Sunday, 19 March 2017

Star Wars Rebels S03E20 "Twin Suns"


Reacting to a vision of Maul, Ezra defies Hera and Kanan to travel to a remote planet in hopes of stopping the former Sith lord from carrying out his plans. (S3 Ep20).

What I thought

Since Obi-Wans name was mentioned earlier on in this season, the anticipation of more Kenobi has been palatable. We have known it was coming now for a while, our juice buds salivating over seeing everyone’s favourite master Jedi once more. Would the Maul/Ezra confrontation with old Ben live up to everyone’s nostalgic and expected beliefs?

Largely it succeeded. Sure, everyone would want as much Kenobi as possible and thus it would be hard to deliver something that would appease everyone in this episode yet somehow almost every tick-box was well and firmly checked in terms of A New Hope tie-ins and Obi-Wan, as well as putting an end well and firmly to the Maul arc. It’s with sadness in some respects that Maul delivered so much in his Rebel’s appearances but ultimately, we never really saw a lot of pay-off as we’d hoped in terms of Ezra’s development. Yes, there were changes aplenty for Kanan from meeting Maul, but Ezra? I’m still not convinced and I’m disappointed we didn’t see him cross the threshold into the dark side more than we did. However, this is a show about Rebels and not about another person subcuming to darkness so perhaps it’s just as well in the end that that arc went as far as it did before having a line drawn under it.

There’s a tremendous amount to love about this episode right from the beginning. Seeing the twin suns, the masses of sand and Maul trekking aimlessly about, lost, as he searches for Obi-Wan. We all know where he is. We feel the excitement of knowing right from the word go. Maul’s conversations with himself are entertaining, emotional and revealing. I find myself strangely mesmerised by almost everything he’s ever said in Rebels. It’s a shame therefore that the next 5 or so minutes of the show take us away from Tatooine as Ezra hears the two holcroms calling him out a message from Maul to lure him to the planet and lure Kenobi out of hiding. It’s odd that Kanan appears remotely disinterested in following up on the possibility of Kenobi being alive. I see in Rebels recon that he was originally involved and although I understand why they left him out, it still comes across as odd in this episode that Kanan stands so far back from the opportunity to find Kenobi. It’s left for Ezra to steal a ship (something he seems to get into no trouble for ultimately) and head to Tatooine. Chopper humorously hides aboard the ship, and interacts with Ezra in a very caring and loving way throughout this episode. We get a short but enjoyable meeting with Sand people who destroy Ezra’s ship. Whilst Ezra is knocked out from the blast (surely Chopper wasn’t though?) Maul deals with the attackers in a way you imagine Anakin might have approved of.

So, Ezra and Chopper set off to find Obi_wan across the desert, finally succumbing to exhaustion, heat and lots of sand as they both collapse in a heap. This leads to Obi-Wan’s introduction as he brings them both back to health, cleaning up Chopper off-screen, but seemingly rejuvenating Ezra just by his prescience. I’d think some water would have been needed personally. Obi-wan’s voice is brilliantly portrayed, as is his appearance and dialogue. No funny looking Yoda version here. The conversation between them is brilliantly done and ultimately short as Maul arrives bang on cue. Unsurprisingly, Obi-wan despatches Ezra to safety. Surprisingly though, Ezra just goes along with it. Sure, I get he might be convinced but he was far too easily convinced to just go after all that searching he’d done to be there to help Obi-Wan. Anyhow, he’s gone and it's Maul vs Obi-Wan at last. They stalk each other with dialogue, somewhat taunting each other, before Maul finally works out why Obi-Wan is lurking on the planet, which helps illuminate Ben’s lightsabre. They parade their weapons decoratively, wielding them around themselves, poised to attack, before Maul launches himself in, their blades rattle against each other in several quick moves. Then, it’s over. Obi-Wan cuts through Maul’s double-blade and seemingly through the flesh as well. It’s so hard to see. Even after many views I’m still unsure how Maul died. I have just managed to notice some smoke on Maul’s chest at the umpteenth watch, so my first thoughts that his heart gave out are replaced with he must have been cut open. It’s not obvious by any means and does detract somewhat from the end of the battle as I spent more time wondering what happened than listening to what they said next. It was touching though that there was some genuine connection between the two, despite the rivalry, as Maul realises Obi-Wan is protecting the chosen one and believes that he will avenge them all, where they could not. He is thankfully, quite correct.

So, Ezra does arrive home at the end and ends up getting a group hug, rather than much conversations of Obi-Wan, Maul or the fact that he stole a ship at a very delicate time and risked them being detected. Yeah, none of that! Well, there is only so much time I guess! The very last scene of Obi-Wan watching Luke from a distance was a nice tie-in once more but felt a little unnecessary in some ways when it means little in the context of this actual show but ultimately a lot though in the grand scale of Star Wars.

What we ended up with was a lot of Star Wars heaven and nostalgic nods and a conclusion to a long rivalry.

Rating 7/10 – Nostalgia rules the day.

What I liked

  • Visuals on Tatooine were amongst the best and most richly detailed in ages on this show.
  • Tick-list of nods to A New Hope, with Sand people and Chopper ridge/sand, plus Luke ending.
  • Obi-Wan! Everything about him was out of the top-draw in this episode.
  • Maul’s dialogue and conversations with himself were mesmerising,
  • Story didn’t do too much to wreck continuity with A New Hope.
  • A conclusion to Maul versus Obi-Wan.
  • Ezra and Chopper’s genuine connection.

What I didn’t like

  • Totally took us away from the season-arc of Thrawn just before the finale. Yet  more start/stop stuttering to any build-up for Thrawn.
  • Ezra’s “ok” over leaving Obi-Wan to face Maul after just heading that way and going through all that drama just to get there and help him.
  • You’d think Ezra would first say “He’s alive!” when he gets back at end but no.
  • Why wouldn’t Kanan show more concern and interest in Obi-Wan?
  • Obi-Wan Versus Maul was too short. Didn’t need to be long, but a tad longer would have been better.

Maul is lost of Tatooine.

Nice PJs Ezra!

Maul reaches out to Ezra.

Typical teen. Parents say no but he does it anyway.

Holcrons are like GPS.

Sandpeople briefly enjoy themselves before Maul arrives.

Sand, it gets everywhere.

Chopper and Ezra are both totally lost and exhausted.

Obi-Wan! He cleans up Chopper but doesn't even give Ezra a drink.

Enter Maul ...

... exit Ezra.

Obi-Wan and Maul have a little reunion chat.

Blink and you miss it, much like Maul did.

"I loved you", Maul DIDN'T say.

Ezra is congratulated for stealing a ship at a very crucial and critical moment for the rebellion.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Star Wars Rebels S03E19 "Double Agent Droid"


Chopper and AP-5 team up with Wedge to infiltrate an Imperial station to steal codes for Lothal.

What I thought

There are going to be those who watch this and think it’s filler, those who just groaned at aspects of it, or those who loved it. I’m of the latter. I never thought I’d say this but the droid focussed episodes in Rebels, this season especially, have been the best. In my view, Warhead was funnier than this one, but there were some great moments here, including a controversial moment and great interplay between AP-5 and the rest of the rebels.

For some reason, it’s Wedge who is chosen to go on the mission with AP-5 and Chopper. This all seems very random to me, but given he’s geared up in his imperial flight gear, maybe that’s why? Having said that, he never gets off the shuttle that lands on the base so they could have used anyone, especially given this was an obvious important mission to get access codes for a later mission to Lothal. Wedge actually adds little to proceedings, aside from being new to the whole AP-5/Chopper bickering, so maybe that’s why he was selected by Hera and by the writers so that he was oblivious to what a hacked Chopper would be like? Yes, Chopper is taken over by Imperial personnel who are donning those massive computerised earmuffs that Lobot wore on cloud city in ESB. There’s a whole ship of these people, like GCHQ here in the UK, all watching a listening to all chatter on the galactic equivalent of the internet thanks to massive dishes on top this ship. I totally get that the Empire would employ such tactics but despite their enhanced computational brain power, they are focussed on statistics and the probability that they can get what they need from Chopper (rebel base coordinates) without informing Thrawn. You just know that was a big mistake right away.

AP-5 takes centre stage in numerous ways this week by being the focal point of the mission to retrieve the plans (which he does with joyous and self-egotistic ease) and by being just a total hoot with his sarcasm and monotonous droning voice. He spots that Chopper has been compromised in a millisecond, due to his behaviour and use of an imperial code reference. For all their brains, these Imperial GHCQ people who remotely take over Chopper, lack subtlety and clearly don’t think that droids have character or attitude; something Chopper has an abundance of. So, it doesn’t take too long for AP-5 to convince the gang that Chopper has been compromised, which leads to them all getting fooled into entering the cargo haul and almost jettisoned to their deaths. Quite frankly, why they all needed to go, as AP-5 pointed out, was questionable. Why also, Ezra didn’t use his lightsabre to get them out by cutting through the doors, I don’t know either. Maybe that’s an advanced Jedi skill?? Either way, once again, Ezra (back with Zeb and Hera on the Ghost after the droids and Wedge return from the mission) plays nothing but a minor role with flippant remarks and childish stupidity. It’s a real shame Ezra’s storyline has degraded this far after the promise of the opening episode of this season and his possible development.

Naturally, all ends up well, with the gang playing fire with fire by using a classic movie tactic of sending “too much feedback” via Chopper’s antenna back at the Imperial GCHQ ship, which naturally, and conveniently blows up. Is that even likely? I get that the feedback might have blown the system but the whole ship? Well, it’s convenient for the rebels I guess and the plot that this means that the Empire ends up discovering nothing new but seems just too perfect a plot point for me. Also, Chopper got electrocuted or power surged three times in this episode; once when he was taken over, then when Zeb stabbed him with his staff, and then when Hera sent “more feedback than they expect” back via Chopper’s antenna. Sure, Chopper can be rebooted and maybe take a surge, but three times without any need for a repair or obvious circuitry damage? A surge is enough to wipe Imperial programming and not singe any other important memory cores?

Overall, I loved this episode despite some of the convenient moments and plot oddities. The section at the end with AP-5 singing was genius in my view, causing me to laugh out loud. AP-5 was a joy throughout , thus making it a fun and worthwhile watch. Sure, it only sort of added to the growing season arc but that didn’t make it any less enjoyable.

Rating 7/10 - Very Good

What I did like

  • AP-5 stole the show with his sarcasm and mannerisms. The singing interlude was genius.
  • Chopper and the gang worked off AP-5 really well.
  • The central story was interesting enough and opened a whole new avenue to the Empire and it’s possible secret services.
  • Finally, the Empire takes droids seriously!

What I didn’t like

  • Imperial GHCQ; not really that intelligent as they seem sadly. Is the feedback really likely to have blown up the ship?
  • Wedge? Why? This episode did  nothing for his character. I feel he was the scapegoat for the plot here, or maybe just to remind us there are other rebels about.
  • Ezra just a bystander once again.
  • There’s only a few episodes of season to go and this episode never featured Thrawn, thus undermining once again the season arc.
No you can't, yes I can; Chopper and AP-5 argue.

Finally a droid scanner!

Lobot Inc.

Chopper gets fried and taken over.

AP-5 ignores privacy by entering the "refresher"

AP-5 versus Chopper; possibly a draw this time.

Zeb fries Chopper

Imperial GCHQ ship blows up.

AP-5 sings!
"happy" ending.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

The Curse of Oak Island S04E16


We're back down GAL1 for more metal than you'd find at a scrapyard, and Dr Lorrie reveals all ... 

What I thought

We resume the finale at GAL1 in the Money Pit with Rick, Craig and Jim finding increasing amounts of metal coming up from the shaft in various shapes and sizes, including one that has lots of round holes in it. There’s also some charcoal coming up too, which apparently is significant as charcoal was originally reported in previous excavations; it may have been used in original money pit construction. Not long after Marty arrives a virtual spanner hits the works as the casing gets stuck on something some 152ft down by metal object it can't drill through. Is this what William Chappell reported finding in 1897? They use some chisel bit to go 5 more feet which should grind more out. If one has already destroyed the casing of something, best to go in full and fast huh?
Rick is off to Dan Blankenship's home where Dr Lorrie is waiting, along with Jack and Charles. Dr Lorrie finally reveals that the spike is … an iron spike that she believes was used on a Spanish galleon ship. So, what they thought in the first place huh? We’re then reminded for the 101st time of what Frank Nolan said about his theory that a ship had been buried in the swamp, as well as reminded that the gang found a plank and Spanish coin in the swamp in the past too. Thanks for that reminder. We only get told this every ruddy week!
Back to GAL1. There’s a corner section of metal brought up with lots of round holes and a washer and a nut also comes up using a smaller grabber. Is there an ancient DIY store down there? After the issue with the grabber getting stuck, they save us the agony of watching nothing happening for any more length of time by calling it a day in case it gets stuck again.
In the war room three days later, most of the main gang are there to find out results of what they found down GAL1. Dr Lorri is on the skype. First though, what about that button from last week? She says it was from military uniforms of the British ~1780s - 1820s. She also says that corner piece of metal was often used for treasure chests, 1650-1800. Is there a catalogue of known treasure chests? It’s very odd to say it’s from a treasure chest but I guess she knows what she’s saying. So, what we have is that what they suspected last week is the case with those two items. Everyone is happy this week.
Now they all have to decide what to do next now that the season has come to end. This last 10 minutes of the episode is nothing more than a regurgitation of what they’ve done throughout the season as they really aren’t deciding on anything from what I can see. What about the swamp? They are not sure atm but it’s not done yet. Smith's Cove? They think there’s enough evidence that there was a man-made construction there. Money Pit? They all think there's something down there. Well, I think we know there’s something there, even if it’s not treasure.

We’re left with the obvious conclusion to the episode which is that they are going to take the winter to think about what they've found and get more data and tests.
Rating 6/10 - Good
GAL1 brings up charcoal.

More and more metal comes up from GAL1.

Dr Lorrie left us in suspense last week, purely to confirm what we all suspected this week.

What got more holes? That piece of metal or some of the decision making on Oak Island?

A washer? This is odd.

There's certainly lots of things down GAL1.

The gang meet to review the season and eek a little more time out of the episode.

Handshakes and hugs as everyone goes off to hibernate for winter.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Star Wars Rebels S03E18 "Secret Cargo"


The Ghost crew must escort Senator Mon Mothma, now wanted by the Empire, to a meeting that can change the galaxy.

What I thought

Continuing on nicely from last week with regards to ramping up the anticipation of the final endgame, this week raises the stakes higher, as the Ghost crew (well, Zeb, Chopper, Hera and Ezra) help transport some secret cargo for the so-to-be-official Rebel Alliance. Given the season's trailer and clips for this week, we all know it's Mon Mothma who is the cargo. But even if we didn't, the fact that they have the crew listening to her speech to the senate via hologram whilst they are waiting quietly for their cargo, is an example of some of the numerous "I saw that coming" moments this week. Sigh. 

Anyhow, this episode is full of great moments in Star Wars history, as well as visuals. In a season of the A to Z of Imperial Probe droids, we have another version this week. This one is in a ship making those iconic and gorgeous imperial language sounds as it's scouting where the Ghost crew are hiding out. The probe does its job and discovers them, leading to Ezra testing his appalling shooting skills, as they take their time to shoot it down, just before the cargo arrives in the form of a transport and accompanying y-wings. Within seconds of this rendezvous, the Empire also arrives and all goes chaotically wrong as the transport is decimated and Mon Mothma instead uses the ghost in the getaway. There's some animosity between the rebel crew who are with Mon and the ghost crew over secrecy and tactics, which expectedly goes out of the window during the course of this episode, leading to some mutual respect by the end. The Gold Leader guy looks well serious and almost imperial like in his facial expressions during initial greetings. We also see that Mon can do the physical stuff this week in helping disengaged the ghost from the failing transporter ship and also by serving up hot drinks from the ghost's vending machine. This lady can do it all; physical stuff, drinks and digging into the Emperor in the senate.

Thrawn is watching in on what happened and hatching a plan, having worked out exactly how Hera would take Mon to a rendezvous point over dantooine where mom hopes the rebels will rally to. If he knows the route, why aren't they assembling over dantooine? Slightly confused here but oh well. Anyhow, the route Hera decides upon is through a dangerous nebula. Right on cue, the Empire arrives, along with, finally, that prototype TIE-fighter we saw the plans for a while back, which chases them into the immensely heated clouds. A few references to not using ion canons in the nebula set us up for what's coming later, as the heat rises through the walls of the Ghost whilst Hera risks taking things to breaking point in order to evade the Empire. Ezra (who finds himself flying the Ghost's smaller shuttle) and Gold Leader eventually deal with the prototype TIE (although we don't see it destroyed), but once everyone exits the nebula, there's two massive Imperial destroyers waiting for them. It's tractor beam time, but we all know that there's no chance that Mon will be captured, and sure enough Ezra and Gold leader use the ion canons on the nebula cloud which burst spectacularly into the destroyers, helping the rebels escape.

There's a lot to like about this episode as it's an enjoyable roller-coaster ride. It's great to see the rebellion really come together at the end. This helps turn Star Wars Rebels into Star Wars Rebel Alliance, which is where I hope they go with this show into next season. Sadly, several obvious "I saw that coming" moments helped destroy some of my excitement from building. Also, I found Mon Mothma to look a little awkward in terms of her aspect ratio, not least that as soon as I saw her eyes, I forever thought of Gollum. Maybe it's just me, but she looked a little odd compared to everyone else in this episode in terms of her frame. Still, it was an episode that helped to continue the build-up to the finale.

Rating 7/10

What I liked:
  • Mon Mothma more than a senator
  • Senate references
  • Thrawn’s strategies
  • Seeing all the rebel alliance coming together, meeting other rebels.

What I didn’t like:
  • Prototype TIE not given best debut
  • Several "I saw that coming a mile off" setups
  • Mon looked … odd … to me anyway.

The crew watch a hologram of Mon Mothma's speech ahead of some secret cargo. Wonder what that cargo might be huh?

I loved the probe droid's language :)

The Ghost crew meet the cargo

These new rebels don't seem to be overly happy with the ghost crew's history.
Don't worry, they kiss and make up quickly.

Empire arrives! Time to leg it!

Thrawn strokes his virtual beard and hatches a plan.

Mon serves up some blue milk for Hera.

Ezra needs some shooting practice.

Prototype TIE gets it's debut but little time to impress.

Oh-Uh ...


Meet the alliance ...

The Curse of Oak Island S04E15


It’s all about the GAL this week as both the spoils from the dig and the pac-man like grabber, reveal their best finds to date.

What I thought

It’s hard when watching this show to know if you should generally raise your excitement levels in-line with the narrator and editing, or reserve judgement until the next show. The latter is what most hardcore viewers would do, having watched so many episodes when everything seems to be leading somewhere but turns out to go absolutely nowhere. Numerous times we’ve been convinced by the narrator’s 101 tales of what a hole, cavity or object could be, only to find out that it’s man-made or something that fell out of Rick’s back pocket.

So, here we are once again, foaming at the mouth, blood pressure higher than Jack shaking a metal detector about, and feeling that we’re on the cusp of something big down GAL1 in the Money Pit, not least because this is part 1 of the finale. Before the harsh winter arrives and our optimism gets frozen for another year, will Oak Island reveal anything significantly tangible that we can point at and say, yes, there’s really something momentous down there?

Once again, the island throws hints at us, this time in the form of some generally intriguing objects in the spoils of GAL1. Jack, Gary “Metal Ninja” Drayton, and Marty are picking up some hits amongst what is often some seriously thick earthy material. First up, they find a sail needle, which could have links to the myth of a ship being sunk on Oak Island. Then, they find gold! Or is it a coin? Nope, it’s actually a button, albeit a rather pretty one that was likely worn by someone wealthy or senior in the military. It’s great work to find such items amongst all that sludge. But wait, there’s more. It’s a chunk of think-ish metal with a square hole in it. Nails used to be square in shape way back, so this is all significant. What does it mean though?

Away from the dig, Jean and Joan McGinnis (descendants of 1795 Daniel McGinnis, one of three men who first discovered the money pit) arrive back on the island. They visit the McGinnis foundation, which is the remains of the building that the men constructed to live in whilst searching for gold back in 1795. Sadly, they lost their sister Joyce since they were here last year. In an emotional segment for everyone, including Rick who accompanies them, they have Joyce’s ashes encased in a glass stone and placed into the wall of that building. It’s quite touching, although hard to watch, knowing that they have cameras stuck on them at such a moment.

At the Visitors’ centre on the island, Jean and Joan have their cross examined; the same one they brought in previously which was apparently dug up in the Money Put by Daniel. Doctor Lorri Verderame (Antiques expert) is on hand and she dates the cross to 1550-1700, says it’s made of rose gold, Spanish ilk, and likely to have had emeralds in it, and is about 22-24 carat gold. Yummy. It must have looked even more special with those stones in it. The Doctor also examines some of the finds from weeks ago, confirming that buckle belonging to Oak Island inhabitant Ball but the spike they dug up in the swamp she refuses to say what it might be … for now. She’s obviously related to the production crew for this programme and well educated in suspense.

Back at GAL1, Rick, Marty and Jim see more and more wood (seemingly quite smelly and thus old) come up … before … just seconds before the credits go up … a large chunk of metal! Going by the “Next Week” segment, there is a strong hint that they think they’ve found the vault … or have they just found someone’s ancient lunchbox?

Rating 7/10 - A decent episode that hones in on GAL1 and provides some really interesting objects regardless of what might be down the hole.

Jim joins Gary, Jack and Marty to hunt through the spoils of GAL1.

It's a sail needle!

Gary shouts out that he's found a coin! But it's a button.

Jean & Joan return to Oak Island.

Ashes of their sister are placed in the foundations of Daniel McGinnis 1795-ish house.

This is the beautiful, cross that Daniel supposedly dug up in the Money Pit.
It's metal and there's a square hole in it. What's this in the spoils of GAL1?

Wood, Wood and more Wood from GAL1.

Wait a minute? What's that???
Too late, it's time for the credits. Dargh!