Spoiler Warning: The following review contains spoilers for “The Occupation” & “Flight of the Defender” as well as previous episodes of “Star Wars Rebels.”

The final season of “Star Wars Rebels” has been firing on all cylinders, and this week’s episodes are no exception. The Ghost Crew find themselves returning to where they first began in season one, Ezra’s home world of Lothal, and are tasked to find out what happened to Ryder Azadi and his rebel cell. Ever since their attack was postponed by a crippling defeat at the hands of Thrawn, Ezra has had a growing interest in returning home to his people.

Image courtesy of Lucasfilm and Disney XD

“The Occupation”

The Ghost Crew smuggle themselves into the now heavily occupied planet with the help of Vizago, another character returning from early in season two. While orbiting the planet, Ezra sees how Lothal has quite literally been scorched by the empire, leaving behind a completely different climate on planet. In terms of plot, not much occurs other than the crew finally meeting up with Ryder after encountering some Imperial obstacles. The episode instead focuses in on the characters themselves, providing further insight into their relationships with each other and where they might end up by the season finale.

A touching moment comes between Hera and Kanan while they search for Ryder, further expanding on one of the most interesting relationships in the “Star Wars” universe. The series has done a fine job at making us aware of the love these two share, while not exploiting it in a way that creates unnecessary drama for the sake of storytelling. As we grow closer to the series end, it’s nice to have a closer look at how these two are dealing with the growing rebellion, while still maintaining a strong bond. While the team is split up and searching for Ryder; Sabine and Ezra decide to check in Old Jho’s cantina, which was a common location for the Ghost Crew to hang out in season one. The new bartender of the location is a former Imperial pilot, and reveals to the two that Old Jho was indeed caught and executed after helping in Ryder’s escape. Ezra is then reunited with an old friend from season one, Jai Kell, who reveals that he joined up with Ryder’s rebel group after he and Ezra escaped the Imperial Academy on Lothal. His new model clearly reflects the time jump since then, which was a strong reminder as to how long its been in-universe since season one.

The episode does not have as much connective tissue to other pieces of “Star Wars” media besides itself, which alone were fairly obscure. The former Imperial pilot now heading up Old Jho’s was seen in the shorts preceding the series itself, which served to setup each member of the Ghost Crew. Vizago also uses a shipment of puffer pigs to smuggle in the Ghost Crew and makes reference to how much money Lando Calrissian has made off of one, which is a call-back to the smooth talking smugglers appearance in season one when the Ghost Crew help him acquire one.

Image courtesy of Lucasfilm and Disney XD

“Flight of the Defender”

With the Ghost Crew reunited with Ryder, they set off on a reconnaissance mission in order to gain intel on the Empire’s Tie Defender seen from last season. This model is a large step up from the basic Tie Fighter, featuring things like an actual shield and hyper-drive, which is enough for the Rebels to concern themselves over. With Ezra serving as a lookout, Sabine makes an attempt to steal the fighters flight log, which goes awry when it becomes apparent Grand Admiral Thrawn is at the base to see a demonstration of the fighter. After Ezra’s distraction fails miserably, he escapes in the Defender itself with Sabine, which allows Thrawn to test the fighter’s effectiveness even in the hands of a mediocre pilot like Ezra. Once Ezra is able to take out his three pursuers, Thrawn activates a fail-safe that detaches the fighter’s wings, leaving Ezra and Sabine stranded.

With Ezra’s force sensitivity being drawn to animals, a loth-wolf is what comes to rescue the two from the Imperial patrol, a creature that Ezra later states had not been seen in over a hundred years on Lothal. The wolf shows some clear force-sensitivity itself, causing Sabine to fall asleep and forget it existed once it arrives. This isn’t necessarily a foreign concept given what Obi-Wan says in “Star Wars: A New Hope,” ‘It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together’  when regarding the force. When Ezra asks the wolf why he helped them, the creature simply replies what sounds like ‘doom’ at first, but is likely referring to Kanan’s actual name, Caleb Dume. The wolf appears to be playing a key role in future episodes in regards to Ezra, with many fans speculating it may have ties to Ahsoka Tano.

Image courtesy of Lucasfilm and Disney XD

Something that has become very apparent this season is how great the show’s animation has gotten at this point. The loth-wolf’s model and how it moves with regards to its fur is gorgeous, and it makes me very excited to see more of it in the next couple of episodes. The sort of disguises the crew wears in the first episode were very cool to see, with Kanan’s ponytail being let go and Sabine finally picking a decent hair color for once, which I hope stays for good.

The two-episode format has been awesome for the show so far, even if it makes the series’ end come even quicker, and I hope it’s something that stays for Lucasfilms’ next animated program. These two episodes in particular set what should make for a good arc on Lothal, and I’m anxious to see what becomes of the loth-wolf given the shows supervising director Dave Filoni’s fascination with the animals. Next week’s episodes are teased to have Thrawn’s personal bodyguard Rukh come into action, officially bringing the character back into canon after playing a large role in the old expanded universe. You can catch the next episodes of “Star Wars Rebels” for yourself when they appear at 9 p.m. on Disney XD next Monday.

Noah Howell is the Arts & Entertainment Assistant Editor for Niner Times. He is currently majoring in Computer Science with a minor in Journalism. He is a fan of all things "Star Wars" and "The Muppets," and spends his free-time playing too many video games and watching the Oklahoma City Thunder.