audible, disdain that Thrawn's most recent victory (the one that got him his promotion to Grand Admiral) came at a cost of high civilian casualties. Pryce and the other main Imperials couldn't care less. More specifically, Pryce's comment is the casualties were within "acceptable limits". Suggesting that this trope is LITERALLY in play as it's more surprising the Empire has guidelines for what are considered acceptable civilian casualties. Dramatic Irony is in play as of the Thrawn novel, as it's revealed there that she was in fact responsible for the casualties, and just let Thrawn take the fall.
  • Everybody Has Standards: When Ezra has the AT-DP fire on the other Stormtroopers and then forces it to walk off the platform into the abyss, Sabine, Zeb, and Hondo are visibly disturbed.
    Sabine: When did Kanan teach you that?
    Ezra: (Kubrick Stare) He didn't.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: Ezra now sports a buzz-cut, fitting for his more no-nonsense demeanor.
  • Fade Around the Eyes: Thrawn does this at the end of his first scene.
  • Fire-Forged Friendship: Kanan's visor sports the same Jaig eyes as Rex's helmet.
  • Funny Background Event: Kallus is silently annoyed at Konstantine's confusion when the latter asks Pryce why Thrawn doesn't want them to attack the rebel fleet in "Steps Into Shadow". Probably in part due to Kallus learning that his Villainous Friendship with Konstantine apparently didn't mean anything to the admiral six months ago.
  • He Didn't Make It: Sabine to Hera, regarding Hondo's cellmate Terba.
  • Heroic BSoD: Kanan, who hasn't done much ever since he was blinded.
  • Hope Spot: For Terba, who happily charges out of the prison and onto the platform outside . . . right into the sights of an AT-DP.
  • Hyperspace Lanes: The Phantom can't jump directly to Reklam Station. Instead, they have to stop at a beacon in Mining Guild territory and plot a second jump from there. This allows the Empire to learn of their plans and start destroying the Y-Wings instead of just dismantling them.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Ezra to Hera about using the AT-DP pilot at Morraka prison. She's more concerned about him letting Terba die, though.
  • Indy Ploy: During the rescue mission, Ezra changes the plan to a 44-scoop.
  • It's All My Fault: Ezra blames himself for Kanan's blinding and Ahsoka's apparent death. It's one reason why he's so hell-bent on becoming more powerful, even if it means resorting to Sith influence and actions.
  • Jerk With A Heart Of Jerk: Hondo. To the point that he has no problem abandoning Ezra to his fate when the Imperial base is being destroyed.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: The Imperial officers in Reklam Station's control room flee rather than fight Ezra after he easily takes out the Stormtroopers.
  • Kubrick Stare: Ezra has a very creepy one right after he makes the AT-DP walk off the platform.
  • Leave No Witnesses: Ezra wants to take out the Mining Guild cargo vessel lest they warn the Empire, but Sabine and Rex convince him that they've likely already done so and destroying the ship isn't part of the mission. He reluctantly agrees. The ship does contact the Empire, though it isn't made clear if this is before or after the fact.
  • Misplaced Retribution: Kallus' comment indicates he believes Thrawn was responsible for the civilian casualties at Batonn. Thrawn's novel reveals they were actually Governor Pryce's fault, and only Thrawn suspects this to be the case.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: Terba shares info with Hondo after being tossed into prison for trying to escape Reklam Station.
  • Mythology Gag: Ezra now wields a green lightsaber to replace his lost blue one, is older and wiser after a Time Skip following a dramatic battle with Darth Vader that cost him his innocence (and had far greater consequences for some of his friends), and is also in peril of falling to the Dark Side. Change Ezra's name to Luke Skywalker and you've summed up how we find him in Return of the Jedi.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Ezra changing the plan leads to the loss of the Phantom. More specifically his reckless act of destroying the control panel, which is what plummets the station into free-fall and gets the Phantom destroyed, and very nearly leads to his own death.
  • No One Could Survive That!: Tarkin mentions that Vader has dealt with Phoenix Squadron's Jedi leadership, referring to the disappearance of Ahsoka, and the apparent disappearance of Kanan (from the Empire's perspective), though they seem unaware that Ezra is still an active Force user. In all fairness, Tarkin hasn't met Ezra yet, and did not think Kanan would get back into action.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Ezra, when Kanan unexpectedly comes into his cabin while the Sith Holocron is sitting on the table. He has this moment again when he fails to snatch it before Kanan finds it and realizes he has been using it.
    • Sabine, when she realizes that the Y-wings have no hyperdrives, leaving them with no escape in front of a Star Destroyer.
    • Ezra when the Phantom is destroyed, leaving him stranded on the station as it plummets.
  • Papa Wolf: Kanan does a decent job of controlling his fear in the midst of the krykna, but sensing Ezra in danger causes him to freak out.
  • Pardon My Klingon: Now Sabine's doing it.
    Sabine: Karabast!
    Zeb: My thoughts exactly.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • After Ezra destroys the control panel, Titus gets on the intercom to warn everyone to evacuate before he himself leaves.
    • During Thrawn's introduction, Kallus makes a point of noting that during his last anti-Rebel operation (which got him promoted to Grand Admiral), civilian casualties outnumbered the Rebel's. From his tone, it's clear he does not approve.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Thrawn, of course. When Pryce reports that the rebels only have three cruisers, he realizes that they're only a fraction of the actual fleet and tells her to let them go rather than destroy a promising lead.
  • Psychic-Assisted Suicide: Ezra controls an AT-DP's pilot to fire on his fellow Stormtroopers and then walk off the platform.
  • Psychological Projection: When the Bendu tells Kanan that he brings conflict with him, Kanan immediately assumes he's talking about the Sith Holocron, even though the Bendu made clear that it's Kanan causing imbalance in the Force. Later, Kanan pins the fear he's feeling on the krykna, then Ezra, before realizing it's his own.
  • Psychosomatic Superpower Outage: Kanan repressing his emotions and distancing himself from everyone has severely limited his ability to sense things through the Force, to the point where he can't feel the Sith Holocron, the krykna, or even Ezra. The Bendu helps him deal with it, at which point he immediately senses Ezra in danger.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning:
    • Played With. Ezra has the Sith Holocron stored in his cadet helmet. When it glows, the eye holes on the helmet glow red.
    • And of course, Grand Admiral Thrawn.
  • Red Shirt: Terba, the Ugnaught, is onscreen for about two minutes after the episode starts before he decides to ditch Hondo and the others by running ahead, which results in him being shot off the platform by a walker. It's clear that his only role was to establish the Darker and Edgier tone of the season.
  • Rule of Symbolism: Take a look at the helmet on the guy piloting the walker that Ezra forces into a Psychic-Assisted Suicide. It's the same as Ezra wore as a cadet. By giving into the temptation of the Dark Side, he's killing who he used to be.
  • Sadistic Choice: Titus sabotages the Y-Wing docking clamps so that Ezra would have to cut power to the entire station — including the anti-grav systems keeping it aloft — in order to release them. Ezra does it, trusting that his friends will escape.
  • Screw This, I'm Out of Here!: Hondo ditches Ezra offscreen when the station falls. Also, the Imperial officers immediately run for it when Ezra reaches the command center.
  • Sink or Swim Mentor: The Bendu breaks the sensor marker and has Kanan walk into a cluster of krykna to teach him how to sense things with the Force. He's nearly eaten before he catches on.
  • Smug Snake: Titus still has this attitude, as evidenced by his smug smirk when he informs Ezra he sabotaged the Y-Wing docking clamps. This quickly devolves into Oh, Crap! territory when Ezra simply cuts the power to the entire station, despite Titus protesting that he'd send the entire facility crashing.
  • So Much for Stealth: Once they blow their cover at Reklam Station.
  • Speak in Unison: The crew (minus Chopper and Kanan) say "Forget it" to Hondo asking for the Ghost in payment for the info on Reclam Station.
  • Starts Stealthily, Ends Loudly: The mission to Reklam Station was supposed to be just a recon mission, but Ezra switches it into a retrieval mission once it turns out the Y-Wings are being incinerated thanks to the rebels' presence.
  • Status Quo Is God: After having it for one episode (though there was a 6-month Time Skip between this and the last), Ezra gets the Sith Holocron confiscated. Too bad the damage is already done, because the Presence taught Ezra enough that he's at serious risk of falling to the Dark Side. And it turns out they have to get it back in the next episode, but if the Season 3 trailer means anything, it's a Double Subversion.
  • Stealth Insult: Pryce complains about Konstantine's incompetence by saying that he's more of a politician than a soldier. This is likely a shot at the late Minister Tua.
  • Subtext: The Presence tells Ezra that the others cannot see things as clearly as he can, and Ezra agrees that if they can't see, he has to become strong enough to protect them. While it's not said outright, she's clearly referencing Kanan's blindness and Ezra's guilt over it.
  • Sword and Gun: Ezra during the rescue mission. Since his saber/stun blaster was destroyed by Vader, he now uses a standard blaster with a new lightsaber.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: 16-year-old Ezra has been taking initiative over the past six months and gets promoted to Lieutenant Commander. His very first mission without either of his adult authority figures results in extremely impulsive, short-sighted decisions that result in a station collapse that nearly kills everyone and destroys the Phantom, then alerts Imperial forces which swarm and attack the underequipped team. All of his adult superiors immediately realize something is wrong when he misses the check-in (with Kanan sensing Ezra in danger through the Force) and head over to rescue the team. Hera chews him out in front of the team and demotes him, and Kanan returns as a mentor figure for him and to get him back on track.
  • That's an Order!: Ezra, when he changes the mission at Reklam Station from recon to retrieval.
  • That's No Moon: The Bendu is indistinguishable from the plants and rocks on Atollon until he chooses to make himself known.
  • Threat Backfire: Titus warns Ezra that knocking out the station's power cores will only leave Ezra and his party in danger. Ezra replies that he has enough faith in their abilities that he isn't worried. This ends up biting him only minutes later.
  • Time Skip: Six months after the mission to Malachor, as confirmed by Dave Filoni.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Over the course of the Time Skip, Ezra's abilities as a Lightsaber duelist and Force wielder have improved dramatically, bordering on One-Man Army at times.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: In addition to badass, Ezra is more of a dick, thanks to his time with Maul and the Sith holocron. He catches Chopper before he falls into a spotlight, but then drops him the remaining twenty feet only for Zeb to catch him. He also carries out a Psychic-Assisted Suicide. This is lampshaded by Sabine.
    Hondo: I cannot believe it! Is that truly Ezra?
    Sabine: Most of the time.
  • True Companions: When Hera scolds Ezra for changing the plan and suspends his command, Zeb speaks up and says that if she's going to punish Ezra, she should also punish the others for going along with it.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: Pryce has no problem with civilian casualties as long as the rebels are completely annihilated. And this is what happened to the last sector Thrawn was in, which resulted in more civilian loss than rebel loss. Given the novel Thrawn reveals that the casualties at Batonn are all Pryce's direct fault, as in she triggered the explosions in question that killed the civilians, she definitely doesn't have a problem with them.
  • Villainous Valor: While his fellow officers flee after Ezra takes out the Stormtroopers in Reclam Station's control room, Titus draws a blaster and tries to shoot Ezra, despite knowing how dangerous he is.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Ezra's on his way to becoming this. He admits the only reason he's using the Sith Holocron is to be able to gain the power to protect his loved ones, but it's leading him to The Dark Side.
  • Wham Line: After Kanan confiscates the Sith Holocron, Ezra angrily lashes out at him and says, "I don't need it. Just like I don't need you." Kanan's reaction to this, even with his blindfold on, clearly says Ezra just hit him below the belt.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Hera reprimands Ezra for letting Terba get killed, as he was Hondo's other half of the intel. Sato, on the other hand, is fine with this, as Hondo still has enough information for them and promotes Ezra to lieutenant commander, letting him lead the mission to do recon on the Y-Wings.
    • Hera also tells Ezra off for changing the plan and causing unnecessary risks and losses (including the Phantom), leading to her removing his promotion.
    • Kanan tells Ezra off for committing Dark Side acts and listening to the Presence again, leading to him confiscating the Sith Holocron. Ezra returns fire by telling him off for isolating himself and having essentially ditched him as a mentor figure.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Titus' fate is unknown as the station falls. Turns out he was fine after this — Thrawn called him over to be interrogated in "Through Imperial Eyes". And he still has one more ass-kicking in store...
  • Why Isn't It Attacking?: When Kanan is surrounded by krykna, he wonders aloud why they're not attacking him. This is when he begins to truly see them through The Force.
  • Would Not Shoot a Civilian: Kallus objects to the civilian casualties in Thrawn's previous successful operation. His fellow Imperials, specifically Pryce, overrule him.
  • "You!" Squared: Ezra and Titus when they run into each other.