What They Say:
Twilight of the Apprentice – After gaining information about the Sith, Kanan, Ezra and Ahsoka battle the Inquisitors with the help of a new ally.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With an awkward broadcast schedule that didn’t take advantage of the new feature film as much as I had hoped (I was still pining for the guy at the beginning of The Force Awakens to either be Kanan or Ezra years from this), Star Wars Rebels draws its second season to a close with this two-part episode. It’s something that I already appreciated more going into it than I expected initially because it did the important thing of focusing on just a few players as opposed to the whole team. As much as I like everyone, the appeal of The Clone Wars series was that it would focus on a wide-ranging number of characters, locales, and situations. So sending Kanan, Ezra, and Ahsoka off on a trip to deal with the Inquisitor problem with new information really hits well for me, conceptually.
The journey to Malachor has a lot of tension about it from the start as you have Rex worried and Kanan talking about how it’s always been off-limits to Jedi. But the group has been sent there by Yoda for knowledge they need to deal with the Inquisitors. Knowledge is almost always dangerous in a way so it’s fairly appropriate. What’s welcome is that Malachor finally feels like a world, at least in terms of architecture and atmosphere, that feels alien. A lot of worlds we’ve seen in Rebels haven’t been all that engaging visually, though they have their details, but this one just hits a certain kind of appropriate ancient creepy aspect that clicks very well. Having the trio literally drop into a Sith temple? Yes, hook, line, and sinker.
Thankfully, the show brings us an action piece quickly that really does deliver what I had hoped for a bit more of in the series. The trio get attacked by an Inquisitor and it has some beautiful moments to it, but it also throws us the usual trick of splitting the group up as Ezra crashes through another level, intent on catching up when he can. Wha he gets involved with is someone lurking down below in a hood and obscured from Ezra. With some age to him and a wizened look, there’re some really interesting ways this “Old Master” is played here, though it’s fairly obvious quickly that it’s Darth Maul, who has come seeking knowledge himself years ago and needs Ezra to unlock a mystery. There are some fun echoes in how the two talk here to other characters in the franchise, which is something I still very much enjoy about the show.
Kanan and Ahsoka’s story keeps things moving in an action oriented direction well as they give chase to the Inquisitor, who is here to take down the Old Master as their mission. There’s some amusement in how Chopper is helpful, but mostly it’s just a lot of fun to see Ahsoka and Kanan working so well together here and stopping the Inquisitor from getting off-world. Watching the two of them work like they are shows their own origins in training in the temple and it plays well against seeing how the Old Master is using Ezra to open the gateway they need to get through, talking about the part of the Sith involving the need of two to do things. Ezra is catching on to what the Old Master is doing and saying, as it definitely has a dark and ominous tone, but he’s looking to get the knowledge they need no matter what’s involved so far. And it does work in his favor to some degree as he’s using his abilities in new and stronger ways, a right proper challenge in the end as they move through the path that requires them both to work in unison.
Of course, Ezra is messing with things that he most definitely shouldn’t and when he gets to the crystal in the heart of the temple and takes it, the whole place comes alive in a dangerous way. An everything will crash down kind of way. It’s definitely fun as it has a real sense of history and power about it, but also because we see Maul with his own agenda and being unsure of just who he’s become after all this time. It’s a really well played out segment as it’s small and personal but still grand in scale. Similarly, while things are shaking throughout, Kanan and Ahsoka find their captured Inquisitor finds a distraction to call forth the two that we know all to well and that makes for some good fight sequences, which eventually brings Maul and Ezra to them as well. Considering that Ahsoka has a history with Maul, it’s an intriguing moment in seeing him align with her and the others to deal with the Inquisitors while still knowing that he must really have a whole other agenda. It’s repetitious to be sure, but damn if these aren’t exciting saber fights that it never felt like we got in the prequel trilogy like this in a lot of ways.
The escalation of activities as they work towards the top of the temple in order to use the Holocron to open up the Sith secrets is well done, especially as Maul is working to tempt and nudge Ezra to the dark side – something that Ezra has long been susceptible to because of his training and later age in starting all of this. So when the Seventh Sister is held in Maul’s hands, he insists that Ezra end her but he can’t, as he’s still got enough of Kanan’s teachings within him. But oh does he provide the darkest of threats toward Ezra while wrapping it in the need to protect his friends by not hesitating in the future. Ezra is saved from further involvement with the Inquisitors as Kanan and Ahsoka deal with them along with Maul, but it’s all for Maul to reinforce how he’s taken Ezra on as an unwitting apprentice. Yeah, he’s overstating his influence on Ezra, but damn if it doesn’t flow well with his deep desire for revenge that goes back to the earliest days of the Clone Wars and oh so much more from that series.
Kanan really steps up well here as we get the echo to his Force dream where he had the temple guardian that worked with him in it, so seeing him finding a similar mask here is definitely fun and gives him the sense of presence to step up more. Of course, the fight is almost comically short at this point, though you know it’s a delaying action. And one you don’t mind delaying as Ezra, now facing off against the Holocron and the power it’s unleashing, also has Darth Vader arriving astride his TIE fighter. It’s a beautifully done moment visually and having James Earl Jones giving us some authentic Vader just makes it all the more exciting as he deals with this upstart Jedi with ease. It’s not the fight that you want, however, as it’s really Vader and Ahsoka that you want to see.
And damn if the show once again delivers here. With a great setting that’s a little more TRON looking than I expected, the two face off with words in all the right ways and we get the reinforcement of the whole perspective thing that Obi-Wan went through with Luke in A New Hope. It’s all solid preamble to the fight itself, showing us a Vader having to deal with a very different opponent than he’s had in Ezra and Kanan among others. It’s a fight that has been coming for years and it unfolds beautifully here and with the right kind of tension because you really aren’t sure just how far they’ll go with Ahsoka. It has all the right kind of tension to it, and all the frustrating ambiguity to it as well, that delivers in spades but keeps you really on the edge as to what’s to come next, for Ahsoka, for Ezra, and for Kanan and the loss of his vision. Will that stick? Will Maul be a major thorn in the side of the third season? So much tantalizing material.
Damn. Just damn. A great episode throughout and a final minute that just showcases that the series, finally at the end of the second season, is ready to embrace serious changes to its characters and move them forward. It’s going to be a long wait for the third season but there’s a whole lot of payoff here in all the right ways. I may be frustrated by aspects of this season at times or treatment of some of the characters, but the second half of the season really nailed a whole lot of things in a big way and it capped it off with a near perfect finale that focuses exactly where it needs to.