Written by: Steward Lee
Directed by: Henry Gilroy
Finally, the episode I’ve been most looking forward to since the “Star Wars Rebels: A Look Ahead” video debuted on YouTube, “Rise of the Old Masters,” was released to the public. This was the episode that was shown at quite a few different events alongside “Spark of Rebellion,” so I had heard some intriguing teases from all over the Twittersphere. Did it live up to the hype?
It’s hard to say. While I loved this story, these episodes just seem to breeze by. Maybe I’m just used to the four-part Clone Wars epics (and my only Clone Wars-watching experiences have been very binge-watchy), but these once-a-week, 22-minute standalone stories aren’t enough for me right now. Why does the conflict have to be solved each episode, the bad guy defeated? Why does every episode have to present a complete arc for every primary character for its respective story?
Let me back up and explain. The Inquisitor was teased as this cruel and calculating Sherlock Holmes-type villain, but, instead, he simply lured Kanan and company to where he was supposedly imprisoning Jedi Master Luminara Unduli. Then, when they arrived, he attacked them. Doesn’t sound very calculating to me, or at least not yet. I was hoping for some sort of twist, where maybe Zeb and Sabine get captured, and there’s a case of unfinished business to get us excited about next week’s outing. Instead of getting intrigued by the Inquisitor at the end of the episode, I was a little underwhelmed. His first encounter with these guys, and they get away, killing a sizable amount of Imperial troops in the meantime?
Don’t get me wrong. I think the Inquisitor has a lot of potential, and his introduction was legitimately scary. The Luminara fake-out was more classically chilling than anything we’ve ever seen in Star Wars; one second I’m observing how sad, old, and weary she looked, and the next I’m looking at her rotting corpse – yikes! The fact that these once-noble Jedi knights are being imprisoned and tortured and used is one of the most frightening aspects of the Empire.
But this time, for the first time since maybe “A Spark of Rebellion,” it was Kanan’s episode. To face such a morale-crushing moment like Luminara’s reveal, only to immediately confront a formidable acolyte of the Dark Side? Kanan’s insecurities about training Ezra reach an all-time low, and his characterization is all the better for it. Sometimes Star Wars can seem so lofty that it can be hard to relate to, so I was legitimately caught off guard and pleasantly surprised by the notion that Kanan has such human insecurities about training Ezra. It’s an angle we’ve never before seen in the Jedi/Padawan dynamic; even new-Jedi Luke Skywalker seems pretty eager to train Leia when he reveals her heritage during Return of the Jedi. Kanan’s probably had far more training than Luke had at that point, but perhaps the stigma of being a padawan when Order 66 went down has stuck with him, or maybe he truly was a poor student, as the Inquisitor suggested.
Speaking of the Inquisitor’s suggestions, I was fascinated by the revelation of Depa Billaba as Kanan’s master (though we knew this months prior due to various clips from this battle). Master Billaba is not only a female Jedi, of which there are far too few in onscreen Star Wars, but she is a woman of color, another once-rare element of Star Wars. I look forward to learning more about her, if not here, then in Greg Weisman’s new Kanan: The Last Padawan comic for Marvel. The Form III citation was also interesting, as I believe it was the first time lightsaber fighting styles were mentioned in the canonical universe. Finally, the Inquisitor introduces the naive Ezra to the concept of the Dark Side, something we haven’t heard about so far in Rebels. It makes me wonder a few things. Is the Inquisitor trained in the Dark Side, or just in lightsaber combat? Do the Jedi, and Kanan in particular, know that the Empire is ruled by the Sith? Is Ezra prone to the Dark Side, or is this going to be a non-issue in Rebels? I could certainly see Ezra’s fate being that of an Inquisitor, living behind the scenes throughout the original trilogy, and possibly emerging in the sequel trilogy as a “dark double”-type adversary for the similarly-aged Luke Skywalker.
Overall, this episode asked a lot of interesting questions, setting up some potentially awesome stories down the road. I’m eager for the show to kick into gear rather than sit through these quick character-oriented romps. While the characterization is very much appreciated, I’m ready for some motives and I’m ready for some story. “Droids in Distress” started us on that path by giving Zeb some motivation, but we’re nearly a third done with the season and the Ghost crew still doesn’t have any specific goals, or at least none that have been revealed to the audience.
Alex Ward is staff writer for Rebels Report. He plays in various punk bands in the Cleveland area and blogs for sites such as Coffee with Kenobi and Far Far Away Radio. You can follow him on Twitter @tiboonda