Without a doubt, this age of Star Wars is the most mysterious and spiritual that the Force has ever been. Those fans who were disappointed that the Force was made “scientific” or otherwise demystified by the introduction of Medichlorians in “The Phantom Menace” can rest easy. The Force is more mysterious than ever.
This week’s episode brings us to a mysterious Jedi sanctuary to continue Ezra’s training. I’m gonna say that I loved the introduction and styling of this location. It was perfectly ancient, and exactly how we’ve come to expect “ancient” to feel in Star Wars. It was mysterious and otherworldly – very much like the hints of ruins on Dagobah when Luke enters the cave in “The Empire Strikes Back.” In fact, much of this episode borrows from Luke’s mystical encounter. It would seem that the “facing oneself in creepy subterranean ruins” is a normal step for Jedi to take in their training.
Ezra’s experience in this episode was downright chilling. I don’t really want to spoil all the details, but let’s just say it left me with goosebumps MANY times. Ezra encounters a vision of the Inquisitor when he enters the cave – much like Luke encountering Darth Vader in “The Empire Strikes Back.” However, in Ezra’s case, I was left thinking, “Man, this show is some of the best Star Wars…. ever!” The episode really plays off Ezra’s fears of being alone, lost or abandoned. The episode moves through Ezra’s fears one by one, with each being more powerful and terrifying than the last. It gets chilling pretty fast, and then… well, then it goes off the chart. Probably as emotionally intense as Star Wars has ever gotten. But beyond that, we’re finally delving back into the spiritual side of the Force. “The Clone Wars” ventured into that territory at the very end of Season 6, and this episode is a perfect continuation exploring the mysterious unknowns of the Force. “The Empire Strikes Back,” long held as holding the defining spiritual moments of Star Wars, is now pretty far in the dust as far as Jedi spirituality is concerned.
The episode wasn’t PERFECT, though. The last two or three minutes were honestly quite rushed. It covers really important, really significant ground, but smashes it into the tail end of the episode. It really should have been handled with more time and dignity. But it wasn’t really all that bad.
Ezra could easily be the most raw and well-developing character to ever appear onscreen in Star Wars. He’s not merely the young, wide-eyed farmboy-turned-hero that Luke was, or the weak “angsty teen makes bad decisions” character of Anakin. Ezra is an archetype, drawing a lot of criticism as a cliche “street rat” persona. But the same people don’t draw any attention to the fact that Luke Skywalker is just as much a cliche character. (Probably even more so!) But that’s not the problem. It’s what you DO with a character that counts, and the folks at Lucasfilm Animation are doing great things with Ezra. His pain and insecurities are communicated perfectly. We vicariously feel fear and desperation through Ezra as he watches the Inquisitor slaughter his friends. His motivations and feelings are palpable and tangible, and all together, we have a really solid character.
Kanan doesn’t get the short end of the stick in this episode. We didn’t really see him in action in this episode, but we certainly learned quite a bit about him, and just his facial expressions and body language convey a lot about his character. Firstly, Kanan is serious about the whole “Jedi” thing. More serious than pretty much any Jedi onscreen other than Yoda. He frequently meditates and takes time to just sit, watch, and wait. For a masterless padawan that survived the Great Jedi Purge, he’s very disciplined. We also learn that Kanan carries with him some kind of baggage – he’s guilty of something in his past, and I’m eager to learn more about that.
Artistic Style & Music
Rebels continues to look really, really pretty, so I’m not going to spend TOO much time raving about that. But this episode was especially moody when it came to framing and lighting, and I was impressed on many occasions. This series has been all about light and composition. It has incredible artistic sense – more than most television series and movies (yes, including the Star Wars films themselves).
The music in this episode was a joy as well. It borrowed cues from “The Empire Strikes Back” as well as “Attack of the Clones,” and did so very well. The music really captured a mysterious, haunting, and mystical feeling, which accompanied the visuals and action of the story perfectly.
“Star Wars: Rebels” has covered some new territory, as well as flawlessly recovered (and further explored) some of the old. This episode represents a perfect blend that delivers exactly what many fans of the original films missed in the prequels. In this case, it’s a sense of wonder and mystery about the Force, as well as good, solid character-driven storytelling.