Star Wars Rebels finally feels like it has settled in with this episode, focusing less on Ezra's adjustments and more on an actual spy job. And when Ezra goes undercover at the Imperial Academy, we learn how the Empire is training its soldiers—and are reminded that Stormtroopers were all kids once.
So Ezra is out to steal a decoder from our old pal Agent Kallus, and he joins the Imperial Academy as a cadet (under a false name, of course) to get close to Kallus' office. It's immediately clear how Stormtrooper training differs from Clone Trooper training. There's a much greater emphasis on individual glory (and achievement at the expense of others) and less on teamwork and camaraderie. But the rowdy group of cadets in Ezra's squad seem like a decent group of boys, playfully shoving each other around and boasting that they'll come out on top during the next assessment.
It quickly becomes clear that the purposes of these assessments (which look rather fun in an American Ninja sort of way) are just to evaluate the physical prowess of the cadets. It's also to spot any potential Force-sensitives in their midst. Those kids get sent to the Inquisitor, never to be seen nor heard from again. Are they also being trained to be Inquisitors? Are they being culled? Or is their Force-talent being used for some yet unrevealed purpose? Whatever the reasons, Ezra and Jai Kell, another cadet, have been identified as potentially Force sensitive.
But this business of mysteriously disappearing cadets has, unbeknownst to the Empire, created room for dissent. When Ezra first attempts to remove the decoder from Kallus' office, he's stopped by Zare Leonis, a fellow cadet and Ezra's chief competitor. They may be competing against each other in the assessment chamber, but Leonis' first instinct is to side with another cadet over the Empire. And it turns out there's a very good reason for this: Leonis' sister disappeared from the Imperial Academy—we assume because she was pegged as Force sensitive. Leonis agrees to team up with Ezra in the name of screwing with the Empire.
There are a couple of really nice moments in this Ezra-Leonis teamup that go a long way to developing both Ezra's character and the current state of the world. When Leonis makes his pact with Ezra, he calls Ezra by his fake name, and Ezra is clearly uncomfortable. Here this cadet is putting everything on the line, and Ezra is here under an alias, ready to disappear. It helps inform Ezra's decision to smuggle out Jai out of the Academy.
And when Ezra brags that he's training to be a Jedi, Leonis responds, quite brilliantly with, "Right, who isn't?" It's nice to know that even with the Empire rising, young Imperial citizens still see some romance in the Jedi Order. Sometimes it's fun to imagine that ordinary people in Star Wars universe aren't unlike us, that they pretend to use the Force and parry with lightsabers. As an aside, I initially thought Ezra was being an idiot when he mentioned his Jedi training to Leonis, since it paints a huge freaking target on Ezra's back, but it was probably better than leaving Leonis completely unprepared when Ezra Force lifted the decoder behind Kallus' back.
In the end, Ezra manages to scheme a way to escape with Jai—with more than a little help from the Ghost's crew—but Leonis opts to stay behind and investigate his sister's disappearance. I imagine (and hope) that this isn't the last we'll see of Leonis, but his story may very well be a complicated one. When we leave him, the Inquisitor is about to interrogate him, and Leonis may very well have to reveal some genuine intel on Ezra to keep his cover. Is Leonis in over his head? Will he join the eventual Rebellion or find his fate in the Imperial ranks? His story is a helpful reminder that even those working within the Empire may have rich stories and that, beneath their helmets, Stormtroopers are human beings.