A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
As for The Clone Wars, episode five of Rebels proved to be its saving grace. After the semi-eye roll worthy humor of last week, Rise of the Old Masters takes a much darker, horrifying turn and it is all the stronger for it. It isn’t a perfect episode by any means. The pacing especially leaves much to be desired and by the end of it all you wish that the episode certainly had been extended to at least next week. But the content within it is so strong that I can’t fault the episode more harshly than a point off for the erratic pacing. The prison escape sequence on Stygeon Prime is fantastic in and of itself, but the characterization of Kanan especially is what pushes this episode into greatness territory.
Kanan, as the episode reveals, is a pretty derelict Jedi Master. He has no basic concept of how to train Ezra beyond “Do or do not, there is no try,” the meaning of which he himself doesn’t truly understand. And his idea of training Ezra with a lightsaber is to hurl stuff at him and have him block it on the top of the Ghost while the ship is in MIDAIR. For the first time in the series, Chopper truly grates me here. Him basically throwing a bunch of **** at Ezra nearly gets Ezra killed and it’s a supremely vapid note to have the astromech almost commit the sin of manslaughter by ****ing stupidity. Kanan barely is able to rescue Ezra from plummeting to his death. At least he is able to recognize that no, he’s not the best choice to train Ezra. Woe and behold, they receive a signal from an Imperial Senator who actually is brave enough to speak out against the Empire (I wonder how long that will last). It’s a shocker of a hologram: Jedi Master Luminara Unduli is still alive and being kept hostage by the Empire on Stygeon Prime. Kanan immediately sees an opportunity to have her train Ezra, which Ezra rightfully sees as a form of abandonment.
Stygeon Prime is wonderfully detailed and I’m really happy to see the Ghost crew get away from Lothal for once. Quickly they get into the prison after fighting off some stormtroopers and Kanan admonishing Ezra for his brashness. Once inside, they split off for maximum efficiency. Sabine and Zeb do what they do best, fixing computers, paint bombing, and using brute force to attack stormtroopers. Kanan and Ezra run into the mysteriously lightly fortified fortress and then they realize why it was so lightly fortified in the first place. Stygeon Prime’s prison fortress is notoriously difficult to penetrate, but they make it remarkably light because it’s a trap. They find Jedi Master Luminara Unduli sitting in a prison uniform, but something’s off. She gets up, glaring at Ezra and Kanan before going towards a sarcophagus that’s lying in the corner. The hologram disappears into the sarcophagus. Master Unduli is most definitely dead and she has been so for a long time. Kanan and Ezra barely have any time to register their shock before the Inquisitor appears in the background, igniting his spinning lightsaber. This is the darkness and seriousness I wanted from this show from the start and boy did they deliver it here.
The lightsaber fight between Kanan, Ezra, and the Inquisitor was brief, but incredibly thrilling. His spinning lightsaber is a great design, a magnificent piece of power within a weapon designed according to Dave Filoni to hide the Inquisitor’s other weaknesses. The choreography of the fight is sharp and clear and the Inquisitor quickly establishes himself as a formidable villain. As they duel, he does the typical talking down but quickly recognizes that Kanan is using a ton of Form 3, a favorite of Jedi Master Depa Billaba. The Inquisitor has apparently done his homework. Ezra and Kanan learn to work together and barely escape the Jedi hunter’s wrath. Jason Isaacs is terrific as the Inquisitor, adding an eerie whisper to his voice and doing his absolute best to avoid becoming an all-out mustache twirling villain. His glare at the Rebels’ escape is a definite signal of much worse things to come.
As Ezra and Kanan talk to each other at the end of the episode, the question of training once again comes up. Ezra feels like a massive burden on Kanan, one he couldn’t wait to load off onto Master Unduli’s shoulders. But Kanan’s intent was not to make Ezra feel like a burden, it was to ensure that he got training from a Jedi who was worthy of being a Master. Their expressions soften and Kanan agrees to train the young street rat (I couldn’t help myself here). It’s a wonderful scene of character growth from the both of them and I can’t wait to see their training continue, something I was hesitant to look forward to just last week. Rise of the Old Masters is without a doubt the best episode yet of Star Wars: Rebels and it is so for a few key reasons. The animation is constantly improving (especially in landscape shots and character movements), the character work largely succeeds and for the first time, despite the bumbling stormtroopers, the Empire feels like a genuine, true threat. Bring on next week.
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+“I think it should be a little shorter.:
+“Hard part’s getting out, you know, because prison…”
+“I’m right here.”; “WE KNOW.”
+The music was quite well done.
+“I love your optimism. Will it die?”
+The mating jokes without any words
+The Imperial Senate. I want more of this.
+Ezra on the Inquisitor’s spinning lightsaber: “Does yours do that?”
+The hologram of Master Unduli was taken directly from the sequence of her execution according to Filoni. Her hologram glare is directed at her executioner, not Ezra and Kanan.
-The logo appearance. I know I’ve complained about this from the beginning, but come on people.
Title: Rise of the Old Masters
Written By: Henry Gilroy
Directed By: Steward Lee
Image Courtesy: Star Wars Rebels Wiki, Star Wars Underworld