A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
Star Wars Rebels concludes its rocky but slowly turned impressive second chapter, recovering from the early turbulence to deliver some truly astounding character-driven vignettes. With its conclusion, Twilight of the Apprentice brings many of those story threads to a close while leaving plenty of material to ponder over as production on season three goes underway. And what a conclusion. When Star Wars delivers, it delivers and while there are certainly quibbles to be argued over here (there’s one motif that is especially inane), the emotional gut punches were so well done that it’s quite difficult for me to be harsh here and if you’ve read my thoughts on the series before, that’s never been much of a problem. There are few moments throughout the entire saga that have tugged at my heartstrings as much as that final, climactic duel that immediately takes its place as one of the saga’s most definitive moments. But the journey there was equally as enthralling. As a writer myself, I thoroughly enjoy it when the title of a story permeates through several story beats as a thematic glue of sorts (see last night’s episode of FX’s The Americans) and this episode of Rebels did possibly the best job of yet of doing so. The main reference to the showdown between Ahsoka and Vader is evident, but it applies equivalently to essentially every player involved. Maul’s status as Palpatine’s former apprentice was in play, as was his status as Savage’s master in The Clone Wars and most importantly, his attempts to turn Ezra into his own apprentice. Kanan had to face the potential loss of his own apprentice at the hands of the so-called shadow. The Inquisitors faced their own defeats as apprentices of the Empire. Ezra, the titular apprentice of the series, vitally faces a twilight that ends with him on an extremely ominous, foreboding note.
The episode opens with Ahsoka, Kanan, and Ezra arriving on the planet Malachor, taken straight out of the Old Republic lore. As with any Sith planet, there’s an immediate semblance of darkness, despair, and a plethora of red lighting just in case anyone was wondering about where they were. Notably, Ezra makes the first mistake here, opening the pathway from where the underground labyrinth comes into true focus. A new Inquisitor attacks and suddenly Ezra finds himself separated from Kanan, a key motif of the episode. While the two do eventually circle back around and meet one another, their respective journeys in getting to that position are considerably different. Ezra brings forth his lightsaber to guide him through the darkness, spotting an odd presence in the shadows. It’s a shadow, the shadow the Inquisitors are hunting themselves. Within a nanosecond, it’s apparent to Star Wars fans of old that it is Darth Maul underneath the flowing robes. Bringing back Darth Maul in this particular era was an intriguing move for the series, played out in part no doubt due to the premature ending of The Clone Wars. I’ve noted before that the potential dark turn for Ezra hasn’t been written as well as the potential that existed there, but it works remarkably well here and most notably because it’s the first time the series has really built upon why Ezra could go dark, taking those earlier motifs and themes and garnering them a significant amount of weight in hindsight. It’s a considerably simpler turn of events than what befell Anakin, but considering the story, Ezra’s age, and his considerably different circumstances, it makes a lot of sense.
Ezra has had a fairly difficult and at times a deeply traumatizing childhood. Isolated and deeply conflicted about his existence, his exposure to the Ghost crew was an opportunity for him to fight back against the tyranny of the Empire, an Empire that had taken his family away from him and left him to fend for himself on the streets of Lothal. The Ghost crew’s fights against the Empire gave Ezra that critical thoroughfare to fight against the Empire, but it isn’t exactly what he’d hoped for. On one note, Kanan is not the master he becomes (through no major fault of his own) but he was raised within the environment of the Jedi Temple. The stark difference between that and Ezra’s childhood leads to consistent clashes in their training, with Kanan’s rhetoric of patience being met by someone who hasn’t had much use for patience in their life. When he meets Maul, he begins by noting the vitality of knowing what and whom your enemy is. Ezra, noting echoes of what Ahsoka had said earlier, acquiesces but then the divergence occurs. Maul notes that it’s vital not just to defeat your enemy, but to destroy them. It’s a dark divergence but the difference that Ezra sees is a difference without distinction. When Maul notes that one has to practice the enemy’s behavior, Ezra is the most skeptical but he goes to read it as using someone’s weakness to destroy them. He hesitates, however, when Maul tells him to strike down the Seventh Sister. He simply can’t bring himself to gut the woman who terrified him yet who looked terrified in her own instance. Nevertheless, he agrees with Maul’s insistence that they have to destroy their enemies. When Maul calls them cowards for not destroying the people responsible for slaughtering their friends, one can sense Ezra’s understanding growing in the wrong direction. His trust comes at a price, however.
Then the fight we’ve all been waiting for with baited breath arrives. The degree of history between Ahsoka and Anakin is a significant one, from the first moment she arrived on the planet of Christophsis to the moment she left the Jedi Order and a despondent Anakin behind. The last time she had seen him was before the Battle of Coruscant, the critical battle that marked the descent of Anakin’s trajectory as a Jedi. The battle is superbly choreographed and emotionally resonant. Darth Vader is, for one moment, distracted and Ahsoka rushes up and slices half of his mask off. “Ahsoka,” he rasps, Anakin’s gleaming eyes revealed underneath the mechanical façade. “Anakin,” Ahsoka responds with a heavy heart. My tears had already begun rolling and as the battle collapsed, they flew even further. Ahsoka had a chance to escape but she felt that she already abandoned Anakin once and she couldn’t bring herself to do it once more. The last time I checked (which was a fair bit of time ago), Rebels looks to last at least four seasons. On that note, Dave Filoni noted that this season was The Empire Strikes Back of the series but considering the final, beautifully rendered montage, it’s difficult to see a broad horizon of hope. Kanan was brutally blinded by Maul in a thrilling, shocking move. He comes back home, with an immense sense of a great loss accompanying his psyche. Maul escapes on a TIE fighter, having been thrillingly been bested by a blind Kanan. Vader hobbles out of the destroyed surface of the temple, a convoree symbolically sitting behind him and then flying off into the shadowy clouds. Ahsoka is seen climbing down the stairs in the temple, her ultimate fate as of now left unresolved. And Ezra looks hauntingly at the Sith holocron, a holocron that could only be opened by a Sith or someone who thinks like one. The holocron opens and a red light bathes Ezra’s eyes. With that haunting image, we leave you until Season 3 arrives this fall. Thanks for reading, Rebels!
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+“In my book, experience outranks everything.”
+“There’s always a bit of truth in legends.”
+“To defeat your enemy, you have to understand them.”
+“Help me and find out.”
+“All Inquisitors and their masters are my enemies.”
+“The Sith used and abandoned me.”
+“Chopper, sometimes you do it right.” I liked Chopper in this episode.
+“You must know your enemies and practice their beliefs.”
+“Your anger is a weapon. You must use it.”
+“Take risks or know the limitations” is a horrible philosophy
+“Look, we can do this.”
+“You were wise to trust me.”
+“Do you ever trust me to follow my instincts?” Well, no, Ezra. You’re still a Padawan.
+“Strike her down.” That was chilling.
+“Running away again, Lady Tano?”
+“It wouldn’t be the first time.”
+“Our long awaited meeting has come at last.”
+“I’m no Jedi.”
+“I won’t leave you. Not this time.”
-The spinning blades. Holy cow, that was stupid.
Episode Titles: Twilight of the Apprentice: Parts I & II
Written by: Dave Filoni & Simon Kinberg & Steven Melching
Directed by: Dave Filoni
Image Courtesy: The Jedi Council Forums