The Guards of Old
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
Who knew Lothal had a Jedi Temple on its surface? It comes as a surprise in some fashion but it feels organic to the tale’s focus, even if it is understandably slightly ludicrous that the Empire hasn’t taken full notice of that temple’s existence by that point. But it’s hard to hold that tidbit when the episode opens upon a brilliantly choreographed fight sequence in action and ends upon Darth Vader arriving at aforementioned temple, basking in the glory of his darkness. Shroud of Darkness, as the lines above pivot towards, is an episode that is largely concerned with direct action instead of character-specific narratives as the previous few knockouts have delivered. It is thusly not the most character-focused episode but it is one that nevertheless flows with a fantastic prowess from one segment to the next, opening up a plethora of intriguing narrative pathways as it does so. Not all of the pathways entirely work in the grander picture as of yet, but even as potential foreshadowing they’re thrilling enough for the series going forward that the episode itself feels quite substantial in turn.
The episode opens with a thrilling fight sequence between Kanan, Ezra, and the two Inquisitors. The Seventh Sister and the Fifth Brother are absolute failures as actual characters at this point and I have little hope that they’ll receive a similar complexity treatment as Agent Kallus. Nor are they particularly fearsome, to be quite honest. I understand that the show has a tight focus on a specific group of characters and an even tighter one on its antagonists, but at a certain point in a war narrative, there has to be some serious consequences and or casualties as a result of those antagonists. There’s not a deliberate attempt to equate antagonism and villainy as so often occurs, but it is a veritable understanding of how stories need to work. There simply, as of yet, no consequence of the Inquisitors’s actions and more importantly, no depth. But the fight nevertheless was thrillingly choreographed, set against a truly beautiful landscape imbued with a rich hue of teal and occasionally struck through by a sharp spark of lightning. Ezra’s abilities are growing and the animal rescue here is a neat callback to the mediocre The Call, not that it helps validate that episode’s existence.
The episode’s emotional heft comes from the Jedi Temple on Lothal, where Ezra, Kanan, and Ahsoka each have a sharply edited vignette that ties into their deepest fears and murky understandings of the future. Ezra’s vignette, the weakest of the three, sees the return of the severable Master Yoda, whose sage advice centers on Ezra’s growing powers and whether or not the real question the rebels faced was if they should fight back. The weight of the Jedi’s mistakes in fighting the Clone Wars weighs heavily on his conscience and the character’s history is used in a minimalist manner to great effect here. For Kanan, he comes across a Temple guard who gives him an ominous warning. “Try to fight and you will fail,” he says and quickly the episode turns dark as the guard notes that the darkness calls to Ezra and he must be taken down before he turns towards the dark side. Kanan is notably and understandably flabbergasted and shocked. He fights the Temple guards before their shadows fall to the ground but the questions remain, made more profound by the identity of the guard who gave Kanan the warning in the first place.
There have been a few moments throughout Rebels that have shown Ezra brushing closer to the dark side but they haven’t largely been significant enough to warrant a significant amount of fear. The underlying sentiment, however, rings true. The Dark Side is always a tempting force of immense power and unlike, let’s say, Anakin, Ezra doesn’t have a strong teacher who is wise and understanding in the ways of the Force. Obi-Wan’s most significant mistake was the emotional investment he crafted into Anakin, partially in turn because of his promise to a dying Qui-Gon. Kanan is following in similar footsteps with his emotional attachment, but unlike Obi-Wan, he simply isn’t trained enough in the Force to be the complete teacher Ezra truly needs. Perhaps there’s why the underlying creeping of the Dark Side can make its mark and as the Grand Inquisitor’s reveal as the Temple Guard notes, corruption can strike at anyone. The strongest beat, but perhaps not for those who haven’t seen The Clone Wars, was Ahsoka seeing the ghost of Anakin calling out to her, angry that she had left the Jedi Order, that she had left him. He was proud of her and they had become a true team. When she left, Anakin felt a great deal of anger, resentment, and grief towards the Jedi Council, towards Ahsoka, and towards himself. “Do you know what I have become?” he asks mournfully and we see a shadow of realization truly cross Ahsoka’s visage. Perhaps now she does but she critically also remembers who he was and that undoubtedly will be a focal point in the show’s greatest, most emotionally turbulent showdown so far.
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+“Seeing that the key part of secret base is the secret location, no, it will not work out.”
+“The last time I saw him, he was rushing off to save the Chancellor.” Can we see this story in some fashion?
+Anakin training videos. The Temple could have made some serious bank on those
+It was nice to hear Jason Isaacs returning to his Grand Inquisitor role for a cameo, a cameo which raises a plethora of intriguing questions as to the nature of Death in the force and the power of the Dark Side or lack thereof after death
+Matt Lanter returning as Anakin
+The music continues to be really good this season
+“It means you are what I once was.”
+A trip to Malachor
+The Inquisitors vs. the guards
+Yoda’s wave to Ahsoka
-The Yoda model
Note: I am concerned as to how the show is going to address Ezra potentially going Dark. The most obvious opportunity was the connection to the death of his parents, but he handled that with remarkable strength. With only a couple episodes to go this season, it’s a potential development that should not be rushed.
Episode Title: Shroud of Darkness
Written by: Henry Gilroy
Directed by: Saul Ruiz
Image Courtesy: Sci Fi Movie Page