REVIEW Star Wars: Rebels “Rise of the Old Masters”

 

Story

The story kicks off when our heroes learn that Master Unduli is still alive after Order 66.

The story kicks off when our heroes learn that Master Unduli is still alive after Order 66.

The basic premise of the episode revolves around the rescue of Luminara Unduli from a high-security Imperial prison on Stygeon Prime. But the story brings so much more to the table than a simple exciting plot. All great stories are deeper than they first appear, and “Rise of the Old Masters” is no exception. The story is really about Kanan and his insecurities about teaching Ezra. “Do or do not. There is no try,” says Kanan to Ezra, quoting Master Yoda. Both teacher and student don’t really understand the meaning of the words, and Kanan realizes that having a student might be a little more than he can handle. “It’s difficult to teach,” he mutters to himself. When Kanan learns that Master Unduli is still alive, he jumps on the opportunity to have a real Jedi teach his new pupil. Ezra takes this personally, but through the course of the episode, we learn that Kanan and Ezra value each other and actually work well as a team. By the end of the episode, Kanan has internalized the fact that he cannot try to be Ezra’s teacher. He is Ezra’s teacher, and he will teach him.

Ezra and Kanan learn that they're a natural team - despite any shortcomings.

Ezra and Kanan learn that they’re a natural team – despite any shortcomings.

Characters

The Inquisitor owns every scene he's in.

The Inquisitor owns every scene he’s in.

This episode properly introduces a new character: The Inquisitor. I was a little afraid that this highly-hyped character would be a little too cliche and tired. But actually, he was a pretty awesome character. The show’s creators have masterfully given him a real, menacing presence. His introduction reminded me of Darth Vader’s introduction in “A New Hope.” The moment you see him on screen, you know he’s big, bad, and terrifying, and that he’s here to get you. But he’s also not a Darth Vader knockoff. His character seems to rely on a lot of psychological warfare, using some orchestrated super-creepy atmosphere and well-placed jabs at his opponents’ insecurities to gain the upper edge.

On another note, Kanan and Ezra’s moments were golden in this episode. Their character dynamic is shaping up to be really entertaining. Both master and student are aware that they are flawed characters, and that’s something that really sets this dynamic apart from say – Anakin and Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan sets himself up as this perfect paragon of teaching, and Anakin sets himself up as the perfect, victimized student. While there’s nothing wrong with this dynamic, it was obviously unintentional, and ultimately hard to watch. Here, we have relatable, vulnerable characters, and I love to watch it.

 

Artistic Style and Music

After a somewhat visually bland episode, “Rise of the Old Masters” returns to the rich, beautiful visuals that I now expect of this series. The episode is jam-packed with incredible cinematography, atmospheric locales, and stunning set pieces. I want to share them all with you, but then we’d just have a huge image gallery of screenshots! Here’s a few shots that stood out to me:

The music was effective in this episode, but only really stood out near the end, when we get a moving “Force Theme” fanfare. Again, it’s John William’s music that really takes the cake in this show. So long as they continue borrowing his themes, the music in this show will continue to give me goosebumps.

Technical Details

The animation continues to be A+ with this series. I was especially impressed with the lighting in this episode. From the moonlit mountaintops of Stygeon prime, to the dark orange-and-black prison cells, there was a whole lot of masterfully-executed lighting work. In this dark environment, the lightsabers, too, stand out as they cast their colors across the actors and the environment.

Final Thoughts

I’m starting to use this “final thoughts” category as a “fun stuff I noticed” kind of category. Something that I’m liking with this series is the focus on martial arts – even without lightsabers. As was with “Droids in Distress,” where we see Zeb and Kallus do a bo-staff smackdown, we see Kanan take on some stormtroopers with nothing but his fists. It was fun to see an alternative to blaster-shooting and saber-swinging.

Kanan takes on some stormtroopers in karate style.

Kanan takes on some stormtroopers in karate style.