Spoiler Warning: If you haven't seen the most recent episode of Star Wars Rebels or don't want to know what happened, turn away now. Or, y'know, go watch and come back so we can talk about it.
Following up on Episode 4.5, "The Occupation," let's just dive in and start talking about "Flight of the Defender."
Sometimes fans want more serious content in Rebels, and I can totally understand that, but the beauty of Rebels for me is its ability to blend really dark moments with something as cute/silly as three Loth-Cats meowing and playing hide n' seek. There's a lot to be said for the pure enjoyment factor of Zeb Orellios being licked to death by a cat. Those Loth-Cats, however, serve a purpose beyond being cute. They actually help Sabine and Ezra implement their plan to get into the new TIE Defender.
Then there's the white Loth-Cat: the one Ezra followed in "Legacy" (Episode 10 of Season 2) that led him to Ryder Azadi, who led him to the truth about his parents. That Loth-Cat, we discover, is connected to a Loth-Wolf -- who we'll get back to later.
Okay, so now that we've established all that, let's take a moment to appreciate Sabine Wren. Once Ezra, Ryder, and Zeb see the TIE Defender Elite fly by, they're ready to take the intel they have and go, but Sabine's plan is to get as much data as possible. She gets that information and a working hyperdrive, which aids the larger Rebel effort. Given the fact that TIE-DE's aren't blowing X-Wings out of the sky in Star Wars, something tells me the info gathered helped stall Thrawn's big project on Lothal. (That's all speculation on my part, so just roll with me here.)
You also have to appreciate the casual way Sabine tells Ezra to distract Thrawn. He should be thrilled. It shows how much she trusts him!
Ezra's no slouch, either. Just as Sabine takes the initiative when it comes to the TIE, Ezra shows some real leadership in this episode. As he's fighting multiple stormtroopers, he sends Zeb and Ryder back to camp because he's prioritizing based on the bigger fight. If Zeb and Ryder save him and Sabine and they get away, great, but if not, then the Rebellion lost any chance at the intel needed to fight Thrawn.
As for Thrawn, hell, I'm scared of Thrawn -- and he was particularly Thrawny in this episode. Sabine comes straight at him in that TIE firing the whole way, and Thrawn not only stands his ground but shoots back at his own prototype ship. Even as she steals the ship, he doesn't break a sweat. He just makes a snarky comment and everyone gets down to business. You just know Thrawn's that boss that everyone messages everyone else about to give them a warning when he's about to come in the room. I think he's got people so freaked out they're not even willing to talk smack about him behind his back.
Anyway, where was I?
Oh right. Thrawn. Even when his airfield is blown to bits and his prototype has been stolen, given the option to disable that ship, he decides to turn this whole thing into an opportunity for a combat test. Sure, he has to send his own pilots up against a ship that's built better, faster, and more powerful than the ships they're in, but hey, there's data to be gained, so he's all for it.
Thrawn is all about the data. The more he knows, the more he can use it to his advantage. He figures out who's flying the TIE based on how it's being flown (he also throws a compliment to Hera during his analysis, but he's always had a grudging respect for her), and he figures out Sabine is with him based on her actions with the ship's systems. Love him or hate him, you can't help but be impressed.
But here's the big question: the Loth-Wolf. A creature thought to have been extinct a hundred years ago just happens across Ezra Bridger in his time of need? That's the Force at work. If you weren't sure whether the white Loth-Cat and Loth-Wolf are connected, the little ear wiggle moment was a hint and a half. I also just remembered Dave's new favorite pastime of taking his white Loth-Cat plush with him and then taking pictures of it with a hashtag of #FollowTheWhiteLothCat.
Message received, Filoni.
Also, if you recall the beginning of Ezra's Force dream in the last episode, it started with a wolf howl. That wolf also knew exactly where to take Ezra and Sabine to get them back to Hera and Kanan, could put Sabine to sleep, and, well, it talks. Pretty good indicator it's more than what it seems. Especially when you consider his answer to Ezra on why he's helping: "Dume."
We haven't heard the name Dume in a long time. A long time. (I'd like to thank Johnamarie Macias for tipping me to this one. She watched with the closed captioning on.) So how is Kanan connected to all of this? What do you think it means?
Kanan's right. We'll have to find out when we get there.
That'll do it for this week. See you next time, and may the Force be with you.
Star Wars Rebels will air two episodes each Monday starting at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Disney XD.